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Santa Rosa Fire: The Moment Everything Changed

Santa Rosa Fire: The Moment Everything Changed

The first 48 hours after the fire I was dazed and confused. I couldn’t figure out what to do next. Rumors abounded and hard information about what was going on in Sonoma County was scarce. People around me were fearful and anxious, and so was I.

Then something happened, and everything was different.

My wife, Christine, and I woke up in Fort Ross, at the hotel we’d moved to after our house had burned down and the home of the friends to whom we’d fled was evacuated. The night before, the sun had set in a red sky colored by ash and fire. We spent an uneasy night, haunted by dreams of driving through flames.

That morning, I knew the most important thing we could do was meditate. It wasn’t an intellectual idea, it was visceral longing. Christine and I sat up in the bed and tuned in to the Universe, that great eternal radio station broadcasting peace and serenity 24/7.meditation 2307812 1920

As I settled in to meditation, I realized how off-base my energy was. The fire had burned through the rope tying the boat of my life to the anchor of my spiritual practice. I had been drifting in fear and uncertainty for hours on end. It was time to connect up again.

As we breathed and centered ourselves, the familiar energy of peace and calm washed over us. We were back in the heart of Great Spirit, the home that can never be damaged or destroyed.

We sat for the best part of an hour enjoying the depth of connection. We then turned to each other and began sharing our thoughts. Yes, there had been a fire. Yes, it had burned down our house. But here we were, safe and centered in the core of being.

We began to think about the possessions we’d lost. But now, sitting in the Heart of Spirit, we saw them differently. I remembered the four boxes of my mother’s photographs stored in the garage. When she died 20 years before, she’d left mountains of possessions to sort through.

The bigger ones had been steadily disposed of. But who has time to sift through thousands of snapshots from the 1960s, most of them blurry and featuring people we didn’t know? The four boxes had occupied an entire shelf in the garage.

Photos are heavy, and they pressed against the sides of the boxes. The cardboard sagged a bit more every year. The soggy shape of the disintegrating boxes mirrored the joylessness of the unappealing chore of sorting through them.

Now those four boxes were no longer there to reproach me with their misery every time I walked by. They were ash. What a relief!

In another of our garages was a massage chair. We’d purchased a new one the year before, and stored the old one in the garage. On my To Do list was: Sell old massage chair on Craigslist.

But a year had gone by and I’d never found the time. Now the chair was ash, and my obligation miraculously removed.

I owned a beautiful classic Rolls Royce Silver Spirit. But I had so much money tied up in it I could not afford a practical new car. I had made the occasional attempt to sell it, but now it was burnt to a crisp. The insurance money would now pay for that new vehicle.

Christine and I had been talking about moving for a few years. But with our life savings tied up in our house, it was a pipe dream. Now, with nothing to go back to, a move was inevitable.

We began to list the blessings of the fire.

In psychology this is called a cognitive shift. Same picture, different frame. Same fire, different meaning.

As we recited our blessings after meditating, our mood shifted. We celebrated being alive, with infinite possibilities opening up to us. We began to feel cheerful and happy. We joked with one another. Just 48 hours after we’d “lost” everything!

After meditation, the fire meant freedom, not loss. It meant the burning away of the old, not the loss of a lifetime of treasures. It meant an opening to a new and better life, not sinking into the tragedy of the old one.

Meditation made the difference.

As a researcher, I’ve played a role in around 100 scientific studies. Several of these examined the effects of EcoMeditation, a simple technique I developed a decade back (EcoMeditation.com). My colleagues and I have found that meditation lowers stress hormones such as cortisol and boosts immune markers such as immunoglobulin. It lowers blood pressure, inflammation, anxiety, and depression while increasing happiness. It even regulates stress genes.

senior couple meditatingThat day, less than 48 hours after the fire, meditation changed my whole outlook on life. I went from lost and confused to confident and happy. I went from purposeless and fearful to balanced and joyful. I reconnected with the vibrant, resourceful version of myself.

(Thank you to TotallyMeditation.com for this picture of the couple meditating.)

A few days later I wrote in my journal: “I feel incredibly happy. Loved and protected by Spirit in each moment. Blessed with my community, friends, kids, and Christine. The fire seems like no loss at all–the house and possessions seem trivial by comparison.

