Archive for May, 2020

A Mindfulness Practice for Facing Your Fears - Mindful

This morning, the radio was blaring its usual concoction of miserable news, but one, brief comment on a recent study stood out. Over 75,000 people (about the same number as have died recently from Covid-19) could die from “deaths of despair”: suicide and drug overdoses. These deaths are directly related to the constant drip of trauma induced by reading the daily death counts and the dire predictions of mass death in the future, as well as the isolation of quarantine and job loss leading to poverty and and a sense of hopelessness.

We don’t know enough about the virus, allowing the media to take full advantage of our ignorance. We read about bizarre and horrifying symptoms that happen to a tiny minority of people; we are assaulted by terrible predictions if we leave our house more than “necessary” or visit our friends and family. We are shamed if our behavior seems irresponsible to others, even if we simply hold hands with our partner with whom we live. We don’t know when the virus showed up; we don’t know who has already had it and who is truly negative, because our tests are unreliable; we don’t know what the denominator truly is when talking about deaths from Covid-19, so we don’t know its true mortality rate; and all we THOUGHT we knew was that staying at home would keep us safe. And then, this statistic comes at us like a bomb from New York:

“If you notice, 18% of the people came from nursing homes, less than 1% came from jail or prison, 2% came from the homeless population, 2% from other congregate facilities, but 66% of the people were at home, which is shocking to us,” Cuomo said.

“This is a surprise: Overwhelmingly, the people were at home,” he added. “We thought maybe they were taking public transportation, and we’ve taken special precautions on public transportation, but actually no, because these people were literally at home.”

Cuomo said nearly 84% of the hospitalized cases were people who were not commuting to work through car services, personal cars, public transit or walking. He said a majority of those people were either retired or unemployed. Overall, some 73% of the admissions were people over age 51. 

He said the information shows that those who are hospitalized are predominantly from the downstate area in or around New York City, are not working or traveling and are not essential employees. He also said a majority of the cases in New York City are minorities, with nearly half being African American or Hispanic. 

Cuomo said state health officials had thought a high percentage of people who were hospitalized would be essential employees, like health-care workers or city staff, who are still going to work. 

“Much of this comes down to what you do to protect yourself. Everything is closed down, government has done everything it could, society has done everything it could. Now it’s up to you,” Cuomo said. 

66% of the hospitalizations in New York were people who stayed at home; did not take public transportation; and did not work outside of the home. People who took the precautions and stayed at home are overwhelmingly represented in the hospitalization numbers, and, presumably, the fatality numbers.

What I take from this is that this virus is capricious and unpredictable, infecting people regardless of their stay-at-home status. Cuomo seems to want to make the case that those people probably had family or friends come over and didn’t wear masks or sanitize their hands, but he has no evidence for that at all. In fact, it makes no sense to say that people who stayed home and avoided public transportation weren’t also taking all the precautions recommended–this would be the cohort who WOULD wear the mask and wash their hands. And it didn’t matter, in the end.

If we didn’t already have this disease, then we will, no matter how careful we are. It doesn’t appear that we are making the difference in death numbers by our conduct and precautions. So, if I freak out, refuse to see anyone outside of my tiny household, eat only at home, avoid all gatherings, and disinfect the crap out of everything, I might well still be one of those people who gets it and ends up on oxygen in the hospital. The numbers are telling that story. These facts, in turn, make me want to give up.

But give up what, exactly? I will still wear a mask, but not because I think it’s anything but a public show of solidarity and compliance. Unless I have an active cough or are sneezing a great deal, my mask isn’t going to much, if anything. I wear it because people expect and want me to, and that’s enough reason. I stay six feet away from people not because I think it will afford me some magic protection (if someone coughs near me, the particulates from that cough go beyond 12 feet), but because it makes those around me more comfortable. It makes it look like I’m DOING something, even though it is becoming painfully clear that there is no way to avoid this virus, no matter how much we hide, mask ourselves or stand six feet apart.

If we haven’t had it, we’re going to get it. We could get really, really sick from it. We could die from it. Or, we could get it, not have any clue that we’re sick, and go along our merry way. If I have Covid-19, I do not see strong evidence that my mask or my six-feet away behavior is keeping others safe. Maybe I’m wrong about that; I do not know. I will continue to abide by the guidelines. But the insidious nature of this virus tells me that it will find a way to infect us, seemingly no matter what we do. When the information is contradictory, bizarre, and constantly changing, how are we supposed to live? The answer appears to be: be afraid, all of the time, every minute; if that fear leads you to suicide (and no, I’m not suicidal) or drug abuse, well . . . you’re simply collateral damage, I suppose.

I have reached the point where the threat to my mental health is greater than the threat of illness due to this virus. I have reached the point where I can’t fear my friends and family any more. I am going to see them. Some of them will be OK with hugs; others will not. Some will want me to wear a mask, and some will want to socially distance. However, some won’t care, and in that case, I will not wear the mask or stay far away. In my group of consenting adults, we are going to make decisions about the risks that we are willing to take; we will be smart, but not paranoid every second that we are together. Will that result in tragedy? It is possible; but it is not likely.

I can’t live my life in fear of the possible but not likely. To do so is to create health risks for myself that ARE likely: increased panic attacks, heightened anxiety and depression, withdrawal; high blood pressure, heart problems, digestive issues, insomnia, greater susceptibility to colds, flues, or to Covid-19 itself. Ongoing, overwhelming stress kills people. That is well documented. So why, you might ask, can’t you just drop your stress and stay away from everyone? Because my mental health–as well as perhaps yours–cannot thrive in long-term isolation and is not alleviated by Zoom meetings or FaceTime. Instagram doesn’t connect me to my loved ones. Facebook cannot take the place of my mother’s hug. Nothing can heal my broken heart like seeing my dear friends in person, in front of me, and comforting me when I cry.

