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Interdependence on a Personal Note

By Cafh Members

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.

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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.

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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." 

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Interdependence in the Workplace

By a group of Cafh members

 

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. A group of members of Cafh in Los Angeles undertook to examine practical ways in which to develop this attitude in various spheres of our lives.

Given its importance to modern society, the theme of interdependence in the workplace is being studied in many forums today. For the purposes of organizing our reflections on our own individual work on this topic, we would like to present some of the key ideas that Stephen R. Covey shared in his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.1

Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Genuinely strive for mutually beneficial solutions or agreements in your relationships. Value and respect people by understanding a "win" for all is ultimately a better long-term resolution than if only one person in the situation had gotten his way.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
Use empathic listening, with the intent to understand, to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels him or her to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, respect, and positive problem solving.

These are but two of many habits that build interdependence in the workplace. We explored them as we confronted and resolved various challenges in our daily efforts to express the spirit of interdependence. Here is our account of what we discovered and practiced in our places of work over the course of a year.

Challenge: to realize that although we work hard to make meaningful contributions to our field of expertise, that contribution is not the result of independent effort

One of us deals with this challenge in her research.

In my work I try to discover the mechanisms that move cells to behave in one way or the other, or the pathways that signal cascades of reactions in different tissues of the body, or the genes that, when mutated, cause diseases in animals and humans. As I do this, I make the effort to keep in mind and be grateful to all those who have worked on these questions in the past, or who are now publishing their data on studies that have paved the way to what I'm doing today, or who communicated the things that did not work so that I could find what would lead to a solution. I try to acknowledge my interdependence with all these other investigators as well as with the technicians and students who, in one way or another, are helping me to obtain the longed for results. I have made it a habit to share the credit we get with the many researchers who preceded us. It is only through this interdependent effort that we can achieve progress, since no one researcher has all the ideas, knowledge or capability to carry out the complete work. Therefore, it is really important for me to be able to work together with others, learning from each other and helping each other, for the good of those who will receive the benefit of our hours and hours of study and dedication.

Challenge: to realize that, in interdependence, there are no authorities

This is a challenge that several of us working in different spheres wrestle with.

When collaborating with coworkers who lack the practice, wealth of experience, or background knowledge that I and others have, it is easy to assume that they should spend more time listening than speaking. When they bring up suggestions that have been tested and found impractical, it's easy to dismiss them and bring up what we feel would be effective. But, then I remind myself that these suggestions are being tried by new individuals who will have their own experiences and insightful outcomes to share if only they are allowed to do so.

In the field of education, particularly early childhood education, changes have occurred that I believe are not necessarily to the benefit of the students. But these are the standards that have been adopted, and coworkers who have been trained in these standards can help me to accommodate and enable the students under my care to be successful. Moreover, to quote or be attached to my own "authorities" would be to negate the fact that my coworkers are also educated professionals who have information and insights that can expand my understanding in this domain.

Imbued with the spirit of interdependence, we understand that nobody learns from just one person; we always learn from each other.

Challenge: individual styles

This is a hefty challenge! With limited time for discussion of critical topics in the workplace, it is easy to become impatient with individuals who want to bring up personal issues. But, for these souls, those issues are vital and so have a place in the group setting. By giving them some time and listening to them, we may be able to solve problems and achieve a good and healthy environment in the place we spend so many hours every day. We approach situations differently but we are all part of the same team.

The awareness of different styles, however, is not one-sided. Coworkers may also give us feedback on our own attitudes. One of us recounted her efforts to meet this challenge.

I also try to work in an interdependent way with the students I teach in classes or in the laboratory. I give them information that they need to assimilate, digest and make their own, but they teach me to be patient, to repeat the same thing as many times as necessary without getting bored or anxious and to be open to insights on how to interact with some of them. They also give me feedback on attitudes or habits I have and am not aware of. Indeed, many of the ideas that I develop in our studies grow out of their ideas or questions.

