The story of a law-abiding, confrontation-avoiding, people-pleasing approval-seeker who raged against the system.

An essay on conscious living as a tool for healing the self and the planet.

I studied my face one recent Sunday morning, an activity I’ve mostly avoided in recent years.  I’ve even formed a habit of turning away from the mirror when brushing my teeth, to avoid the feelings that surface when I see the painful cystic acne and rosacea-like redness that have plagued my face stubbornly for months, despite my commitment and efforts to discover and treat the cause.  I realised, as I studied my reflection, that a surgical mask would cover the entire scene of horror perfectly; the area of inflammation literally looked as though someone had drawn PPE onto my face.  Then I pondered, in the way that I do for my own amusement, whether my “red mask” had been a fortune telling of sorts; a dermal premonition of the faces of the masses as the world descended into panic and fear.

I thought about how I cover the redness on my face with makeup when I’m going to be in public.  Even simply wearing sunglasses has offered a sense of protection; although they don’t hide the redness, they provide privacy for the shame betrayed by my eyes.

I have a growth mindset, and I’ve felt well and strong enough to stretch beyond the limits of my comfort-zone during lockdown by going for my daily walk without makeup or sunglasses on.  It has been challenging to look passers-by in the eye, to see them noticing my blemished and inflamed skin, but I encourage myself to say hello anyway, and to focus on the positives that this challenge gifts me.  I haven’t been fully cognisant of why this has been an important step, just that it has.

I contemplated the idea that the current mask recommendation would be the perfect excuse to take an easier route by opting out of this challenge.  It would be an improved way to hide my shame; better than makeup or sunglasses, it would provide complete concealment and protection.  I could walk free and unencumbered; I wouldn’t have to deal with my humiliation.

No.  I wouldn’t do that.  It would not make me free; the inflammation would still be there beneath a mask, unhealed. I would be hiding from the truth, avoiding and resisting the pain that is nonetheless present, and missing the growth opportunities of confronting my challenge head-on.  Whilst my yearning for a cure is deep and strong and sometimes desperate, I know I’m better served by facing my demons, and trusting that the experience will unfold in the way it’s supposed to, because there are no shortcuts to true healing.  I began to understand in that moment that learning unconditional self-acceptance, marred face and all, is part of my healing.  I know that avoiding shame differs from healing shame.  I know that shame is a story, a story I’m worthy of healing.

I reaffirmed for myself in that moment, that for at least as long as lockdown lasted, and the only time I left my house was for my daily walk, I had no true need to wear makeup, and so I could certainly do without a mask.

Later that Sunday, the announcement was made: face coverings were to be mandated in metropolitan Melbourne.

I raged.

It felt as though my blood was literally boiling.  I shook with fury.  I felt the adrenaline surging ferociously through my blood steam.  More than an opportunity to hide my unsightly face, this was a directive to do so.  I was being told to let go of my limit pushing, my comfort zone stretching, my growth opportunity, my healing, and succumb by force to an imposed liberation of my pain.

I didn’t want to be liberated of my pain; at least not like this, without any agency.  I rejected such a notion outright.

I raged and I panicked.  I objected to this mandate with a fierceness that shocked me.  The following is a sequential explanation of why and how I came to object.

Information and guidance communicated by the various governments has been continually changing as this situation has developed, often directly contradicting that which preceded it.  The federal government has information (still currently) published on the Department of Health website that states: “If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask as there is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public.”1 The inconsistencies, whilst perhaps somewhat understandable, are confusing and perplexing.  There’s little if any certainty in this situation, and coupled with the blatant and unabashed censorship taking place, the level of trust in the information being provided by authorities appears to be dwindling.

The Victorian Premier openly stated that the new mandate2 is about “embedding behaviour”3, 4, 5, 6. This is key in my mind: it’s about increasing compliance and control over the community, rather than the effectiveness of face coverings in preventing the spread of disease.  This is essentially a more palatable way of the Premier admitting that psychological manipulation tactics are being employed by the government.