“We don’t know how everything will turn out. But we don’t need to. We can just go with the flow. When you’re anchored in Spirit, you’re secure. You aren’t tethered by material possessions; they’re not what gives your life meaning.

“Meaning comes from connection with Spirit. Spirit is not a vague metaphysical abstraction, it’s the foundation of reality! I choose to live there every day. It’s profound to realize that NOTHING can take your happiness away.”


Santa Rosa Fire Blog Posts by Dawson Church:

Click here to learn about the GoFundMe campaign to help us keep EFT Universe running during the transition to rebuilding.


Santa Rosa Fire: Making Tough Choices

Santa Rosa Fire: Making Tough Choices

The week of the fire, I was supposed to go traveling.vancouver conf

I give many keynote speeches and workshops each year, and two days after the fire, I had to decide whether or not to travel to Canada to keynote a conference and teach a workshop (on the neuroscience of psychological trauma!). 

Either I could stay in Santa Rosa to deal with the million details of putting our lives back together after the fire or I could leave for Vancouver as planned. I dug deep into my heart to find the answer to my dilemma. 

The well-being of my wife, Christine, was a crucial factor. She is much more attached than I am–to people, to possessions, to home. She creates beauty, both emotional and physical, all around her. Emotionally and spiritually, Christine was bouncing back fast, bathed in the love of her children, grandchildren, and friends. I decided to go.

In retrospect, a week later, the decision to travel feels right. Teaching advanced techniques that clear anxiety, depression, and psychological trauma is my life’s mission. That’s what I feel called to do, fire or no fire. Each day since I left, Christine and I have talked or texted, and she’s doing great.

dawson speakingWhen I walked into the auditorium at the conference to deliver my keynote speech, the whole audience jumped to their feet and applauded. Seeing a person who’d lost their home and office less than a week before showing up and serving them meant a lot to the precious people in the audience.

We all have to make decisions about where to devote our time and energy. It’s so easy to get sucked into the vortex of our struggles and focus our consciousness there. It takes determination to maintain focus on the service we can render others and live our highest possible life purpose.

Yet every time we transcend our limitations and decide to express the highest version of ourselves, we come closer to making it reality. As we practice elevating our consciousness over and over again, we gradually start becoming that highest version of self. Eventually, we become the person we aspire to be. The life we have envisioned becomes the life we deliberately create.

vancouver audienceI am thankful that the fire presented me with this fork in the road. It forced me to choose–between remaining hypnotized by the problems in my life and focusing on the gifts I can give in service to others.

Many of us have life challenges we have to transcend in order to do our life’s work. I celebrate you for any choice you’ve made to transcend your personal tragedies in order to serve and love others.


Santa Rosa Fire Blog Posts by Dawson Church:

Click here to learn about the GoFundMe campaign to help us keep EFT Universe running during the transition to rebuilding.

canada flags

Santa Rosa Fire: Synchronicities

by Dawson Church

“Dawson, call Marilyn Schlitz.” When my wife, Christine, talks to me in a certain tone, an especially soft and flowing voice, I know she’s channeling the angels.

I phoned Christine each day as I traveled, training people on the east and west coasts of North America. For many years I’ve been practicing and teaching meditation and acupressure tapping, two of the most effective stress-reduction techniques around. They helped Christine and I bounce back from the fire and all our losses in record time.

Now Christine was looking for a house for us to rent for a year while we put our world back together. The rental market in the San Francisco Bay Area had been incredibly tight before the fires, with high prices and few options. With 100,000 people having been displaced by the fires, finding the house you wanted and in the area you wanted seemed impossible. The insurance companies tried to help by renting temporary homes for people, but they were limited to whatever was available.

We’d had a brief conversation with my colleague Marilyn Schlitz, a former president of the Institute of Noetic Sciences, when I keynoted their conference that summer. Marilyn lives in Petaluma, and Christine had a strong urge to find us a home in the same town instead of Santa Rosa.

I called Marilyn and discovered that she had been thinking of moving to Silicon Valley, where she and her husband were doing contract work. Christine visited her a couple of days later. Marilyn’s house was exactly what Christine had been picturing. Renting it to us would give Marilyn the income to move too. They talked to the insurance company and within a couple of days all the various pieces fell into place.

