Reckoning with Invisible Deities (Part One)
In the first of two poetic meditations on the novel coronavirus by One Earth Sangha teachers, Thanissara reflects on how this dark messenger has brought isolation and death, collapsed business as usual, and completely upended our familiar world. Here at a threshold of Earth’s epic transition, our opportunity is to steady ourselves and find a home in this liminal uncertainty, an encounter with the gods, and receive the teachings on offer. Continue this meditation with part two of this series from Lama Willa Miller.
Corona Virus: The Journey to In-Between
by Thanissara Mary Weinberg
The thing that got interrupted had no business continuing. This virus, this is a god; that is not overstating things, and the gods are in the house, and god is having god’s way as gods tend to do. Our obligation is to exercise a radical hospitality to this anarchic presence and to learn how to be undone by it.1Stephen Jenkinson: Philosopher, Activist, Author
Its arrival was like a distant ship, a small spot on the horizon that belonged to other realms, not our shimmering shores. It took a while to slow down enough to read the whole word, to pronounce it. Coronavirus. Then abruptly, a flurry of hand washing, sanitizers, distancing and creeping unease as it dawned that this tsunami speeding toward us was aiming at all carefully laid plans. Suddenly, lives crashed. A rush to get home, stock food, toilet paper skirmishes, and then, just like that, a door slammed – lockdown.
We are in-between worlds. Our Icarus civilization suddenly plunged through the layers of our collapsing grasp.
The first waking morning, as the streets went quiet, really quiet, a ripple of anticipation and fear while feeling the tectonic plates of our hyper world shift beneath. The nether worlds started their ascent as notice was given. There will be increased pressure arriving into your personal and collective fault lines. Then the new curriculum of corona descended into bodies as the ancient door to the in-between was flung open.
We are in-between worlds. Our Icarus civilization suddenly plunged through the layers of our collapsing grasp. We became unmoored, out in the ocean, floating. I’m not sure what the raft looks like. Thrown from our speeding agendas onto our back, like an upturned porcupine, belly vulnerable. Even if we tried not to notice and started to stand upright, we are still sinking to our knees.
We can’t see this thing, yet the world shuddered to a halt on its command.
At first it was the old, the weak, then the famous, rich, powerful, the young … We consumed all info about it, got the narrative down trying to get this roving invisible thing pinned as each new study dismantled the last, until … Coronavirus has mutated into at least 30 different strains2Jerusalem Post, Study from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou … Unabashed, it roves on.
In a heartbeat, we transitioned online, settled down in front of our computer screens reasserting some sense of control and normality. We’re just Zooming along, we can do it all online, look at us go, go, go … while in the nether regions, death counts mount. Ice rink morgues, sick friends, medics with mask bruises, exhausted tearful nurses, no PPE, and sobering stories unleashing anxiety waves washing over our citadel, reminding us how exposed we actually are.
It is a hard thing to tell a healthy and functional person who felt fine and well six days ago they may be dead in a day or two … I have never had more harrowing, more frequent, more brutally honest, more meaningful, more exhausting conversations in my life. Complete strangers open up to you in profound ways during such times and you can only hope both your expertise and your humanity serve them well.
After all the words are spoken, the decisions made, the medications drawn, the bed positioned, the tubes and drips and ventilators readied, there is a final stare. It is a stare of intention. It is a moment of humanity. It is a shared space, a hallowed space, the final moment of someone’s awareness, possibly forever.
It is a space where fear and hope mingle, where autonomy fades into trust, uncertainly into acceptance, and all they have left is placed firmly in your gloved hands. It’s brief, and you’re busy, and time is essential, but you find a few seconds to share this final breath. That stare lasts a moment. That stare lasts a lifetime. And the eyes stay with you.3Jason Hill – New York Presbyterian Hospital
This morning. How many days in are we? We lost count. What day of the week is it anyway? A question pops up. Who, anyhow, decided there are seven days with a name for each? The slipping feeling of a world held together by nouns that don’t mean much of anything. The vague suspicion of an authority that names things, that names mean we know everything. I never did quite trust that central command even though I crawl to its throne every day.
To be uncertain is the medium of meditation, is the portal of now. Here, now, now, now, now, now…
That’s not surprising, given the little boat of our naming is far out into the ocean of the infinite. There’s not much holding this whole thing together. The 12 miles of biosphere, where all life exists, the warm home buffer between our next breath and cold vast dark space. In all of this, it’s important to have some compassion for this brave, obsessive self, running around its labyrinth as it teeters on the edge, trying to buffer itself from falling through the cracks.
