The journey back home
Everything on this earth and in life is connected to everything else. A river stone hiding in a mountain stream, summer grasses blowing towards autumn, flying insects whirling for a few days before disappearing again. Babies are born every day and every day people are dying and going back to the earth. It is the web of life; everything is connected in life and in death, nothing stands alone.
Not one thing in this universe is not part of everything else in the universe. Our bodies are part of distant stars and our blood was once an ancient ocean. There is only one thing that appears to stand alone: It is the centre of the universe and everything revolves around it. It has desires, it sees time, it is always seeing life in terms of self and other. And it considers itself to be the most important thing in the universe. What is this strange thing that seems to defy the fabric of life and stand in isolation? It is the human mind that is clouded by an illusion called “me” and “mine”. By the magic of its own fantasy the isolated shadow “I” stands alone, separate from nature, and is forever seeing itself as bound by the skin and limited to the physical body which it also calls it's own. It weaves a magic show of “my body”, “my house”, “my children”, ignoring the reality of interdependence and choosing to stay in the dream of separateness despite seeing clearly that nothing stands alone.
According to many wisdom teachings including yoga, this illusion of a separate self is the cause of all our suffering. In Sanskrit, this is described as 'Avidya', usually translated as 'ignorance'. Even the roots of the word ignorance describe this condition perfectly; we are “ignoring” reality as it is. We are all part of each other and everything is interconnected. Everywhere in the world, we can see that the root cause of so many problems is due to this persistent magic show of the “me” and “mine”.
"People normally cut reality into compartments, and so are unable to see the interdependence of all phenomena. To see one in all and all in one is to break through the great barrier which narrows one’s perception of reality."- Thich Nhat Hanh
In the modern world, there is increasing isolation, as the “I” feels more and more separated. Our lives are becoming more divided and disconnected from nature and one other. Sitting in front of a computer screen with social media friends instead of real ones, for example. We can order what we want with a push of a button from Amazon any time of day without making any real connection with a physical store that has a real person behind the counter. We entertain ourselves with Netflix without needing to go into a theatre with other real people. Slowly and insidiously, we are becoming more solidified into the “I”, and this separation is the cause of all our suffering. People in the past were forced to connect because they lived close to nature and small communities where everyone helped each other. The “I” wasn’t as big and people were not as disturbed and isolated as they are now.
But despite this, many people are starting to wake up to a global vision of unity with others and a harmonious relationship with nature. Political boundaries are becoming more and more ridiculous as climate change does not see international borders, and the desperation of the times can bring a greater sense of connection.
Intimacy is the feeling of being connected. The good news is that we don’t have to actually “do” anything to be connected. We are already connected, we just fell under the spell of Avidya and forgot. So our journey home to intimacy starts with simple things, things that help us remember, and in that remembering, we come back to sanity, peace, and love. We have to dissolve the illusion of separation little by little in everyday life and then, slowly, our relationship with life will no longer be isolated and full of fear. We will be able to see the beauty of the magic dance of our lives.
There is a Native American tribe called the Lakota who have a short prayer that expresses their underlying sacred vision of unity: “Mitakuye Oyasin”. These two words mean “All My Relations” or “We Are All Related”. This is not just referring to people but animals, plants, the sun, and the moon…everything. In this simple prayer, separation is healed in us, and we come back to balance and deep connection by living this wisdom.
I would like to offer a couple of ways we can apply this profound teaching in a practical way in our lives.
Everything is Alive Meditation:
Practice seeing everything in our life as alive and your relation. Your coffee cup, a book on the table, a chair in the corner of the room, a rock, a teapot, anything will do. It may sound strange to do this but we did this all the time when we were little. We talked to the chair when we were small as easily as we talked to our mothers. The bird on the tree limb outside our room certainly understood everything we said to her, and her song was easy to feel and understand.
Do this for one day, make a commitment to see absolutely everything as alive. Speak to a stone, listen to what it has to say. Read a poem to a flower and see how that makes her feel. The world will think you are mad, but you might be surprised to find out that you have become the only sane one and it is the world that has gone mad! Try this and see what happens.
When you sit down to have a cup of coffee or tea before you start to drink, think about a few things. Do this slowly and really feel it, see it in your mind, let it sink deep into you.
First, say hello to the coffee cup and thank him for holding your coffee!
Then think about all the things that went into bringing you this coffee. Start with the coffee plant growing somewhere in the sun tended by a farmer with care. The plant needs the sun and the rain to live and flourish then eventually bears the fruit of the coffee bean. The coffee beans are collected by the farmer and then carefully processed and roasted, packaged by people in a factory. Then the beans are transported by trucks driven by people with lives just like yours, the transport truck was designed by people made by others from minerals taken from the ground with great care and hard work. This truck brings the beans to be flown to the country where you live by airplane pilots and workers to the shop around the corner.
You bring the beans home and start to make a cup of coffee with water that was once rain in the sky. The cup you are drinking was made somewhere by somebody from clay taken from the ground that was once part of the earth. When you slowly drink this cup of coffee, you are drinking the sunshine, the rain, the earth, and the love and work of so many people. Think about how many thousands of people, plants, and animals were involved, and if you keep following this thread, you will see the whole tapestry of life woven into a simple cup of coffee!
Isolation is not real
Everything touches and is touched by everything else. Intimacy is here and now in your hands, if you can just remember it! The deep connection has never been lost, we only were sleeping and dreaming a dream of “Me” and “Mine”. Isolation is not real, it never was! We are all connected and by remembering there comes a huge sigh of relief as all our fears, pains, loves, and dreams weave a sacred web called life. That web of life is in us and touches us in the most intimate place: our hearts. Through the door of the heart, all things are a part of you.
May all beings wake up from the dream of separation. “Mitakuye Oyasin”
“To see a World in a Grain of Sand. And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand. And Eternity in an hour. “- William Blake