According to the mandate information provided by the Victorian government7, masks do not need to be medical grade, you can make your own, and “any covering is better than none”, including a scarf or bandana.  Whilst “the Chief Health Officer recommends a mask with three layers”, it’s not compulsory.  This laissez faire approach suggests that a high degree of efficacy in preventing transmission is not the intention of the mandate.

If I walk in my local neighbourhood without wearing a face covering, I will be in breach of the mandate, but the instant that I break into a run, or light up a cigarette, I’m no longer in breach (as long as I am carrying a face covering with me).  I’m not qualified to offer a scientific perspective on the matter, but I’m pretty confident that a person who is walking for exercise in the open air within their local neighbourhood without a face covering is not more likely to spread or contract a virus to or from others, than a person who is smoking or running without a face covering.

It seems very clear that now – more so than ever before – we need to be proactively doing all we can for our health and wellbeing, and that the government must encourage and support the community to do so.  It is universally agreed that exercise is a critical component of that, and getting outside to exercise offers additional important health benefits related to fresh air and sunlight.  This mandate will discourage some people from exercising outdoors, such as those who find it difficult or uncomfortable to breathe through a face covering whilst walking, or those with a medical exemption who fear attack for being mask-free in public.

I very openly admit that I am not skilled at interpreting or discerning the quality of scientific studies, so I defer to various professionals and experts that I’ve come to respect and trust over time.  The problem with this method, alongside the confirmation bias8 that I do my best to proactively avert, is that amongst those I defer to, there is generally some degree of discrepancy in interpretation and discernment of scientific literature and thus opinions on any given topic.  So as a non-scientific lay person, it’s very challenging to form firm views based on rational analysis of the information I consume.  I’ve come to realise that this predicament is not unique to me or the lay person in general.  Science is continually advancing and changing, new discoveries are being made and previous conclusions are being replaced with renewed understanding.  We don’t always know what we don’t know.  Additionally, scientists themselves interpret their findings from their own unique perspective which won’t match the interpretation of every other scientist who analyses the data.  Science is never settled. This principle can also be applied to the numbers; there are differences in data source and accuracy, modelling assumptions, and statistical interpretation.  All this leads me to question the government’s decision making process, which we are told is based on the advice of Victorian Chief Health Officer (and the the National Chief Medical Officer federally; the two have had their own discrepancies in opinion and advice proffered). How do we trust that the science and statistics they use in their decision making is the “best”, when scientific and statistical discrepancies abound?  Experts or not, we can only do our best with the information we have. My point is, mandating face coverings is a remarkably significant action.  We can’t definitively claim that it’s justified, especially when the whole world is arguing over the truth.

Based on the information I have considered from those I trust, I have come to my own personal conclusion that I am not convinced that wearing a face covering does not pose any health risk.  There are some experts arguing that there are legitimate, high quality, peer reviewed scientific studies, indicating that there are various potential health risks, including reduced oxygen intake, increased carbon dioxide intake, and increased infection risk.  Others claim that the science indicates there are no proven risks.  I cannot know for certain which stance is correct, but I note the distinction that to my knowledge, there is no science proving the safety of masks.  For this reason, I prefer to take a precautionary approach.

If it’s true that there are risks, I am not qualified to comment on whether they’re warranted in general at this current time in history in order to save lives.  What I can confidently state is my opinion that mandating something that poses a potential health risk in a situation that is openly about “embedding behaviour”, in some unreasonable contexts, with an acceptance of non-efficacious options, is unacceptable.  One person’s health should not be forcibly sacrificed for another’s.  In this instance, the sacrifice isn’t even truly for another, but rather the embedding of behaviour.

I personally would be more willing to consider accepting the potential health risks of wearing a face covering in a context that makes logical sense, such as high traffic areas like shopping centres where people are in close proximity in enclosed spaces.  That is very different to walking outdoors around the local neighbourhood for exercise and fresh air.