I’ve been writing a new book, my first major work in over a decade. It’s called Mind to Matter: The Astonishing Science of How Your Brain Creates Material Reality. It has a chapter on synchronicity and the remarkable studies showing the link between what we visualize and what happens in our lives.

As with Marilyn’s house, we’ve experienced many synchronicities since the fire. People and things we needed appeared as if by magic. Going with the flow of the universe, rather than worrying and complaining, has been our daily practice. People around us have commented on how calm and resourceful we are. That’s the huge benefit that many years of our stress-reduction practices have given us.

Every day I’m grateful simply to wake up alive. I savor each moment as I never did before. I feel a sense of love and protection, cradled in the arms of the universe. I smile and look forward to the synchronicities each day will bring. Like the house we wanted in the town we wanted at a time when there was “nothing available.” Imagine living like this day by day, fire or no fire, for the rest of your life. Why not?

Santa Rosa Fire Blog Posts by Dawson Church:

The Solstice Evergreen

by Dawson Church

Christmas trees are everywhere. I see people carrying them on roof racks on top of their cars. I see excited families heading for Christmas tree farms to engage in the ritual of cutting their own tree. Christmas tree stands have sprung up in many vacant lots. It’s one of the most visible signals of the Christian holiday of Christmas.

But did you know that the the origins of the Christmas tree long predate Christianity? The time of year when we celebrate Christmas has little to do with a date of Jesus’s birth. It’s between the Winter Solstice–the shortest day of the year–and the New Year. The founders of the early church picked this particular time of the year to celebrate Christmas because it was already holy to ancient civilizations. They realized it would be easier to graft their new shoot of a holiday onto the root of an ancient vine than grow a whole new tree.

Every year at this time, I can feel the sense of “peace on earth and goodwill toward everyone” that fills the planetary psychosphere. We hear Christmas carols being sung and see sparkly lights and decorations all over town.

Yet even that sense that this is a special time of year long predates Christianity. Early mystics believed that the period between the Winter Solstice and the New Year was a time when the veil between between this world and the next world thinned–when we can travel in consciousness from the world of material reality to the universal field underlying all reality.

The Winter Solstice was celebrated at sites like Stonehenge more than 4,000 years ago. The Christmas tree is the modern incarnation of the Solstice Evergreen. To the ancients, surrounded by deciduous forests that lost their trees in the winter, the Evergreen was a potent symbol of eternal life. It didn’t succumb to the desolation that afflicted the rest of the plant kingdom when the frosts came.

This time of year always makes me thoughtful. I reflect on the meaning of life in general and the meaning of my life in particular. I take time away from my chronic busy-ness and my habit of running on autopilot, and reflect on the meaning, purpose, and vision for my life.

Death and rebirth are appropriate themes for reflection and journaling at this time of year. You can ask these questions:

  • Which parts of your life are dead and are ready for release, like the leaves falling from the deciduous trees?
  • What unexplored potential is inside you, like dormant seeds ready to germinate given the right circumstances?
  • Which parts of your life are eternal, like the solstice Evergreen?
  • Which parts of your life are springing up afresh, like new shoots pushing through the crusty soil?

Look first at the parts of your life that have become stale and dry. Maybe you’re holding onto them the way dead leaves often cling to the cold winter branches. Take a fearless inventory of the parts of your life that no longer serve you and the dreams and visions that have outlived their usefulness. Yesterday’s diamonds might be today’s coal.

Make the most of this special time of year when the borders between this world and the next become transparent, allowing us glimpses of the other side. Inviting in the wisdom of the universe synchronizes us with the workings of those great cosmic cycles.

It is my prayer for you this holiday season that you will experience rich springs of renewal, recreating and rejuvenating your life in the coming year. That you align your consciousness with all the potential of which you’re capable, even as you release the past. May you experience a sweeter and deeper connection with life in the year ahead than you ever have before.

With much love,


Santa Rosa Fire: Tapping Script for the California Wildfires

by Dawson Church

Our hearts go out to all of those affected by the wildfires in California. We lost the EFT universe office as well as my home in the Tubbs Lane fire in October. Fires are currently ravaging Southern California.

