Typically, we think of relationships in terms of our connection to the people we see every day, our friends, our families and ourselves, and perhaps to our immediate environment.
I think relationship goes much deeper than this.
Carl Jung coined the term collective unconscious, which is the idea that we are all connected on an ethereal plane because we share memories from our ancestral and evolutionary past. In this way, we have a relationship with everyone in the world and everyone who came before us.
However, I believe the scope of relationship is even larger than this. Not only are we all connected, but we are also all connected to the things around us.
Think about vegetation for a minute. Plants have an enormous relationship to sustaining life. Yet how often do we think of the relationship of non-human forms as being significant to our lives and well-being? We step on a plant and it dies. But what if you had not stepped on it and it had not died? Perhaps it would have grown into a beautiful peach tree that could have provided sustenance for a hungry person.
I noticed a beautiful Oriole in my yard today. For a moment, I was clearly aware of my relationship to this beautiful bird. I saw its connection to the tree, the sky, and how its song filled the air around me. I wondered how different my life would be if I did not realize that I was in relationship to this Oriole.
It is truly impossible to know the network of interconnectedness that exists and affects all living things. There is simply nothing that is not in relationship to each and every one of us. The secret to seeing the connectivity is a matter of feeling it, allowing ourselves to be aware that we are in relationship to all things.
Here is a short meditation you can practice to expand your awareness of relationship in the world:
- Take several deep, slow breaths to quiet your mind. Tune in to your environment for a few minutes, while you continue to breathe fully. Notice what you feel and see yourself in relationship with.
- Now consider what you may have missed. Try widening and narrowing the focus of your senses, and see if your perception changes.
- Think of how you believe these discoveries affect you and how you affect them. How could you and the things you have relationship to affect others and vice versa? The world?
I would like to end with a quote by Carl Jung that speaks to the power of relationship:
The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.