Strengthening Our Hearts to Bridge the Divide
A Middle Path Through the Vaccine Narratives
Dear Yoga Student,
Ah it’s been a bit of a week! I have square eyes.
However… good news is the 12-week, in-person Yoga for Stress and Back Pain course is running. It will be in Crouch End or Stroud Green, North London on Wednesday evening from 6:30 - 8pm. When I’ve finalised the venue on Wednesday I will pop it on the schedule. In the meantime, email me if you’d like to attend. I’m excited about this course which will include a set of online recordings that you can use for your home practice. If you want to book a class (online or in-person) you can click the button below. There is more information on upcoming classes and retreats below the article.
I hope you find the article helpful. Please let me know what you think. I wrote this because I felt compelled, not because I really wanted to dive in to this topic. I’d rather stay out of the vaccine debate to be honest. As this is such an emotive issue, let’s remember to be kind and respectful (and evidence-based, please cite sources) in the comments section. However, don’t hold back I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Writing From My Heart to Yours
Today, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I wanted to write about love. I wanted to write about the heart and how we can tend to this heavenly body within us, enabling it to radiate loving-kindness, peace and joy.
My writing mind had other ideas, it got frustrated and went off on tangents; nothing in my drafts gelled together or made sense. For three days I grappled… and so here I am, writing to you on a Sunday morning, from my heart.
Are Our Hearts Hardening?
I worry about the health of people’s hearts in these times of division and separation. The polarisation we see, particularly on the Internet, is indicative of the hardening of our hearts. It’s really sad to see so much fear, derision and judgement amongst our families and friends, our communities and countries.
I feel like we are living in an Alice in Wonderland world where things are never quite what they seem. People from all walks of life suddenly become medical experts, yet real science is scarcely mentioned. In fact, the data that is required to properly understand the issues that we are so fiercly debating is rather thin on the ground. The raw data that scientists really need to understand the vaccine efficacy and safety has not been released by the any of the main vaccine manufacturers, much to the frustration of many researchers.
Meanwhile, supposed nightmares shrink into mundane reality, only to be replaced by a new nightmare looming behind it. All this is curated by media outlets that skew the truth in many and various ways. The fact-checkers have been fact-checked and found to be lacking. I am all for fact-checking, but it needs to be done by media organisations that have true integrity. I don’t feel that such an unbiased, evidence-based, independent organisation exists in our current info-sphere. Do you?
A Kindly Clarity
Every now and again I’ve been checking in with a retired nurse educator called Dr John Campbell (he’s on YouTube). He is sensible and kind. He’s been looking through the research on covid since the very beginning of the pandemic. Despite the fact Dr Campbell uses Office of National Statistics (ONS) data, plus published and peer reviewed studies from well-regarded medical journals, the BBC called him out recently for spreading misinformation. Here you can see his very humble and kind response.
Becoming Informed of Benefits and Risks
All Dr John Campbell is doing is looking at the published data, in a very calm and balanced way. He is not opposed to the vaccinations, yet he is noticing quite a lot of interesting trends. His findings are fascinating and really need to be more widely read. Dr Campbell’s work helps his followers to understand covid and the vaccines much more clearly than guidance from news outlets, the NHS and even our doctors. By watching his videos you will become much more informed about the risks and benefits of the vaccines for various populations.
Understanding the Vaccine Hesistant
Needle Points by Norman Doige, who is vaccinated like Dr Campbell, is an article that explores the phenomenon of Covid-19 vaccine hesitancy. Doige is a psychotherapist and psychiatrist and author of The Brain’s Way of Healing and The Brain that Changes Itself. He really understands human psychology and the article is an absolutely fascinating read. It is very long!! There are chapters. However, if you need to better understand a member of your family who has chosen not to take the covid vaccinations, your time is well spent reading this comprehensive overview of why we have become so divided over the vaccine issue.
A More Humble and Heart Centred Approach is Needed
These more humble, less self-promoting researchers help ordinary people like me, you and many others (epidemiologists and doctors included) to navigate the middle path between the vast polarities of the vaccine debate. We need this data-driven, yet heart-centred approach more than ever.
It’s important to remember that the narratives and agendas rattling around our social media are concocted and potentiated by people with certain agendas.
Pharmaceutical companies are essentially driven by profits, which is problematic. They have been known to quash information that affects their bottom line. For a thorough investigation of this distrubing reality do read Bad Pharma: How drug companies mislead doctors and harm patients, by Ben Goldacre. Ben Goldacre is a physician and evidence-based medicine researcher, he is about as far from from anti-vaxer as you can get.
