I wanted to spend a bit of time reflecting on some of the bigger issues we’re all facing with this pandemic. From the perspective of Daoism (at least my understanding of it), it’s an issue that is affecting the entire world, and so the entire world needs to reflect upon it. 

One of the central themes of Daoism is to move away from judgment. In practical terms, this means we all need to find our own personal truth and that we don’t have to agree with anyone else about it. We should respect the rights of others just as much as we should respect our own opinions. This is especially true if we disagree with them (and especially difficult as well).

Fear has this ability to disconnect us from faith and hope. In the language of Daoism, fear disconnects us from Heaven (tian 天) by causing us to close our hearts to the world and ourselves. 

This pandemic is going to change the world dramatically. It already has. Life, and the world around us, is going to be different for the coming months, if not years. We are being forced to make sense of those changes and somehow reconnect to a bigger (transpersonal) sense of faith that things will somehow be ok. 

The “system” – political, economic, and environmental – has failed us all on one level. This happens as part of life and it isn’t the fault of any single person, event, or political party. Empires have risen and fallen throughout history. Summer turns to Winter. Life and the Universe as a whole are always changing. Yin and Yang transform constantly. 

It’s very likely we all have opinions about what has contributed to the current crisis, as well as to how the system is succeeding or failing at helping us through it. If we slow down and look below the surface, we’ll recognize that we all have an opinion because we’re scared and we don’t want it to happen again. In that, we are all on the same page. 

Within this massive disruption of our lives, we have a unique opportunity to pause, reflect upon, and re-evaluate the world we live in or want to live in. I encourage us all to take some time to chew on these questions. How have we contributed to this situation? How can we support meaningful change?

Personally, I am very opinionated about how money is spent in this country (and around the world). How we support big business versus the people and environment or support the military versus health and education are some of the most charged subjects for me. While I completely recognize the severity of this crisis is unprecedented, I also recognize our system was vastly unprepared because our government has chosen to focus on other priorities. 

No matter what side of the political, economic, or environmental fence we sit on, I’m sure we’re all having a loss of faith in, and experiencing the failings of, the current system right now. 

Failures on a systemic level have dramatic consequences but are really not that different than individual failures. They both happen because humans and society are fallible. In both scenarios, judgment and blame don’t actually help us. Instead, Daoism would suggest we need to be honest with ourselves about where we can do better and simply make the necessary changes. This is flowing with the Dao – no story, no blame, just action to keep moving forward. 

Cultivating Faith

Daoism has many ways to help people cultivate faith and hope. Like most religions, they have prayer, chanting, offerings, etc. However, one of the more interesting tools available to us all is the practice of qi gong or dao yin. Qi gong(the more common term used today) is a form of breathwork and is becoming extremely popular these days with famous people like Wim Hof getting people to do breathwork and soak in ice water. The Chinese, however, have been doing it for thousands of years for many other reasons. 

At the core of breathwork is how it helps us connect to Heaven and the present moment. This is why the breath is used in so many meditative traditions. Heaven is not physical, it’s a concept and not a physical thing like the keyboard I’m typing on right now. The breath is also non-physical and it is there for everyone to breathe without judgment. The breath exists only in the present moment and we can’t breathe for the past or the future. According to Daoism, Heaven is neutral – it has no judgment of right or wrong, no ideas of future or past, and everyone receives it equally. When we lose that connection, all of us die. 

Of course, this circles back to the coronavirus, because it affects our lungs and our ability to breathe. To be clear, I am absolutely not implying that people who get the disease are being punished by Heaven. I do not see the world in that sort of way and that type of judgment is not part of Daoism as I understand it. Rather, the virus blocks our ability to breathe and in extreme cases, we lose our connection to Heaven and die.  

Practicing qi gong or doing some sort of breathwork is a way we can all support both our physical health and our sense of faith in this difficult time. Even if you don’t prescribe to the Daoist perspective of the breath being related to Heaven,doing these types of exercises has been shown to boost immunity, reduce stress, and promote overall health. Wim Hof, the famous iceman, even climbed Mt. Everest in a pair of shorts doing it if you need some sort of proof… Another way to look at qi gong is that it is a form of respiratory therapy, and if your lungs are healthier, you’re less likely to have complications from the coronavirus. 

I’ve done qi gong for most of my life and taught it for many years as well. It is a huge part of how I care for myself, how I can give effective acupuncture treatments, and how I cultivate my connection to something bigger than myself. There are countless systems of qi gong and many teachers available online these days. I encourage you all to use this time at home as an opportunity to bring this practice into your life. Qi gong is different than yoga or meditation and works much more directly with your lungs and respiratory system. It is also very different than going for a run or going to the gym. 

If you can’t find something to study, please reach out. If enough people are interested, I’d be happy to set up an online course to support you all as well. 

No matter what, I encourage us all to take advantage of this downtime to reflect on the opportunity for change that is here. This pandemic will lead to change no matter what we do, so we mind as well take the opportunity to actively participate and try to create the world we want for ourselves, our loved ones, and future generations. We can always learn from our failings and correct our course. We can always flow.


Yours in the Dao,

Justin

Check out my Coronavirus Strategies & Reflections Part Two:

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