The way I ultimately choose to make my own personal health decisions and those for my children, when I have no logically derived scientific or statistical certainty, is to rely on my instinct and intuition.  For example, when I visit my GP, I am given the opportunity to make an informed decision on any suggested treatment options, based on risks and benefits.  There is no certainty in whether any one of those risks will eventuate – but the possibility is the basis of why informed consent is so critical.  I can weigh up the risks and benefits, based on their likelihood and potential impact, but that is not an exact science and so it doesn’t always bring me to a satisfactory conclusion.  And so, instinct and intuition become my guide.  Everything about wearing a face covering arouses a loud and clear NO.

The use of face coverings fundamentally alters our human experience, through interference with our methods of interacting and communicating with our fellow human beings.  Whilst I had an innate sense of this issue and a basic understanding of the elements involved, this video9 clarified the topic well.  When we see someone’s face, we (mostly subconsciously) receive an unimaginably vast multitude of data that we process, interpret and utilise to drive our actions.  If we interact with that person, the amount of data being received is greatly amplified, as we exchange information back and forth in communication, providing feedback and further affecting decision making.  All this information, garnered simply from observing a face, allows us to determine friend or foe, safe or dangerous, known or unknown, and more.  This is an evolutionary survival tool, an innate pattern of behaviour enabling us to navigate safely through our experience of life, and is additionally a critical aspect of the mental and social development of infants and children.  To assess someone’s face is human instinct, and thus when suppressed through the wearing of a face covering, automatically ignites a flight or fight stress response.  The communication to the brain is “Beware: potential danger!” When virtually the entire community is masked, we are forced into this stress response any and every time we are in public (“Everyone I see is potentially dangerous!”), and again when we interact (“I have no information on which to base my interaction decisions!”).  In this respect, to mandate face coverings is to profoundly amplify the stress of an already stressful situation, as well as to deny a fundamental aspect of our humanity.

Mandating any health measure violates bodily sovereignty.  I don’t have the expertise to confidently comment on the complex legalities of this issue that sits within the foundations upon which our society is built, but I can make general observations.  Governments incentivise and penalise certain health related choices as a matter of public health policy, such as through subsidies and taxes.  The intention is to (openly) influence behaviour in a direction the government deems desirable or important, but significantly, the public is ultimately able to exercise choice.  This mandate removes that choice, supposedly justified by the immensely consequential greater good it is said it will achieve.  That is a matter of not unquestionable opinion, and the whole thing smells of dictatorship; removing freedom of choice in this domain is a monumentally significant step in how our community is governed, and must not be simply shrugged off as “necessary under the circumstances”, particularly as a matter of “imbedding behaviour” in some nonsensical contexts, and when a high degree of effectiveness in preventing transmission is so clearly not intended.  I ponder the way in which these health mandates have incrementally progressed, from lockdowns to face coverings, and the uncertainty of what is potentially coming next.

My personal health paradigm is not one of fear, avoidance, symptoms as negative responses to external malevolent forces, pharmaceutical prophylactics, subservience to medical authority, or preventing death at any expense.  My health paradigm is one of self-responsibility for proactively maximising well-being, trust in the self-healing mechanisms of the body, symptoms as homeostatic course correctors and indicators of potential need for support, self-empowered choice and informed consent, and acceptance of death as part of life.  Within my paradigm, I have no fear of any disease whatsoever.  I recognise that every person is potentially susceptible to any illness, so I look to how I might best ensure that my body is well equipped to appropriately respond to any challenge it may encounter.  I realise this may sound utterly ludicrous and ignorant to those outside of my paradigm, but to hold these beliefs and act upon them is a freedom I value immensely, and I passionately object to having my autonomy to do so removed.

