When we are in crisis… when we are feeling utterly lost and tested… when life feels like it's crashing all around us… we still have a lifeline - the knowingness that we are somehow connected to something good, something greater than ourselves that’s rooted in love and compassion.
But what happens when our belief even in the concept of connection is broken?
For the last few years, I confess to feeling completely disconnected from most of the world, including quite a few among my family and friends. The current social and political atmosphere has been focused on divisiveness which leads directly to a sense of isolation, loneliness (as opposed to solitude), and disharmony.
What’s even worse, I’ve found myself questioning whether the possibility for connection, and by extension belonging, still exists. For someone who is thinking about connections 24/7 and writes about those musings, this felt like questioning human existence itself.
“When our belief that there’s something greater than us, something rooted in love and compassion, breaks, we are more likely to retreat to our bunkers, to hate from afar, to tolerate bullshit, to dehumanize others, and ironically, to stay out of the wilderness." ~ Brené Brown
And yet, the very fact that I’m fretting about connection means I still believe in it and yearn for it. And that means that no matter how much we might disagree, no matter how angry we get with one another, we are still connected.
Pema Chödrön speaks about what happens when we go through life perpetually angry, disappointed, and complaining. One complaint begets the next and the next, and before long we’re too pissed off to even care about connection and belonging.
So we start looking for ways to rid ourselves of all these things and people we don’t like, the ones that are messing with our Zen and ruining our sense of connection. Because surely it’s them, not us, and if they are gone we can return to our bliss.
She shares a story about walking across blazing sand or cut glass in our bare feet. And we blame the sand or glass for hurting us and think if we could just cover it all up, spread leather over all of it to protect us, everything would be fine.
Can you picture this? Are you laughing with me yet?
Of course, the answer is to make shoes. All you have to do is wrap the leather around your own feet and then the heat and shards can't hurt you.
(Watch Pema Chödrön’s video, This Lousy World, HERE)
The secret is always to work from the inside out. If you work with your own mind and your own mindset instead trying to change everything and everyone around you, you will be able to talk yourself off the ledge of hating on everything that is happening and the people you are blaming.
And then you will be able to reach across the chasm and hold hands with those you hated or feared. Because you are beginning to understand that they are also consumed with hating and fearing and that's why they are saying and doing these things you believe are awful. .
And while you are within your own mind doing this reset, consider this:
Carl Jung reminds us that opposites and paradoxes are needed in order for us to understand what we are seeing and feeling. Those people and circumstances we dislike so much are guiding us firmly towards what we do like and do want.
Treasure them for the role they are playing, for without them we would all just be sleep-walking.
So how do we make "shoes" and put them on our own feet?
Brené Brown believes the answer is to “show up for collective moments of joy and pain so we can actually bear witness to inextricable human connection….We have to catch enough glimpses of people connecting to one another (so) that we believe it’s true and possible for all of us.”
Here’s how that works for me:
- Show up for moments of collective joy. That can be as simple as a chick flick with gal pals or as profound as rejoicing together for a healthy baby after a difficult pregnancy. It can be celebrating with a Facebook friend I've never met in person.
- Show up for moments of collective pain, grief, and sadness. Few of us know how to simply sit with someone when they are in deep pain. Perhaps they’ve lost a loved one or gotten terrible health news. Maybe they don’t want to talk, but also don’ want to be alone. Be there. Share the moment. That can even mean grieving from afar with a stranger who’s experiencing something frightening or terrible.
- Choose love. This probably should have been first on this little list because it is the foundation for everything. Always, always choose the most loving path. Always, always choose forgiveness. Always, always choose compassion. Always, always show up, whether the moment is joy or pain. Be there. Fully there. In love even when love feels uncomfortable.
Show up. Hold hands, literally and metaphorically. It's these that moments remind us what is possible.