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A New Perspective on COVID-19


I’m back. I’ve just been thinking for two months about how to write through this pandemic without stirring up more fear or anger. And then I got help–from the voice of a shaman.

I refer to José Stevens, PhD, cofounder with his wife Lena of The Power Path School of Shamanism in Santa Fe. José trained for 10 years with a Huichol shaman in Mexico and thereafter with shamans in the Amazon and Andes. He is a renowned international lecturer and writer, his wife a trained shamanic practitioner herself.

How odd to find a timely perspective from a source so ancient, and I’m not referring to Jose’s age.


Shamanism is a spiritual practice that began to develop an estimated 40,000 years ago. It endures to this day among communities that are closely connected to the natural world and whose shamans serve as healers and spiritual guides. So how could a shaman be an important resource for civilization at its peak? But first, I should explain how I learned about this resource.

Bluestorm Orion Cassiopoeia (Cassie)

That story began over 20 years ago while walking in the woods of Tennessee with my Samoyed, Cassie. I began to awaken to an animated natural world. Over the ensuing years, my fascination with what I saw and heard there led to a study of shamanism and also a related memoir, Lizard Diary. Soon after I moved to Santa Fe in 2005, I connected with the seminars and monthly forecasts of The Power Path School of Shamanism. Both have been wonderful and timely resources over the years. Now back to the moment.


In my reference above to “civilization at its peak,” I used the term “peak” lightly. At the moment, humans are engaged in many ways and on many fronts that suggest backsliding, and our study of millennia of history has revealed the way that peaks are typically followed by crashes. On top of that, observation of the moon and its influences has inculcated us into the concept of cycles. Is our peak over, a cycle coming to an end? Could the conditions created by COVID-19 cause the decline of civilization?

Not necessarily, according to the shamanic perspective of José Stevens. “Is it too much,” he asks, “to contemplate the coronavirus as a powerful ally for humans at this critical time in our evolution?”


I discovered this question just a few days ago in an article by José published on March 18, the day before we surpassed 10,000 cases of COVID-19 nationwide. Eight days later, we had become the world’s most infected nation. As the tumult intensified and the possibility of economic collapse began to manifest, no one else seemed to see anything positive whatsoever in COVID-19. After all, in our media-driven world, a calming perspective does not get a lot of play. We prefer drama.

So what is an ally? As José explains, the shamanic perspective is that we encounter all kinds of allies along our life path who serve as teachers and healers. However, there can also be invisible spirit guides and allies manifesting as plants, animals, and minerals. In addition, he points out that there are places like springs, mountains, rivers, etc., as well as elements like lightning, thunder, wind, water, earth, and fire with which we have special relationships.

Of course, you might never be aware of the like unless you were paying attention. This awareness emanates most often in the natural world, with which we seem to be losing touch moment by moment. It is by paying attention there that we may, in fact, invoke interaction.  I will never forget one morning on a trail when I seemed to hear a voice saying, “Oh, good. We’ve got a live one.” With Cassie as guide and teacher, I had become an acute observer.

Lena and José Stevens

In the case of COVID-19, José wrote that he had received the message that part of its mission was to “help us process the grief built up over many generations of humans warring, attacking, hurting, and betraying one another,” and it was time to “move on in mass toward our destiny as fully awakened beings.” That is a very uplifting idea, but I can’t imagine hearing it anywhere.

This concept is more arresting in print. Upon seeing it, readers may respond because they know in their heart of hearts that we can’t keep going on as we have been. The weapons are too dangerous, the damage we’ve done to the environment too great, and we’re too fixed on values and goals that are ultimately self-destructive. As I wrote in an earlier post, it’s like COVID-19, under the direction of Mother Earth, has sent us to our rooms until we can come out and be good.


