Connectedness…on a dreary day

I’m not going to lie. I’m not always a happy person sitting around praying and contemplating love and life. A blog is where, for many of us, we want to just be ourselves. We want to be authentic to a circle of strangers who, through words and common ideas, have come to feel somehow like distant friends or respected colleagues. So although I’m tempted to strictly maintain an uplifting vibe on this site, even at the cost of authenticity, I also just want to be real. Some days are dreary! I’m not Amma or the Dalai Lama after all!

But thank goodness that it also takes some thought to put together a blogpost because trying to write about feeling down got me to thinking….maybe the darker days and the less hopeful moments are just as important as the positive days in respect to being interconnected. After all, isn’t the challenge to maintain some kind of elevated perspective even through those times? To believe in hope and a greater love when there seems to be no hope, especially in “love”?? (Sheesh, I’m sorry but doesn’t love just deserve sarcastic quotes sometimes??) To hold each other up when that is what’s needed and to be sensitive to the energy of others?

The other day I cried. Just a few years ago I used to cry A LOT. I used to be quite sad quite often. Not so much anymore, except that last Sunday there was a familiar dark cloud over me whose presence felt like an old frenemy. And since my grasp on hope and optimism was already slipping that day, I willingly (and I would say, weakly) invited that old friend to come on over and stay for a while. The familiarity of something destructive is sometimes more comforting than all the (mere) potential good that the unknown holds.

The downside to inviting gloom to hang out is that it isn’t a friend who knows when it has overstayed its welcome. Hence, here I am on Wednesday night still entertaining my guest. If I had to counter that with an upside, I guess it would be this: letting gloom settle in for a while is a great way to get a lot of tears out…which feels so good sometimes,  especially when it’s been a while.

So point is, on Sunday I was crying a lot. Not that anyone saw that. I was supposed to spend part of the day with my sister and 21 month-old niece, two of the most luminescent lights in my life. But I called to say that the day was rough and I needed to be alone.  I didn’t think being around my niece who is pure joy would be the best place for me to be…like I would “contaminate” her with my energy. So instead I went for a long hike (and cried), I went to a matinee (and cried), I gave extra attention to my two cats (and cried), I talked to a few close friends on the phone (and cried), I cleaned the house (and cried).

And then something amazing happened later in the day. My sister sent me a short video of my niece, who calls me Momo. She was just sending it to say hello, but my niece surprised us both. On the video, my sister asked my niece, “What’s Momo doing?” My niece didn’t give her typical response of “sleeping,” “playing,” or “home.” Instead, she paused, her face became worried and she said, “Cry.” When my sister, perplexed, asked, “She’s crying? Why is she crying?” my niece responded with, “Tears on it,” in the same worried tone.  Then, as my sister prompted her, my niece went on to tell me she loved me, missed me, and that I should feel better. At the end her two little hands flew into the air, her smile broke out and my sister exclaimed, “All better!”

In talking about the video later that day, my sister told me that she hadn’t said anything about crying to my niece. We have no way of explaining why she would say that. That has to be a living, breathing example of interconnectedness right there!  At least I’m going to believe it is. And believing in anything right now is not something for me to scoff at. My niece’s video has been more than enough to get me through these last few nights anyway…and I’m beginning to think that, in the end, that is part of the purpose of being connected at all.



But Which Perspective is RIGHT?? (mine of course)

“For some reason she was committed to robbing a bank–the only truly reliable explanation for which is the simpleset one: people do rob banks. If this seems illogical, then you are still judging events from the point of view of someone who’s not robbing a bank and never would because he knows it’s crazy.”

–Richard Ford, in Harper’s Magazine, June 2012


Someone we’ll call Mike and I used to fight over things that to him were “small” and to me, “big.” We used to find ourselves spewing things like, “Ugh! That’s not how I said it at all!” or “How can you think that?!” I would reenact something I said with the gentle voice of Snow White–how I remembered saying it!–while in his reenactment I was more like the Harry Potter’s blithering, hateful uncle. We could go around and around that hamster wheel until we collapsed. One time I thought I was very keen as I explained himself to him with, “If something doesn’t make sense to YOU, then you just dismiss it!” to which he countered, “No, not if it doesn’t make sense to ME. If it doesn’t make sense to the WORLD!” dramatically flailing his arms in the air (I imagine…the debate was over the phone…widely agreed to be the best way to argue, right?? ) Not one of our better moments. All in all, though, a sound example of our norm…a good number of our conflicts were tied up in a simple and unavoidable difference in perspective. That’s all. Just like Phil said.