At times like this it’s hard not to feel helpless and upset as you watch the scenes of wild destruction in the news. Yet it’s possible to keep your center even in the midst of tragedy.

I have been keeping a blog here and on Huffington Post describing the emotional stages we’ve been through, as well as the relief efforts. The post “The Saint in the Ashes” has reached thousands of people and comforted them with its message of hope.

Here is a tapping script you can use to help you regain your peace of mind and find meaning even in a tragedy such as the wildfires. Tap continuously as you repeat these words. Continuous tapping means starting with the head points and working your way down. When you get to the last point, you simply start at the top again.

First, assess how upset you feel on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being maximum and 0 being minimum. Write down your number. Then tap along with me while you say these words.

This seems overwhelming.
There’s nothing I can do to help these poor people.
The images on the news are terrifying.
The flames are out of control.
Everything is burning.
People are dying, and homes are being consumed.
Animals are dying, and trees are being consumed.
There’s nothing I can do about any of this.
I feel so helpless.
The fires are out of control, just like parts of my own life are out of control.
I can’t control the fires, I can’t control the world, and I can’t control my own life.
These forces are bigger than me.
They’re overwhelming. I don’t know what to do.
I’m trying as hard as I can to manage the world, and it isn’t easy.
I’m trying as hard as I can to manage my own life, and it seems impossible.
I can’t help these people and I can’t help these animals.
I can’t help nature and I can’t help myself.
It’s hopeless. There’s nothing I can do.
In the face of senseless tragedy, there is nothing I can do.
In the face of disaster, there’s nothing I can do.
In the face of the challenges of my own life, there’s nothing I can do.
In the face of so much suffering, I feel helpless.
But I am still me. I am safe, and I am kind
It’s only because I am kind that I care about the suffering of all these people.
It’s only because I am kind that I care about all the suffering.
It’s only because I am loving that I care about the animals and the trees.
It’s only because I am safe that I can even worry about all of this.
I love and accept myself where I am.
I love and accept the world the way it is.
I love and accept the world even when it seems outside of my control.
I love and accept my life even when it seems outside of my control.
I don’t understand why all these bad things are happening.
I don’t understand why bad things happen to other people.
I don’t understand why bad things happen to me.
I don’t understand why bad things happen at all.
But they do happen, and I’m helpless to stop them.
I love and accept myself even though I’m helpless.
I love and accept myself even though I’m scared.
I love and accept myself regardless of the disturbing images I’ve seen on the news.
I love and accept myself despite all the death and destruction.
I am safe and I am me.
Nothing can take away who I am.
Nothing can take away my love.
Nothing can take away my kindness.
Even all this death and destruction cannot take away my love and kindness.
I choose to fill my mind with love and kindness despite all the death and destruction I see.
I choose to fill my mind with peace and joy despite all the tragedy.
I can’t help others when I am upset myself.
So I choose to remain centered.
I choose to stay in peace.
I choose to stay in love and joy.
When I stay centered, I’m able to think wisely.
From this perspective I can make good decisions about what to do. I am in control.
Despite all the tragedy and suffering in the world…
Despite all the tragedy and suffering in me…
I choose to remain centered.
I choose to give myself the gift of love.
I choose to give myself the gift of inner peace.
Even though all these tragedies are happening in the world, I love and accept myself.
I am at peace, despite all the tragedy in the world.
I cannot change the world, but I can change myself.
I can choose to be at peace, despite the tragedy in the world.
I can choose my inner state, regardless of what is going on around me.
I love and accept myself, even in the midst of chaos.
I affirm the love within me, even when the world is in turmoil.
I send love to those engulfed in tragedy, even as I stay centered myself.
I love and accept myself just the way I am.
I love and accept myself even with all the tragedy in the world.
I love and accept myself and…
I choose to stay centered regardless of what happens in the world.
I am me and I am strong.
I remain centered, strong, and wise regardless of what happens in the world.
I love and accept myself just the way I am.
I send healing and light from my own strong center to those engulfed in tragedy.
In my strength I offer love and healing to everyone who is suffering.
In my strength I offer love and healing to myself.
I especially send love and healing to the parts of my life that feel out of control.
I send love and healing to the parts of myself that are engulfed in tragedy.
I affirm the strength and wisdom of my being.
I am safe and at peace.
I feel that sense of safety and peace throughout my body, mind, and heart.
This is the truth of me.
This is who I am.
I love and accept myself.

