Not too long ago I was in the forest cutting firewood. I had been there a couple of hours when a feeling of profound peacefulness and deep connection surprised me as I turned off my chainsaw, looked around the forest, noticed the smell of the pines, felt the earth under my feet, and listened to the breeze making its way through the trees.
We all need spaces where we feel safe, connected, and at peace. For many, perhaps most of us, it can be challenging to find those moments of deep connection in relationships even though this is at the core of what it means to be human. And yet, it is these moments of connection that we all come into the world expecting. The infant and her parent gazing into each other’s eyes, no words needed. It is a moment of being seen and heard, of being fully accepted. And in that moment, that infant is learning something about her value, about belonging, and how safe she will feel in the world. Those moments of deep connection provide us with a foundation of well-being.
In so much of the world, even when those moments are available to an infant, we experience fewer and fewer opportunities to connect at that level as we grow older. Instead, we look for that elsewhere, sometimes in healthier ways, sometimes in more damaging ways.
And still, that longing for deep connection in relationship seems to open windows, if only briefly, from time to time. It might be in relationship with someone who is dear to us, or it could be a complete stranger…
I pass someone on the sidewalk of a busy street. We make eye contact, and there is this very warm and connected moment, accompanied by a smile. And then, habitually, we become self-conscious (we leave ourselves), look away, and continue on our way. But there is a residual, a felt sense, if only for a few moments longer, of well-being and belonging. In that brief moment, it feels as if I am tapping into something deeper and larger than this self I have built, a place where there are no questions about acceptance, no concern about conflicting beliefs, no desires beyond this moment.
Connection, especially deep connection, is not something we can understand or feel with our mind. It involves the senses; the basic senses we are more easily aware of, and also a felt sense. It is an opening of our soul, all of who we are. It is beyond our reactive ways of responding. The most honest conversations we can have come out of this type of connection. And these “conversations” rarely require spoken language. There is a depth to these moments of connection that is beyond words. It reminds me of what Tara Brach talks about as a “field of belonging that’s beyond any story”, beyond any set of beliefs that guide and direct our lives. A moment when we step away from the flood of thoughts that take up residence in our heads.
The more openings we can cultivate for these moments of deeper connection to occur, the more we can see others and be seen for who we are, our essence. Ironically, when those moments do occur and we are able to take that in, it can feel overwhelming, in part, because it is such a basic human need, but one that is so often not realized. Yet it touches us, allows our humanness. We need to nurture the possibilities, create space for, these moments of deeper connection; their absence leads us in the direction of separateness and isolation, and we are in a world that is calling out for deeper connection.