Life in a Time of Cholera

“May you be born in interesting times.”

Ancient Chinese curse

Corona virus cells (yellow) among human cells (blue, pink, and purple) – color added

The Corona virus (COVID-19) has certainly got us all up and running around in various stages of proactivity, reactivity, and out-and-out panic.  What to do?  We’ve dealt with SARS, the bird flu, and various other iterations of the “common cold” virus.  So why is everyone so concerned about this particular one? 

Sparing you all my favorite conspiracy theories, there are some good sources of information on what to do, what not to do, and how to keep calm in the midst of it.  One of the most comprehensive so far is New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich’s website, which provides links to practically every source of information, new and old, from visiting a relative in a managed care facility to global travel.

NM Senator Martin Heinrich on COVID-19

What I’d like to suggest first, though, is that you read the following two articles:

What to Do If you’re Anxious about Corona Virus  – Huffington Post

Letter forwarded by Dr. Howard Schwartz (Santa Fe NM) to his mailing list on 3/1/2020:

Corona virus:

> Dear Family and Friends, as some of you may recall, when I was a professor of pathology at the University of California San Diego, I was one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (the 1970s). I was the first to demonstrate the number of genes the virus contained. Since then, I have kept up with the coronavirus field and its multiple clinical transfers into the human population (e.g., SARS, MERS), from different animal sources.
> The current projections for its expansion in the US are only probable, due to continued insufficient worldwide data, but it is most likely to be widespread by mid to late March and April.
> Here is what I have done and the precautions that I take and will take. These are the same precautions I currently use during our influenza seasons, except for the mask and gloves.:
> 1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.
> 2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.
> 3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip – do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.
> 4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.
> 5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.
> 6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home’s entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can’t immediately wash your hands.
> 7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!
> What I have stocked in preparation for the pandemic spread to the US:
> 1) Latex or nitrile latex disposable gloves for use when going shopping, using the gasoline pump, and all other outside activity when you come in contact with contaminated areas.
>      Note: This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land are infectious for about a week on average – everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs). The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.
> 2) Stock up now with disposable surgical masks and use them to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth (We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you – it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth – it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.
> 3) Stock up now with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.
> 4) Stock up now with zinc lozenges. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY “cold-like” symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Cold-Eeze lozenges is one brand available, but there are other brands available.
> I, as many others do, hope that this pandemic will be reasonably contained, BUT I personally do not think it will be. Humans have never seen this snake-associated virus before and have no internal defense against it. Tremendous worldwide efforts are being made to understand the molecular and clinical virology of this virus. Unbelievable molecular knowledge about the genomics, structure, and virulence of this virus has already been achieved. BUT, there will be NO drugs or vaccines available this year to protect us or limit the infection within us. Only symptomatic support is available.
> I hope these personal thoughts will be helpful during this potentially catastrophic pandemic. Good luck to all of us, Dad/Jim.
> James Robb, MD FCAP”


Now, having read these two articles, how do you feel? In my mind, and in the words of young Adam Avin who teaches mindfulness to children through his program and website, Wuf Shanti, the best advice is to “think well to be well.”

Follow sensible preventative guidelines (some of Dr. Robb’s are sensible and some seem a bit over the top), stay home when you don’t feel well, get a good sleep, and as stated in the Huffington Post article, take a break from the news and social media.

I find it’s helpful to listen to lively music while cooking dinner and either read or watch a funny or romantic movie (my husband calls them “chick flicks”) afterwards. I’ve stopped checking my news feed during breakfast (which definitely improves both taste and digestion). A nice long walk provides perspective and helps restore peace of mind. When talking to clients or friends who are feeling anxious I try to be as calm and positive as possible– which calms me too. When triggered by a news report or other source of upsetting information, I stop, take a couple of deep breaths, and ask myself the following questions:

Is this happening to me or to someone I know?

Is this happening here? Now?

Is there anything I can do about this right now?

If the answer to these three questions is “no,” then I simply turn the whole thing over to Spirit and get on with my day. The important thing to remember is this:

It’ll all be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.

John Lennon

The Power of Suggestion: An Experiment

This is something I posted quite awhile ago. However, it’s more relevant now than ever, especially as we struggle daily with the pressures of climate change, national political scandals, global unrest, and the possibility of a viral pandemic. (I’ll write more about that in the next couple of posts.)

Slowly but inexorably, science and medicine are moving toward a more holistic view of wellness, toward acceptance of the existence of a mind-body connection that influences our health or lack of it.

In earlier times, the correlation between what people thought and how their bodies felt was an accepted tenet of healers everywhere. Indigenous healers believed (and still do, in many cases) that positive thinking produced positive results. The reverse is also true. A negative thought, whether directed outward towards another or turned inwards towards the self can result in illness and in some cases, death.

Hawaiian shamanism or Huna contends that the ability of the body, the Unihipili or “little self,” to communicate with Spirit, Aumakua or the “higher self,” and interpret Spirit’s messages correctly can produce not only physical health but a good and fulfilling life. This is often accomplished through ritual—which can include a dance, a prayer, a special ceremony, or the creation of a symbolic art piece. The Uhane or “middle self,” which in Western thought is called “ego,” can help or hinder this process, depending upon whether it is allowed to run the show or serve the higher purpose.

