You Are Never Separate & Never Alone
There is a whole movement happening in the world right now where people are striving to be more authentic with each other. All around the planet people are working on improving themselves themselves emotionally and relationally, sharing deep and painful things, empathizing with the highs and lows of their peers to feel greater connection.
Connection is a defining characteristic of this global movement. In fact, in a Ted Talk with more than 14.5 million views, Dr. Brené Brown goes so far as to say that connection is the purpose of human life.
“Connection is why we’re here. It’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives. This is what it’s all about. It doesn’t matter whether you talk to people who work in social justice and mental health and abuse and neglect, what we know is that connection, the ability to feel connected, is—neurobiologically that’s how we’re wired—it’s why we’re here.”
I disagree. And I think this perspective will paradoxically keep us from the deepest feelings of connection humans can feel with each other.
This Article is a Love Song to Connection, Not a Polemic
I love the feeling of connection. I love to be vulnerable and support others in welcoming their own deepest fears and highest hopes. I love to love with reckless abandon, with no clue how my love will be received. It is in fact because of how much I love and value connection, authenticity, and integrity that I feel compelled to elucidate my understanding of relationship.
My belief: We are in relationship to every single person, all of the time.
This belief can help create a new peace beyond the vicissitudes of emotions; this belief can help foster a deep acceptance of what arises outside of happiness and sadness. I believe knowing that we are in relationship to every single person, all of the time can engender a connection that is completely independent of circumstance, because everything is completely interdependent.
Connection and Authenticity Need Only Be Recognized
We can never be out of connection with someone. We can be unaware of the connection that exists—through ignorance or denial—but no matter what we do we cannot change the reality of our interconnected nature. I have written about this before in terms of romance—the relationship does not end, it simply changes in form.
Therefore all of our efforts to share more vulnerability, to get to know someone better or more deeply, to maintain connection, are really not efforts to be more connected: they are efforts to be more aware of what already is.
Likewise, all of our efforts to hide, pretend to be someone we are not, and maintain distance are frivolous attempts to placate an impossible desire to be disconnected from each other.
Nothing Lasts, Therefore Reality Is Infinitely Exciting
The nature of the relationship can change. In fact, it is always does. It is always in flux, like the waves of the ocean, because each moment is different from the previous moment and the moment to come. No relationship is ever the same from one moment to the next, just like no single wave crashes on the beach more than once.
For example, you might say that your friend died so your relationship is over. But do they simply disappear from your head? Or does your connection with each other continue to influence your life, perhaps even daily? Do new facts about them, new realizations in your own life, new experiences change your understanding and interpretation of how you relate with the deceased, inside your own mind, in real time?
And what of someone you have never met? Are you so isolated that your actions have no consequences on them? Or are you simply unaware of how you affect each other? Another way to think of this: how often do you meet someone only to find out you have mutual friends or acquaintances? Do you think that the person you met had absolutely no effect on your mutual friend, and therefore no effect on you even while you were ignorant of their existence?
Many of our efforts to relate to people in a particular way seem to be in service of changing the nature of relationship—we want to be liked, loved, accepted, appreciated, encouraged, promoted, protected, respected, supported, etc. The attraction of the external validations we seek in relationship diminishes proportionally to our acceptance of how undeniably interrelated we are—with everything.
Always in Relationship = Never Separate, Never Alone, Never Abandoned
Once we realize that much of our drive to connect is motivated by a desire to overcome this false separation, we start to understand that we can never be separate in any real sense of the word. Now, instead of wanting things to be different from the way they are—which is a way of denying our inherent connection to the present moment—we are free to explore what the present is like.
This is the meaning of “loving what is.” This is the power of now. It is a deep and abiding recognition that we are forever connected to everything, whether we like it or not. But in this recognition, there is no value in liking or disliking it. In this recognition a natural feeling of curiosity arises. A natural sense of adventure arises. A natural sense of love overcomes the individual problems of the ego—the small sense of “I” that normally dominates our daily experiences. We even naturally empathize with the suffering of others, without needing to take a false responsibility.
The importance of this subtle distinction is how it changes our attitude about relationships and connection. This does not really mean that Brené Brown is wrong. I think she is right, and the relative truth of what she shares is what makes her talk so popular. But we can all take her ideas further.
Are Always Living Our Life’s Purpose?
When we recognize that we are always connected, there is no imperfection to be ashamed about, or even any shame to judge.
If it is our fear of that we are not worthy of connection and love that causes suffering, then recognizing the impossibility of this fear can start to unravel suffering.
If it is connection that gives us meaning and purpose in our lives, and we see that we are always connected to everyone and everything, then we always have meaning and purpose in our lives. We may not always be aware of it, but we can bring our awareness to that connection and purpose any time we feel down, and relax into the safety of omnipresent connection to everything.