While sitting in meditation a wise yogi saw the spirit of smallpox approach his village. He called out to the Spirit, “As the spiritual protector of this village, I must tell you that you are not welcome here. I cannot allow you anywhere near my village.”
The spirit of smallpox responded, “I have karmic duty to take two people.”
“All right,” the saint acquiesced. “Two people, but no more.”
“Two people,” the smallpox agreed. “I will not take more.”
Soon two people developed smallpox and died. Then a few more developed the disease and died. Then more again until it began to appear that an epidemic was forming. The saint went back into meditation to contact the spirit of smallpox.
“You said you would only take two people, yet many people are dying! What is going on?”
The spirit of smallpox replied, “I only took two people. The rest are dying of fear.”
Though the story does not tell us this, it is likely the yogi felt at least a flicker of fear on seeing the threat of smallpox approach his village. Saint or not, the man was still human. Perhaps the fear came first, causing the yogi to shift his attention. In this way fear served as a messenger to alert him to the presence of possible danger.
We are at the end of an era, a time when Mother Earth is cleansing in preparation for renewal. It is a time when the very foundations of life are being shaken to the core. Not to feel emotion in the face of such cataclysmic shifts is not to be awake and alive. In times such as these, when chaos and uncertainty rise from seemingly every direction, a certain amount of fear is appropriate, but how do we keep that fear from running off with us and becoming a demon that consumes us and threatens to cause a contagion of panic?
Here again the story helps us, for the saint does not flinch from the spirit of smallpox. He confronts the threat of impending danger as a firm, protective warrior, not just for himself, but for his village. One might say he stands up to danger for all Creation.
So the story encourages us to face our fear, to face the threats that assail us; environmental destruction, the loss of so many species, unprecedented toxicity, earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricanes, and now an epidemic not only of chronic disease, but acute viral COVID-19.
Somehow we must acknowledge what is in front of us without succumbing to the emotions that naturally accompany loss, but neither can we continue old patriarchal habits of dismissing fear (or grief or anger…) as irrational, illogical and useless. When we step out of the craziness to take time to open to the emotions we feel, welcoming them into the open space of the compassionate heart; when we are willing to bring curious, nonjudgmental active listening to our fear, we create a container for healing, a place where the transformation these times demand can begin to occur. We enter a nonlinear, nonrational realm where feeling, flowing and listening open doorways for our souls to unfold. In this we plant viable seeds for rebirth and renewal. This is no longer a time where things can be fixed. The chaotic upheaval we are all experiencing on this beautiful planet demands nothing short of total transformation. Our rational minds cannot figure a way out. Only the heart and soul can show us the way through the maze of chaos. The way is not out, but through.
I cannot help but be moved by the extraordinary, everyday beauty of the butterfly whenever she crosses my path. The intricate patterns that adorn her paper thin wings never fail to fill my heart with a sense of wonder at the miracle of life. Yet in each of these moments of joy, there is a puzzled pang of just the slightest bit of grief and I ask myself,
“Who is this Divine Being who can create such magnificent Beauty only to let it die and disintegrate?”
But then, more butterflies are born.
The rational mind scoffs, but the heart and the soul know the power of imagination and in these times, no matter how frightening the present and future may seem, no matter how great our personal losses (and they may indeed be excruciating) we must continue to dream into the future. No matter how much death and destruction abound, we must keep aligning with life and renewal, for the renewal will come. It always does. In these times, we must dare to dream beauty and balance back onto this Earth, for the seeds of our dreaming will germinate from the compost of all that is lost and new life will be born.
We cannot change the course of life’s cycles. Try as we might with our need to fix and control, we cannot stop the Earth from cleansing Herself, as she has done in times past. Our job, like the Saint in the story, is to prepare and protect what we can then surrender to that which cannot be changed. There will be suffering and loss. That is inevitable. But there will also be miracles, there always are. Researches have discovered that mice near Chernobyl, where a nuclear meltdown has rendered life all but extinct, have developed genes to protect them from radiation. Though too many precious species are rapidly disappearing from the planet, the buffalo and the eagle are paradoxically returning.
We are in the times astrologers, sages and shamans have foretold for centuries, but within the death of the old are the seeds of new life. In times of destruction, we must dare to create, and if the beauty we birth is also destroyed, we create again, for such is the way the life force flows and as the Lakota say,
“Wiconi waste” – “Life is Good.”
Finally I want to end with a bit of humor that has birthed from the pandemic of corona virus.
When an American woman queried her daughter in Switzerland about buying so much toilet paper in response to COVID-19, her daughter replied,
“Because Mom, when a few people are gathered together and one person sneezes, everyone else shits their pants.”
Let us all keep laughing as best we can!
May Beauty Surround You,
Dancing Crow/Deborah Frances