In the Hindu tradition, Kali is a formidable goddess. Towering and terrible, she wields a wickedly sharp blade in one hand and dangles the severed head of a man in another. Her necklace, a grisly adornment, sways with more severed heads.
Kali is the goddess of chaos and destruction. She upends the world as we know it and ruthlessly smashes the structures we rely on. Every time you feel lost, unknown to yourself, or like the ground is moving beneath you, that is Kali at work.
COVID-19 is Kali working on a macro scale.
We’re now in a world many of us are ceasing to recognize. We are being turned upside down. And, with infection numbers rising every hour, we’re seeing physical proof of the ways we’re inextricably interconnected as a species.
Our initial response is to hide until it goes away. We look hopefully at pandemic charts and think, this too shall pass. We just need to wait it out.
So we cut off interaction with others, close shop, cancel everything, hunker down, and get all the toilet paper we can before our neighbors snatch it up.
There are monsters under the bed, in the closet, but they can’t get us, we tell ourselves, when we stay here, in the dark, with our eyes closed.
I have news for you. This isn’t going to stop. Sure, maybe we’ll contain this one, but Kali isn’t going to retreat until she teaches us what we need to know. This coronavirus is simply a crashing wave in a much larger storm. It’s a warning, and we need to respond to it as such.
Here’s the good news: they’re only monsters until you face them.
We’re being called right now as a species to shed our inadequacies, stand up in the face of our fear, and define what is important to us. Community? Love? Connection? Fulfillment? We won’t get these by hiding under the covers. If we want these things, we will have to create them with intention. And of course, with collaboration. We live in a connected world, this has never been more apparent, and no one of us face this alone.
For example, we see now with unvarnished clarity the ways our healthcare systems are inadequate in the face of chaos. Ok. Noted. Now let’s build something that can withstand chaos.
Maybe we stop panicking, allow ourselves to pause, and then choose our next steps with care. What type of system can we construct that will be responsive enough to handle something like this in the future? It will probably have to be global. It will probably have to be unprecedented. And it will have to be guided by gods other than greed, money, profit, and exploitation.
We need to find the courage to construct new frameworks for living that will let us stand up to destructive forces. Not because it’s “right,” or “fair” or “just,” those are also false gods that we worship at our peril. No, we need to build what works. We need to build structures that are practically and pragmatically functional in bringing about the world that we want to live into as a species.
We’re regarding COVID as a monster when it’s actually a teacher, a messenger, a force showing us where we’re weak, what’s not working; it’s a gale force wind that’s locating with precision the cracks in our foundation.
The Spiritual Implications of the Coronavirus
It’s odd, is it not, that COVID-19 has only three symptoms: fever, shortness of breath, and chest discomfort?
Each of these symptoms is rooted in spiritual significance. The virus is pointing us to the places that we, as a species, need to open, expand, and strengthen.
Fever: Fire is a symbol of regeneration. The phoenix erupts in flame and births a new hatchling: beautiful, fragile, fierce and alive. When we come across a particularly poignant truth, it burns us, incinerating the dead weight, the parts of us that are false. It hurts like hell, in fact, it’s a grappling with hell, which is why so many of us avoid it, but it’s a necessary step in our growth. We are being called to embrace the truth of who we are, let that truth take from us all that is false, and withstand the pain of it. Because what’s left behind is light and unbreakable: the ecstatic purity of our being.
Shortness of breath: Breath is one of the oldest incarnations of spirit. Breathing is the only function we have that is both voluntary and autonomic. Whether we’re paying attention or not, it is with us, tending to us, keeping us alive. Breath is the first access we have to presence. Conscious breathing stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, calming us, moving stress from our bodies, and centering our awareness on what is immediately in front of us. The word “inspire,” means in spirit; it means to breathe in. We are being called to breathe deeply and calm ourselves to face the present moment, which is uncompromising in its reality.
Chest discomfort: Our hearts are hurting right now. Our hearts are the source of our truth, the powerful, expansive drumbeat of love, joy, and abundance that are the hallmarks of a fulfilling life. Ruthlessly, we’ve cut ourselves off from our source of power and fecundity, relying on the force of reason to direct us in our lives. But while reason is a stalwart servant, it’s tyrannical master. There’s wisdom behind why Kali brandishes a severed head, why she festoons herself with them. Our heads are not the part of us that will lead us to truth. Our heads are not the part of us that will help us survive this impending storm. Our hearts are hurting because we’ve attempted to constrict them, compartmentalizing love into “appropriate” times and places, for only specific people. But the infinite can be contained only falsely, and our efforts to do so are literally killing us.
Here’s the other thing about Kali. If you can come out from hiding and look at her, and I mean really look, you’ll see that, past the severed heads and the glittering blade, she holds a lotus, nestled like a jewel in her other hand. It rests there for eternity, a perfect bloom of hope, its beauty and wholeness a promise of purity, life, and serenity. Kali is compassion personified. She’s a towering, unstoppable force that won’t let us hide behind our inadequacies and smallness. She won’t let us let fear define us, even if she has to walk up to our beds, snatch the covers away, and force us to look her in the eye.
There are things more contagious than a virus, and more powerful. Love is one of them. Compassion. Inspiration. Generosity. Gratitude. Serenity. Courage. We will find these things at the very center of our being. They will call us out from the darkness where we’re hiding. Passed from hand to hand, heart to heart, they will heal the places we think we’re fractured. They will uncover our strength and unshakable wholeness. They will stand us upright in the face of chaos, regardless of its form and how it’s unleashed.
They will unite us. And they will set us free.
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