You are going to die.
And yes, you might die from the COVID-19.
But what is much more likely to kill you is your fear of COVID-19 (or whatever the latest thing there is to worry about).
Or fear in general.
So let’s talk about it.
I want to share two metaphors with you, one on farming and one on poison oak. Stay with me and I’ll show how these two stories below are a form of medicine for the current virus scare and for the larger issue we are facing: runaway, epidemic fear.
Nourishing Your Soil (and soul)
In my book A Little Book on Big Freedom I share the important difference between conventional versus organic farming. In conventional farming, farmers use toxic pesticides, fungicides, mildewcides, and herbicides to kill threats to their crops. The problem with this approach is that all these toxins accumulate and poison the soil, the water, and the humans that consume the plants.
In organic farming, farmers put their energy into one main thing: feeding and nourishing the soil. If the soil is healthy, the plant is healthy. When a plant is healthy it naturally resists pests and mildews. Along with enriching the soil, organic farmers also use a variety of creative techniques and practices to protect their crops.
This connects to an intimate experience I had with poison oak when I was younger.
Respect vs Fear
After peeing too close to poison oak I suffered with an intensely itchy and painful rash in delicate places. Once I finally healed I found myself terrified of the little green plant, which grew abundantly where I lived. Since I spent a lot of time outside, I found myself worrying constantly about getting poison oak.
One day the fear become so overwhelming, and my desire to avoid poison oak so great, that I realized I had to do something or I was going to have to leave the home in the mountains that I loved. So I sat down in front of a patch of poison oak and had a conversation with it.
“Hello, poison oak. We need to talk. I can’t live my life always running from you, constantly frightened of bumping into you. What can I do?”
And I heard poison oak share with me: “Respect.”
In that moment I felt a shift in the depths of my being. I didn’t need to fear poison oak, but I did need to respect its power and its place in the world.
Respect is understanding and being aware of something’s power and place and perspective. The poison oak isn’t out to get me, it is just being poison oak. It has its own power, and it has a place in the world. When I respect it, we can co-exist, and I can use it as a way to stay aware and awake, rather than as a way to get smaller and be afraid.
Fear comes from a story the mind is telling us about what might happen, not what is happening in this moment. Respect keeps us connected to our wits and resources; fear drains us of our energy and dampens our ability to see truth.
Now let’s look at a couple of facts
We live in a world filled with viruses, bacteria, mold, and other often invisible beings that we share space with. Many bacterias and molds are hugely beneficial or even life-giving to humans; others are deadly. Viruses range from the common cold to more deadly forms that are especially dangerous to those with weakened immune systems.
Your #1 priority should be not fearing something like the coronavirus, but learning how to respect it. Keep looking for facts rather than fears. Learn the best way to keep yourself healthy. And put your attention on feeding your own soil and nourishing your heart and body, rather than using fear and disaster mind to try and stay safe. The fear will only poison you and weaken your being, while respect and nourishing the soil of your immune system will strengthen your being.
If you have a compromised immune system, be extra careful. Listen to your body and gather data on to what you need to do at times of flu or virus outbreaks to support your physical well-being.
And the biggest truth to learn to respect is this: death will claim us all at some point.
It is not about if you are going to die; we all are, eventually. The question is: do you want to fear death, or learn how to respect it as part of the larger cycle of existence?
We can fight or deny it, or we can face it and make peace with the unpredictable, erratic, and sharp edges of suffering, death, and decay. This isn’t giving up, this is accepting and then looking for the gifts in every situation.
We don’t know what will happen next: when the virus will be “contained” or when we will be able to freely hug, travel, and gather. But we can use this time to consciously heal the most dangerous and deadly virus within us: the virus of fear. Remember the medicine: healthy respect and mindful nourishment.