For example, in the Southwestern US, a modern Navajo ha’atali or healer will conduct a “sing”— a ceremony of supplication to Spirit on behalf of a sick tribal member, which often includes the creation of a sand painting meant to convey special symbolic messages to the patient’s higher self and the Great Spirit (of which, many believe, we are all part). In such a case, the patient’s family, friends, and community members are all expected to participate, because it is felt that the dis-ease of one member affects the whole, and the sing may last for several days.

Although such a communal approach to healing appears to have a powerfully positive effect on the patient’s prognosis, I feel it is effective in the sense that the patient’s journey back to health is being witnessed by those persons most important to him. The real, underlying power lies in the belief that sickness is not something from outside visited upon the patient, but springs from within, from his own felt disconnection from Spirit, from his Source of Being.

The challenge, then, is to help the patient understand that he has never been separated from Source, and that it is only the machinations of the ego that have made it appear that he was. Ego is not a friend. One of Ego’s favorite tricks to make us miserable is suggestion– particularly negative suggestion– and it employs all sorts of outlets for this: the news media, friends’ comments, our own thoughts, bumper stickers, films, and so on.

I’ll expand upon these thoughts in future posts. Meanwhile, whether you hold to Newtonian physics or have begun to embrace the new paradigm of quantum physics, you can try this little experiment on the power of suggestion:

Take two small plants in separate pots and place them fairly far away from each other. Each day, in the morning and evening, address one plant with loving thoughts. You can say things like, “You’re beautiful!” or “I love you!” or “I want you to grow and I’ll help you!” To the other plant you must say very negative things such as, “You are so ugly!” or “I think you’re beginning to shrivel up!” or “I want you to die!”

Then watch what happens with the plants. Throughout this process you must continue to water them and take care of them in the usual mechanical way. They should receive the same amount of sun, water, fresh air, etc.

For references, see Tompkins & Bird’s The Secret Life of Plants

Also see Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm – even more interesting!

Stephen Harrod Buhner – Gaian Studies

Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm

Another fascinating and perhaps more personal experiment is to ask a friend to help you as follows: On Day One, the friend must greet you with effusive praise. “You look wonderful today! You must have had a fantastic evening last night. Your hair looks gorgeous, you have the most enchanting smile!” etc. That night, record in a journal your emotional and physical responses to this communication. On Day Two, the same friend must greet you with comments such as “Oh, dear—you don’t look too good. Are you coming down with something? What’s going on with you?” etc.) That night, again record in your journal your emotional and physical responses to this communication. On Day Three, note the differences in your emotional and physical responses to the two different verbal messages you’ve received.

Then I invite you to comment on your results here in this blog. Have fun with this, and let me know how it goes!

Reviving Your Inner Optimist

CrabapplesYesterday morning my husband and I were discussing optimism versus pessimism.  A Vietnam vet with PTSD, my husband tends toward the latter world view, while I’m the proverbial Pollyanna– a trait for which I’ve been ridiculed for most of my life.  The good news about being a Pollyanna, though, is that your life (should you be someone who enjoys life) can be longer, happier, and more productive.  Not a bad deal, is it?!!

I mentioned in my last post that we’d be discussing various physical conditions and their causes and cures.  Depression, it turns out, is one of the major causes of dis-ease.  Not only does chronic depression affect the afflicted individual– it hamstrings his friends and family members as well.  This particular condition is called “compassion fatigue”– or in the words of Anne-Marie Botek, author of a book and website on the topic, “caregiver burnout.”  But there is hope– a bright light at the end of that gloomy tunnel.  Here is an article by Anne-Marie Botek, with links to additional tips.  Although her focus is on elder care, the excellent advice she offers can be helpful to anyone who lives with and loves a depressed person.

3 Ways to Bring Out Your Inner Optimist!

By Anne-Marie Botek,

Optimism; a word associated with sunny smiles and a Pollyanna-ish outlook on life.

But, what does it really mean to be optimistic? And—more important to the stressed-out caregiver—how can you be optimistic in the face of seemingly endless negativity?

Being optimistic does not mean that you have to constantly walk around with a smile plastered onto your face, burying your true feelings and pretending to be happy.

Rick Hanson, Ph. D., caregiver, and author of “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neurosciences of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom,” says that being optimistic means that you see the world accurately, taking in both the good and the bad. And yes, you can train yourself to be more optimistic.

Pessimism, on the other hand, is an unhealthy obsession with the negative, which can snowball until a person feels completely helpless and totally trapped.

Hanson says that it’s unfortunately pretty easy to fall prey to pessimism because the human brain has a built-in survival mechanism—called the negativity bias—that makes us instinctively focus on the bad or threatening aspects of our environment while ignoring the good.

Caregivers can become so overwhelmed by the bad that it can be nearly impossible to see the good. Hanson offers three simple tips for caregivers who want to teach themselves to become more optimistic:

Think, Do, Be Positive!
How to Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
11 Ways to Stop Depression

3 Ways to Bring Out Your Inner Optimist originally appeared on