I have deliberately avoided before now mentioning anything that could potentially be labelled as a conspiracy theory.  The term has largely been demonised, and unfortunately, it seems that many people will write off any conspiracy theory as nonsense and disengage from the conversation without actually considering the facts presented.  Whilst some conspiracy theories throughout history have proven to be false, others have been proven true, so I keep an open mind (I particularly like the suggestion of referring to the concept instead as a “conspiracy hypothesis”10).  I’m pretty certain I’ve read about all (or at least most) of them related to this current situation, and I’ve considered the potential for their truth and relevance.  At this stage, I haven’t dived deep enough down the various rabbit holes to gather sufficient information of adequate quality to build strong arguments for this specific aspect of the situation at hand.  The following comes close to but doesn’t quite fall into the conspiracy category, and I strongly believe it warrants consideration due to its formidable implications. 

The mandate creates a highly conspicuous, unavoidable, visually discernible division in our community amongst everyone who spends any time in public.  Literally every adult who wears a face covering unavoidably signals their compliance with this mandate (whether deliberately or incidentally), and by implication, their categorisation as someone who is helping to protect themselves, their loved ones and the community, according to the government11, 12, 13, 14, 15.  Everyone else, by implication, unavoidably signals their categorisation at someone who poses risk to themselves and the community according to the government, and then the question potentially arises in the observer as to whether this risk is caused by a lawful exception to, or a breach of the mandate.  Additionally, those who don’t wear face coverings are a minority.  Given the undeniable level of fear that abounds, it’s not unreasonable to anticipate that these factors will further amplify anxiety, create tension, and overall have significantly detrimental psychological effects on the community.  When all of this is considered in combination with the admission that the mandate is about “embedding behaviour”, in absurd contexts, with blatantly inferior options permitted, it makes me sick to the stomach, and I’ve found myself involuntarily recoiling at the symbology implicit in every face covering I see.

I wonder: what would drive a decision to implement and enforce a mandate with such disturbingly destructive consequences?  Is it the virtuous act of a government who believes that embedding this behaviour is the best way to ensure that we get through this situation with the minimum possible death toll?  Is it because the government wants to implement a strategy that they believe will maximise their chances of favourable political outcomes?  Is it somehow linked with the depopulation agenda of a billionaire tech giant?  I don’t know the truth, and I think it’s unlikely I ever will.  In any case, the psychological power of this visual branding, in the way it provides an immediate way to judge and categorise everyone who leaves their home, is profoundly disturbing.

It’s taken me a while to ascertain why this situation has ignited, in addition to the rage and anxiety, such grief within me.  Part of it is because of the loss of our freedoms and our humanity, but I could sense there was something more.  Whilst listening to a (well-timed) podcast16, it dawned on me: I feel as though I’ve lost an aspect of some of the communities I hold so dear.  Friendship and community are built around shared values.  The sense of having found my people in recent years has brought enormous healing and joy.  Previously, the connections that have held my communities together have been unaffected by differences in unrelated values; often, we don’t discuss or even know each other’s stance on various topics because it just doesn’t come up, or we consider it private and off-limits.  Even when it does arise, we can generally accept the differences of opinion and values we have with those we love.  For many of us, like no other situation we’ve ever experienced, this one is so universal, emotive, divisive, and intensely and publicly debated, so whilst theoretically we can still accept our differences of opinion – and believe me, I’m trying – it feels so much more challenging.  The communities where I felt particularly aligned and held have changed these past three weeks.  I still value each and every one of them, and the individuals within them; I love them for who they are.  But I’ve felt a sense of our unity being fractured as I’ve witnessed the harsh judgement and condemnation with which some opinions have been voiced within what I had considered to be conscious and loving communities.  The jabs sting, but the fractures ache.

