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 the transformation process from “Me” to “We”. To read other articles on the theme of interdependence, go to “Interdependence in the Workplace” and “Interdependence on a Personal Note” published earlier in Seeds.
We live our lives in relationship; we have a choice to live in dependence, independence, or interdependence. Our choice is important in determining whether we are inclusive or exclusive in working with others.
In his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Stephen R. Covey talks about the subject of interdependence. He maintains that there is a Maturity Continuum from dependence, independence, to interdependence. We begin life as a baby, totally dependent on others. As we grow, we become more independent, more able to fulfill our own needs, and gradually we become reliant on our ability to do this. Further down the road, as we grow in maturity, we begin to see interdependence around us in nature and society as a whole. The ecological system in the world connects all of us.
Covey considers this change in perspective from dependence to interdependence as a natural law. But there is no guarantee that each individual will go through this transformation. Events in life, personal growth and changes in relation to these events can determine our place in this continuum.
We see how dependence is the You - You take care of me. Independence is the I - I can do it. Interdependence is the We - We can do it in cooperation and bring together what we have to accomplish what is needed.
We have to remember this concept is a generalization of a very complicated process, but we can use it to learn and begin to bring interdependence into the practice of our relationships.
Individuality and Interdependence
As we develop interdependence, it is important to understand that living interdependence does not conflict with uncovering and nurturing one’s individuality. Each person needs to ask the question “Who am I?” and be free to answer fully, the best one can. Each of us is unique, having talents, interests, strengths, and ideas that are expressed and developed. When one unfolds to his full capacity, that person is living egoence.2 Actually, this is exactly what one has to offer as he or she lives interdependently with friends, family, and the environment. Interdependence thrives on the complete expression of the soul.
For example, creating a beautiful garden is enhanced when several people participate: one knows about different plants, another has expertise with building borders or walkways. A third will know how to build the irrigation system, another may be familiar with organic gardening for vegetables and herbs. Perhaps someone knows about electricity, how to light the garden at night. Our lives work in this manner with interdependence, allowing all to contribute their individual talent, experience, and knowledge.
The teachings of Cafh repeatedly warn us that our sense perceptions help us to sustain the illusory and convenient perspective that our individual lives are separate from everything else, and they exhort us to expand our state of consciousness so that the reality of existence is revealed to us. This expanded vision allows us to see our existence as an integral part of the whole universe, single and interconnected knots in the intricate tapestry of creation.
The course “The Ten Words of Spiritual Unfolding” has taught me how I can really assimilate a truth revealed to me through silence, listening, and remembering: by transforming it into organic knowledge, by transforming awareness into habitual behaviors. This I do by applying my will to align consciousness and best intentions with the way I want to live my life, and daring to experience a real transformation through deliberate and steady inner work.
The consistent practice of the asceticism of renouncement is helping me to shift my view of my place in the universe: I am not a separate, independent individual, but a being existing in participation. I habitually stop my activities to remember that this knowledge, which comes to me intuitively, needs to become the foundation of my notion of who I am. Reflecting on this, I realize that the shift in view has an immediate effect on the quality of my relationships. Then I align my awareness with consistent behavior.
I have found that silence is the cornerstone of this process of transformation. Stopping what I’m doing to seek inner silence brings me in contact with my innermost intention of being present before the Sacred Mystery, the unfathomable reality of unity. There I have a glimpse of my divine essence, elusive as it is during ordinary moments, when automatic thoughts and feelings fill the space of my existence.
The Feature article “The Golden Temple,” published earlier in Seeds, encourages us to “revitalize our bond with the very source of our vocation.” I do this by making my best effort to live consciously, using the tools and means that Cafh provides. The meditation exercises, deliberate pauses during the day for reflection, and prayer all help me to connect with my vocation, to come out of self-absorption and put myself in the here-and-now, the distinctive place I occupy at any given moment. These practices make evident to me the interconnectedness of everything that exists, and the apparent dichotomy of the individual and the collective dissolves.
1 Work in the area of transforming independence to interdependence is attracting much attention. This article refers specifically to Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (NY, Toronto: Simon &Schuster, 1990). The expression “Me to We” appears extensively in the work of Craig and Marc Kielburger, whose first book, Me to We: Finding Meaning in a Material World, was copyrighted in 2004 and published by Simon & Schuster as a Fireside Book in 2006.
2 Egoence: Egoence is the consciousness of ourselves and of our relationship with the whole, and the discernment of how to respond to the responsibility implied by that consciousness.