Now, tune in again to your body. How upset are you? Rate your number from 0 to 10 again, and see how it’s changed. I encourage you to tap any time you feel upset. You truly will be more centered and at peace. From that perspective you will make wiser decisions and be more effective in responding to any challenging situation whether it’s in your personal life or the life of the planet.

Santa Rosa Fire Blog Posts by Dawson Church:

Santa Rosa Fire: 12:45 am

by Dawson Church

It’s 12:45 a.m. and I’m wide awake.

I’ve been wide awake at that same time every night for the previous week. I can’t get to sleep for at least two hours, and then I toss and turn uneasily till dawn.

I can’t figure out why. I may have the occasional struggle with insomnia, but this is uncanny. Nothing I am able to do is able to calm my racing mind. I tap, I meditate, and I still wake up at exactly 12:45 a.m.

Finally, it hit me. That’s when I woke up on October 9 with the realization that something was wrong, the night I looked out the window and saw a wildfire racing toward our house.

Now my body knows that something bad happened at 12:45 a.m., and it wakes me up with a surge of cortisol.

I performed a key study on the effects of EFT tapping on stress hormones. Our research team randomized people into three groups and tested their cortisol levels before and after therapy. One group got regular talk therapy, one group rested, and the third group tapped. Anxiety and depression went down twice as much in the tapping group, and cortisol declined significantly.

So I know that these techniques work and I know what a cortisol surge looks like. I remember the story of a particular man treated in the Veterans Stress Project, which I founded. He’d endured a mortar attack at 4:45 a.m. on his first day of deployment in Vietnam in 1968. When he came in for treatment, more than 40 years later, he still often woke up at 4:45 a.m.

That’s a typical cortisol surge. Though it was adaptive at getting our ancestors out of danger in past epochs, when it keeps on repeating, it plays havoc with the biochemistry of today’s humans.

Since I’m waking up at 12:45 and staying awake despite my best efforts, I decide to make friends with the pattern. As I lie awake, I focus on being mindful of all the happiness in my life. The fact that I survived the fire. That I have a loving wife, successful children, and a magnificent community. That I have deeply meaningful work that contributes to the healing of thousands of people each year.

Exactly a month after the fire, to the day, I woke up at 1:45, an hour later than usual. And went back to sleep quickly. That meant my body was becoming convinced by my mind. It was no longer repeating the story that death is imminent unless we’re on full alert at 12:45. The same thing happened the following night.

That’s a positive change!

It’s important to love our bodies. So often when they don’t behave, by getting sick or developing patterns like insomnia, we want the problems to go away. We ignore them, deny them, suppress them, get mad at them, or medicate them.

If instead we can strive to understand them and accept our bodies just the way they are, we open the door to healing. Carl Rogers, the great client-centered therapist of the 20th century, called this the paradox of growth: We need to love ourselves just the way we are, with all our problems and limitations. When we do that, we start to change.

When your body knows it will be listened to, it can speak quietly. A little rumble here. A slight pain there. We hear the message and take care of its needs.

When I teach live workshops, I often work with people who’ve been ignoring their bodies or even hating their bodies for many years. They aren’t attuned to the body’s messages. They aren’t picking up those subtle signals.

When its soft communications are ignored, the body has to speak more loudly. The small pain might become arthritis. If ignored, it might become a full-fledged autoimmune disorder. So many people are at war with their bodies, trying to mute their messages with medication or addictive substances.

Growth begins with self-love. Healing begins with self-acceptance, even when circumstances seem unacceptable. Practicing self-love lowers our stress levels and opens our awareness to the potential of our lives. Through that window of possibility, the love, peace and beauty of the universe can shine.

