(From Watkins’ Mind Body Spirit magazine, issue 28, Winter 2011-2012; scroll down for a video of the author’s talk)
A semi-colon separates and joins at the same time. That punctuation mark is in our psyche. We are discrete bodymind individuals and, simultaneously, we are all connected. This oneness is oneness as in a relationship, a union of partners who remain individuals.
One of the most revealing indicators of “no separate self” is the fact that the self never appears alone, all by itself, full monty. It is always experienced in connection to someone, something, some idea, some feeling, some mood, some condition. Scottish, philosopher, David Hume, wrote: “For my part, when I enter most intimately into what I call myself, I always stumble on some particular perception or other.”
This concept reflects two of our basic drives: to be independent and to be interdependent. We want to be alone and with others. So love will require that we surrender any attachment to rugged individualism and total independence. It will mean gladly embracing the teaching of no separate self. This is why love develops optimally with a spiritual practice. Our higher self—the no-self—is ready for that widening but the ego that is frightened by surrender of any kind puts up a fight. Our work on letting go of that neurotic ego is an act of love because it readies us for caring connection.
In this context, compassion is not based on pity for someone’s plight. It is not top-down since it is founded on non-dualism. Indeed, compassion is not a virtue that we might or might not have. It is the natural response to others’ pain. That pain tugs at us because of our natural bond in the world-wide human family. To forego a compassionate response is to contravene a natural inclination.
In addition, love feels trustworthy to us as we notice that we can maintain our own individuality while we connect intimately with a partner or show love to anyone. This combination of individuality and connection is what we have always wanted. We did not want to lose ourselves in order to relate to others. We did not want to lose our relationships in order to preserve our autonomy. Love makes both possible when it is healthy.
Love feels trustworthy to us as we notice that we can maintain our own individuality while we connect intimately with a partner or show love to anyone. This combination of individuality and connection is what we have always wanted.
There is also a paradox in the fact that the more autonomous we feel ourselves to be the more able are we to give ourselves in a relationship. Self-sovereignty and trustful dependency become interdependency, the foundation of intimacy.
The sense of coherence we feel as we maintain our own identity while loving others makes it easy to trust ourselves. We then become more flexible since self-trust means we feel confident to handle what happens both in events and relationships. We know we can surrender without losing our identity; we know we can be ourselves while loving fully. Love integrates us into a felicitous joining of diverse parts so that each partner remains himself/herself while both feel united. When we grow in global consciousness we feel this integrative love extending to all beings.
The mind is an embodied and relational process (i.e., not an entity but an action) that regulates the flow of energy and information. Love is therefore an embodied experience of positive connection, a flow of relational energy that preserves our own individuality.
Opposites will be irreconcilable polarities unless we see things not as rigid entities but in a flow. This is why an evolutionary view is necessary if we are to open our full spiritual powers. Those powers flourish in a flow, into and through each of us as one of us. We may block the energy flow that connects us to others or the energy that differentiates us from one another but it is in us always nonetheless.
Integration is a harmonious linking of different parts of ourselves. In that sense, integration is health. Illness is an impairment in integration. This takes the form of constricted or chaotic behavior. We are constricted when we are depressed, shut down, afraid to act or move on. We are chaotic when we are anxious, manic, disturbed by intrusive thoughts or memories. The cells in our bodies are always receiving and always releasing. Indeed, the whole universe is doing this too. When we cannot let in or let out, we become jammed and the result is not only a lack of fulfillment but pain.
In the metaphor of the “original sin” of Adam and Eve broke their connection with God. They were then exiled from the garden of Eden because their break was about their connection with nature. Our connections are meant to be total, including nature, people, a Higher Power, etc. Thus, when one connection is broken, all are affected and we feel a hole inside. We were born with strings attached to all the objects of love and we will feel something is missing until they are all connected.
David Richo, Ph.D., M.F.T., teacher and workshop leader, works as a psychotherapist in Santa Barbara and San Francisco, California. He combines Jungian, transpersonal, and mythic perspectives in his work. He is an author of over 20 books, including “Daring to Trust” which offers key insights and practical exercises for exploring and addressing our trust issues. In this book, we learn how to build trust, how to recognize a trustworthy person, how to work with our fears around trusting, and how to rebuild trust after a breach or infidelity. www.davericho.com
Here’s a video of David Richo’s talk about his book Daring to Trust at Watkins Books in August 2011.