Just yesterday, one of them, after discussing at length parts of a manuscript that we were writing, said to me:

You are so stubborn and only write in the classical way, in the style you have always followed! Why can't we write using a freer style and explaining things with more realistic examples that people can relate to better? For example, why can't we say that the staining pattern of this compound resembles a string of pearls or a necklet surrounding the cells' nuclei?

After a minute of silence, I realized that I needed to be more humble. I accepted this student's input and we changed and/or incorporated several other statements into the paper. I learned that in order to maintain good relationships with others, I can't always do things the way I think is proper or the way I want. Instead of sticking to my "independent" way of acting and deciding on things, I have to become more interdependent.

When reflecting on this incident, I saw how it related to something that I had read by Hans Selye,2 a world-wide recognized endocrinologist who introduced the concept of stress in a medical context. He compared the results of an independent-achievement focus to

...the development of a cancer, whose most characteristic feature is that it cares only for itself. Hence, it feeds on the other parts of its own host until it kills the host-and thus commits biological suicide, since a cancer cell cannot live except within the body in which it started its reckless, egocentric development.

In other words, I need not only to acknowledge my self-centered behavior, which harms all my relationships, but also to change this behavior and work together with others. This interdependent attitude allows me to make the best use of my time and get good results. Moreover, instead of spending time trying to solve problems created by a lack of communication, I work on my relationships to make effective communication possible.

It's not simply a matter of interdependence between adult teacher and adult student. The same humility and recognition of individual styles are meaningful in connections between adult teacher and child student. A striking incident proving this point has remained with me throughout the years.

One of the learning challenges for young children, no matter how simplistic it may be, is standing in a line. It was a hot afternoon when the validation of interdependence in communication occurred.

A group of thirsty children were standing in line, but one of them kept pushing and shoving. I kept repeating "stand in line," "stand in line," but the student kept on pushing and shoving. Finally, exasperated, I turned to him and said, "Do you know what stand in line means????" He calmly replied, "Yes," raised his two hands in the shape of claws, and replied, "standing in lion."

* * * * *

Yes, young or old, animal, plant or mineral, we are all interdependent! And, without allowing for space, time, and silence, we will find it difficult to work effectively together

Notes

1 Stephen R. Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People (NY, Toronto: Simon and Schuster, 1990).

2 Hans Seyle, Stress without Distress (Philadelphia & New York: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1974), p. 65.

Integrating Meditation and Daily Life

By Bob Magrusso

 Robert Magrisso has been a Cafh member for over 40 years. He was one of the founders of the Cafh group in the Chicago area where he and his wife raised their family and continue to live. He is a physician practicing internal medicine and is also an artist. Many of his articles and artworks are available on the Seeds of Unfolding website (see list below). He is particularly interested in the intersection of science and spirituality. Bob was interviewed by Maristela Zell, a member of the Cafh group in Chicago.

 

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Resources

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Awakening: An Illustrated Search for Meaning

By Delia Tolz

 
Beckoning Call
 
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Each of us asks ourselves at one time or another: "Why am I here? Is there a deeper meaning to life? My life? How can I become more aware? Is there a Divine presence? How can I nurture the Divine within myself?" Awakening offers us a simple and beautiful, yet direct and profound, method to awaken, or uncover, the inner recesses of our hearts and minds. Then, these questions, and perhaps a response or two, might be explored.

In the introduction Delia Tolz shares her own spiritual journeys, thoughts, and meditations. Images that she evokes inwardly help her to go deep into her heart and soul, where she discovers guidance and her true intention during that moment and the many moments of her day. As an artist, her inner experiences are "translated into colored pencil drawings. They are the tangible expression of my inner journey and a way to share it with others."

Each of 30 illustrations is accompanied by a title and a "verse, prayer, poem, or inner dialogue that came to me as I was drawing." This is followed by a simple exercise and two short questions to help the reader go more deeply into his/her own search for meaning. The written words which complement each drawing demonstrate that a few words can embrace depth and focus meaning. The colorful, evocative images touch us in a space unreachable with the spoken language.

