Covid-19 Healing: From Isolation To Alignment
When I was 17, I signed up for a three-week Outward Bound course in Maine. Along with waking up at 5 a.m., grueling physical activity and jumping into the freezing Atlantic Ocean as a stand-in for bathing, Outward Bound is known for its solo. For 72 hours we were put on a small island alone, with only a journal and very limited food. We were to have no human contact and little distraction from ourselves. We were safe, in that we had a whistle if anything went seriously awry, but otherwise we were left to our own devices.
It was one of the most memorable and difficult experiences I’ve ever had. It takes a tremendous amount of internal strength — or wrangling — to be alone with oneself for that long, an uneven surprise at 17. As a species, we crave contact with each other — babies give up and die if they are not held — and it takes much training and practice to reach the adeptness of monks or serious meditators who can placate the howling winds of their restless minds.
So here many of us are — needing to self-isolate -— and we can’t pretend it’s easy even amidst the initial adrenaline of our collective fear and hysteria. Though there is a sense that online resources can potentially make up for human contact, they pale by comparison. We’ll come to realize that if we haven’t already. Longer term quarantining and self-isolating is lonely-making for all of us, like we’ve all entered into our private prison cells punctuated with visits behind plate glass from our loved ones once a week.
What was our crime? Hubris. We have made tremendous strides technologically, but we still fail to tend to our home — Earth. We play with biology, but like children, don’t really know what we are doing. Like Shirley Jackson’s Lottery, those who die of Covid-19 are those sacrificed for our collective mistakes, for the deeply-flawed global world we created. Whether the virus came from animals naturally or we somehow had a hand in engineering it, it belongs, now, to all of us.
For thousands of years, Native Americans, who knew Earth to be a living breathing organism of its own, lived on this land without looming threat of self-annihilation. Fast forward to modernity and we are living amidst impending environmental catastrophes along with a global pandemic that only underscores our lack of connection to our collective home. Native Americans lived not just for their own generation but for seven generations to come, while we look at our children, swallow hard and say, “Good luck.” This is a call for all of us now to realize our deep-rooted connection to planet Earth, to use our technological advances accordingly, and reacquaint ourselves with the values our ancestors held dear before it’s too late.
There are silver linings; the environment is enjoying a comeback of sorts. As the world economy grinds to a near standstill, the natural world responds with joy and burgeoning life: smog lifts, animals return to former habitats, and some humans — those who are still allowed to go outside — take to exploring nature and appreciating the great outdoors. It’s a mindful meditation retreat for those who are sick with only mild symptoms or are lucky enough to escape the illness entirely (which is, by the numbers, most of us). We have to live differently for a time, are forced to be with our immediate families or alone for long periods, and can use this time to reflect. Or go insane. You pick.
Government response to this crisis allows us to see more clearly who our leaders are, how well they can (or can’t) lead, as we hold tight to their guidance during the continued onslaught of mayhem. We are forced to appreciate what we do have: the relationships we value (or can no longer pretend we do) and the freedoms we have, but have had to forgo for a period. We appreciate doing away with what used to be mildly irritating/annoying — commutes to work for example. While we aren’t, as yet, being rationed, there is a war time, in-it-together feeling to our lives now, though our common enemy is microscopic.
The greater question, as opposed to the immediate — what does the curve look like, how many people have died in my city/state/country, when will this be over, etc., — is: What can we learn from this as a collective? Although it has not claimed as many deaths as the plague, leprosy, tuberculous, smallpox, or any of the myriad infectious diseases in our past, what can we do differently as a result of this particular pandemic, given our collective sacrifice economically, socially and psychologically? We still don’t know the extent of the fallout but will find out in the months and years to come. We can only hope it’s not as bad as worse case scenarios that have been predicted.
Perhaps we can come to fully realize what herbalist Robin Rose Bennett so adeptly pointed out: While we self-isolate for now, know that much of our world’s problems are due to our collective isolation, not only from each other but from Earth. We can argue all day long about how we got into this mess, but more importantly, how will we get out of it? As a biological manifestation, Covid-19 is intimately connected to nature, yet it also calls our own nature into question. The loudest voices (spreading like a virus) are often fear-based — holding us hostage while our future hangs in the balance. True healing — from the virus, from misalignment with Earth — comes from the still small voice within, working with nature and aligning with its inherent wisdom.
Sacha Moore lives in Brooklyn with her two kids, two cats, a rabbit, a hamster and over 50 plants. A social worker by training, Sacha has been helping her children with online learning and engaging in homeschooling in recent months. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.