What a time of change we are experiencing. There is so much happening, impacting us on so many levels. The news is full of death tolls from and guidelines and laws for decreasing the risk of contamination by the Covid-19 virus. Financial worries are rife as people all over the world have had to close their businesses or be laid off from their jobs. There is worry that dictators will use this situation to take control in ways that they have no intention of giving up in the future. We are being woken up.
On the positive side, life is slowing down in pace, the rat race is over, and we have time to be with family, garden, cook, reflect and most of all FEEL.
I believe what these brutal changes in our lives have actually done is disrupt the Default Mode Network.
The Default Mode Network is a network in our brains with which we go into autopilot mode whilst we are carrying out a routine task. We do a repetitive action, driving the same route to work for example, and when we get there, we realize we don’t remember stopping at the lights or turning right in the habitual place, etc. We don’t remember because we were in default mode. It can be frightening to see it this way, but it is as if we were daydreaming rather than being consciously aware of every action. We saved energy by being in automatic pilot mode.
I believe that in the often stressful, high-paced modern life so many of live in, we are not just in the Default Mode Network occasionally, but we more or less live in it constantly. It’s as if we have been hijacked. We carry out our everyday activities, duties, work, etc. without being fully aware or alive. We have blinkers on and only see a tiny opening where a slice of life appears. We are disconnected from the whole, from a higher perspective, from our own soul’s feelings and desires.
I believe this is one of the major reasons why we as a collective have failed to step up and stop the ongoing pollution, climate change and habitat loss that are quickly destroying our planet. We tune in occasionally and read an article, skim a social media post or watch something on our tv’s or laptops that makes us think, makes us aware. But this is only momentarily. As it doesn’t immediately change something in our daily lives, we aren’t forced out long enough from our daydreaming state and we carry on regardless.
With coronavirus, our lives have changed, radically for many of us, and so we are being pushed by circumstances out of the blinkered, default mode system and into a much bigger picture of the world, the future and our place within it. We are being forced to wake-up. And this is not always comfortable for many of us.
In everyday life, sometimes something happens to make us wake-up and make changes. This could be an illness, accident, separation, death, sudden job loss, etc. Our life changes and we hopefully reflect on where we are going and what we are doing with our lives. If we ignore the call, life will throw us a louder message the following time.
Well, the call is here in the form of coronavirus and if we don’t heed its message, wake up and reflect on where we are heading, the message will have to get louder next time. Remember, in relation to many of the viruses that have passed from animal to human hosts, this one is relatively gentle.
It feels like the coronavirus is a global warning. Collectively, we haven’t been listening to or acting upon the signs and symbols that the planet has been giving us. Coronavirus has changed our daily lives, is having a direct effect upon us, therefore forcing us out of this default mode system. Up until now, climate change has not yet directly affected enough people’s daily lives so it hasn’t shifted us out of the Default Mode Network.
With coronavirus, we are suddenly confronted with life, real life, really being alive. We are forced to think about our lives, the before and the after. With the slower pace and our daily routines no longer taking the lead, we are really feeling our own feelings and the collective feelings. The things we did before that took our minds off feeling are no longer central in our lives.
It’s important to feel. To feel is to heal. However hard the feelings may be, this is our chance to really feel and by really feeling we get more intimate with ourselves and what is true for us. This is a good thing as it will be what pushes us to make real decisions for the future and really change the course of the world. It’s as if the coronavirus is a gift for waking us up.
What is interesting is that the way we work with essential oils seems to also disrupt the default mode system, thus helping us to reach deeper, unconscious parts of ourselves. The oils are very helpful allies at this time. If you feel like you are being taken over by grief or fear or you are slipping back into a dream-like state, use the oils. Check out cathysattars.com to find the oil that suits your situation.
Another way of looking at the changes that we are all experiencing is through alchemy. We work with the alchemical stages as a framework for the psyches continual processes. You can read more about the alchemical stages by clicking on this link.
In the present global situation, it seems that we have been forced into the stage of sublimatio. Think of the steam in a distillation which rises from the boiler where the water and plant matter is bringing with it the aromatic molecules. In the same way, our consciousness is being forced out of the default mode system and rises above our lives. We gain a completely new perspective. Instead of being blinkered, we see the world from the eyes of an eagle. We see the bigger picture, where we have come, the connections and life paths that got us here, the way we are part of the collective whole, etc.