I’ve debated at length over whether expressing my opinions is safe and warranted.  I’ve described before17 how I’ve grappled with urges to rant and rave on social media.  I’ve held back, partly because I’m scared of the backlash, partly because I can acknowledge that I could be wrong or change my mind, partly because I don’t have all the answers, and partly because I can observe that such an urge is more about an egoic desire to assert my opinions, gain reassurance and support from those who agree, convince everyone else that I’m right and they’re wrong, and generally feel validated.  It’s a worthless pursuit.  Additionally, social media hasn’t proven to be the gold standard in respectful and kind discourse, and as my husband wisely reminds me when I’m letting it get me down, people don’t think before spouting off on these platforms.  It’s too quick and easy to share a nasty meme or pound out a hurtful criticism without a second thought, with the detachment that being behind a screen provides.  Heading into that kind of territory is a potentially treacherous endeavour.

But this is different.  This isn’t social media (although I do intend to share the link via social media), and this is less about relieving an urge; this is considered and positive action.  For sure, the process of clarifying, crystallising and expressing my point of view has been in and of itself gratifyingly cathartic, offering respite from the tension borne of my rage.  But this is more than just a rant.

This platform provides the space and relative safety to share thoughts and ideas, for those who are truly open to considering another’s viewpoints.  My stance – and any stance, respectfully delivered – is worthy of sharing.  Open minded and respectful discussion aids us in forming and continually shaping our opinions.  One smart cookie said to me recently that “sharing or challenging ideas leads to development and change”18, and I wholeheartedly agree.  My audience here is relatively microscopic, yet not insignificant – no audience is insignificant, even if it’s an audience of one – and so to share my stance is to initiate progress. My intention is not to forcefully impose my opinions on others, but to create a space for any open-minded person, of any viewpoint, to consider my arguments.  Additionally, I think it’s particularly relevant in this specific situation that my intention is also to reassure those who align with any aspect of my stance, that they are not alone in their views, and that they are not the irresponsible, uncaring, selfish, ignorant, stupid idiot, “conspiracy theorist” (with it’s negative connotations), crackpot, tin foil hat wearing dissidents that “friends”, family, communities, social media, mainstream media, and the government, may well have them questioning whether they are.  Many of us have loved ones who fall into what is considered a high-risk category, and our stance doesn’t automatically mean we don’t care about them or anyone else, that we value their lives less than ours or that we’re willing to sacrifice anyone.  Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and we mustn’t let anyone bully us into thinking otherwise.

Having said all that, the mere thought of publishing and publicly sharing my opinions on this topic felt utterly terrifying two weeks ago; I would sweat and shake and feel nauseous every time I contemplated it, given everything I’ve mentioned about the divisive and vicious debate, and my fears about how people might judge and reject me.  I repeatedly asked myself, when I became consumed with writing, why must THIS be the topic on which I feel compelled to write?  Why must THIS be the topic to generate such passion within me?  Why can’t I be passionate about something uncontroversial and safe, like knitting?

I realised this is something I am being called for.  The unrelenting and overwhelming visceral outrage, all the enormous emotions I’ve been experiencing, are messengers sent to tell me in no uncertain terms that I must use my voice.  Passion is not a matter of choice, a truth which can be evidenced by any attempt to fake it.  Rather, we are gifted our passions.  What we do choose is whether we heed the call to follow them.  A part of me desperately wished that I could ignore the call and stay hidden safe inside my box, but I’ve learned that ignoring such a powerful call is lethal; an ignored passion will starve, rot, and fester, eating away at you from the inside out.  I know that writing brings me joy, that transcribing my messy emotions and thoughts into crystallised concepts lights me up.  More specifically, using the written word as my conduit to distil the essence of conscious living is so blissfully fulfilling.  Deep down, I recognised that the passion aroused within me was about more than voicing my objection to the mandate; it was a gateway to my calling, to inspiring an awakening to consciousness through my writing.

This realisation has allowed me to form self-compassion for my suffering of the past three weeks, enabling me to let go of resistance and the need to “fix” it, because I know now that it serves a sacred purpose.  Knowing that the purpose of my astonishingly intense feelings was to ignite my action didn’t automatically eliminate my fear though.

