An important part of anthroposophic medicine is thinking about why we get sick, even with the COVID19 illness. That consideration does include aspects like routes of exposure (respiratory droplets, coming into contact with contaminated surfaces) as well as knowing when someone can most easily spread an infection (once your fever has been gone for three days you are no longer considered contagious). Those aspects are real and lend quantifiably information we can study through testing and epidemiologic models. Those are the outer parts of the illness and they deal with the quantifiable parts of the illness. But there are other levels of illness which have more to do with patterns of symptoms and patterns of consciousness and try to understand the qualities of the illness. Why are we getting this illness? Those pieces can tell us something about the “being” of an illness. Pandemics are unusual because everyone around the whole world experiences the same illness process at the same time. Pandemics have more of a relationship to the experiences of a particular time than to the conditions of a certain place. They are different than working to understand the health history, illness inclinations, or biography of an individual person.
As we are slowly settling into new rhythms of life, there is a little more space and perhaps more consciousness to consider what the future will look like. Let’s compare it to an accident when you break your leg:
- Initially there is just the shock and pain of the injury. You can’t believe this just happened! Why did that happen? What went wrong? Where did this come from? Who is at fault? (You madly gather information, focusing mostly on the past).
- Next, realizing: I am really hurt! This needs treatment. We need to do something about this because we can’t just ignore it any longer! (So, you go and get an x-ray and a cast; you do something, in the now).
- Then, once the bone is stabilized, and after the initial pain has improved a little, you figure out how you are going to navigate the next weeks or months, as the mobility you usually take for granted is gone, and you have to be much more careful and conscious about your movements (how does this now affect all the different parts of my life?)
It is important to acknowledge that there are many people who are continuing to get sick, some becoming severely ill and dying from COVID infections, so this analogy is certainly imperfect. We hold those people in our consciousness as well as their loved ones.
- And then if the pain is not too great, we think about how we can try to prevent anything like this from happening again in the future.
If we pull back, way back, looking beyond the fever/cough/shortness of breath and try to see what the whole world is experiencing right now, it is an accentuation of fear and loneliness. Those two “shadows” are a core part of everyone’s experience right now. Both have been building in intensity for far longer than just the last two months and have hopefully, just now, reached a crisis, a turning point. Every person is challenged to wrestle with two seemingly contradictory dynamics—how do I protect myself (because I am told in so many ways that I cannot trust other people), and how do I rebuild and cultivate meaningful connection to other people (because I need them). We have been on a collective march towards this eye of a needle for a while. An increasingly virtual world feeds and manipulates all variety of fears, since we receive bits of provocative information without the context or direct experience to judge them ourselves. More and more children, teenagers and adults complain of feeling anxious. At the same time, we are probably more lonely than at any other time, in spite of being so connected. In 2018, the UK recognized this trend and actually named a “Minister of Loneliness” because it was seen as such an important health concern.
If tomorrow, a cure for the coronavirus was miraculously found and perfectly distributed all around the world and no one had to worry about this virus any more, we would still be left with a pandemic of fear and isolation. This time is giving us a chance to really take hold of those two soul patterns and change them. This is a healing crisis. Have we had enough of these yet? How much further do we have to go before we are willing to change? How can we best know and celebrate the richness of human contact, collaboration, and community?
It’s not possible to give an answer here, because the truth is that we need many millions and billions of of small, earnest movements in each of our inner lives.
Let’s be open. Be well,