“Increasingly we may find ourselves with neither independence nor interdependence in the foreground or background, a place in which we are simply grounded. A space in which feeling alone and all one are reconciled. In this mindset, we become more and more able to see ourselves in others and others in ourselves, and we aim to increase our kinship with our fellow beings.”
I used to be a Musical Magician named Moustache and found myself in wonderment why people seem to be so amused by sleight of hand “magic” and illusion. Loie Fuller has called this magic created by man, “wherein he produces things which are magical or mysterious to everybody but himself because to him they are simple results due to natural causes which are manipulated by him.” But then Fuller describes a different type of magic – nature’s magics – called magics because “no man understands them”. And one of nature’s greatest magic tricks is the greatest illusion in this world; the illusion of separation.
As Thomas Merton has said, “there is a true self inside of you” and we spend most of our lives trying to find ourselves; refining ourselves, searching for ourselves. We can intuitively feel the throbbing and pulsing of intense glee when we are living connected to our true nature. However, we can feel lifeless and profoundly disconnected when we act in discord with our true nature. These times of friction catalyze our search for how to live an undivided life where our outer lives and inner lives can be intertwined like a mobius strip.
At some point many of us come to realize that our self-actualization is dependent on self-transcendence. For a while we may find ourselves in between independence and interdependence, in between our humanness and our divinity, and we learn to accept that we will never fully be one or the other. There are times in which we foreground our independence and set our sense of interdependence in the background; we feel prideful of our accomplishments or are astonished by our own power to affect the world. There are also times in which we foreground our interdependence and place our idea of independence in the background; we acknowledge the farmers who harvested the flour in our pancakes or we send literal kisses to the universe as a symbol of our praise and awe of its law of interdependence; that all is interconnected. As Neil deGrasse Tyson has brilliantly put it “recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.”
Increasingly we may find ourselves with neither independence nor interdependence in the foreground or background, a place in which we are simply grounded. A space in which feeling alone and all one are reconciled. In this mindset, we become more and more able to see ourselves in others and others in ourselves, and we aim to increase our kinship with our fellow beings.
I experienced this quite recently when I went to meditate with the Tergar Meditation group on the UW-Madison campus. The group consists of 60-75 individuals who meditate together every Tuesday night. I sat down to meditate and took my first full breath that I was aware of. The breath was neither a good or bad one, it just was. I began to feel my body and my heart begin a discussion to consider the idea of attunement or harmony. I focused my attention on the boundaries between my body and the rest of the universe. The air around me felt welcoming and each breath further connected and intertwined me with the rest of the universe. Then the boundaries between me and the air around me become fuzzy and blurred. The space between me and others meditating followed suit; it vanished. A chorus of 60 or so hearts began to sound like one. The meditation ended and I opened my eyes feeling pleasantly surprised to find myself and so many other beings in the room. I stretched out my loins and welcomed them back to my individual body from their journey into the communal mystery of oneness that I just experienced. As Ken Wilber has expressed “The integral sage transcends life by living it. They insist on finding release by engagement, finding nirvana in the midst of samsara, finding total liberation by complete immersion.”
I am convinced that just like we feel a twinge in our stomach when we are hungry or a dry fuzziness on our tongues when we are thirsty, that we also have a similar hunger and thirst deep within our souls for community or complete immersion and close relationship; for a space in which we are known and in which we know others authentically and as whole people. We feel a cosmic sense of belonging and ecstatic calmness when we have an experience that makes us aware of our interconnectedness and interdependence. These experiences could come through meditation, or falling in love, or looking into the eyes of a child or numerous others. These are times in which we become somewhat “two-dimensional” meaning that we think about ourselves less and feel more interdependent; times in which we are fully present, able to hear others and the universe more objectively, and vulnerable to feel and listen fully. We are able to give the gift of our full attention to something or someone other than ourselves. We literally take up less space similarly to a therapist or parent who becomes “two-dimensional” for you to feel truly heard and understood. We also have times in which we may feel “three-dimensional” meaning that we are focused on ourselves and our independence. Most of us find ourselves somewhere between these dimensions and we can be mindful of when we need to take up more space and focus attention inward and when we can give space to others and give the gift of our full attention. The magic is in finding the balance between interdependence and your independence, between the nature of the universe and your true nature, between your “3D” and your “2D”.
In the Kindred Fireside Chat below, listen to Dave Metler share his story of discovering for himself and through his academic studies the connections between mindfulness, parenting and attachment theory. Metler is a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin who is studying the effect of mindfulness practices on the parent-child relationship and is the founder of the new nonprofit, the Allied Childhood Experience. Below is the story of his summer trip to Rwanda where he explored some of the origins of attachment theory among the great apes. Read the story here. All photos copyrighted by Dave Metler.
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