As much as being petrified felt like an undeniable and justified reality, I recognised that my feelings were borne of stories, created by my ego, doing a superb job of what it evolved to do: ensure my survival.  The ego is supremely paranoid, always on the lookout and creating stories of potential pathways from an idea or intention to the worst-case scenario that it seeks to avoid at all costs: death.  Stories of judgement, ridicule, humiliation, vilification and rejection, that could plausibly result from voicing my opinion, threatened annihilation to an ego that hasn’t evolved beyond its original paradigm where, thousands upon thousands of years ago, these sorts of threats literally could spell death.  My ego responded to the threat by initiating the intensely unpleasant physical sensations of terror (sweating, shaking, nausea) knowing I would naturally try to escape and avoid them, thus preventing my demise.  “Don’t do the thing (voice your opinion) that is making you feel bad (sweating, shaking, nausea) and then the negative outcome of the thing (judgement, ridicule, humiliation, vilification and rejection) won’t happen and so you won’t die!”  But in modern times, this survival mechanism is largely redundant, and often holds us back; when survival is practically ensured (voicing political opinion isn’t deadly in our society) we have an opportunity to evolve to the next level: to thrive.  I can recognise the fear for what it is, reassess how detrimental the potential outcomes of my action truly are, and decide whether I’m willing to accept the risk of them eventuating for the benefits to be derived from taking the action.

As the days have passed since initially deciding to write this essay, I’ve been able to use this recognition of ego as a practice, to gradually strengthen my resolve to share what I write.  My final reassurance19 came in the form of the following passage by Brené Brown that I synchronistically happened upon:

“In one of its earliest forms, the word courage had a very different definition than it does today.  Courage originally meant “To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.”  Over time, this definition has changed, and today, courage is more synonymous with being heroic.  Heroics is important and we certainly need heroes, but I think we’ve lost touch with the idea that speaking honestly and openly about who we are, about what we’re feeling, and about our experiences (good and bad) is the definition of courage.  Heroics is often about putting our life on the line.  Ordinary courage is about putting our vulnerability on the line. In today’s world, that’s pretty extraordinary.

… [C]ourage has a ripple effect. Every time we choose courage, we make everyone around us a little braver. And our world could stand to be a little kinder and braver.”20

It turns out that stretching beyond the limits of my comfort zone in relation to my blotchy face has been my training ground.  Beyond healing the story of my shame, it has been a satisfyingly metaphorical preparation for the courage required to step into my calling, and for disengaging from the stories that will attempt to dissuade me from doing so.

Opportunities for personal development, which have always been available but often go overlooked, are being thrust in our faces in 2020, as though some higher power is desperately attempting to grab our attention and initiate the next step in our evolution.  My hope and most important purpose of this writing is that by taking up my own such opportunities, the ripple effect might illuminate those available to you, and inspire you to be courageous enough to seize them.

This is not an insistence that everyone should stand on their respective soap boxes and declare to the world their stance on the current global situation and it’s related issues.  What it is, is a series of invitations.  An invitation to consciousness. An invitation to consider the truth of your heart, what it is that moves you, that rouses your passion, that lights you up.  An invitation to honour yourself, and to heal.  How this looks for you is something that you alone can determine.

As I witness with a desperate anxiety what I perceive to be the self-destruction of humanity (if that seems overly dramatic, here’s a wonderful podcast21 for some context), I concurrently know that my power is in consciously holding a vision for something different.  I understand that our effect on the world is determined by our consciousness.  Whilst I’m certainly light years away from being anything like an enlightened master, the sequence of events in my personal experience this past three weeks has taught me that in order to create the world we desire, we must first acknowledge, and then transcend, our egoic tendencies.  Wayne Dyer, in his book “The Power of Intention: Learning to Co-create Your World Your Way”, provided a wonderful story to illustrate this concept:

I recall hearing the following conversation after the events of 9/11 in New York City.  A grandfather was talking to his grandson, telling him, “I have two wolves barking inside of me.  The first wolf is filled with anger, hatred, bitterness and mostly revenge.  The second wolf inside of me is filled with love, kindness, compassion and mostly forgiveness.”

