I am painfully aware of barriers and limitations than can make my ideal of interdependence recede like the distant horizon that tantalizes the weary traveler. Showing up in multiple disguises, long established automatic internal forces can pull me away from the direction I have decided to give my life. The accommodating mind then creates a convenient excuse to justify falling into unawareness and separateness. Feeling separate and independent, I say earnestly to myself, “I don’t feel like it,” “I deserve it,” “This is the way I am,” “I’d rather be alone now,” etc. When I reflect on such pre-programmed thoughts and reactions, I like to compare them to computer “default values,” which come imbedded in the program code. My automatic thoughts were similarly implanted long ago through the processes of education and adaptation to prevailing social and cultural norms. The following typical situations illustrate the interplay between automatisms leading to separateness, on the one hand, and to awareness of interdependence, on the other.
• When looking at an interesting event to attend or place to visit, my immediate tendency is to start making mental plans, which occasionally translate into a tentative commitment. After learning (in some cases, the hard way) the direct impact that such plans and decisions have on the lives of immediate members of my family, I have changed my mental process to include people that would be affected by any imagined outcome. This process of inclusion expands my awareness from the idea that “my plan is my own business” to the concept of being in relationship and making a suggestion a starting-point to build harmony and consensus.
• Following my creative impulses, on many occasions I have brought up new ideas in group discussions when there was no need for brainstorming or changes. I would then end up puzzled by the negative reactions caused by my suggestions and be left with a sense of frustration and isolation. I have come to realize that expressions of independence and isolated thinking need to be moderated with an attitude of inclusion–to ask questions, seek new data, request comments, consult, and dialogue. This expanded notion of contribution then leads to “our” ideas and dissolves the drive of the independent self into teamwork and common effort.
• I am still learning to ask questions and pause to listen for input, especially when I feel sure that I already have the “better idea” or have figured out the solution to the problem.
• More and more I am trying to bring the thoughts of other souls into my mental space during moments of quiet and solitude, a habit which, embarrassingly enough, has not been a part of my usual way of thinking.
Rather than trying to understand Renouncement2 analytically, I use my own experiences of interdependence to connect to its essence in the simplicity of silence and the revelation of love. As I offer of myself, the illusion of a separate mind dissolves and the paradigm of my notion of being shifts to Participation and Love.
Awareness of the interdependent nature of life is revealed when I am alone and examine my thoughts and feelings with an expansive intention; when I listen to others with an open mind and heart; and when I find myself attached to fixed ideas and viewpoints, or caught up in the duality of likes and dislikes. An example of this transformation from “my” perspective to a broader one occurred recently at work. I joined a cohesive project team whose members had a set of goals that for them were clear, but for me were not well understood. My initial approach was to challenge their methodology on the basis of unverified assumptions created from my illusion of being an outsider. Feedback provided by a difficult interaction made me realize that I needed to adopt a more humble behavior and seek integration through learning and contributing in a non-judgmental way. This simple act of renouncement helped me understand that every day gives me opportunities that I can take to unfold, if I just pay enough attention and am willing to learn.
The inner work we do is an expression of our conscious and consistent effort to leave behind the illusion of independence and to embrace the reality of life as a unity, embodied in the interconnectedness of all creation.
1 This article has been excerpted from material in the original Feature article, “The Transformation Process–from ‘Me’ to ‘We.’”
2 Renouncement: In the Teaching of Cafh, Renouncement is considered to be the law of life. When we renounce, we accept that our small life is part of Life itself, that we are an integral part of the whole. We gain perspective on the ups and downs of our daily lives and also on periods of great difficulties. The spirit of Renouncement helps us to visualize our strengths and weaknesses objectively and awakens in us a deep sense of participation and love for everyone and everything.