The artist includes a section entitled "Working with the Drawings" to help the reader develop an approach to using this book as an aid to awakening. She offers several suggestions, so each can discover his/her own method-what works for one's personal meditations or reflections. We each have gifts, often hidden, for us to awaken and nurture. Delia Tolz offers us the possibility to actually uncover what lies within us by sharing her very unique and special gifts with us, and for this we are deeply grateful.

I would like to share the way I worked with one of the images, Dance of Life (pp. 40-41).

The inspirational reflection is simple: I dance in unison with my companions. The exercise gives us a clue how to carry out this "dance:" When I notice that I interact with a companion through the patterns of a role, I pause and shift to my true inner self. "Well," I thought, "how do I know what my true inner self is? How can I identify it and bring it forth?" The first question gave me just the clue I needed: Who is beneath each role?

Dance of Life
 

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For several weeks, I had been disagreeing with my spouse over a particular issue, and for the life of me I could not understand his point of view. I was clearly wedded to my own opinion. When I focused on the exercise and question, I realized I had fallen into my usual "role" of spouse, which completely limited my perspective. I thought: "OK, I may not understand my spouse's point of view but I can at least try to listen to him explain it without judging him." Boy, was I surprised! He had put a lot of thought about our marriage and future into his viewpoint, and on this we found common ground. I then shared my objections, and he understood. Together we resolved our disagreement and were able to move forward. So, I actually was able, through experience, to answer the second question: Regardless of my role, do I connect with others? Yes! A big, resounding YES!

I recommend without any reservation this book to anyone and everyone. Each of us will interact with the pictures and words in whichever way, on whatever level, we choose and are comfortable with. At the very least we enjoy a few moments with new ideas and images. For most, a whole new way of viewing one's world-everyone's world-will open for exploration, reflection, and interaction.

Feedback from other readers:

Mary Hoeppner: "The pictures are particularly helpful for stimulating an open mental and inner attitude."

Roberta Sweat: "I think this book is terrific. The line drawings are so beautiful and the accompanying text is wonderful. It is a good book for meditation."

Jack King: "What a wonderful trip. The art is so special. As I did some of the exercises the colors of the pictures captured me. The depth of the exercises expanded into a practice that allowed me to meet the Divine. I am going to give copies to my family because I feel it will be something they can resonate with. I cannot say enough about how the book took me to places I have never been. Glorious, beautiful, I cannot put into words the effect of the book."

Pauline Herbert: "Awakening brings me a 'user-friendly,' simple guide to traveling deeply into my soul. The questions penetrate surface personality patterns and seem to take me right to the core of my essence. Also, Delia's pictures have such a beautiful abstract and open quality which appeals to my imagination. I keep her book close by my meditation space at home."default clip image001 0001

resources2Infinite Possibilities

Living Consciously

Collected essays by Jorge Waxemberg

"Love is a companion in a work done alone
in the intimacy of each person's heart, mind and soul"



  There are moments in life when we become consciously aware of the mystery of existence: when we witness the birth of a child, the unexpected death of a close friend, the discovery of a relative's need for comfort, the awakening to the realization that a lifetime of possibilities and choices lies ahead. Such moments may occur when everything seems to be going along fine, or when we encounter the inescapable sorrows of human life.

These are the moments in which we begin to ask about the meaning of our lives. We may ask such questions as: "Where am I headed? What should I be doing with my life? What is the meaning of my experiences?" For most of us, the answers to these questions remain a mystery, but this does not preclude a search for an answer, and it does not mean that we cannot come closer to an understanding, step-by-step. This search for meaning, this yearning toward the unknown, is the foundation of spiritual life.

In Jorge Waxemberg's book, Living Consciously, we find these questions reflected upon in a remarkable collection of essays on spiritual life. Chapter subjects range from such diverse topics as Physical Health, Moving beyond Prejudices, and Finding the Road, to Mysticism in Our Lives.

Each chapter, in fact, appeared at one time in Seeds of Unfolding, and this new book makes possible an overview of many of his thought-provoking articles written over a 14-year period.

Living Consciously brings together an accessible and inspiring anthology of ideas for enriching our inner lives and concrete means by which to work for the good of humanity.

This book is available through online booksellers or for free download at https://www.cafh.org/en/publicaciones.html