Yesterday, I spoke to one of my neighbors who just got vaccinated. She wanted to tell me what a big deal it was for her to do so, given her inclinations. This is a woman who is an avid consumer of alternative medicine, someone who is scared of doctors and hasn’t gotten a check up in two decades. She believes in natural health, did not vaccinate her children, and sent them to a Waldorf school so she could get away with not vaccinating them. She reads everything she can get her hands on about mind-body healing, spiritual healing, food as medicine, herbal medicine, energy medicine, and home remedies for everything from menopausal symptoms to colds. She liked my Mind Over Medicine book and has been following me on Facebook since then. She meditates daily, does her home yoga practice, grows an herb garden in her backyard, raises chickens and an organic vegetable garden that provides a lot of her family’s food. She juices her kale every day and attends the Women’s Herbal Symposium twice a year with her kids. She birthed her kids at home with a midwife and considers herself a proud “back to the lander.”
She never could have imagined that she’d one day wind up in a giant sport’s arena, waiting in line while hundreds of volunteers ushered her through the line so she could get her Covid vaccine. She said what surprised her the most was how luminous everyone was. The volunteers were kind and gentle and they tended to her anxiety about getting the vaccine gingerly. When she started to panic right as they were giving it to her, the nurse who was administering it used soothing words and acknowledged her feelings without shaming her or rushing her. When she started to cry the nurse used cooing sounds to calm her down since she couldn’t hold her or hug her because of social distancing. Her panic passed, and she felt a wash of gratitude that she had this opportunity to be part of a historical moment, to do her part to end mass global suffering and help get us back to togetherness.
After the nurse administered the vaccination, my friend said she had what felt like a full on mystical experience. Maybe she was just dissociating, she admitted, but she suddenly felt her heart open, as if love was pouring out of her, flooding the whole arena, and also pouring into her, filling her with an ecstatic feeling. She felt interconnected to everyone there and felt like part of something far bigger than herself, like this was destiny for her to be right here, right now, at this sacred moment in history. She felt so much gratitude for the kind volunteers and tireless nurses who were jabbing people all da, trying to calm everyone down and reassure them that they were making the right decision. After decades of feeling distrustful and fearful of everyone involved in conventional medicine, she suddenly felt connected to all the doctors, nurses, and hospital workers who had been sacrificing time, sleep, comfort, and even their own lives to fight the pandemic from the front lines. After years of bashing Big Pharma, she felt surprised to feel her heart open to the dedication and humanitarian impulses of all those scientists laboriously devoted to creating this vaccine that had been injected into her, even if they were employed by the pharmaceutical industry. She felt the care implicitly in how everyone involved had both rushed and also tried to go slow enough to keep her safe from potential side effects as she got this vaccine.
She said it was the opposite of what she had been seeing online among her peer group, with everyone hating on everyone. All her vaccine hesitant friends trolled her once she posted on Facebook that she had decided to overcome her own hesitancy to get her Covid vaccine. She felt ashamed to admit that she had been one of those people hating on others and getting triggered by what I was posting related to complying with public health guidelines and preparing for mass vaccination as a way to save the lives of the elderly, the vulnerable, the marginalized, and the oppressed, who were dying from Covid at much higher rates than those of us with more privilege. Even though she and I had never spoken about this in person, she felt like I was shaming her by advocating for compliance with public health recommendations, as if being hesitant about the vaccine meant she was selfish. She didn’t see herself as selfish, just adamantly against vaccination.
All of that fell away the moment the nurse injected the vaccine, and she felt the identity of her individual self fall away. In its place, she felt part of the wholeness of humanity, as if she was part of a sweeping humanitarian movement towards a future with less suffering. For much of her life, she felt like an outsider, never quite fitting in and having to find fringe spaces where she could muster up a sense of belonging. But in this moment, she felt full belonging and even found herself laughing at the idea that she could ever not belong to this planet.
She was grateful for the volunteer who stayed with her during this mystical experience, since she had to be observed for the 15 minutes after her vaccination to make sure she didn’t have an anaphylactic reaction. She felt comforted to have this volunteer’s presence while her mystical experience unfolded, and being able to report what was happening to the volunteer grounded her. The volunteer listened with amazement as she described what was happening and laughed with her when she realized she had always belonged.
This spiritual experience came as a total surprise. She knew she’d freak out a bit when the actual moment came, but she did not expect to receive this gift of what felt like grace. She interpreted it as a sign that she had made the right choice. She felt compelled to reach out to me and share her experience, since she said it was the posts I had been sharing from my virologist, immunologist, front line Covid physician friend Rick Loftus, MD that finally helped her make her choice to accept the vaccine. 2020 had been a watershed year for her, and she admitted that she had been vaccine hesitant for self-focused reasons, but she had not really thought about the impact her personal choices might have on the collective. In addition to my posts about factual science, she was influenced by one meme.
“Mom what’s that scar?”
“That’s my smallpox scar.”
“You don’t have one or need one, because it worked!”
My friend interpreted her mystical experience as the gift of surrendering to being part of something bigger than just her own individual self. Yes, she was getting vaccinated so she could keep herself safe, but even more so, she was influenced by her altruistic care for her elderly neighbors and parents, and she wanted to do her part to make the planet safer for the elderly, the marginalized, and the vulnerable.
She drove away from the arena in tears, no longer the panicked tears of someone terrified of getting vaccinated, but the tears that come from the heart-tear duct highway as the ice around her heart melted and helped her see beyond her blindness. “If even one other life is saved because I got my vaccine, it will be worth it.”
I thanked her for getting her vaccine. Because people like her were willing to accept vaccination, and because Californians had been reasonably compliant with public health guidelines, we were finally in the Red Tier and my daughter is FINALLY two days away from attending her first day of actual high school. “You helped her get there,” I said. “Waldorf Mom to Waldorf Mom, thank you for doing your part.” After a full year of remote learning after a lifetime of no screens at a Waldorf school, it’s finally time for school to start. I am beyond grateful for her willingness to sacrifice her hesitation for the good of people like my daughter and her elderly loved ones.
I asked my friend if I could share her story, and she said yes, that if it helps even one person overcome their own terror, she would want that. When I posted her story on Facebook, a shocking number of hostile trollers started hating on me, as if by sharing my friend’s tender story I was somehow part of the shadowy underbelly of powerful creatures demonized by the conspiracy theorists, trying to lure vulnerable people into getting microchipped and deprogrammed. One woman wrote, “Seems like you are pushing the whole vaccine agenda,” to which I responded, “Yes, I have made it very clear that I am trying to support my colleagues in public health and conventional medicine by advocating for accurate science, public health information, and live-saving facts. So yes, this story is a true story and I think it also points to the necessity of moving beyond our own self-interested fears or hesitation so we can get a handle on a virus that is targeting the most vulnerable, oppressed, and marginalized. If you interpret my humanitarian efforts as pushing an agenda, then yes, I am motivated to save the lives of the marginalized, vulnerable, elderly, disabled, and oppressed. Guilty as charged.” Hundreds of other people posted about their own heart-opening vaccination experiences, so apparently, it wasn’t just my friend.
I haven’t gotten mine yet because it’s not yet my turn, but I registered to be notified the minute it is. I’ll post a photo of me getting vaccinated once I’m the one getting the jab.
Good luck making your own choice, and should you choose to get vaccinated, may you be open to feeling that interconnected web that unites us all in our wide open hearts as part of the wholeness of humanity.
PS. For an opportunity to alchemize your experiences of this wild year into kick ass writing and/or art and the potential for mystical experiences, join us at Healing With the Muse.Join Healing With The Muse Here