Thursday, March 19, 2020

Separate to Connect, with Yourself and Others

Separate to connect. How can that be?

As a meditator, I’ve been taught by my extraordinary meditation teacher, Nestor Perez, and now, can practice the life-enhancing art of separating to connect. While separation may seem counterintuitive to being with the moment, to authentically connect with ourselves and others, in fact, it’s separation that allows us to do just that.

Here’s How and Why: Please try this:
What happens when you say to yourself: I am anxious. I am mad. I am scared.
In my experience, when I make such pronouncements, I fully identify with them. In fact, without consciously realizing it, I let these feelings have me, be me. I obsess over myself, my insufficiencies, my unworthiness. 

As a consequence, my self-confidence flags. I hide myself from others, fearing that I’m not good enough to be acceptable thus accepted. This false belief, that I am my feelings, separates me from myself, out of shame/blame, and from others. 

Now, say this to yourself: I feel anxious. I feel mad. I feel scared.

Take a moment and a few breaths as you toggle between these two sets of sentiments. I am scared...I feel scared...Do you experience them differently?

For me, simply adding feel to the second set of sentences, separates me from those feelings. They don’t have me; now I have them. I am separate from these sentiments. They no longer define me. I’m simply experiencing them.

Let’s go one step further. Say and let yourself feel: Feeling anxious. Feeling mad. Feeling scared. What happens when you remove I from your sentence? 

For me, the removal of I allows me to even more clearly delineate and acknowledge my felt experience, rather than identify with it. Separate but connected. Not captive, though potentially captivating.

Why is this practice of slowing down to consciously connect with your feelings while remaining separate from them so important?

First, as you separate your identity from your feelings, you create agency to ride the seas through and over those waves of feelings — gentle, or rough (particularly now, with COVID-19)— rather than be swallowed by them

Second, life is about connecting. Free of the false belief that you and your feelings are the same, imagine how vulnerable, how honest you can be to share and receive care around the feelings you’re experiencing! On what grounds can feelings, which we all experience, be judged?

Third, knowing that I am separate from my feelings is empowering. I have choice about how I want to respond to experiences and what feelings I want to bring into life. This takes practice beginning with one and then another and another intentional breath in and breath out. As Nestor teaches, prime my intentions, one breath at a time. Over time, and with practice, I’m more able to respond than react and as life-enriching, choose and share feelings such as calm, peacefulness and joy!

Separating in order to connect, with ourselves and others. Isn’t that what we all need and want?