Is it possible to get through a day without hearing some new announcement about swine flu? Bombarded by media campaigns from all perspectives, the mind has an opportunity to land in any one of many points of view, for or against, fear or nonchalance, or just plain bored. If we are not our bodies, then what difference does it make? If we are not our sensations, feelings, beliefs or concepts, what kind of response is appropriate, or even necessary?
Has anyone ever had Advaita Vedantic flu? Even though we know the body will one day expire, we still brush our teeth. Even though a toothache is just another sensation coming and going in the field of awareness, we still go to the dentist. So clearly, hand washing and the latest sneezing asana (the nose-in-elbow pose) are possible actions. Likewise, so are good nutrition, adequate rest and exercise. And further, the breadth of the yoga tradition that embraces neti neti (not this, not this) also promotes jala neti (nasal wash).
However, if, inadvertently, a bedridden experience happens to arise, then there’s always a practice recommended in the Vijnana Bhairava, an anonymous 8th Century text of Kashmiri Shaivism, as one of the 112 ways to know one’s true nature. As Lorin Roche translates the sutra :
“Take a needle and pierce any limb. As the point enters the skin, enter the pain with your entire attention. In the concentrated brightness of that single point, here is the brilliance of the Self.”
So it seems a hefty fever accompanying a bout of 21st Century Swine flu could be construed as a multi-pointed needling into Pure Awareness.
Fear of getting sick, guilt at having become sick or fear that it might get worse, all afford the opportunity to practice another sutra that recommends immobilizing the mind when under the sway of a strong emotion as a means to access the Reality underlying the state. In fact, during illness, the mind is more or less immobilized anyway, so the “enemy is asleep.”
All these ancient practices in combination with modern and traditional medical interventions provide a rich and potentially enlightening way through the current viral threat.
Wishing you a healthy season and, if worst comes to worst, a nondual bedrest.
P.S. Follow this link to a demonstration of the nasal wash technique and an explanation of the benefits by Carrie Demers, MD.