Licensure, for a primary care physician practicing Oriental medicine in the state of New Mexico, comes up for renewal at the end of each July. Depending on the level of licensure, we have differing requirements to fulfill in different years.
In this first year of the pandemic, one of those requirements, for me, is recertification in Basic Life Support, which is centered around cardiopulmonary resuscitation—or CPR. Simple-seeming procedures are made complex by details of protocols for their effective execution in differing life-threatening situations. It comes up every two years. For a chela, that’s like, “Didn’t I just do that last month?!”
In life with a Living Master, His Inner Form continually teaches, trains, and tests us, using virtually everything we experience as a classroom. Our attention is not allowed to waver. Oh, it can, and it does, but when it does, it invariably comes at an expense we’d rather not have.
Recertification in CPR has evolved into online courses of instruction, followed by face-to-face, hands on assessment of skills in implementing what’s been learned. This is a relatively good fit for life in a pandemic. It reduces exposure to others while keeping the system—and economy—rolling.
Last night I experienced weak spots in the requirement—and in my own level of consciousness.
With a certificate of completion of online courses in hand at 7pm, I arrived at the test site for assessment of physical skills appropriate to the many situations we may encounter. Only three of us were being assessed. The room was well organized and laid out for adequate distancing. It was clean and tidy, and an array of immaculately sanitized equipment required for testing was available at each participant’s station. Everyone was accustomed to wearing masks, and hand sanitization and gloves were available and also mandatory.
The person overseeing this, our final stage of certification, was conscientious, intelligent, and entertaining in creating an efficient and informative experience which might otherwise have been less engaging. The evening was promising to exceed my expectations—until we got to ventilations.
Something I’ve noticed about general behavior during the pandemic is that most individuals who are more concerned about their health and the health of others than they are about obsessing over their ego’s braying about ‘freedom’, are fairly good at maintaining recommended distancing as one effective means of reducing exposure to the virus—to a point.
The mind is so habituated to being up close and ‘personal’ during personal interactions, however, that awareness of the need for distancing is frequently thrown to the wind. And it’s nothing more than mechanical habit. Effective, even deeply felt, personal communication does not require that we be in each other’s face. We can hear even a quiet voice at a distance of six feet just fine. The sincerity and degree of care in a person’s intent is easily perceived at the same distance.
Ventilations refer to what used to be called mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Professionals most often utilize pocket ventilators or the preferable bag valve masks for this task in order to avoid the obvious risks of mouth-to-mouth. Pocket ventilators are small devices designed to seal off the mouth and nose of an unconscious victim and allow the rescuer to breathe into the victim’s lungs without direct mouth-to-mouth contact. Bag valve masks are essentially pocket ventilators with a flexible squeeze bulb (bag) which mechanically administers air to the victim’s lungs when squeezed.
Going into the assessment, my naive assumption was that we would be using bag valves only for testing, since pocket ventilators would require removing our masks and breathing into a mannequin countless other people had been breathing into. I was mistaken.
I chose to comply. The flaw in that choice appeared when our examiner, as so many people do, forgot the need for distance, and got right in my face when a problem in the mannequin’s functioning occurred. Not wearing a mask at that moment, and crouched on my knees over the mannequin, I felt my personal space severely compromised. This happened more than once while the examiner fiddled with some niggling connection which had come undone.
Had the examiner said, from a distance, “Why don’t you step back so I can check something on the mannequin?”, and waited for me to do so, everything would have been fine, from my point of view. But that’s not what happened. This was the third or fourth time since the advent of the pandemic I felt shockingly violated and threatened by a stranger’s indiscretion and lapse of awareness of negative consequences—possibly life-threatening—to either of us.
By the time I left the office, I realized I was in an uncentered, unfocused, and rather disoriented state of mind. Was I responsible for this state of mind? Absolutely. I allowed an outer event to outcreate my own attention and state. And it honestly took me until this morning to truly dispel that state and re-establish my connection to the Master.
My reward for finally having achieved that was one of those unsuspected benefits of placing our attention on the only truth available to those living in the physical universe.
The Master showed me, in vivid clarity, the striking contrast of having survived decades of life as a climber and wilderness adventurer, and the circumstance of having a stranger randomly act in a way I perceived as life-threatening. In the former, most of the several brushes I’ve had with death were self-inflicted and consciously chosen—the consequence of a risk I understood. The latter is something else entirely. It’s an affront or attack by another, presumably conscious being. And their consequences have diametrically opposed effects.
The former outcomes invariably resulted in inspiring, life-giving effects—even if they involved the death of others. The latter consequences, on the other hand, are devastating, and belittling of life. And I had never experienced them until the advent of the pandemic.
It wasn’t until this morning, when the Master’s voice was once again clear to me, that He revealed the gifts within my lesson.
First of all, I recognized that the highly unpleasant and ‘discombobbled’ state I experienced after the examination was an accurate, yet pale, pale reflection of something that probably most, if not all, people of color in this country probably experience multiple times a day for the entirety of their sometimes brief lives. Lives which can only be tarnished with a fear that this is the way it will always be. It’s the way it always has been, isn’t it?
Equally ‘out of the blue’, came the flash that my experience last night is being widely experienced on a global scale—and has been for months. Such experiences are now blind to race, sex, economic status, or spiritual belief. To me, this is the answer to the widely pondered question of “Why now?” on the minds of those perplexed at the sudden, more universal empathy and compassion with people of color. For the first time in our lives, white people are tasting an experience already indigenous to those who are not white. And it’s registering. We can relate—from experience! Hallelujah!
Does this mean that all is not perfect after all? No, it does not. Karma continues to rule experience and play itself out in the physical world, flawlessly, and always will. But it does suggest that humanity is being given the opportunity to take one of those rare and precious baby-steps on the evolutionary ladder. Will we choose to take it?
If we truly are being offered this and other opportunities, know that we have earned them—just as we earned the pandemic. But this one, like most of the other cleverly hidden opportunities spawned by the pandemic, is only a potential, still far from a reality. Wouldn’t it be remarkable if, after having been offered such a divine gift, we actually stepped up to the plate and realized it?
It’s a choice—each individual’s alone. That is genuine freedom.
Another of the seemingly endless gifts of this pandemic.
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