I recently posted the following experience on facebook:
Riding my bike, I cycled past a woman who was looking at her phone and then shrieked with delight. She said out loud “oh my god, yes!” then looked around as if reflexively seeking someone to share her joy with.
We caught each other’s eye and, whizzing by, I called out “Congratulations!” and she squealed, “Thank You!”
We don’t need to know the context or content to be able to connect with each other in a shared experience. Be it sorrow or ecstasy or anything in between, we can recognize entire worlds in one another if we’re willing to look up and at each other.
I really felt in that split second that I was celebrating something and I was- the human experience.
One of my friends made this comment, which got me thinking:
There’s something about sharing joy (or other intense emotions) with a perfect stranger that makes it all the more sweeter.. Perhaps it is that shared human experience you mention. It’s almost MORE special when we realize that we are all humans and have very similar experiences. It makes life feel less lonely.
While connection and intimacy is generally far easier with those we know and love and trust, those relationships come with so much context and content, that as we’re intimately connected to the other, we’re also intimately connected to the story line. Not that that’s a problem, it just makes the connection and intimacy personal.
This week’s practice is about having intimacy and connection be impersonal. Rather than connecting to the person or the story, what we relate to or what we don’t, we’ll put our attention on cultivating connection with the human experience itself.
This can help us cultivate a deeper sense of compassion for ourselves and for others as well as expand our experience of connectedness and being part of a whole.
We’ll explore and feel into two aspects of the human experience rather broadly.
Suffering and Freedom.
Try feeling it within yourself right now. Where can you feel your own suffering? Where can you feel a sense of freedom? It can be big picture or direct and in the moment. I can feel suffering in the slight headache I have. I can freedom in the flavour of the tea I’m drinking and the spaciousness that comes with Sunday morning.
So here’s the practice…
You’re going to be feeling into the freedom and the suffering of those around you, those you don’t know.
When you’re out and about, people watch. Notice how they move, notice how they speak, notice their pace, their face, their words. Feel the suffering in their pinched brow and the freedom in their smile.
Make eye contact with strangers. What happens when you look them in the eye? Can you see the suffering there? Can you see the freedom?
As you try this, feel what’s alive for you in your own experience- where’s your suffering? Where’s your freedom? Can you feel a kinship, connection to and intimacy with this stranger as you awaken to your shared experience of being human?
Do you keep a journal? It’s a fundamental part of the coaching process when I work with clients. Reflecting and writing these reflections down help to ground our awareness as well as show us some of our habits and patterns. Here are some reflections questions you could work with daily as you play with this practice.
- Looking back at the people I noticed and tried this practice with, what did I observe in them that connected me to their freedom or their suffering?
- In what ways could I connect to and relate to what I saw?
- What barriers could I feel to really feeling the ‘sameness’ in our humanity?
- How do these barriers impact my own sense of intimacy and compassion with myself?
After practicing all week, you may want to read back through these answers to your questions. After answering them every day, you might gleam something new. Then you could reflect on the following:
- What am I noticing about when it’s easy to connect with the fundamental human experience in others and when it’s more challenging?
- What judgements of myself or of others contribute to feelings of separateness?
- What fears arise for me when I consider our sameness, when I consider letting go of barriers that create separation?
- What could I do to demonstrate connectedness or to open more fully with others around our shared humanity?
I’d LOVE to hear your experience of this practice, please come on over to share on my facebook page.