Everything we do has an influence on us, on those around us and on the world, whether we perceive it or not. The importance we give to this influence and to our way of life reveals who we are, not only to others but also to ourselves. Spiritual Life, chapter 11.
The teaching of Cafh stresses the need for all human beings to develop an attitude of interdependence, given the fact that we are simultaneously individuals and a part of a much greater whole. As a group of Cafh members in Los Angeles, we undertook to examine practical ways in which to develop this attitude in various spheres of our lives. The following article looks at interdependence in the personal sphere. To read another article on this theme, go to "Interdependence in the Workplace," published earlier in Seeds.
Everything that we usually consider as important has to do with other persons. In the home environment we are wives or husbands, parents, sons or daughters, grandchildren, companions. We have relationships with many people. Here is what two of us discovered in reflecting upon interdependence in our personal lives.
Home as a Place to Nurture Interdependence
For two years after selling our long-time home, my husband and I did not live in one space that we could set up as our "home." We stayed with different members of our family, living out of suitcases and borrowing others' kitchens, bedrooms, and bathrooms. Our family members were very generous and loving, but not having an "outer" home really took a toll on my inner stability and overall sense of well-being. I realized how dependent I had become on one place to call home—my home. I learned how to build my "inner" home: a place in my being where I could become stable and strong wherever I found myself awakening each morning.
The experience taught me how I had taken my inner home for granted, not being conscious of how it is with me wherever I am. During these two years, I developed a method consisting of various practices to foster an interdependent attitude. I deliberately nurtured my inner space with meditation, reflection, silence and joy. In this way my interior home supported me whenever needed. The experience of living without an outer home made me realize how necessary a strong, supportive inner home is. This is true whenever one travels or one's routine is interrupted for any reason.
After rebuilding our outer home, I will never take living in my own home for granted. We are stewards of our home—taking care to create a safe, comfortable, beautiful space for ourselves and all family and visitors who enter. An interdependent relationship with our home is fundamental, because this space provides the place within which souls live and flourish. Although the inner method I developed can be practiced anywhere, I see that having one environment in which to unfold and experiment with life contributes a great deal to a soul's peace and well-being. Home is also a place to invite people to, a place for friendships to develop and activities to take place. A home becomes a place to offer others a full expression of one's life, and this of course includes the Road of Cafh. Thus, we take care as we build our home, and our home offers its presence and space to many.
In our case, our home also offers an opportunity for four people to practice interdependent living, as two of my sisters also live on the estate. We've applied the exercise of dialogue in order to discuss living issues, resulting in minimal emotional conflict and few interruptions. We share common spaces while maintaining individual privacy. We greet each other with love and compassion each morning. We fill in for each other during times of travel. We nurture each other in times of illness. Because of living interdependently, we live joyfully and peacefully, supporting each other in times of trial and fully celebrating our lives together. Truly our home is a blessing for many.
Challenges and Opportunities with Marriage and Family
I find that being interdependent in the relationship with my husband takes a lot of effort from both of us. Interdependence comes out of the attitude of mutual respect and mutual understanding, and it encourages us to speak more candidly, to be more honest and to deal with issues rather than to ignore them. So we go into the situation not trying to find "my solution," and not knowing where we are going to arrive, although we know that it will be better than what we are experiencing. Of course we need to be humble, to accept changes and be willing to be vulnerable. Only in this way can we exchange insights and listen heart to heart with real respect and empathy. In other words, we are two independent persons who recognize the interdependent nature of our problem and want to solve it interdependently, not spending time fighting or defending our positions.
For me this is not easy. I would like my husband to agree with me, to think the way I think, to go along with my ideas. But this does not happen the majority of the time. And I recognize that if we did not have differences in our opinions, we would not have the option of creating new solutions and opportunities. In fact, we count on each other's different perspectives to help us make better decisions. We count on each other's strengths to compensate for our individual weaknesses, and then we work interdependently as a complementary team. For example, it is easier for me than for my husband to write down ideas, to prepare documents, to complete manuscripts or teachings. But his understanding and interpretation of teachings, books or new theories or concepts is very thorough and far deeper than mine. So we work together very often. I write and he gives me long explanations for many of the points that we want to make.
I also have concluded that interdependence is really important for my family as a whole. For many years, we usually celebrated every birthday, anniversary or other special occasion at our home with a nice dinner. Since it was very hard for me to delegate jobs in the kitchen, thinking it would take me more time to explain and show how to do something than to do it myself, I never asked the members of my family for their help. Consequently, after a whole day of hard work, I would end up being nervous, upset, exhausted and disappointed with everyone for their lack of cooperation. With time, I came to realize that if we all shared the effort, just as in any other work, the dinners would be easier—not so tiring for me—and we could enjoy the time together in a more relaxed and happier way. When I showed my kids that we could work interdependently for this to happen, everyone responded in the most beautiful way.
I also try to help our grandchildren understand what interdependence is. Now that they are old enough to comprehend the meaning of synergistic effects, they realize that working together, having fun together and caring for each other lead to a much more creative and nurturing environment than being concerned only with oneself. So now, instead of giving them individual presents for the holidays, I buy them games that all the family can participate in and together enjoy the challenge of collective thinking.
One such game is "Pandemics." All the players form a team that works to prevent the spread of epidemics throughout the world and save humanity from a global pandemic. Each one takes on the role of one of the scientists at the Center for Disease Control, but it is up to the whole team of specialists to find cures for the diseases before we are wiped out. Players must work together, playing to their characters' strengths and planning their strategy of eradication. This is a truly cooperative game, where you all win or you all lose, where, instead of competing against each other, everyone makes their best effort so that together they will be able to bring health and care to others.
In retrospect, we can say that a home is definitely a building, but when we live interdependently, a home is so much more: a space for respecting quiet reflection or collaborating in joyful gatherings. This "space" becomes an expression of the people living there and the activities and events that happen there. A marriage, a family, a friendship, a gathering, a building—who can say these are not all "homes"? One is reminded of the well-known saying: "Home is where the heart is."