Santa Rosa Fire Blog Posts by Dawson Church:

An Association for the Spanish-speaking EFT Community

David Mackay, AHEFT:

FYI: The Hispanic EFT Association has a wonderful website which houses all of the articles from the original EFT website translated to Spanish, as well as many articles authored in Spanish.
David Mackay

David MacKay, Till Schilling and 5 other trainers from around the globe have teamed up to create a meeting point for all in the Hispanic community who are interested in the use, teaching and refinement of EFT, personally or professionally, to share knowledge, seek answers regarding personal growth, and refine their tapping abilities.

The Pandemic of Compassion

By Dawson Church, PhD

The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic crash is humankind’s dominant narrative for 2020.

Terms like “social distancing” and “sheltering in place” were unknown in January. By March, they had become the way of life for people all over the globe.

The pandemic and crash have generated unprecedented fear, as well as exposed a range of social malaise. Hate crimes. Hoarding. Unreliable statistics. Politicians jockeying for political gain. Competition for scarce resources. Fake news. The collapse of entire industries. Huckster cures. Government incompetence. Profiteering. Unreported deaths. Lying. Exploitation of the gullible. Marginalization of the socially disadvantaged. The breakdown of medical systems. 

It’s easy to become cynical and paranoid when there’s this much ugliness in the world. It’s easy to look at the news headlines and feel panic, mistrust, and overwhelm. 

Yet when you look for the positive aspects of the crisis, you can see them all around you. Ordinary people are performing daily acts of kindness in every corner of the world. Take a long view and you’ll see that humankind is in the middle of what I call a pandemic of compassion.

Coronavirus by the Numbers

Near the start of the epidemic, clear statistics were hard to find. Numbers were revised as more information became available. The best information in early 2020 suggested that the coronavirus death rate was about 1%. That means that of every 100 people who contract the virus, one dies.

Many of those who contract the virus are asymptomatic; the virus produces symptoms so mild that the infected people fail to notice them. The death rate of the elderly is high; up to 13% in some studies. Young healthy people have a negligible mortality rate below 0.1%.

Faced with these odds, countries, companies, nonprofits, universities, hospitals, and research labs have been collaborating on developing vaccines and antidotes as fast as they can. They’re finding new methods to raise the level of antibodies in our immune systems. The degree of institutional cooperation on our planet today is unprecedented. 

Individual Acts of Compassion

On the level of individual human action, we’re witnessing daily acts of compassion. Total them and they amount to billions of deeds of kindness and self-sacrifice. Here are a few of those billions of examples:

  • Health advocate Hector Rami­rez is creating a food pantry for seniors and disabled people. “As a disabled person, I am always planning for things. I feel very anxious about this … outbreak. So I decided to do something … I am going to make food boxes for my senior and disabled neighbors and deliver them to their homes,” he said in a YouTube video.
  • In Iran, mosques are closed to prevent the spread of the virus. Volunteers have turned some into centers where they sew face masks and assemble food hampers for those in need.
  • When her elderly neighbors were too scared to visit a crowded grocery store, Rebecca Mehra did their shopping for them. Elderly people have been helped by their neighbors millions of times all over the globe. Canada has coined the term “caremongering” to describe the helping phenomenon; caremongering is the opposite in spirit and action to fearmongering.
  • A group of Japanese students whose school was closed were disappointed that they would not get to experience a graduation ceremony, so they decided to use the online game Minecraft to conduct a digital ceremony. “They spent all day online together playing games and laughing. I’m glad they all had fun,” wrote one parent.
  • After Houston restaurants closed their dining rooms and began offering only takeout service, an anonymous couple took action. After spending $100 on their meal, they left a cash tip of $1,1000, with another $7,500 on a credit card. Their note read: “Hold tip to pay your guys over the next few weeks.
  • In New Jersey, 11-year-old Jayden Perez asked his mother to buy hand sanitizers in bulk at the end of February. “He decided to donate 1,000 hand sanitizers to his local school district and an additional 150 to the police station, fire department, and public library,” she said.


When you shift your focus from the ever-present diet of bad news served up by mass media, you see an abundance of good news. Faced with a common crisis, despite the paranoia and uncertainty, billions of people are choosing caremongering over fearmongering.

Flipping the Numbers

Take the death rate of 1 in 100 that was assessed early in the pandemic. Flip it around. Seen in reverse, we assume that 99% of those who contract the virus live. For those who are healthy and young, the odds are much better.