“Which wolf do you think will win?” the young boy inquired.

The grandfather responded, “Whichever one I feed.”22

We all essentially want the same thing – to be well, and all that that comprises in the context of the human experience.  Recognising our unity in this desire can fortify the commitment required to do the endless work of conscious living, of letting go of our compulsion to divide right from wrong and good from bad, so that we can work together to create positive change.  Consider if, instead of the fear, anxiety, anger and division that is rife in the world right now, we fostered a sense of calm, positivity, resilience, unity and possibility.  What kind of healing would be possible for the world then?

Disappointingly, for someone with such an obvious penchant for a good metaphor, my red mask analogy doesn’t extend to the end of this essay in the way my ego would prefer.  Ideally, the conclusion would describe how the practice of publicly walking free of my protective mask of makeup built up my strength and courage to virtuously take a stand for what matters to me, knowing that I could survive any judgement, criticism, or challenge that resulted from upholding my stance by ignoring the mandate.  By leaving home for my daily walk without a protective face covering, I would be exposing my stance as well as my face, healing my fear as well as my shame.  I would be honouring myself by honouring my values.  I would be playing my role in healing some part of the suffering that occurs as a result of the mandate, rather than hiding behind a mask and pretending the suffering doesn’t exist.  Alas, that’s not how the story transpired.

In truth, I’ve played by the rules of this game.  In my panic, I obtained a written exemption from my GP the morning following the announcement (I have since discovered that a lawful exemption does not need to be evidenced in writing23).  I could be accused of selling out; there’s a part of me (hello, ego!) that feels unworthy of an exemption.  Based on a combination of my beliefs and opinions and the knowledge that there are others who don’t want to wear a mask but don’t qualify for an exemption, I feel like I’m letting them down by abandoning them in their time of need, rather than acting in solidarity and support.  I’m grateful and relieved to be exempt, but initially my rage was burning so fiercely that I wanted someone to give me schtick in public for breaching the mandate, just so I could blast them with my righteous opinions, discharging the tension of my anger (realistically, I’d be much more likely to rush away in fright, my eyes brimful with tears).

For some time, I wasn’t sure whether or not, if I wasn’t exempt, I would intentionally contravene the mandate.  My conditioning certainly primes me very powerfully to be subservient to authority, obey rules and avoid rocking the boat.  On the other hand, part of me wanted to think I would find the courage of my convictions to ignore the mandate, less as an act of protest, and more as an act of honouring my values.  But I wasn’t convinced that civil disobedience was the most positive or meaningfully helpful action.

This question of what I’d do was hypothetical, but it felt important to address; I wanted to be prepared in case the situation changes.  Upon reflection, I realised that neither option would be feeding my preferred wolf, so I decided to conjure a better alternative.  I determined that I could sacrifice my beloved daily walk and take sanctuary in my home, free from a face covering, free in my actions being driven by autonomous value-based choices, free from any trace of negativity, and continue to take lawful, positive, meaningful action24 regarding my passionate stance on the mandate.  That feels beautifully aligned, and I feel prepared.  Regardless, for now it’s a situation I’m fortunate not to be forced to face.

