As Covid-19 migrated from a bat body to a human body then accelerated to the global body our historical conditioned tendencies predictably came to the foreground as our fatigued, out of date metaphors of war. “We’re in a war;” “This is combat;” “The War Room;” “We will destroy the enemy;” “We’re in a battle for our lives;” “We need to be on the attack.” This is a narrative of fear, the threat of the other, and our inability to deal with uncertainty, that masks the opening that this pandemic offers. As shamans, curanderos, alternative medicine communities have voiced for millenniums: it’s not a disease, it’s a healing crisis.
From this optic we could say that Covid-19 is not an enemy to war with but a guide who shares a web of interlocking, interdependent, ontological, and cellular relationships with us; an intelligent, powerful life force that is not only looking for a host in which it can photocopy it’s RNA, but acts as a projection screen for our present state as a species, and the conditions we’ve created on the planet.
King Covid, as I’ve heard it called in some neighborhoods, has heralded an initiatory moment for the evolution of our species and the planet. We have the opportunity for designing a future different than the one that we’ve been blindly entering. Traditionally, initiations involve a struggle that overcomes an obstacle. It’s a surrendering of the old and an embracing the new. A romantic view perhaps but a journey that exacts sweat, blood, and a rigorous look into the mirror.
In Aikido, a Japanese martial art, and in the somatic discourse, there’s a central tenet and practice we call making the blend. This means that when we’re under some kind of threat, real or perceived, we take a moment to first center ourselves, noticing how we might be triggered and out of balance, and then we blend with, join with, the incoming energy. In Aikido it’s using the energy of the attacker to neutralize their aggression, instead of neutralizing the person (read: go to war), bringing the confrontation into a harmonious reconciliation, instead of a zero sum game of winners and losers.
In the social context we can blend by embodying an open hearted curiosity and authenticating the other’s reality; to see their point of view. We may not agree with them, we may even be repulsed by them; but by opening ourselves and acknowledging the conditions that shaped their reality we also open the possibility of a future different than harm, cruelty, poisoning our water and air, dropping bombs. Some might call this compassionate wisdom.
What I’m suggesting is that using the metaphors of war in this pandemic is also infectious. Stories infect our nervous system; narratives infect our spirits. The metaphorical virus of violence may be what brought us here in the first place. When we take the shape of aggression and violence we are predisposed to fear, anxiety, and panic. To make the blend doesn’t mean we don’t heal and cure and find a solution for ourselves; it doesn’t mean we capitulate or give up our position; it doesn’t mean we can’t fight for what we care about. It means we recognize our interconnectedness with life and choose a path that is an affirmation of life. We’re able to see past our deeply conditioned strategies for survival, to see beyond our lifetime and into the future of our children and grandchildren.
Try it for a moment: Take the shape of fighting, of destroying the opponent. Fists clenched to hit; jaw set to protect; crouch and round the shoulders
To be less of a target, narrow the eyes, head forward of the chest; the breath is high and short. Now take shape of making the blend, of listening to the life energy that flows through all of us. You’re upright in harmony with the downward pull of gravity; your hands are alive and relaxed for the optimum choice of action; your eyes are relaxed, you have a panoramic vision; your legs and feet are connecting you to ground; your breath is low and rhythmic.
This is something we can practice. It’s a choice we can make.
Making a blend with King Corona at a molecular, cellular, interpersonal, social, and ecological level is asking us to see our co-dependence with it; that we reflect on how we are projecting our profound panic on this virulent form of life, and how we have invited it in. Richard Preston, a scientific writer of fiction, non-fiction, and screenplays who has studied viruses and epidemics for decades, traces how viruses often emerge from the degradation of ecosystems, particularly savannas and tropical rainforests. He explains how viruses in a damaged ecosystem tend to mutate and adapt quickly, that “viruses leaving a non-human host crashes into a human host like rats leaving a ship”. Since we are the authors of our environmental crisis can we own that perhaps we actually invited the virus into our midst; can we see that the genocide of indigenous people is a virus; that our fear is a virus? Now we are being asked straight up to examine the consumer chaos of late-stage capitalism, the economic hardship of the poor, the racial divide, the social inequity. These are questions of leadership. The mirror of King Covid reflects that our current leadership is infected with a virus of aggression and fear: brittle, self-serving, contracted.
From the perspective of the blend, the metaphors and narratives of war are limiting, if not harmful. If we choose to look from the bigger picture, then we must blend with what King Covid is guiding us to. But don’t get me wrong: Blending also means giving our heartfelt gratitude and help to the first responders and healthcare workers; extending our compassion and help to those who are ill, to those that have lost loved ones; to assist those who are under severe economic hardships; to respecting social distancing, washing our hands, and use sheltering as a civic duty as well as an extended moment of spiritual refuge.
Let’s make the blend and not war.
Take It Easy, But Take It
Richard Strozzi-Heckler, PhD is founder of Strozzi Institute. He has spent over four decades researching, developing and teaching Somatics to business leaders, executive managers, teams from Fortune 500 companies, NGOs, technology start-ups, non-profits, the U.S. government and military.
He was named one of the Top 50 Executive Coaches in The Art and Practice of Leadership Coaching, and in Profiles in Coaching. He is the co-founder of the Mideast Aikido Project (MAP), which brings together Palestinians and Israelis through the practice of Aikido.
Richard is the author of eight books, including The Leadership Dojo, In Search of the Warrior Spirit, The Anatomy of Change, Holding the Center and The Art of Somatic Coaching: Embodying Skillful Action, Wisdom, and Compassion. From 2002 to 2007 he was an advisor to NATO and the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe (SACEUR) General Jim Jones, formally the National Security Advisor.
Richard has a PhD in Psychology and is a seventh degree black belt in the martial art of Aikido.