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“During times of great change, the symbolic level of things becomes more important, as the literal levels of life become more chaotic and confusing, and the psychological levels become more intense and demanding.” ~ Michael Meade

I have never taken anything at face value.  I have always interpreted life through the lens of symbolic meaning.  Over the past year, in addition to studying the pathophysiology of COVID19, I have dug deep beneath the surface to try and understand the symbolic meaning of the COVID19 Pandemic.  To me the layers of meaning appear to be precisely interconnected and reflective of our level of consciousness.  It appears that how we think and the consciousness we live from and the resulting lack of harmony we have created has finally caught up with us.  The current Pandemic along with the fires now burning on the West coast are precisely connected with the lungs. Gaining further clarity would necessitate viewing the mechanism with which the COVID19 virus infects the body through a symbolic lens. When we go deeper than the surface of things, we also gain insight into the realm of myth where society rarely ventures.

Our lungs are the organs of entry and attack by the COVID19 virus and are also vulnerable to the burning fires on the West coast.  What is the meaning of this?  Our lungs are the organs of breath, vitality and life, and also our boundary between our body and the environment.  They are the site where the Coronavirus enters, where air pollution has its greatest impact and where particulate matter from burning fires are deposited.  At this time, our very boundary between our inside and outside world is at risk. Let’s take a moment to go deeper into this even more.

Sars-CoV-2 enters our body through our nasal passages to infect our lungs.  We know it affects many other body systems, but its primary entry damages the lungs, threatening our very survival.  We all know that the air we breathe and the water we drink has been greatly contaminated by industrial wastes, fossil fuels and chemicals used in agriculture and now us, since the Industrial Revolution.  Around the world, respiratory diseases have been on an exponential rise over the past few decades.  When the 2019 bushfires in Australia burned for weeks killing nearly a billion animals, many people around the world felt as if the ‘lungs of the Earth’ were on fire. Seen from this perspective, it is no surprise that the COVID19 Pandemic emerged soon thereafter, infecting our lungs, and making breathing nearly impossible for millions and forcing extreme measures to reduce transmission, including a lockdown.

Remember how clean the air became during the lockdown of 2020?  In just a few weeks,  people in India could see the Himalayas from their rooftops because 30 years of smog disappeared in a few months.  Even trees and plants all over the world became more vibrant during that time.  We learned that when humans stop polluting the air, Nature is able to heal and regenerate quickly.  I have thought about this a lot since last year.  How much do we contribute to the contamination of the natural world?  How can we walk more lightly on the Earth to do our part in supporting Nature?  Since that time, millions have died from an inability to breathe from the COVID19 infection.  Since then we have had two more forest fires, which have spewed smog and particulate matter into the air, putting our lungs at even greater risk.

Seen even further from the symbolic context, breath is the umbilical cord through which our life force or Prana flows.  The lungs are an interface between the inside and outside world.  Our inner environment needs to be protected by a clear boundary which both defends and defines us. Across this boundary vital materials like oxygen are taken in and waste materials like carbon dioxide are excreted.  From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the Lung is primarily responsible for physical vitality and is said to govern our life energy or Qi. Strong Lung energy manifests as strong physical vitality, a strong voice, a strong emotional body and a healthy ability to detoxify.  Our ‘life force’ is more pure and vibrant when our lungs are healthy.

Emotionally, the Lung is nourished by respect. Deeply exploring what we value and expressing these values in the world open us to the energy of the Lung. Our lungs cradle our heart.  Grief, heartbreak and emotional pain are all held deep within the heart and lungs.  When we are fearful, we hold our breath, when we are physically hurt, our breath constricts and goes shallow, and when we are stressed, we struggle to breathe deeply.  When we panic, our breath is shallow, yet we can resolve our panic with breathing deeply.  When we feel safe and when we relax, our breathing deepens. As we can see, our emotional state directly effects our breathing.

Our lungs have been vulnerable over the past few years.  We are faced with an urgency like never before to understand the larger meaning of this very real threat to our survival, to do what it takes to clean up and revitalize our “Lungs”.  The ‘Lungs of the Earth’ and our lungs are intricately connected.  In fact they are inseparable.

At this time in history, I believe we must alter our behaviors and our ways of life by making them more sustainable and supportive to life and health. There is an urgency to revitalize, regenerate and transform our current situation into one that is healthy and whole.  We must question our collective values and reflect whether they align with our intrinsic ones.  We need to begin to live from Soul-centered, ‘intrinsic values’, rather than extrinsically defined ones like money and status, which have no true worth. Our identification and aggrandizement of these are at the root of all of our problems today. The crisis of our times is a result of decades of complacency and unconsciousness.  Our very survival depends upon us becoming conscious and living out of behaviors that align with intrinsic values.  This is the stuff of all religions on Earth. The unconscious inertia of society has led to the collective disease of our lungs. For us to heal the crisis we are in will take much more than a quick fix.  We must all do our part to become conscious.  Humanity’s very survival depends on it.

I urge and encourage you to ask yourself some core questions about what you value, what you respect, how lightly you live on this planet, how much you contribute to pollution, both inner and outer, what you consume and how these choices effect your health and the health of the planet? Our unattended shadow material also pollutes our health. Do we have the courage to work through and transform these aspects so we can become more whole?  I encourage you to attend to the energy and the symbolic meaning of the Lungs.  Throughout history, the best Medicine has always been to become more conscious and awaken to deeper levels of meaning.  We must all do our part to heal the suffering in our world and make it whole again.


©Sept2021/Aug2021 Kalpana (Rose) M. Kumar M.D., CEO and Medical Director, The Ommani Center for Integrative Medicine, Pewaukee, WI.   Author of Becoming Real: Reclaiming Your Health in Midlife (2nd Edition), Medial Press, 2014. Dr. Kumar is currently accepting new patients. Call 262.695.5311 for an appointment, either virtual or in-person for those free of symptoms.

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Evidence Based Integrative Medicine