Public Health and Government
Public health bodies are concerned that people who really need the vaccine are not put off having the vaccines. Publish health is one size fits all endeavour, it is all about getting as many as people to do the same thing regardless of their individual differences in health or medical status. The way public health works is to get as many people as possible to have the vaccine in the hope of creating herd immunity and lessening pressures on health services. This is another reason why we have seen the censorship of people questioning vaccines on various social media channels.
Vaccine Questioning and Anti Vaxers
People opposed to or questioning of the vaccinations have various agendas. They might want to gain more followers or make money or “go viral”. However, there are many that simply wish to explore and discuss some of the issues around these new mRNA vaccines, issues that they find problematic, puzzling or concerning. The fact that many scientists are cancelled, censored or shunned for talking about their ideas makes some people want to hear even more from them. If you are around my age, you might remember when Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s single Relax was banned in the UK. It went straight to number one. Us humans do not like to be told what to think, and rightly so.
How are We Feeling?
Then we have the people who are swimming in the ocean of these narratives, people like you and me. After two years of living with the pandemic, many of us are feeling at least some of the following: tired, stressed, confused, fed up with it all, anxious about our health or health of our loved ones; distrustful of the pharmaceutical companies; dismissive or angry about the wild tales from the anti-vax campaigners; unsure of the wisdom of continually repeated boosters. We are wondering: when will it all end?
Picking a Side to Feel Safe
Throughout the pandemic have been subject to fear and uncertainty. We humans are not good at living in such conditions for any length of time. In order to quell the unease, many people have picked a side and found lots of “facts” on the internet that back up their choice. These get repeated in the echo chambers of social media creating a sense of certainty and rightness within each group. Each side is convinced of their rightness. Many people have dug themselves into a trench, unable to even contemplate any information contrary to their beliefs.
Reasoned Debate and Raw Data
Oppositional thinking and entrenchment is exactly what we don’t need right now. This approach divides families, communities and countries so much so that some countries are resorting to mandates for vaccination which has been scientifically proven to deter people from having them. We need to discuss calmly, we need to come together with open minds, we need uncensorsed reasoned debate by independent scientists based on the real data (the raw data that all the vaccine manufacturers are so far refusing to release).
We don’t need censorship, division, opinions based on unscientific thinking, fact-checking that isn’t correct, and cover-ups. If we can take a deep breath and clearly and as a collective, quietly insist that independent scientists are granted access to the raw data, we will be able to find the clarity and understanding we need.
Finding Peace Amidst the Chaos
Listening to Dr John Campbell helps me to find a sense of peace amidst all the confusion. When we find peace, our hearts soften and we can reconnect with our heart’s capacity to love, to understand, to empathise. Perhaps we can use this love to bridge the divides, to recognise what we have in common?
We all want to be safe and well and we want our loved ones to be safe and well too. Let’s return from our polarised online tribal gatherings to our real selves in the here and now. We can soothe our troubled minds and hearts in whatever way works for us whether it’s yoga, or spending time with friends, walking in nature, music, dancing, painting… In our own way let’s take those slower diaphragmatic breaths that reduce stress and steady our hearts. Then we’ll be equipped to bravely take the middle path that bridges the divide. The divisions look like chasms today but once the mists clear, and our hearts are more settled and bright, we might see that we’re all in this together and we all have each other’s backs.
New In-Person One Day Retreat
I’ve been seeking ways of making Holistic Yoga retreats more accessible. My answer is to offer regular day retreats. They’ll be in North London at the lovely Lauderdale House in the beautiful, spacious Upper Gallery. Set in Waterlow Park in Highgate Village, within walking distance of Hampstead Heath, we’ll have plenty of Nature around us to help us to shed layers of tension and deeply restore.
Sunday 3rd April 10am - 4pm £70.00 per person
If you want to book now to reserve your space, click below. If you book ahead, as you would with a weekend retreat, it will really help me a lot. Please do contact me regarding a discount, if financial concerns prevent your participation.
Monthly In-Person Saturdays
It’s hard finding a space to teach in person on a Saturday morning! So from March, I’ll be teaching once a month in person at Union Church, Crouch End, N8 9PX (with the rest being on Zoom). From September onwards, all Saturday classes will be in-person at the Church. Hurrah!! You can reserve your space in class by booking ahead using the button below.
Early Bank Holiday Long Weekend Retreat
There are still some spaces on this retreat, I expect it to sell out soon, so if you are in two minds. This is most likely to be going to be the last Tilton House retreat. Which is one of the sad realities of this pandemic.
Regular Classes Online and In-Person
Book your regular class by going to the timetable page on my website here.