As we experience the intense polarization and conflict in the United States, and also that which has arisen in so many other countries, it feels more important than ever to engage practices that remind us that we are one earth family and that we can’t survive independent from the countless contributions of our human family and our other-than-human earth family.
I’ve written before about the South African concept and practice of Ubuntu—“I am because you are”, which recognizes and lives into the reality that it is only through the support of the people around us that we are able to be. Here’s one reference describing Ubuntu, one among many: https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Ubuntu_(philosophy)
Another approach to this same idea comes from Psychiatrist Dan Siegel who has developed what he calls “Intraconnection”, where he describes our awareness as moving from “me to we to mwe”. Here’s a link to his new book on the subject: https://www.amazon.com/IntraConnected-Integration-Belonging-Identity-IPNB/dp/0393711692/ref=sr_1_2?crid=N39CCKTAR989&keywords=Dan+Siegel+intraconnected&pldnSite=1&qid=1658667706&sprefix=dan+siegel+intraconnected%2Caps%2C124&sr=8-2
Then, there’s Thich Nhat Hanh’s coining the verb interbeing, where he says that we interare in every moment, that we cannot really be separate from everything around us. Here’s a link to an article by Thich Nhat Hanh on interbeing: https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/blog/insight-of-interbeing/
These and other related approaches and concepts invite us to expand our worldview to move beyond U.S. culture’s (and the cultures of other countries, as well) emphasis on individual issues such as rights, freedom, and independence. For this week’s practice in conscious living, I invite you to dive a bit more deeply into this subject than you may have done before and ask yourself, each day, to recognize your interbeing and interdependence in some way you might ordinarily ignore it.
For example, when you pick up your mail or receive a delivery of something you ordered and that you need, take a moment to think about all the people and resources that were involved in bringing to you what you just received. To deepen the process, move beyond recognition of the people involved and include all the various gifts from other life forms and from the planet that were part of what you received. Thich Nhat Hanh invites us, before we take the first bite of food, to reflect on its beginning, the environment in which it grew, the soil, sunlight, and rain that nurtured it, the person or people who harvested or otherwise prepared it for you, the resources involved in shipping if it came from somewhere else, the person or people who delivered it to you, or who stocked the shelves of the store where you got it.
This process helps us to remember how many countless beings participate in bringing to us things that we need in order to live.
Take time, as well, to bring gratitude for everyone and everything involved in bringing this needed resource to you. Notice your experience as you review all the many people and other-than-human beings who were part of the process of creating what you have available to you. Pay attention to what happens in your state of mind and the quality of your inner experience as you focus on the realities of interbeing and interdependence.
Also explore how you feel when you recognize that it is absolutely impossible to be in this life as a truly “independent” person. This recognition relates to something I’ll write more about another time, which is the underlying reality of the countless reciprocal relationships we are in with our world in every moment, without exception. For now, this is an opportunity to deepen your lived experience of interbeing and to strengthen your sense of interdependence on both your human family and your other-than-human family of earth-kin.
As with all these practices, please remember to bring along curiosity as your constant companion and to pat gently on the head any judgments that may arise, allowing them to move on through with your having to do anything with or about them.