“Is it too much to contemplate the coronavirus as a powerful ally for humans at this critical time in our evolution?” That question by José Stevens turned my perspective on  COVID-19 on its head. I had been looking for some way to escape all the discord it has created, but I could never have imagined it as an ally. That suggestion is a gift, a new way of looking at things that could possibly be transformative. This would result from the development of a new attitude among humans, and I will explore that effect in future posts. The exciting prospect, however, is that a better attitude could take humanity’s evolution to a higher altitude. Isn’t it time?




7 Responses to “A New Perspective on COVID-19”

  1. Liz

    Thank you for another thought-provoking piece, Ellen. After the initial shock and horrible awe of the pandemic’s taking of lives and livelihoods, followed by justifiable civil unrest, I felt myself beginning to rally around the prospect of CHANGE that has been a long time coming. And so yes, I agree with Shaman Jose’s hopefulness that we are being given an opportunity for some real and sorely needed change. Beginning with the election come November, I sincerely hope.

    Keep fighting the good fight!

  2. Barbara Conkey

    Thank you for a breath of fresh air..in every lesson is a blessing…a blesson.
    Your perspective shifts the relationship of the current condition and allows a fearful breath to be released.

  3. Michael Hendrick

    Such a hopeful post. Thank you Ellen! Nicholas Kristof had a piece in last Sunday’s NYT titled “We Interrupt This Gloom to Offer . . . Hope” in which he sees the Covid crisis as a catalyst offering America a chance to confront “racism, health care, and jobs . . . a necessary prelude to fixing our country.” Like the Great Depression COVID might lead to “long-needed changes that would have been impossible in cheerier times.” Sure hope so.

  4. Carolyn Skloven-Gill

    Dear Ellen,
    Thank you for turning to ancient wisdom as we approach this fork in our road.
    I know I shared with you moments I had with my friend, Joel, My dear friend from Isleta Pueblo. Joel faced his demons at middle age, after the accidental death of his first son. Joel became a healer, a shaman. In the Native American world, he was a dreamer. A thinker. Even an entertainer. He was talented and sharp. But In Israel, where he traveled for over a decade as a spiritual advisor representing Native American spirituality, he became a shaman.
    For me, while I loved him, he was an enigma. He taught me to understand his natural world. He taught me things that I’m just realizing, three years after his passing.
    But the one thing he repeatedly drummed into me was: Pay Attention.
    His father in all his wisdom drove those words into the souls of his eight children. Pay attention! To me,that means to heighten one’s awareness. Raise one’s consciousness. Embrace the Earth, Mother Earth. I believe our Native Americans have always known what José Stevens has come to know through his studies. Life is about learning. Mother Earth is our master teacher. This coronavirus might awaken human beings. “Heal thyself”.
    Yes, we can heal ourselves. But first, as a species, we must awaken. Heighten our awareness.

  5. Jan Harris

    As always, Ellen, your words will cause me to think! I had not looked at C19 as a “savior”, but your shamanistic approach makes it all so clear. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the world’s path would turn to nature and the goodness of humanity? Thanks to you and your ability to see a different point of view.

  6. Les Fenter

    Thank you, Ellen. Yes! This is a milestone moment in American Social and financial history. One thought you stirred was the idea of “Natural Selection”. This pandemic seems to kill the very old and the very young. . . . plus the infirm. Cruel statement. So i’ll not leave it there. It also seems to thrive in the Hispanic, First Nation and Black communities as well as the young invincibles. Yeah. Those of low Socio-Economic standing seem to be targets. Why? Is it because of their cultures of strong family ties? Is it because they have limited income to spend on entertainment so they gather together? It’s early in this one. So I think the scary part is fear of the unknown, fertilized by our mainstream media. I’m reminded of an impending tornado. The weather announcers love to raise their voices and body language to “keep tuned”. Well, I do believe this C-19 has the potential to change us. Let us pray we can turn our foci on helping others.

  7. Lynn Peyer

    Certainly, when you first encounter the statement that the pandemic could be an ally, it’s easy to think that’s crazy but after reading your blog post I think you are right. We are having a moment where we can decide to make needed changes or we can ignore them at our peril.