When it comes down to it, connection is what we are all looking for. Connection is our driving force and our ultimate goal, yet we continually block our access to this blissful state of being choosing instead to barricade ourselves into our emotional forts, drawing up the drawbridge to true, authentic connection when things get rocky.
It’s difficult to put the feeling of connection into words but it is a feeling with the power to completely transform our lives. Often we feel most unhappy when we lose connection and we might not even realise that we were missing it until we find it again. When we feel connected our outlook on the world can completely change. Connection to our true selves can allow us to deeply feel and understand our emotions, which can free up space in our hearts and minds to reach out and connect to others. Connection to others can help us to cultivate deeply healing feelings of compassion, kindness and gratitude. This sense of compassion, kindness and gratitude can help us to see the beauty in the world around us, deepening our connection to nature and perhaps allowing us to tap into that elusive universal consciousness that connects us to every single plant, person, insect and animal.
This state sounds quite abstract but when experienced it is one of those ‘ you just know’ feelings. For me this happens when I feel at peace and my heart is huge and warm and ready for whatever the day has to offer. When I feel like this I start to behave like a mad woman making happy sounds at the sunrise whilst driving down the A5 or crying at the raw emotion of a song.
With all of this immense potential for personal growth, contentment and peace so readily available to us why is it that we so often struggle with this simple feeling? Our bodies and minds, like the electrical impulses that run through us, are wired to choose the path of least resistance and although the rewards to be reaped from living with open hearts are many; it is not always the easiest option. Sometimes it is easier in the moment to ignore someone who is deeply hurting us than to confront them or to say we are ‘fine’ when that couldn’t be further from the truth. To reconnect with ourselves and others we first have to step out of our comfort zone and put ourselves into a position of vulnerability. We have to take that first step, fully accepting that the outcome might not be the one that we want but realising that it is far better to tell an uncomfortable truth in a moment than to live a comfortable lie for a lifetime.
Our modern world provides endless opportunities for escape and disconnection making it all too easy to choose the path of least resistance. If we lived in close-knit communities where each person holds an integral role, isolation would just not be an option to us. We would have to face our problems head on but with the full support of our community. How often have you not felt like seeing anyone and then forced yourself to see friends or family and come away feeling a million times better? Sadly Netflix and ice cream is rarely the answer.
We live in a world where the meaning of connection, friendship, and relationships has changed dramatically. With social media now a ubiquitous presence in most of our lives we are more ‘connected’ than ever before but ironically less connected than ever. We have constant, immediate access to a wide network of people, which can give the illusion of connection but how many of those relationships are genuine and authentic and how many exist solely in the realm of small talk, niceties and approved social convention? We live a strange existence where people miss the present moment with loved ones in favour of capturing it to be shared later with strangers and acquaintances. Where people walk through the streets with their eyes and ears shut off to the sights and sounds, missing opportunities for interaction and experience. The image of couples sat at dinner in silence texting has sadly become a familiar one to us all yet not that long ago people had nothing but each other’s company for better or for worse. People had to talk to each other and that talking would be the making or the breaking of them. Before the invention of portable social media waiting in a queue was a time of thought and reflection or a time to exchange pleasantries with the people in your community. Now we have yet another quick and easy distraction method, the ultimate cultural epidemic of our time that alluring, dopamine fuelled refresh button. We are losing connection with our true selves and others because we are all too often choosing the path of least resistance, not allowing our minds the space to be and consistently distracting ourselves before we get the chance to think or feel.
As a lifelong sufferer of anxiety with a natural inclination towards introversion, I know all too well how easy it is to choose distraction as the coping mechanism of choice but once you experience the freedom of confronting those difficult situations and emotions with nothing to fall back on, you will never look back. Despite my biggest fears revolving around public speaking, social interaction and performance of any sort I have chosen two professions (yoga teaching and music performance) which require high levels of skill in all three of these areas. I couldn’t begin to tell you why things have ended up this way but I couldn’t be more grateful for the weekly challenge to my comfort zone. 6 years ago things got so bad that I couldn’t leave my room, let alone my house, I was so socially anxious that I was completely unable to enjoy any conversations and I couldn’t use public transport for well over 2 years. These days I somehow get up in front of a room of people on a weekly basis and face my fears but it’s not always easy and I have come to realise that at the very heart of how comfortable I feel on any given day is how connected I feel. I came to this realisation after the unbelievable turn out of kindness, love and community support throughout the ordeal with my dad. It left me with a deep, unwavering sense of connection and for the first time in my entire life I spoke, performed and interacted wholeheartedly and without inhibition. I was even able to open my eyes whilst singing, something I have never been able to do.
So the next time you notice yourself reaching for a distraction, see if you can resist and see what it feels like to just be. Next time you notice you and your partner stuck in a technology bubble, see if you can turn to them, ask them a question and really listen to the answer. Next time you feel yourself slipping into isolation, see if you can find someone to help or spend time with. And most importantly never ever be ‘fine’, no one is ever ‘fine’! If a friend of loved one asks you how you are, tell them how you really are!
‘Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.’ - Rumi