Let me get something off my chest. I hate the way this coronavirus (COVID-19) has been reported in the mass media. Yes, this virus is new to humans. Our bodies haven’t encountered it before, and they need to learn how to appropriately respond to it. It is also sadly true, that some of us are hit harder than others, especially if we can also suffer badly from seasonal flu. But because there is a vaccine for the flu, people who are susceptible are protected, and the death rates are lower. All of this makes this coronavirus (SARS 2 COVID-19) feel scarier than others.
Since there is no vaccine as yet for COVID-19, it is of course, everyone’s ethical responsibility to protect, shelter and shield the susceptible members in our communities from harm. But here’s the difference. We do everything we have been asked to do, whether it’s washing our hands, standing two metres apart and staying at home – out of love and not out of fear. We do all of these things because we love those around us and want to protect everyone in our community and beyond.
Indeed, one good thing to come out of this virus, if you’ll forgive me for saying so, is that human life has been put above the needs of the economy. This, I believe, is a turning point for humanity. Whatever strategies have been adopted by the many different governments, and whichever ones are proved to be most successful in the future – the primary intention was to save lives. No life was less valuable than another, whether people were older or had a range of complex health problems. The virus therefore made us think about what is important and also encouraged us to be our best selves.
However, the way the coronavirus has generally been reported in the mass media was bias, sensationalist and fear-inducing. Yes, of course we need to know that some of our sisters and brothers are suffering and have died, and we must be sympathetic and compassionate. But we also need to know that other people, the overwhelming majority, have experienced only mild symptoms, or moderate symptoms and have recovered. A sense of perspective and balance, I believe, would have helped us as individuals to respond in a loving and appropriate way.
Moreover, one unintended consequence of the fear-based reporting was that people who direly needed medical care did not get it, and died as a result. It is now believed that the excess number of deaths from cancers, heart attacks and strokes were due to people not going to hospitals during lockdown periods.
Furthermore, lockdown measures hit some groups of people far harder than others. It is one thing sheltering in a detached house with a garden, it is quite another being eight weeks and more in a flat in a block or high rise with no outside space. Being so long in a confined space and perhaps having money worries, has taken its toll on some people’s mental health. So, here are additional groups of people which our communities and governments must support and care for during any pandemic measures.
A balanced view that is based on care, love and inclusion is absolutely vital. Not only are we better able to see all those who are suffering, and offer support, but it would also enhance our own well-being. The mass media has done us a great disservice by focussing almost exclusively on worse case scenarios. By instilling widespread fear and panic, the reporting arouses our fight or flight response, releases adrenalin and lowers our immune response. But if we act out of love, simply because we want to care and protect others, then this triggers oxytocin, often called the ‘love hormone’, and this helps to strengthen our immune system. Responding out of care and love is always better than acting out of fear.
‘Nature is Kind’
I have spent the last four years researching near-death experiences (NDEs) and I wondered if they could tell us anything about this coronavirus pandemic. To get away from all the panic inducing messages of the media I started watching Tricia Barker on her YouTube channel ‘Healed by the Light’[i]. She recounted how she had been driving along the road early one morning, on her way to run a race. She was travelling at around sixty miles per hour, when she suddenly rammed into the back of the vehicle in front. She was rushed to hospital, and while the surgeons were operating on her back, she had her NDE.
Tricia said that she ‘popped out of her body’ and then she noticed there were angels standing in the corner of the room. Instinctively, she knew that they were:
‘…so intelligent, and the light that came from their eyes was telepathic.’
They immediately reassured her she was going to be fine, and she would walk again. When asked to describe what the angels looked like, Tricia said they were:
‘…translucent… light beings… they were not male or female…there was something about them that was so intelligent… they had this eternal wisdom that… immediately calmed me.’
When Tricia repeated this to her surgeon, he thoughtfully commented that ‘nature was kind’. He meant that when people are at the point of death or faced with a horrific life-threatening situation, like a car accident, often their consciousness leaves their body.
I have heard this so many times in countless NDE accounts. For example, when someone is struggling in the water and drowning, they slip out of their body and feel calm and peaceful, and yet fully aware. It seems to be the same with the end stages of a disease. Some people approaching the end from cancer similarly said they left their body, and were able to detach from all their pain and suffering[ii]. Indeed, when they did so they felt ‘alive’, energetic and peaceful and happy. NDErs who’ve experienced heart attacks reported the same phenomena[iii]. If these accounts are true, and I believe they are, nature must be kind. But how can this virus be kind?
The answer came to me through Deepak Chopra, in one of his many talks throughout the pandemic. He described the people most at risk of succumbing and dying from the symptoms – the poor, the sick, people with weakened immune systems, and the elderly. As he spoke, I felt a surge of love and compassion for our sisters and brothers who are already living the hardest harshest lives on Earth. So, I wonder if this virus is teaching us about understanding and empathy, and how to love, cherish and care for each other. And, could those more vulnerable groups of people be our teachers, schooling us in putting ourselves in others’ shoes, and being kinder to everyone around us?
The coronavirus has shown how connected we humans are, and how much we need each other. The ban on going to pubs, cafes and theatres and concerts has affected us all deeply psychologically. Although we can become frustrated with people when the train is crowded, or we have to wait in queues in cafes and shops, we have a deeper love and connection beyond all the irritations on the surface. For as time went on, isolated in our houses, and waving hello from a distance on our walks, I feel many of us came to know just how much we love each other. Our contact on social media, Zoom and Skype and WhatsApp, and the good old-fashioned telephone, couldn’t quite make up for the close physical contact we craved. I missed so much talking with people in cafes, or in the street or at work and home. Despite all our technology and means of communication, I knew it couldn’t come close to real human contact. We missed each other deeply and felt a new sense of love and appreciation for others. If the disease brings this to our awareness, then just maybe it has helped us grow spiritually.
By Joanne Coyle PhD
[i] Tricia Barker has published an excellent book about what happened to her, entitled Angels in the OR, Post Hill Press (2019).
[ii] Anita Moorjani YouTube Interview Anita Moorjani about her Near-Death Experience! Published Oct 20, 2013. [And] Moorjani, A. (2012) Dying to be Me, Hay House (UK): London.