I am becoming increasingly convinced that to grow into the fullness of who we are designed to be, both as individuals and as a culture of human beings, that we need each other.
We are an intertwined, interdependent, collective species. Even though in our current age of independence it seems like we can do it all alone, it’s not actually true at all. If anything we are more dependant on each other than ever before. Every single facet of our lives, from our basic needs up to our most frivolous luxuries, is provided in some way by other humans. One of the dysfunctions of our current age is that somehow this is all hidden.
A lot of the time we don’t know who grew our food, built our house, made our clothes. We don’t know where our waste goes when we flush the toilet or where our water for having a shower comes from. We are totally dependant on our collective societal infrastructure yet somehow loneliness is a bigger feature of our existence than ever before. In an age where connection is literally at our fingertips and we are more intertwined as a species than any other time in history, we seem to feel more lonely and isolated than ever before.
I believe it is this facade of independence that is the cause.
While I gave example above of how—at the concrete and physical level of reality—this sense of independence is truly illusory, my aim in this piece is to talk more about the subtle levels of our experience. The subtle is the realm of our thoughts and feelings, our interior mind and also the place where we can connect mentally and emotionally to other humans.
The readers of elephant journal I always assume to be switched on and growth-oriented individuals. I believe you are here reading this because you feel inherently, insatiably an urge to continually expand who you are. I’m the same. I cannot help but grow and stretch my being further and further into higher/deeper levels of wholeness. Already whole yet with an infinite capacity to become more whole. And in my experience the more whole I become the more pleasure, joy, vitality and vibrancy my being seems to radiate with.
I can’t see why we wouldn’t want this for all of us, for our culture and society. To me this is evolution. It is not just a physical thing, we evolve also in the realm of heart and mind. We can become more elegant, more sophisticated, more efficient, more mature.
To accelerate this growth I believe we need each other.
It is possible to engage our own personal growth. To meditate regularly or through our yoga practice, our readings and contemplations. All of these things are immensely valuable, and I believe when we work with others it takes it all to the next level. To work with another for both our and their development is intimacy to me. This doesn’t necessarily mean sexual or romantic, intimacy to me rather is to be vulnerable, personal and authentic enough to enter into my greatest challenges and struggles in the presence of another. To open my soul and show them the parts that hurt, that are scared, that are angry and even the parts that shine that for some reason I keep hidden away. To give another the space to reveal themselves to me in this manner too. This is intimacy and it is like jet fuel for personal growth.
I can’t see my own eyes, yet you can. There are things about me that I can’t quite see clearly, something that is just beyond my reach to figure out. When I sit with you and I receive your attention, when you listen to me talk about whatever it is that I am currently working on internally and you reflect back to me your thoughts and feelings from hearing me, things have a chance to shift.
The light of attention brings itself to the dissolution of shadows.
Rather than the tennis match of conversation where we are just waiting our turn to speak, I can drop the need to have it be about me and I can focus on you. I can release that urge to relate everything you say back to my own experience. I can let go of that childlike impulse that says “what about me” and instead I can just listen to you. I can get excited to know you, to explore you, to see and experience your mind and heart as it opens to me moment by moment. I can hear your struggles and when I share back with you what I am hearing in a way that helps you clarify and refine what it is that concerns you we go deeper together, we learn together and we enter the realm of insight. My favourite place! A seemingly magical nexus where novelty emerges readily and easily.
What if as a culture we talked less about things and spoke more from our own hearts and minds? What if we listened more, selflessly giving the space for real experiences of intimacy to be our norm? What if we allowed ourselves to be vulnerable, to admit that we struggle and to truly support each other in those struggles not by fixing or advising but by listening, reflecting and lovingly challenging?
We need each other. There is no question in my mind that my most rewarding experiences with others is when I let them see me and I remain still enough, open enough, non-judgemental enough to see them. And every time, every single time, growth occurs.
Intimacy: into me and see.
Author: Damien Bohler
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: Philip Edmondson at Flickr
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