When two people are interacting in the same time and space but from completely separate vantage points (namely, our senses, our brains, our memories, our souls), it’s really miraculous that understanding, compassion, and putting on of the proverbial “other’s shoes” occur at all! In one of my recent posts, Stir Up the Love, I suggested that recognizing our connectedness is key to transcending perspectives and moving on to understanding. We are all part of each other’s experience, right?

But then I had a second thought about that. I think loving your enemy is also about being able to recognize our separateness.

“Don’t take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”

Don Miguel Ruiz

I am not Mike. He is not I. And when I can surrender to the fact that his experience is just as valid as mine….that he is trying to do his best with what he has, just as I am….that my reality is just different than his, that it’s just like that 30 Rock muppet episode where you get to see the world through Tracy, Jack, and Kenneth’s eyes…

… then I can actually feel the compassion begin to quell my anger.

A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe’ —a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts, and feelings, as something separated from the rest—a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.

–Albert Einstein

So in some strange and beautiful way, my compassion seems to rely both on connectedness AND separateness. I haven’t gotten it all straightened out yet, and I’m probably reinventing the wheel with all these words, but maybe it’s that honoring our separateness lets us disentangle our emotions enough to feel compassion and acceptance for the Mikes in our lives from a safe distance, while honoring our connectedness to Mikes compels us to not forsake them altogether and infuses us with gratitude for sharing a time and space with them at all. For whatever grander purpose that encounter served.

To be continued of course…

Connected By Breath

~~~A Wave~~~ is a special contributor to this blog. Follow his Category, “A Wave: Connected,”  to follow his thoughts and discoveries of our connection to each other, to the world around us, and to the mysteries beyond. …

“Breath is the bridge that connects life to consciousness, which unites our body to our thoughts” — — Thich Nhat Hanh

The breath, taken from our planet’s atmosphere, is free for all of creation. No being can hoard air and try to get more than their share and neither can we buy, sell or trade the breath. If I hold my breath because I want to “own” the air.., I will die, but if I let this breath go…, it comes back to me in abundance without any conditions.

This fluid motion of breathing, however voluntary or involuntary on our part, allows precious oxygen to travel thru the trachea into the bronchi, which connect to the lungs. The lungs then divide into even smaller bronchi, called bronchioles. These bronchioles branch off into even smaller passageways called alveoli and each lung houses between 300-400 million alveoli. This vital, life giving oxygen, finally immerses itself into our blood stream through the tiniest blood vessels known as capillaries. The journey of the breath completes its purpose, allowing our one of our body’s most essential process to occur and breathing is the root process that all of the other essential processes of the body depend on.

This complicated process happens every second, of everyday, for every living thing on this planet. Breath is a symbiotic interconnection that we all share in every moment with our planet. It is so seamless and essential but yet, it is something that goes by overlooked and unnoticed each day. The relationship between all living things and our atmosphere/planet has been a central factor in the evolution of our physical, mental, and spiritual awareness. This exchange between plant and animal has occurred in every moment of everyday for hundreds of thousands of years before we ever came to exist. Its almost as if “we” are but just one singular expression of this unseen force, without which we would not exist.

My point is to emphasize that this life is a process of seamless, symbiotic interconnections, which humans take for granted each day. This breath travels to our very core each moment and yet we aren’t held accountable for ignoring it, or even polluting it. This interconnection has sustained our ancestors just as it sustains us, and all who will come after us.

The negligence and ignorance of the human being is a direct cause of the degradation of our health, which has been happening incrementally yet persistently. The byproducts of our accelerating industry, technological advancements, and modern conveniences are slowly destroying the very force that has given us life for millennia.., the air that we breathe, in every moment. All systems are affected by our inconsiderate ways, including our water supply, our farmlands and the protective biosphere that protects us from the sun.

I firmly believe that we as humans are capable of restoring balance to this system of interconnectedness that we are all tied to so deeply and we all must come to this realization, if we are to preserve life on this planet. The damage must be reversed in order to keep all systems and life in harmony, and the protection of our air, water, earth, atmosphere and organic way of life is vital, not just to us but to every living thing that exists now, and all that will exist after us.

“When we tug at a single thing in nature, we find it attached to the rest of the world” — — John Muir