In the face of dying, what is the etiquette of relating to a time like now where we get to glimpse how utterly exhausted our acquisitive way of doing things has become.4Stephen Jenkinson
Look what it took to hold the mind’s architecture together, this world together, as these errant thought forms ever weave narratives of cohesion that all too soon shape shift to competitive dominance, even in this unraveling time. The driven-ness of it all has been so very endless. What then does it take to trust the unraveling, to soften and let open those old fault lines into a loosely cobbled psyche, shaped around purpose. And what constructs this purpose?
The severed buildings of commerce and war, the body abandoned, a lifetime holding at bay whirlpools of generational trauma. All has to lead to the inevitable immersion into the murky ocean beneath, where the turtles, sharks, and dolphins of our unconscious swim. Honed navigation of interior landscapes at least allows descent into the coldness of the water.
There’s something important here, in the nether regions of the shapeless. The dreams that bring their disturbed messages, like faded calling cards leaving scant impressions from our night roaming the Axis Mundi. In the morning light, we lay curled under blankets, courting nameless trepidation as day breaks and ahead seems about as real as that papery crumb of a virus. We can’t see this thing, yet the world shuddered to a halt on its command. Our disorientated self, woven into that world, shuddered along with it, and is now looking out, searching into the long horizon. Waiting for the Albatross to call us back to land.
To be uncertain is the medium of meditation, is the portal of now. Here, now, now, now, now, now… Where? Our new teacher and initiator sent us all home. Home to the hearth, to where the intimacy we seek and fear, waits. What about the home of our body? How is that going? Our long embodied story holding all primal epigenetic transmission in the cells, bones, hips, chest, and thighs. So, enter gently. Kindly. How is it now? What is felt now? Softening attention into feeling breath, experiencing breath calming this somehow deserted body.
The only truly effective medicine we have is Oxygen. We blow it at high flow rates into people’s mouths and nostrils, a crutch to help the lungs that are struggling and staggering. And it’s in a shorter supply than I’d like. Oxygen means something different in this new reality. We give oxygen. Everyone staying gets oxygen. Needs oxygen.5Jason Hill
The frequent pauses at the unravelling have become port-of-calls for this lost-ness as attention falters on the future tense. Whatever lies beneath, the crocodiles in wait to pull me under, the familiar riptides I try to pull up from, sends repeated invitations. It’s time to unhook from that authority holding it all together. In this stepping down and unbinding from the creations of productivity, the rawness of the undoing lands. To feel what is felt in the nether regions is another kind of coming home, and its reward is relief. It is out-breath into “what is” with no pretence.
The long patient exhale of love is here to defeat the narcissistic death cult of our psychotic paradigm that equates nature, time, life, and everything sacred with profit.
It is a home into inhaling, exhaling into awareness moving into the felt sense of our inner sensate landscape. The lungs, do they feel tight? Nature’s lungs are so tight. She can’t breathe. She is choking. Her lungs are chopped down. She is strangled by the millennia of our abandonment and she screams and weeps all the time now. So hard-core this teacher taking us to the far regions of our ending world, tasking us in this strangeness to feel the grief held in our lungs. It is a surrender of sorts, the weeping here, at the outer post of our togetherness.
Grief hallmarks the in-between and can truly open into the love we know, but forget. What else lives there, in our wilderness at the end of all naming? Soften inward along the pathway of the breath; breathing in and out experiencing body, calming the mental body, feeling body, physical body, relax and let the moored boat of your inner attention gently lift into the tide of your deeper being. Focus attention now on the flickering transiency, and see how all is unstable. Here dwell the dragons of dispassion, cessation, letting go, and giving back. Here we soften the grasp unto death.
He looks at us puzzled, somehow still not fully understanding. Esta muriendo senior. Es el fin. This is the end. He gets it. He’s stoic despite the tears. He’s strong. If this disease attacked character instead of lungs he would have a fighting chance. We set up a video call with his family. He says goodbye. They say they love him in a dozen different ways. He touches the screen. A digital handhold in a pandemic age.6Ibid.
Death demands our presence. The moment of death has arrived, when we know for sure, it was all a dream. Distill already the remnants of our poignant love-grief-I-love-you-for-always nectar and let it fill this wandering heart, so it knows what home truly is.
