Everything is interconnected. This simple truth, when cultivated, can transform our lives. So much suffering in the world comes from feeling disconnected from ourselves, others and nature. But this separation is perceived and not based in reality. Right now, this truth may be conceptual to you and not part of your felt reality or experience. That’s perfectly fine, and quite common. Not to worry.
Sages throughout the millennia have encouraged asking the question who am I? And we encourage this contemplation as well. Let’s begin with what all life shares.
Today I stood facing a tree by the bank of the Rio Grande river.It’s November in New Mexico. I stood by the tree admiring the stability of the tree, the majesty of the tree, the sounds of the tree, the colors, the shimmering leaves, and the changing light. The leaves of the cottonwood tress by the river are ablaze with yellows, greens and oranges right now. I asked myself, what is a tree? Is the tree alive? Of course the tree is alive. Is the tree the sun? Well, yes and no. Without the sun, there is certainly no tree. Is the tree Mother Earth? Same answer. Is the tree water? Same answer? Is the tree wind? You get the idea. The tree is part sun, part earth, part water, part wind. And so am I, and so are you. No separation. Interconnected.
There is also a partnership between trees and people. Trees, and other plants take in the carbon dioxide that we exhale, and miraculously convert this “waste” product into the pure oxygen we breathe. Even our breath is interconnected with the rest of nature. Taking a few minutes to consider a tree in such a way helps relieve the delusion that we are separate beings. This realization can deepen over time.
From feeling disconnected, we can begin to connect with all of life.
The process starts when we pay attention to another life form. This simple act of noticing moves us from disconnected to connected. From being connected we can begin a communion, the beginnings of a relationship. The communion can move to a union where we see how much we depend upon one another for life. This union can move to a deeper awareness that all of life supports all of life.
We can use our senses to deepen the connection.
Take sight for example. We see the tree. We notice the colors, the shape, the size. And where, actually do we see the tree? Do we see it outside? Yes. Do we see it inside our minds and bodies? Yes. Where is the tree? Where is the separation? We can follow the same process with all of our senses. As we make these inquiries, we slowly see that separation is actually delusion. This way of looking at reality may be new or strange to you. In fact, the process may provoke some un-ease. That’s actually fine, and again, quite common. Remember, the process of change and growth can be fast or slow. Either way works. During the process, we recommend three primary attitudes:
- A sense of humor
For a great practice to cultivate this act of noticing and present moment awareness, listen to our latest podcast with John P. Milton.
Everything Constantly Changes.
Our emotions change. Our thoughts about ourselves and others change. Our bodies change. Our desires change. We change jobs. We move. We fall in love. We fall out of love.
I heard a “joke” once from a monk in Thailand: “I want to share the saddest story in the world. Boy meets girl and falls in love. Thank you.” With a 50% divorce rate in America, this monk tapped into a very common story.
Change is Inevitable.
The problem arises when we resist change. We want to hold onto good feelings and eliminate bad ones. We love to go up, but hate to come down. On and on it goes.Think about what you desperately wanted as a child. I remember wanting a pair of Angel Flight Disco pants. That desire has certainly receded, thankfully.I think about the billions of dollars spent on anti-aging products; All of them reflect a core resistance to change. We want to cling to youth, external beauty, that which is clearly destined to grow old and die. Please know, I am afflicted by the same sickness. Most of us are. The point here is that if we worked as hard at accepting change as we do to prevent it, our efforts would likely bear a sweeter fruit.If we can truly learn to see the beauty in change, we would not spend so much energy fighting that which is inevitable. That same energy could be channeled towards learning how to go with the flow, embracing the new scenery that appears in front of us every moment.
Inspiration from Sunflowers
One spring time years ago a sunflower appeared in my yard. There is a word for these beautiful plants that show up without us planting them. The word is “volunteers.” Isn’t that cool? So the sunflower volunteered to enter my backyard and surprisingly became one of my beloved teachers. The plant grew through the summer and produced lovely yellow flowers. I was so excited, but also a little sad, because I worried that the sunflower was going to fade, turn brown and die. So here was this wonderful gift of nature available to me right here, right now. But my joy was dampened by my thoughts about the sunflower dying. I forgot to live in the beauty of the moment by projecting into the future a time when the flower would be gone. And sure enough, the flower petals fell off and the plant turned brown. Then another wonderful thing happened. Golden finches, with the same coloring as the sunflower started feasting on the dried seeds left by this generous volunteer. These guys threw down on the seeds like they were at a roman feast. I had never seen birds like these in the desert. I guess they also “volunteered.” As winter approached, I pulled out the remains of the sunflower and threw them in the trash. The next spring, I probably had fifty sunflowers. The seeds the birds scattered took root and now a sunflower garden volunteered. Now, years later I have hundreds of sunflowers and finches every year. I have learned to welcome each changing season, knowing new growth will surely come through the change. Now if I can just apply this beautiful lesson to every area of my life.
Moral of the story: We can train our minds to see the beauty in change. We can cultivate trust and faith in change and ride the wave. All of these lessons can be learned. And we are going to partner with you to accomplish just that.