Once we see this bigger picture, we are forced without knowing it into the next alchemical stage, which is mortificatio. Through this higher perspective, we see what needs to die. Our psyches realize that parts of our existence are outdated, no longer needed, unhelpful to where we are heading. I think a lot of the grief that people are feeling is being compounded by the fact that we are feeling what is dying in our individual lives and as a collective.
Life is never going to be the same again.
Although there is grief involved with letting go, the alchemical stage mortificatio is a natural process and one that needs to be honored. Without the death and decay stage in nature, the forest floors would not have the nourishment to feed the new seeds and growth. The humus is created from the decaying matter.
Things that die in nature become the soil for the new growth. This is where we are at in the world today. We can no longer think just about our own individual lives but are being forced to think about the collective needs for the future
We are experiencing an individual and collective death and re-birth process.
In any system, when it is time for change, we have two choices, stay healthy and evolve or resist change and the system becomes stagnant and unhealthy, like the Death Mother.
At the moment it feels like we are at the gestation period of the rebirth. We don’t know what the new life will be like. It is a time for us to pause and reevaluate our lives and all that is most important to us and what we hold most dear.
There is a magical element to what is happening, too. I see it in the symbolism that we are forced to look at. We have been cutting down and burning the Amazon rainforests and many other millions of acres of natural habitat that make up the planets respiratory system and we have refused to stop. We have been warned about this for years now, with scientific studies, news coverage and images and we have globally ignored it. Now look what is happening. Humanity is being shown what it feels like not to be able to breathe. The coronavirus attacks the lungs and causes suffocation.
In many spiritual traditions the word for spirit is same as the word for breath and air, e.g. pneuma in ancient Greek, ruach in Hebrew, etc. Even the English word awe carries this between its meaning and its sound–that is we make a slow, open-mouthed exhale, a spirited breath. The first thing we do when we are born is that we inhale and the last thing we do as we die is exhale. The air we exhale is inhaled by others. Plants turn our exhaled carbon dioxide into oxygen which we in turn need to breathe. We are connected to all living things through the air we breathe. The air is between and within all of us and forms a giant presence around and within us all, a great spirit that we are all part of. If spirit is air, then the volatile aromatic molecules could be seen as the ‘neurotransmitters’ of this spirit, or conduits, messengers within the spirit realm, which is why aromatics can be such good allies during this time. In Alchemy this is Mercurius, the ever-changing messenger, reconciler of opposites, as hard to capture as a scent or the wind.
We have been living disconnected lives. We have forgotten the source of our breath and the spirit that it is. The coronavirus is reminding us of the importance of the spirit of breath, individually and collectively.
Sigmund Freud called psychology the study of the soul, I would call it the journey of the soul. Carl Jung focused on the collective unconscious, an alternate dimension encompassing all human experience beyond the limits of material reality but accessible to human consciousness. We are collectively being confronted with humanity’s shadow that is held in the collective unconscious and that we all have access to. I believe a lot of the intense feelings circulating at the moment relate to this sudden realization that we have a dark, violent, selfish, power-crazy human shadow that we need to confront. It has been ruing us as it has been relegated to the shadow, now it is being confronted by many of us. By bringing it into consciousness and owning it, it can lose its power of us and things can begin to change. Owning our shadow is becoming mature, becoming whole. Coronavirus is forcing us to do this.
This is a time when tools for the unconscious are invaluable, we all need to take responsibility for working with and processing our own personal unconscious realms. Aromas, journeying, shadow work, plant spirit medicine, journaling, dream work, nature, movement, collage and artwork are among some of the tools that can help. (see end of article to link of some free tools and resources).
In my own work, I feel deeply that the wild feminine is rising within us all (men and women) and we need to learn to welcome her, honor her, relate to her. She is also rising through the plant and animal realms. We need to respect the wild, the wild in nature and in ourselves. We cannot continue to tame what we can’t control. We must let go and trust. The picture is much bigger than we are.
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