Breathe into being guided by awareness inwards. Traverse the crumbling worlds into the liminal aquifer of your soul. She is there. Present. Aware. She has things to say. Like, this Covid-19 thing has intelligence. Allowing spirit, breath, and awareness to suffuse each encoded energy center in my body, the virus feels real close. It is everywhere. It’s tightening my chest. The quieting down listens into tightness, feeling each precious breath now.
It’s time to lie down under a blanket, to give over to the ground so I can deepen into waves of slow breath through the mouth coursing gently up the body, from pelvis, belly, torso, heart, throat into the brain. Hold the breath for some moments, slowly release the breath and feel subtle pleasure sensations ventilate and unify, rewiring the nervous system. My body is a raft and she is the ocean, my medicine has something to do with dissolving all splits into her ground.
This corona pause has gifted our world with a weighty question, what kind of future are we going to create?
I’m floating in that ocean now, with the sound of silence, with no raft, no reference, no center, and no edge. Listening-feeling-knowing as all returns back, all is finding its residence in the primal essence of consciousness. We all came here naked. Love is here. We all belong here. I glimpse the black jaguar drinking the moon essence it loves as it reads messages from the spread of stars while the vast river ever flows on to the ocean.
Perhaps corona is in us all because somehow, maybe we brought it forth. Maybe we unwittingly summoned this invisible god. Perhaps we knew we had to be stopped and have the calcified armor sloughed off our hearts. We just didn’t know how to do it together.
We’ve been left to our own devices, but we’re not getting it straight, so we’re going to have to be defeated. The sooner we are defeated, the better for all concerned.7Stephen Jenkinson
There is a medicine that has been waiting since the beginning. The long patient exhale of love is here to defeat the narcissistic death cult of our psychotic paradigm that equates nature, time, life, and everything sacred with profit. As shadow kings offer up their poisons, hyenas laugh and madness is complete. More will unravel… It has just started, this time of dismemberment.
O Noble Friend, The time of death has now arrived.
All that you know yourself to be is dissolving.
The time of that which we call death has arrived.
You are about to be face to face with the Clear Light.
In this ego free state, all things are like the void and cloudless sky,
And the naked, spotless awareness is luminous and transparent.
Know yourself as that awareness and abide in that state.8Verse inspired by the Bardo Thodol, Tibetan Book of the Dead
A burial is needed, a reckoning and healing calls for the disease offered up. The volcano of wounds erupting through the cracks of our collective fault line. This ancient dominator mind plowing its wreckage into her soil is vomiting up its sickness. She can’t absorb it any more. It’s ours to transmute, this litany of violence and trauma from the severed connection, loss and loneliness. It’s hard to breathe under the weight of our intolerable separating out and the endless projected-transference-counter transference shadow drama of our addiction. At the confessional box of our collective soul, it all spews out.
May all that blesses and redeems have mercy on us at this hour and at the hour of our death.
No one living thing is more important than other living things; we are all equal. Let us not tamper with mother nature, because the day you are going to die, you Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, Mother Earth will claim you because you belong to her, your body is going to be buried in the earth, or thrown in the ocean, I appeal to the international community, never, ever tamper with Mother Nature.9Mandaza Kandemwa – Indigenous Healer, Conduit of Lion & Water Spirits, messenger of Mother Nature
The essential remedy is freeing human consciousness from trans-generational dysfunctional and wounded conditioning that keeps us inwardly imprisoned.
This corona pause has gifted our world with a weighty question, what kind of future are we going to create? The intense pressure of Covid-19 is already catalyzing a reconfiguration of our global structures. The level of our collective consciousness will influence how much this restructure will commit to healing our separation from the natural world on which all lives depend.
Even if corona is the god that tips the scales in favor of overturning 5000 years of patriarchy, 500 years of colonialism and the wreckage of our foray into cannibalistic capitalism, which would be a tough job even for corona, we still have a vital part to play. Our curriculum is to see the places in our selves that collude with these old wounding stories, energizing their presence in the world, and to let that old story die.
This old story goes deep. The systems underwriting the sixth mass extinction we’ve hurtled into are subconsciously hard wired into our nervous and energy system at a cellular level. The internal narratives and core beliefs seeded by generational fear, lack, and the legacy of violence, empower our collective primary psychosis that perpetuates a profound break from embodiment as participatory beings within an en-souled, speaking, listening world.
The essential remedy therefore is freeing human consciousness from trans-generational dysfunctional and wounded conditioning that keeps us inwardly imprisoned. The voices of “not belonging,” “not good enough,” “can’t do,” constrict the fullness of our energy, undermining our ability to fully show up. The opportunity here is to step out of the old hardened bridles and shake off musty cloaks of fear, separation, and division.
