Christian mystics talk about “fasting of the heart” in their postures of solitude and time in communion with a divine order. Removed from the bustle of the marketplace and in isolation, this “fasting” is a time of reflection and being in the presence of a great wonder. Now, as the hubbub of the world’s commerce stands still, and we distance ourselves six feet apart (at the very least), how can we turn this global adversity into gain? We are indeed in a kind of bardo state, a limbo land where the streets are vacant, coffee houses are deserted and the runways silent. Like riding the tube in London, this is a time for us all to listen to the big PA system forewarn, “Mind the Gap.” If we do not take heed at this time it is possible that we will all end up six feet under.
For the world is quite literally on fire. You know this if you were in the land Down Under this summer, as 2019 was the hottest year on record in Australia with temperatures above 107 degrees and nearly 13 million acres of its real estate scorched. You know this if you were part of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, measuring arctic sea ice, that shriveled in 2019 down to its lowest level. Solar bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef, the oceans polluted in plastic, monarch butterflies disappearing off the coast of California, the likely extinction of the magnificent elephant. In light of all this, what is really thriving? The coronavirus—microscopic, bomb-proof, and death dueling.
In some of the earliest yoga teachings, the rishis, bestowed with cosmic vision, spoke of a divine order called rta. These seers intuited a universal order that included the movement of the stars, the path of the sun and moon, the cycle of seasons, and the migration of the soul. Now that the hi-speed train of our bustling lives has come to a screeching halt, we must wake up. Like the verse, repeated often in Zen:
Great is the matter of birth and death,
Life slips quickly by.
Time waits for no one.
Wake up! Wake up!
Don’t let this moment slip by.
In the bardo state of social distancing, with the stock market down and time “on our hands,” we must now commit to every possible measure to combat global warming. Since the onset of the pandemic, scientists have recorded a 50% reduction in C02 emissions! Meanwhile, as fear breeds in the hearts of many, people are buying everything off the shelf, stockpiling their ammunition and, for those who can afford to, retreating to a secluded island. But this virus gone viral is really not just about me and my safety. This is about rolling up our sleeves and making a commitment to protect the whales, the bees, the cod, the rivers, and the chestnut trees. As we abstain from social contact, fast from travel and commercial activity, we must look to the Big Picture. We must cast our vote to vaccinate our beautiful blue planet, that has been infected by toxic emissions and running a high fever.