If the pandemic didn’t separate us enough physically it seems to have done even more so mentally, as if that was even possible at its inception in the final year of Donald Trump’s term. In case we didn’t have enough sources of disagreement, we were handed a crisis the likes of which none of us had ever experienced, which inherently requests us to make potentially life-defining decisions on a daily basis.
This week we enter another time of the year when the planet Mercury is retrograde, when astrologers encourage us to plan for delays, technological SNAFU’s, and miscommunications of all forms. It is a time to double-check emails, choose your words carefully, think before we react, and be emotionally prepared for things like traffic, elevators breaking down, credit card machines (happened to my brother and I at dinner last night), train delays, etc. I understand that astrology is not for everyone, but these times of the year always recall for me a premise that transcends astrological theory, into the human experience of misunderstandings.
One of the things not only the pandemic, but having a baby in the pandemic, has highlighted for me, is what is at the core of many conflicts: Differences in opinions born from differing definitions of subjective terms: For example, how do you distinguish between someone being selfish versus having healthy boundaries? Conversely, how to define selflessness versus over-extension to the point of self-harm? Where is the line between intelligently cautious and paranoid, “living in fear” as some might label? Between courageous and stupid, even “globally inconsiderate” as others might label? Not only are these lines impossible to define, but they fluctuate depending on each individual context, as in the cases of higher risk individuals and those living with such individuals. It’s as if we are all on the same playing field, requested to play together, but each team has a different shaped ball of different weight, with multiple coaches all yelling different messages at us. This makes for a tough game.
I think in elementary school we are conditioned to believe that understanding is defined by knowing an objective concept: We understand the math equation, or that California is west of New York. As adults our job becomes to learn that true understanding comes via acceptance of differing perspectives on subjective concepts, and that the choices those concepts incite are not necessarily personal affronts. For example, while nothing could appear more personal than social distancing, it has nothing to do with personal feelings. The times that we are in are not only difficult for reasons of loneliness or financial despair, but also for the challenge they pose in our willingness to accept other perspectives without attaching to them our negative emotions.
In Chinese Medicine constraint is experienced by the liver channel (cortisol hormone), which if left unchecked then compromises other meridians, such as the stomach (vulnerable to worry) and lungs (vulnerable to grief and sadness) — all of which are potentially manageable. One of my favorite acupuncture points is at our “third eye.” Why is it so calming for people? Is there some special sedating neurotransmitter button immediately behind our forehead? No, instead what lies behind it is the frontal lobe, the part of our brain responsible for empathy, for understanding each other. If you cannot make it in for treatment now I recommend massaging this point, either before bed or even during commercials while watching TV. You may eventually become an even kinder, smarter individual.
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