The Medicine for Disconnect

April 17, 2018

My teacher used to say that when we embrace our ordinary self, we become a “social relief.” We no longer bring hidden agendas to our social interaction, such as needing to be seen as “special,” needing to be “right,” or needing approval from outside of ourself.  While there is some humor to this statement, as a dharma teacher I am struck by how many people experience a discrepancy between the still, quiet peace of their meditation practice and how they interact with co-workers, relatives, in romance, or in conflict. Even conscious people at times fall into reactivity, wear masks, perform, hide out, and get caught in projection.

I first began writing a book on Relational Mindfulness because I wanted people to know they can trust the healing capacity of their practice in all of their relationships. I wanted to help make a much clearer connection between meditation practice and their response to the state of our world. I wanted people to drop their notions of meditation and mindfulness as separate from their engagement with the global issues we face. There is no separation. Relational Mindfulness calls forth the courageous and compassionate engagement that we are here for. To connect with others in the field of presence is to participate in the self-healing of our world. From compassionate presence we allow ourselves to be woken up, again and again, to the interconnection that is our natural state. 

In 2007 I transitioned from years spent living at a silent Zen monastery to the megatropolis of LA, not by choice per se but to address a health challenge.  This wild and confronting transition showed me the true opportunity we have to accelerate our process of waking up through human relationship. There is a simple misunderstanding in the modern world. We have been taught to live in a paradigm of “I” verses “you” that subtly perpetuates the myth of separation. It disconnects us from one another, this earth, and from our deeper selves. Healing this myth is much easier than we think. 

From the consciousness of interconnection, we can: 

experience deeper belonging by “doing less”

see each other with compassion even in conflict

drop the painful habit of taking things personally

learn to be skillfully transparent in our communications

release the lens of “other” 

learn to connect with others more through our vibrant aliveness 

show up to be of service in more courageous ways in the world-at-large

Life gives us the invitation to “wake up” all day long. Given that few people will spend time at a silent monastery in this lifetime, and most of us interact with people all day long, it is vital to understand that we can awaken through relationship in everyday life.  We each have a capacity for loving presence that is far greater than we know. 

Relational Mindfulness in the Global Context

As the political landscape, first in in the US and then internationally, shifted, my book project took on even greater dimensions. I sat in on meetings with activists and change agents who were as caught up in divisiveness as anyone else. The fire of disconnect was stoked by people’s reactivity, finger pointing, and the habit of shutting down rather than remaining open in conflict. If we look at every ism and every instance of othering in our world, we see that the myth of separation is at the root of this confusion. Why continue to perpetuate this myth at a time when its consequences globally have become so clear?

Practice has taught me that as much as the mind tries to talk us into distortion, separation is not real. It is illusory. Interconnection is our natural state. We are used to experiencing interconnection through the people and places we love, but we have the choice in every moment to remember who we really are. 

Relational mindfulness is a set of principles and practices that help us to remember who we really are. It is based on 9 Buddhist teachings that include: Intention, The Sacred Pause, Deep Listening, Mindful Inquiry and Clear Seeing, Transparency, Turning Towards Rather Than Away, Not Taking Personally, Taking Responsibility, and Compassionate Action.

This work is heart-opening, reassuring, vulnerable at times. and at times requires great courage . It continually reminds us of our shared humanity and reconnects us with the ease and grace of doing less and resting more.

To experience or train in Relational Mindfulness, please join me in  my Online Course with Worldwide Insight. This course is a prelude to my book release on May 22. For those who wish to go deeper, attend a retreat this year or participate in my Facilitator Training this August at the Colorado Rocky Mountain Eco-Dharma Center. 

This work is life changing and will dissolve any remaining masks that keep you from your true self.

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