Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Does Connection Matter?

Grailville 2011, through a screen
from a Tricycle interview with Gil Fronsdal
..........the American Vipassana movement emphasizes interconnectedness when teaching anatta, or “not-self.” This is emphasized so much that a person might get the idea that realizing interconnectedness is the ultimate goal of Buddhism. It’s not; this is a very American emphasis. I think interconnectedness is inspiring to us as an antidote to American individualism and the pain of alienation it can cause. 
This interests me from a couple of points of view. One, I am a devoted member of a Unitarian Universalist church, which emphasizes interconnection as one of its seven core principles.  Two, I have seen this emphasis on aspiring to deeply realize our connectedness in American Zen, and a mystic's life is not for me.  I think it's important to emphasize the entire 8-Fold Path, which makes clear that our behavior is important.  If you set out to follow the precepts there, it will keep you busy.

On the other hand, as the scapegoat in an alcoholic family I grew up without a sense of having a family or connection, except insofar as I could connect with some poets through their poetry - sobering even to remember that intense loneliness.  So for me, personally, realizing my connectedness to what family I have, my friends, my church, has been healing; it's what kept me alive during my years of profound clinical depression. Therefore I stopped writing just now and called Nancy, a dear friend from years of meditating together.  And now, to connect with Tom over breakfast.
Oh man, such a long long too-much-to-do list today.  This is the result of addressing it sporadically, and a lot of change going on in our lives.  And sporadic is my buddhanature.  Meanwhile in back of mind, what is more important?  going to Zen tonight, see special friends there, or doing collage assn. while perhaps listening to a dharma talk?  Hmmmm........What is the most important thing?  I used to think it was my private spiritual practice, as in meditating.  Now it expands out to it being important to be there, sitting with the group, making the group.  The collage group tomorrow morning is a sort of practice, too, and certainly connection with other women in my age group.  But they really don't care if I do the assn, do they?  They shouldn't.......But my health and well-being is surely the most important thing. 

Breathe in, exhale. Cool down.  Abandon idea of going out in the noonday sun for major grocery shopping.  Decide to go to Zen tonight.  A bunch of Zenners meditating is about as cool as you can get. And staying cool physically and mentally is becoming a priority as summer barrels at us here, going up to 95 degrees today.  Already, even the little cat is irritable.


  1. In some ways though, I feel like it might be possible to use "interconnectedness" as a dharma gate. As in, if I can truly realize the interconnectedness of all things, that there is no separate self then that is realizing the Buddha way. Possibly? I'll have to go read the rest of his article :-)

  2. I think you're right. And mystical experience or insight has actually been very important in my path. I've found, though, that I also have to make a conscious effort in this relative body to practice the precepts when I am not animated by universal love. Thanks, LuLu.