Yet believing they have an average chance of 1 in 100 dying, people have been willing to make extraordinary sacrifices for others. By the billions, ordinary people are changing their lives so that others won’t get sick. 

They’re doing this at great inconvenience to themselves. They can’t move about freely. They can’t visit their friends or loved ones. They can’t go to work. Those 99 people are limiting their lives in all these ways so that one person doesn’t have to die. 

That one person that they’re protecting may be somebody they don’t even know. 

The one person who dies usually has another medical condition. Most of the coronavirus deaths are people who are ill already. They have conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, and heart disease. Many are elderly, closer to the ends of their lives than the beginnings. 

What we’re witnessing every day is 99 people radically restricting their lives so that one person who they don’t even know personally and is sick anyway has a lower risk of catching the virus and dying. Never before in human history have so many people willingly suffered for the sake of so few.

That’s the ratio that we need to pay attention to. Faced with the overlapping crises and ugliness in the world, billions of people are defaulting to kindness. 

Willing Self-Sacrifice

I coined a term for this: the pandemic of compassion.

Looking past the fear, we see a human species participating in the greatest act of collective compassion we have ever seen on planet Earth. 

Ninety-nine out of 100 people have been willing to lose their jobs, see entire industries disappear, confine themselves to home, lose personal contact with their neighbors, and accept the shutdown of the economy. The 99 are doing this so that one person who is sick and elderly–who they may not even know–can live.

This didn’t happen in 1300 when the Black Death swept through Europe and Asia, killing about half the population. It didn’t happen during the great flu epidemic in 1918, which killed more people than WWI. This global outpouring of compassion isn’t typical of the way that human beings have collectively responded to tragedy. In this pandemic, we’re treating every life as sacred, willing to disrupt our lives completely to protect those at risk.

Historical Mind Changes

We look back at past leaps in humankind’s moral and political evolution with admiration. For instance, consider the wave of democracy that swept the globe from 1750 to 1850. For thousands of years before that, people had been ruled by monarchs, oligarchs, cabals, religious fanatics, strongmen, and other forms of unrepresentative government. Suddenly, within 100 years, we changed our collective minds. Democracy became the norm rather than the exception.

The same global mind change happened in the case of slavery. Between roughly 17100 and 1870, in less than 100 years, we as a human species collectively changed our minds about the propriety of enslaving other people. Slavery had been normal for millions of years. Suddenly, in less than a century, we changed our minds, and it was gone.

In 18100, women could not vote in any country in the world. For the recorded history of the species, the political voice of one-half of the entire human population went unheard. Then we changed our collective minds. Between 1893 and 1920, country after country gave women the vote.

There were many reasons for these positive social upheavals. Compassion played a major role. People who had all the power–kings, slaveholders, men–were able to imagine the suffering of those who were disenfranchised. The mighty had no incentive to share their power, but they did anyway. Other factors such as fear, self-interest, and political advantage certainly played a role in these changes. But to see the changes only in those terms ignores the altruism that runs so strongly through our species. Compassion opened the door. To be able to put yourself in the shoes of someone less fortunate than yourself, voluntarily share your power, and take action to care for them, seeing you and me in the circle of “we,” is a remarkable shift in human behavior.

When One Day We Look Back

When in time you tell your grandchildren about 2020, you’ll remember the fear and chaos. You’re also likely to see it as a turning point in the evolution of human values. 

You’ll remember your own personal acts of compassion. The elderly neighbor for whom you bought groceries. The fearful friend for whom you stumbled for comforting words. The panicked small business owner whose loan application you helped prepare. The child at whom you smiled, reassuring her that all is well. You’ll recall the people you helped and the inconveniences you endured for others. 

You’ll remember the acts of compassion done to you and for you. The nurse whose smiling mouth you couldn’t see behind her mask, but whose eyelids crinkled with warmth. The stranger who moved to the opposite sidewalk when you crossed paths, but gave you a grinning “hi” to celebrate your shared humanity. The researcher who slept on a cot in his lab, working 80-hour weeks while seeking a cure. The people who mailed your prescriptions and stocked the shelves of your neighborhood grocery store.

When you look back on this time, you might well remember the pandemic of compassion, and declare with me: This may have been the noblest hour in the history of our species.