It is here to demolish our human hubris. It is here as a master teacher. It is here to break set.
This stepping out is fraught. We’ve seen the battle cries for freedom wrapped around flag, religious texts, nationalism, guns and a breath taking level of narcissistic rage. This is the inevitable shadow of the evolutionary arc into a more empathetic, collaborative vocation of shared service to recover, heal, and do what we can to re-establish a respect for the sacredness of nature and a very real understanding of lived interdependence.
In other words, we have work to do.
The message is simple.
First, how is your relationship with yourself, are you abusing your body?
Second, how is your relationship with others, are you promoting the spirit of oneness
Third, how is your relationship with the world of nature, how do you treat your environment?
There are some of the areas in the human world that we need to heal together. That need peace-making, the healing must be done urgently if we are to have good life on this planet earth. 10Ibid.
Right now, corona has plunged us into the realms of the unknown. The full download, its impact, and our understanding of the strange landscapes we’ve landed into, are still unfolding. The trajectory of this process, as the data shows, tells us we are into a long journey. However much protest there is against the virus, the bravado of not wearing masks, or shaking hands in defiance, corona is not at the negotiating table. Instead it is here to demolish our human hubris. It is here as a master teacher. It is here to break set.
There has to be humility in the face of this corona god and its ferocious gaze. It brings death and is collapsing business as usual. But, it also brings a great gift.
While corona is the purveyor of much suffering, it has given us needed time to contemplate fundamental and necessary changes we need to undertake. This is a shamanic journey we’ve entered, into dismemberment unto the gates of death. The Uranian gods of the underworld, Shiva, Kali, Yama, Hades, Ala, African deity of Earth who holds the dead in her womb and Arawn, Celtic king of the Underworld, raised by Pluto conjunct Saturn, stalk our psyche, our body, bodies within corona hospital wards, the market place and city streets. They are the heavy weights whose job is to pull us into an abrupt harsh reckoning.
What is wrong with humanity, are we really normal, there must be something very wrong, it’s only the issue of traveling from the head to the heart. Listen to the heat, the heart is your creation, the heart is your creator, the heart is your ancestor, it is your great spirit.
Did you ever ask permission to walk the land? It is sacred land, did you ever say thank you mother? The moment I see Mother Nature the way I am describing, I will love her forever. I will begin to see myself in her. I have killed, I have caused pain on earth, I must go back and kneel down and ask for forgiveness, and begin to repair the wounds I have inflicted on the land.
This is my message that is coming form this monster illness, corona virus… Sit in circles around the world and contemplate this message delivered to us by Mother Nature.11Ibid.
There has to be humility in the face of this corona god and its ferocious gaze. It brings death and is collapsing business as usual. But, it also brings a great gift. We are being initiated, as co-participants, into the core matrix of unconstructed consciousness ever dreaming forth this universe. There, in the realms in-between, within the field of revelation and the inner temple of our collective soul, is the cauldron where the personal intersects the collective and the human becomes a conduit for this mysterious evolutionary impulse.
As we transition through the extreme contractions of an emergent world, the hope for that brighter future is now replaced with the injunction to be that future. We are to let die what no longer serves, here at the crossroad of our last chance on Earth.
The shaman is one whose final message is not death, but of radical rebirth and renewal. We are on schedule, and it is time to dream big, to dream beautiful, and to weave a matrix of an indestructible diamond-like womb of love for our new story to take flight.
This article was originally published as “Corona Virus: The Journey to In-Between” on Thanissara’s blog. It is reprinted here with permission.
Read the second installment of this two-part series.
Thanissara trained as a monastic in the Ajahn Chah Forest Tradition for 12 years. She’s led retreats since 1988, and co-founded Dharmagiri in South Africa and Sacred Mountain Sangha based in California. She has an MA in Mindfulness-Based Psychotherapy from the UK, and is author of several books, including Time to Stand Up: An Engaged Buddhist Manifesto for Our Earth — The Buddha’s Life and Message through Feminine Eyes.
References [ + ]
|1.||↩||Stephen Jenkinson: Philosopher, Activist, Author|
|2.||↩||Jerusalem Post, Study from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou|
|3.||↩||Jason Hill – New York Presbyterian Hospital|
|8.||↩||Verse inspired by the Bardo Thodol, Tibetan Book of the Dead|
|9.||↩||Mandaza Kandemwa – Indigenous Healer, Conduit of Lion & Water Spirits, messenger of Mother Nature|