Having just come back from Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, I am full of fire and tracking others whose fire is bubbling up over Covid vaccination holdouts- and how their unwillingness to cooperate with a mass humanitarian effort to tame a global crisis is harming not only the unvaccinated, but also the willingly cooperating vaccinated.
It is appropriate to feel our anger when we realize that people not willing to comply with public health measures are harming everyone involved. The choice to remain unvaccinated- while still a free will choice- means that while they are, for the most part, protected from hospitalization and death, the vaccinated may still get taken out temporarily with a nasty virus. It means that our kids might be forced to incur the psychological and educational damage of more remote school and social isolation. It means that the kids who don’t yet qualify for vaccination could get harmed by Covid. It means our borders could close again. It means the vaccinated are being forced to start wearing masks again. It means we may not be free to travel freely or go to concerts or festivals. It means lockdowns could come back. It means families and communities are getting torn apart between the vaccinated and unvaccinated.
All this pisses me off, because most of the vaccine refusers in this country are doing so out of sheer rebellion, believing lies and misinformation, and a selfish refusal to cooperate with protecting those who legitimately can’t get vaccinated, because of young age or contraindications to vaccination.
What this means is that some cities and states are incentivizing people to get vaccinated by giving them gift cards and $100 checks. It also means vaccine mandates are being put in place as a way to encourage compliance with public health measures.
While I don’t believe any government should ever force the general public to receive a medical intervention against their will, and while I understand that there are some people with legitimate medical reasons (and a doctor’s order) to avoid vaccination, I do believe that appealing to people’s compassion, altruism, social justice care, and moral goodness hasn’t been enough to get us to herd immunity in the US.
To turn away a Covid vaccine seems the epitome of privilege in a world clambering for vaccination in places where it’s not available. But privilege aside, the valid right to turn down a Covid vaccine is going to soon mean you lose other privileges that Covid vaccine refusers might think they’re entitled to, but aren’t. Taking away privileges may be what is needed to encourage cooperation- by mandating vaccinations for employees, for public high schools and universities, for air travel, for entry into a foreign country, for restaurant patronage, for attending movies or concerts, and for attending retreat centers like Esalen (which just announced a vaccine mandate, so if you’re signed up for my Esalen workshop (https://www.esalen.org/workshops/the-healing-keys), please get vaccinated!)
I, for one, am angry about all this. I’ve about had it with my fellow country mates who refuse to cooperate with solving problems that require global cooperation- not just Covid, but climate crisis, overconsumption and out of control capitalism, world hunger and lack of access to clean water, poverty, environmental issues, and equal rights for people of all races, genders, sexual orientation, disabilities, and any other way in which people get marginalized and oppressed, among other things.
A lot of people get rightfully scared of anger, but Internal Family Systems founder Richard Schwartz, author of the great new book No Bad Parts, talks about the 8 C’s of Self. One of them is Courage (along with Curiosity, Compassion, Confidence, Connectedness, Creativity, Calmness & Clarity.) To me, that’s the C that anger can activate- the courage to take a stand, the courage to upset people in order to do what’s right, the courage to risk rejection, financial loss, or distressing people in the name of service and justice, to risk what you hold personally dear in order to protect the vulnerable or to protect the earth, to risk standing up to people you love to say no or set boundaries, to take a stand for your own vulnerable parts and protect them from someone else’s exploitation or abuse, for example. Most other kinds of anger are parts-led and can be quite dangerous. But Self-led anger that leads to Courage is what the world needs right now.
It brings to mind a quote that got cut from the original draft of Sacred Medicine, but which I’ll share here. It’s from Daniel Schmachtenberger, from a lecture he gave to the bestselling authors of the spiritual self-help space, including the creators of The Secret and many A Course in Miracles teachers at Transformational Leadership Council. Daniel said:
“Don’t focus on that problem in the world and then, instead of doing something about it, go and meditate and focus on the positive. If you’re upset about something it’s because something that is sacred to you, something that you love, needs your care and attention. It’s a fucking signal to you to do something. Don’t turn down the upset. Turn it the fuck up. If you’re not bothered by the things you’re bothered by, you’re not living a congruent life and that should upset you.
Another thing, stop broadcasting this fear/love dichotomy, how you can’t feel fear and love at the same time. It’s bullshit. It’s just not true. I can only be afraid of something I love being harmed because I love it. If I’m afraid for my kids, it’s because I love them. Care is what fuels fear. If I’m angry, it’s proportional to what I care about. Every negative emotion is a response to care and love. If you feel angry, find what it is that you hold as sacred and ask “How is what I hold sacred getting violated?” See the sacredness in it and ask “Am I willing to make sacrifices to protect that sacred thing?” That’s when it’s appropriate to use your will, aligned with what you love.
To do this, you’ll need your mind, your heart, and your gut. Your mind needs clarity on what it is that you love and hold sacred and are willing to protect. Your heart needs to feel heartbroken because what you care about is being hurt. Your gut will give you the courage to do something about it. Think about and feel into what is most sacred to you. What will still matter after you’re dead? What are you devoted to and willing to sacrifice your comfort for- because it matters so much and you love it so much? What is at the heart of what is meaningful about life? Take time to feel into it and connect to whatever has you feel that. Between now and when you die, think about the biggest problems in the world that you understand- climate change, racism, AI warfare, human trafficking. What do you really care about? Feel what bothers you. What is the actual state of the world you live in? Then ask yourself, “If this is really what I care about, what should I be doing to be congruent with my own self, my own deepest values? What am I doing now that is different than that? How do I close that gap?”
So this is what I care about right now: mass vaccination, social justice for all, healing trauma for anyone who is willing to do the hard healing work, health care reform and health equity, putting our spirituality into action with our hearts open and a lens for nuance, self-led activism, and healing the polarizations inside ourselves so we can address the polarizations in the world without labelling anyone as a monster or exiling them or deeming them undeserving of human compassion.
Yes, I’m angry. And if you’re not angry too, you’re not paying attention to the corrupt (traumatized) people who are destroying the world we’ll be leaving our children. And yes, a volcano brewing inside the fierce feminine is bubbling up- and good thing it is. Because we’re going to need that kind of Courage to do what we must in a world in need of more love and less selfishness.
*If you haven’t read The Bond Between Women: A Journey To Fierce Compassion by China Gallard, and if you’re curious about how to use your fire for good, I highly recommend it!