The unspoken messages of our culture convincingly compel us to see ourselves as bodies and minds, separate from one another, and from nature. The saints and sages of many traditions have experienced the opposite – that we are essentially and deeply interconnected with each other and all of nature.
The scriptures of Yoga clearly articulate that the divisions we experience are created in our minds that perceive only the gross levels of reality. We draw a circle around ourselves, defining who we are and limiting our ability to feel connection. The practice of meditation, when practiced steadily enough, gradually erases these boundaries, exposing our oneness with the world around us.
Sri Swami Satchidananda expresses this in his commentary on the Yoga sutras: “Behind all these differences, in the Self, we never differ. That means behind all these ever-changing phenomena is a never-changing One. That One appears to change due to our mental modifications.”
The actual experience of this truth is not hidden from us. If we contemplate how the plant life around us absorbs the carbon dioxide we exhale and gives off oxygen, we can see each breath as an exchange with our environment. Consider how we so easily give the possessions we treasure to those we love—our hearts equating our happiness with theirs.
We can expand this experience beyond our small circle of friends and family if we consciously practice looking deeply at others to see the essential nature underneath the superficial appearance and actions. Try taking a compassion walk during which you see everyone, regardless of their behavior, as doing the best they can in that moment. Instead of judging others, try assuming they are struggling in the same ways you have, and send a silent prayer for them to suffer less, to have opportunities to learn and grow.
We can expand that thinking even further by reflecting on how the conditions of the world’s rich and poor are interdependent, and how the earth is suffering from so much human carelessness and greed. We may not be able to solve world problems, but we can look for and take steps toward healing our immediate communities, and understand our efforts as significant contributions to the collective consciousness of our planet.
During the coming holy days, many of us will make time to connect with those close to us. Do we connect only through the purchase of gifts and sharing meals? Are we able to let down defenses when the opportunity is there? Can we open our hearts a little wider and accept points of view that differ from our own? If we do practice regularly to quiet the habitual thoughts that divide us, we will begin to diminish those boundaries and sense our place in the web of life.