It is 3am and I am listening to my youngest son James attempt to sleep despite coughing violently every 5-8 seconds. Each cough feels like an assault on the nervous system- both his and mine. He was our preemie, a NICU graduate. His struggles to breath tonight are linked somewhere in my memory and body to that precarious time 11 years ago. I desperately just want to take this from him, soothe him and make it better. Almost a month into this pandemic, it seems to have arrived in our immediate experience.
Jim and I are both physicians. Although we are in specialties that have been deemed non-essential for now, we have each left our home to see patients with emergencies over the past weeks. We were so careful to mask and glove up, to wash our hands until almost raw, to change our clothes and shower immediately upon coming back home. Despite our best efforts, James is sick.
This is the third night of this vigil, the third night of James coughing relentlessly. His symptoms seem to worsen as the night comes on. We are tired and yet we are also incredibly grateful. James is exhausted but his oxygen saturation is holding which means we can stay at home and out of the hospital tonight.
We have done all we know to do for him- kept him hydrated, brewed him teas, fed him nourishing soups, drawn baths and steam showers, told jokes, sat with him in the early morning on our porch to see if the cool morning air would help lessen his cough. We have watched the sunrise together, prayed together, shared hopes and random facts about animals together and even played video games together. Medicines and vitamins have been crushed into applesauce and we are all too familiar with wearing masks inside our own home together.
Tonight, when I finally hear his cough lessen and sleep envelop him, gratitude arrives in the form of tears. I move to sit in a favorite chair nearby where I have a candle burning. Watching the candle and praying in the wee hours soothes me.
The human eye can perceive even a single photon of light. There are times when we are dazzled and even overwhelmed by the light and there are times when we are asked to be in the shadow. Tonight for me, and collectively for our humanity it is time to soften our gaze and expand our vision into the unknown. We must remember that shadow is not the absence of light. It does however, require us to pause and slow way down. Seeing in the shadow requires vision from more than simply our eyes. We are asked to bring our entire experience to it.
As certainty falls away, shadow can reveal what has not been working in our world in a way that dazzling light often does not. It can be a rich time to explore our other gifts and faculties to feel our way to new solutions and ways of being.
I have long been dazzled by light and have gazed into many eyes during my career as an ophthalmologist. Tonight, while watching this candle burn, I am reminded that when I look into the eyes of another, I see light. We both transmit and receive light- all the time and in every moment. In this way, we are both the light and we are swimming in the light- together. We are both particle and wave.
On grand and mundane scales, we are here to add our light and be influenced and guided by the light of others. Our presence, our light, affects the field around us and our world.
The pandemic and sweeping changes in the world over the past weeks have highlighted our interconnectedness like never before. This virus began in one small area of the planet and has spread in widening circles. Fear and panic has spread even faster.
Our response to life influences life. In this moment, we can breakdown and separate or we can connect and heal together. The choice is ours to remember that our power lies within not our circumstances but our response to them. Can we harness our ability to influence the space between us now in a more cohesive way? if not in this moment, when?
At times over the past few long days when James is having a coughing jag and I feel like there is nothing I can do for him, my Mama bear panic grips me. When this happens, I entertain potential future scenarios that knock the wind out of me. While I have compassion for myself when this happens, I also have a knowing I am not helping James, myself or the world during these moments.
One of my teachers, Donny Epstein says, “In each moment, your presence is contributing to the field. What are you contributing? You are either blessing or cursing those you think about- near and far, past present and future- in every single moment and in multiple dimensions. In this way, you matter, I matter, we matter.”
Last night I took this teaching to heart and began a different conscious approach in response to James’ coughing. I focused not on my helplessness and fear but on the energy of love. I calmed my own breathing, and each time he coughed, I filled the space between us as best I could with the energy of courage, strength, well-being, vitality and enhanced immunity. This practice helped me feel more spacious and energized and it also seemed to calm James’ frustration and coughing a little bit. It was a more coherent way to offer blessing to James moment by moment rather than withdrawing my energy and collapsing into my own fears.
Now, can I sustain this? Honestly, no. . . not yet. Many times when his cough seems to be unceasing I collapse again and fear rushes in. However, I am committed to the practice and will return to it again and again. We are not as separate as this pandemic would make it seem. We are both transmitters and receivers of Light and our response to Life influences Life so I will continue again and again to do this. And I know I won’t be alone.
I have a request of you. When you read this, and whether you personally know and love my sweet baby James or not, will you pray for him and bless him from this expanded place? Will you energize the space between us all with love and vitality, well-being, strength and courage? In this time of shadow, will you be a beacon for us and for humanity?
My tears last night were not just gratitude for James finally finding some relief in sleep. They were also for the music and poetry and kindness and connection that is rising in humanity at this time. They were for all others who were fighting for breath in the dark hours of the night and those caring for them. And they were for humanity at this moment of great uncertainty and I believe even greater potential.
May we expand our Vision and learn to skillfully see in the shadows. May we use our Light to soothe, heal, reinvent and connect with the ocean of energy and wisdom freely given and available to us all in every moment. May we rise together to a new level of coherence and love.