“All difficult things have their origin in that which is easy, and great things in that which is small.”
Recently, it has dawned on me that I have spent many years of my life keeping myself apart from other people in ways that I didn’t even recognize. Whether it is in my unseen judgments of other people’s choices and behaviors, or the ways that I am unavailable to listen to others, or the insidious ways that I consider myself above others, I have effectively built a fortress of habits that keep me at arm’s length from the things I want most in life and isolated from what I most deeply long for- belonging in my family, in my work, and in my community. Even with recognition, habits of separation are both subtle and persistent. They creep into my thinking insidiously and separate me not only from the people around me, but often from the moment itself.
So I have come to practice getting out of this habit by regularly reminding myself and repeating of this new mantra of “There is no value in being separate here” and honing some old practices into mechanisms to keep me connected. Here is my short list in case you too might want to try to eliminate your useless habit of being separate from the times and people in your life…
Accept people and things as they are-
There may not be a kinder way to include yourself in life than by giving people around you the benefit of the doubt. This is a simple practice that not only lets people be what they are, with all of their quirks and challenging habits, but also offers a deeper loving form of acceptance that they are doing the best they can. And so, by default, are you. This benefit of the doubt approach to life is actually an active practice of gratitude. Instead of seeing the shortfalls in the people we love and relate to, we witness their efforts and capacity. In the bedroom, there may be nothing sexier than the pure acceptance of being exactly as we are. Releasing the pressure and pretense of needing to be different to be loved catapults you into the sensuality of your reality. This is how a practice of gratitude turns us into being receivers of love, which is the singular path to both overcoming our resistance to intimate pleasures and is arguably the way of the enlightened heart. This acceptance transforms what happens between the sheets as well. Orgasm, the most profound involuntary and cleansing response the human body generates, responds best when it is accepted in all of its unique quirky expressions.
Pay attention with your heart
Harnessing our attention is the rare and purest form of gratitude that happens in us when we stop and use our senses fully, allowing our heart to bask in the wonder and mystery of our human body. Mary Oliver once wrote: “This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know, that the soul exists, and that it is built entirely out of attention.” Paying attention to this amazing world through our miraculous physical body is nothing if not a sensory feast. Focusing our attention in our heart center is where gratitude translates into a creative burst of energy that feels like joy. It is easy to spin off of the real experience of gratitude when we spin out of our body. And while grateful thoughts are a good start, binding the experience to a felt sense in the body changes everything when it comes to belonging. By bringing your attention back continuously to the felt sense of appreciation for even the simplest of things in your heart, we learn how to stay.
You have to go within or you go without.
A new friend shared this simple yet profound idea with me yesterday on the 3rd leg of my trip home. It is, I think, at the essence of giving up our separation habits. Practicing and committing to going back inside of ourselves, of not comparing our life work with others, of learning to listen and respect our own truth- this is the requirement of not separating from what we most want and need in this lifetime. No one outside of us, no amount of wealth can ground us to our own soul which is the seat of our connection and contentment.