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Mushroom Soup for the Soul

What’s your favorite soup? The book would have us believe that it is chicken soup, which is good, but the favorite in this household is mushroom, hands down. And the mushroom soup is my own recipe—not from the can. Being a 21st century grandma, making mushroom soup from scratch is my own little form of protest for all processed foods.

As an 80’s mom, though, I used the canned mushroom soup regularly for broccoli casseroles when something salty and fast was needed. The recipe also guaranteed a large quantity for a potluck church meal. Those were the days! Hah! Needs must when the devil drives. How is that for a saying?!

No judgment…we know what we know when we know it. One decade, it is canned soup; 30 years later, it’s homemade soup. Everything changes.

Being an 80’s mom, I also vaccinated my boys. I was told that it was immunization for life. Thirty years later, I know that is not true. My 30-something adult young men are just as susceptible now as they were as children. (Although 30 years ago, natural measles had all but disappeared before the vaccine was introduced… I did not know that either… Education is eye opening!)

This last month in Alberta has been filled with measles panic. In truth, there have been 18 confirmed cases, but you would think the numbers were much higher based on the media coverage.

One of the most difficult situations with the measles outbreak is the blame and judgment that seems to raise its ugly head when the issue of vaccinated or vaccine free comes to the fore. The issue becomes one of either/or, for or against rather than both/and with the possibility that there may be more than one way to keep our children and families healthy and safe when an infectious illness breaks out. There will be more and more of these outbreaks.

Even in situations where there is very high vaccine coverage, measles can happen. In fact, Dr. Suzanne Humphries, in her book Dissolving Illusions, cites this research study that shows how waning immunity and vaccination can contribute (predictably) to when measles outbreaks will occur…in the vaccinated and unvaccinated.

The three concerns that parents ask about in an outbreak:

1. How to prevent the illness.
2. How to treat the illness.
3. How to talk about being vaccine free.

Many of the vaccine-free parents who have contacted me by email or phone in the last week are AS concerned about how family and friends speak to them about being vaccine free as the illness itself. Some very hurtful things have been said. This is hard and sad—and uncomfortable, especially when we all want the same thing…healthy, safe families.

Part of what I teach in the Vaccine Free: Now What? 12-week e-course is to consider a new paradigm…a paradigm that includes a new way of thinking about the immune system. Consider a system that is a cooperative, co-creating community—the potentially toxic with the benign. Rather than being a battle with attacking/defending (a metaphor borrowed from images of war), there is an agreement, communicated neurologically and chemically, that the system is a whole and, when given support, heals as a whole. There is much more to this idea, of course, but for now, consider asking the question: what if there were another way to imagine the immune system, health, healing, and disease?

This metaphor carries over into the realm of how we talk about immunity, health, and disease with loved ones. What if there was another way? Can we hear each other? Can we talk about it without it being a war? Can there be a conversation without fear, without blame, and without judgment? Does it have to be a matter of throwing science research and anecdotal stories at each other? Or can the conversation be about both/and?

What does it take for a vaccine-free parent to feel comfortable in their choice when it makes so many others uncomfortable? And what does it take for a vaccinating parent to feel comfortable in their choice when it makes some others very uncomfortable, especially when the experience has been that vaccines have had damaging consequences for their child/children?

This past week, two events happened on the same day. I found a back issue of Shambhala Sun with the loveliest front cover of Pema Chodron on it and I bought a new book by Margaret Wheatley called So Far From Home: Lost and Found in Our Brave New World.

Both women are personal heroes of mine who are making the world a better place. You can imagine my surprise then when I realized both the magazine and book were speaking of a ‘warrior’ Buddhist tradition. You see, I still I have old misconceptions about what being a warrior means—the default to battle and attack/defend are well ingrained. So I kept reading.

Right now there is great suffering for those living the reality of vaccine damage and for those who choose to vaccinate and for those who choose to be vaccine free. How do we find our ‘chicken soup’ or ‘mushroom soup’ of comfort when there is so much canned, processed soup creating discomfort around the choices? Here is what Pema Chodron has to say about the way of being a warrior:

“When we set out to support other beings, when we go so far as to stand in their shoes, when we aspire to never close down to anyone, we quickly find ourselves in the uncomfortable territory of “life not on my terms.” The commitment traditionally known as the bodhisattva vow, or warrior vow, challenges us to dive into these non-cozy waters and swim out beyond our comfort zone. We vow to move consciously into the pain of the world in order to help alleviate it. It is, in essence, a vow to take care of one another, even if it sometimes means not liking how that feels.”

The challenge is to hear each other in our choices and find a way to examine every piece of science, belief, tradition, concepts, and metaphors, so we can begin to see and live creative ways in the places of comfort and discomfort.

If loved ones are blaming and judging, how do we hear and listen?

I have more questions than answers at this stage. What is important to me is that we begin listening to one another and talking…having a conversation about the hard things in life…like the health and safety of children.

So tell me… What is your favorite soup? The one that brings you comfort? And what is uncomfortable in your life when it comes to vaccines or being vaccine free? How do you listen? How do you talk about it?

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