I’m a good person who follows the rules and takes public health seriously. But I’ve had enough. I’m breaking. My friends and I are going to see each other today. I will hug them. I will spend hours with them. I won’t touch my face, and I’ll sanitize my hands, but I have to let go of the fear. The fear is ripping me apart more effectively than anything else I have ever experienced.

–Kirsten A. Thorne

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The medium Marthe Béraud with an ectoplasmatic structure (materialization) on her head. Marthe Béraud also performed under the names Eva C. and Eva Carrière. Photograph taken in 1912 by German parapsychological researcher Albert von Schrenck-Notzing M.D.(1862 – 1929).

When my mother informed me that my cousin had passed away, I knew immediately what had happened. She had no information that day, but after we hung up, I struggled to contain the flood of images surrounding his death. I found a quiet place, asked for permission to contact him, and then I spoke to him. What happened during the 30 minutes that we spoke, and the images and knowledge that were shared with me, is something I cannot share publicly; however, I can say that it was very difficult to manage the emotions that my connection with him produced in me. I prayed for him, I spoke to him about God, and I tried to guide him to something familiar, someone who might lead the way. After it was over, I ‘heard’ a deep, resounding voice say, “thank you.”

I was not raised to have such experiences. My father was an academic and a skeptic, and although my mother was freer in her world view, she saw me as someone with a big imagination and prone to fantasy. She did not take my paranormal knowledge seriously and refused to allow me to take it seriously, either. Anything that might inflate my ego she was sure to shoot down, and communicating with the dead, in her opinion, was a way of drawing attention to myself. So, I learned to disappear as much as possible and not say or do things that others might find odd, weird, or incomprehensible. I gagged myself and throttled my natural instincts. But one’s true nature has a way of breaking through all resistance.

When I was walking home after contacting my cousin, the skeptic’s voice cropped up; was I making this up? Was what had just happened a delusional, wish-fulfillment fantasy? I decided that, if my details were wrong, if my cousin had NOT died the way I saw that he did, I would give up on the idea that I could talk to the deceased, or receive any information from them. I would, in other words, give into the world’s low opinion of mediums and psychics and continue the not-so-venerable tradition of self hatred.

I recorded everything that came through to me on my phone, so that later I could check my accuracy. When I arrived at home, I cried to my husband. What I had seen and experienced was hard; it had broken my heart. If I had ‘make it up’, there is no explanation for why I would choose something so terrible to invent. The next day, there was more information about my cousin. Everything that my family told me had transpired was exactly what I had seen. I had not been wrong in any of the details save for one, and the one I ‘missed’ had been an auto-correction of previous information that had been true. Of course, some of what came through could not be verified, as it was information that only my cousin could have had. I had seen and sensed what had happened to him; now, the question was, had I helped in any way?

I set up an appointment with a psychic medium that I had met once, long ago, who struck me as compassionate and gifted. Although her student, who did most of the reading, missed many pieces of information and was wrong more often that she was right, the professional medium honed in immediately on what I needed to know. “Yes, you did help him. He thanked you. He has crossed over; he is not here anymore”. There had been no leading questions up to that point. She simply knew. She confirmed what I had seen and sensed, and added a couple of details that explained what I had experienced during meditation that didn’t make sense to me at the time. Some of the ‘hits’ were so specific, not even a super-skeptic could possibly be left unmoved. It was a reading that went on a long time, much longer than planned, because family members kept coming forward. In the end, though, everyone who wanted to say something was able to do so. And although I recognized when one or both of them was filling time or bridging gaps with generic information, there was enough there to convince me that indeed, I was able to reach someone who needed help, and in some way, I was able to guide him.

Does that mean I can call myself a medium? I don’t feel comfortable with that word, but I suppose so. I do what mediums do, and I’ve done it for decades, even when ridiculed or marginalized for it. I have never taken money for my time, although I respect the fact that you can’t work at this for free, once you are open to sharing what you can do with others. I think many people, if not all people, could develop these gifts for themselves; and yet, most people are afraid of this kind of contact, feeling it to be somehow outside the bounds of acceptability. Our culture is fascinated by death and destruction and terrified by the prospect of life as a never-ending reality that changes form, but not essence.

Most people seem to prefer the idea that we die and do nothing but rest for all eternity in some kind of oblivion. I believe that American culture is profoundly fearful of life and mistrustful of its continuation in a new form. We hide and protect ourselves from the grandeur of existence, the riotous explosion of forms radiating energy and consciousness. We distract ourselves, we make ourselves small and unobtrusive, and we hide from our most powerful connections to Spirit. Sometimes, however, Spirit itself doesn’t allow you to hide, to deny, to ridicule or to pretend. Sometimes, Spirit simply refuses to allow you to be anyone else but who you actually are.

And who I am is someone who has allowed herself to speak to and for those who have moved on. I hope to be able to share that talent with others who are open to it and take it seriously. This is not an ego project, something to brag about, or an ability that makes me feel special or superior; quite the opposite. I am terrified and humbled by it, and I work very, very hard not to misinterpret what I pick up. I would appreciate support and genuine interest; my only purpose is to help and to educate, if anyone is willing to listen. My support system is very weak within my family; my husband is always there for me, however, and for that I am eternally grateful.

I am planning to start my own, small business doing readings for donations. If anyone is interested in taking these first, few steps with me, simply send me a message. I can be reached through this site or at kirstenthorne@gmail.com.

May you have a blessed day in the midst of so much uncertainty and chaos.

–Kirsten A. Thorne, PhD

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