On the first day that the mandate took effect, I headed out for my daily walk around the local wetlands, sans mask.  I observed my mind going wild with fearful stories of people yelling at me, people muttering under their (masked) breath at me, people thinking I was a “bad” person, even just people wondering if I was in breach and thus potentially “bad”.  The unlikely possibility of being questioned by a police officer also struck fear in me, regardless of my lawful exemption (that’s a story of being conditioned to fear authority figures, for another day!).  I observed the egoic mechanism that transformed these fearful thoughts into physical sensations in my body: nausea, muscle tension, clenched jaw, increased temperature, hyper alertness, jitters.  I focused on my breath: the unhindered inhalation of fresh air, the free flow of my exhale.  I focused on gratitude for the privilege of unobstructed breathing.  I focused on gratitude for the blessing of living a two-minute walk from the wetlands, enabling me to immerse in nature.  I focused on looking for opportunities to extend friendliness toward passers-by through a smile and hello.  As the days have passed, the fear has dissipated, as has my rage and anxiety, clearing the way for me to direct my energies towards positive action.  My conscious practice has enabled my nervous system to settle, taking me out of fight or flight reactionary stress, and into rest and digest, where I can move beyond survival mode to assimilate the lessons of this experience.  It has enabled me to follow the call of my passion and joy, and play my part after all, in healing some part of the suffering that occurs as a result of the mandate, through my words.

No matter what our personal challenges, we are always served by approaching them with consciousness.  When we heal ourselves, we clear the path to our joy, our passions, and our callings; that’s when we thrive and heal the planet.  That is our opportunity in 2020.

Footnotes & References:

  1. Information on the use of surgical masks, Australian Government Department of Health.
  2. Face Coverings: Whole of Victoria, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services.
  7. Face Coverings: Whole of Victoria, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services.
  8. Confirmation bias is defined by as “bias that results from the tendency to process and analyze information in such a way that it supports one’s preexisting ideas and convictions”.
  9. Mask Facts: The Science & History of Masks in Medicine, by Shawn Stevenson.  See the video, specifically from the 27:27 mark.
  10. Warding off viruses of the mind – Critical thinking skills with Dr. Tim Sharpe, The Energy Blueprint Podcast with Ari Whitten (includes transcript).
  11. “[Y]ou need to remember to take something to cover your face – to help keep you and our community safe.” (Face coverings mandatory for Melbourne and Mitchell Shire, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services, 19th July 2020.)
  12. “[B]y covering your face, you’re protecting your community” (Statement from the Premier – 30 July 2020, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services, 30th July 2020.)
  13. “[T]hese changes are fundamentally about protecting the people you love.” (Statement from the Premier – 30 July 2020, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services, 30th July 2020.)
  14. “Wearing a face covering helps keep you and others safe.” (Face coverings: Whole of Victoria, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services, 3rd August 2020.)
  15. “Face coverings are an additional protective physical barrier to protect you and your loved ones.” (Face coverings: Whole of Victoria, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services, 3rd August 2020.)
  16. Why Spending Time With Your Friends Is More Important Than You Think with Dhru Purohit, Feel Better Live More Podcast with Dr Rangan Chatterjee.
  17. In support of all the irresponsible, uncaring, selfish, ignorant, stupid idiot, conspiracy theorist, crackpot, tin foil hat wearing dissidents, by Rachael Stella.
  18. Thanks Adrianna Griffith x
  19. Additionally: for the cheer leading and (virtual!) hand holding, my deep loving gratitude goes to Cammie, David, Kristie and Sarah xxxx.
  20. Brown, B (2010) The Gifts of Imperfection, USA.
  21. Zach Bush: Our Covid-19 assumptions are wrong: why social distancing & vaccines will make the pandemic worse, London Real Podcast with Brian Rose.
  22. Dyer, W (2006) The Power of Intention, Carlsbad, USA
  23. Face Coverings: Whole of Victoria, Victoria State Government Health and Human Services.
  24. For example, I used this link (provided by Vic Freedom Keepers) to guidelines and a template letter, which I personalised to send to my local state MP expressing my objection to the mandate.

Additional Recommended Reading:

On mindfulness, conscious living, and moving beyond the stronghold of the ego:

On the current narrative:

On conspiracy:

Psychological perspective on the current situation:

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Featured image by Wendy Corniquet from Pixabay

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