Dear WorkWell Community,
We are all connected, aren’t we? We share a culture, a language, this city of ours, Austin. We all travel along the same roads, visit many of the same restaurants, hike the same trails, groove to the same music.
It’s so tempting to feel isolated, separate and alone, isn’t it? Even when we are surrounded by others, we feel separate. We may be driving in our car alone and feel no connection to the other people sharing the road with us. The truth, however, is that we are very much depending upon those other people, aren’t we? We are depending upon them to be awake, sober, alert. To be willing and able to follow the laws of safe driving. In fact, our very existence, depends entirely upon the people with whom we are sharing the road. Do we take the time to recognize this? To feel grateful to them for caring about the preciousness of life and their fellow humans? Do we take the time to wish them a safe ride, a good day at work, a good song on the radio?
We may be in our home and feel no connection to the many people in our neighborhood and city. And yet, of course, if they were not there, we could not be there either. Without them, our neighborhood would be a ghost town. We all depend on one another being there. That’s how we have roads and grocery stores and gardens and schools. We are very much connected with our neighbors. We could literally not exist in the way that we do, if it were not for them.
We may even be interacting with people at work, church or at a party, but underlying our interactions is a sense that there is a “me” interacting with a “you”, and that we are inherently separate entities.
Do we ever stop to wonder whether or not that is actually true? This sense of being a separate self is taught to us from birth and is constantly being reinforced by the ways we talk and think about the world. Have you ever tried to go a day without using the word “I”? It would be very difficult to do, because this idea of a separate self is so deeply ingrained in our language and our way of thinking and being in the world.
But we can come up with any number of examples that will show us that what we consider to be “me” could not exist without other people and places. It can’t exist without context. It certainly can’t exist without sunshine, rain, and an earth to live upon. It only exists within the framework of all of creation and also within the framework of all of humanity. It is impossible to find an example anywhere in which the self exists completely alone with no context.
I think this is the meaning of the koan “what is the sound of one hand clapping?” Having heard that all my life, I realized just the other day why that question is significant. It points us to the truth that, just as one hand cannot clap itself, one life cannot live itself. It’s absurd. We are not separate. It’s impossible to be so.
Perhaps you are thinking, “yeah, so what?” It is almost a cliche to say “we are all connected”. Is it just a saying without meaning or does it mean something? Do we notice this and think, “sure, that’s true” while we go on living as a separate self? Will it make a difference in our lives if we stop to consider that maybe this whole idea of being a separate self isn’t true?
As some of you may know, I follow Buddhist teachings and meditate with a group of people who do the same. This insight, the one I am sharing about there not being such a thing as a separate self, is the basic realization that the Buddha had. It’s not that hard to see, but it takes some practice and concentration to apply. But we don’t need to be Buddhists to see this. It actually has nothing to do with that. It’s just an insight into how we view the world, which might be flawed, and this basic flaw might be the cause of a lot of suffering. It’s just something to ponder.
I can’t say whether or not it will make a difference for you to question the existence of a separate self. But I know that for me, the practice of looking into that, over and over again has made me much larger, more loving, more open and more at peace. And, of course, for many others, as well, this simple deep question has unlocked something very profound.
So, I certainly invite you to try it. I need frequent reminders, which is why I meditate and listen to talks from spiritual teachers and converse with friends who keep pointing these things out to me. And I’m part of that, too. Continuing to remind myself and others to look again and see whether or not we still believe we are separate. Can we let go of that belief again? If so, what happens?
WorkWell Austin is 6 years old now. For the duration of these 6 years, I have been going along this path, trying to be a good business owner. Trying to understand my role or roles here. Of course, on the surface, I have many roles which encompass everything from choosing the building to sweeping the floor, maintaining equipment, hiring and training staff, managing schedules, booking appointments, marketing, accounting, etc.
Those have been a playground and a classroom for me to learn many new skills, to make mistakes, some very painful ones, and to celebrate successes and relationships. But deeper than that, there is a reason that this exists. Certainly, it is to provide great massages to our clients. But more than that it is to connect amazing people with one another to help facilitate our healing and personal growth. I have always felt that connection and that sense of community between us all. Even though most of you who come to WorkWell have never met each other, the therapists here and, especially myself, see this very connected community of people on a path of personal healing, health, love and growth.
Just recently I began a series on our Facebook page called Humans of WorkWell, modeled after the beloved Humans of New York blog. I have so greatly enjoyed being able to do these interviews and photoshoots. I just ordered my first ever real camera, so I can begin honing my skills as a photographer. The interview process is also evolving, and it is so satisfying and beautiful to me. Getting to know our clients even more deeply and share their strength and beauty with our community has enhanced that sense of connectedness that I felt was there all along.
Now, I am beginning to blog for us, writing to you all once or twice a month, and that, too, feels like a deepening of the connection we all share. I am so grateful for it. My dear friend, Alexis, will also be doing some blogging for WorkWell, and her writings will be well-researched massage and health related posts. My posts are going to be more along the lines of this one. Speaking to you from my heart about the things that matter most to me: our personal, intellectual, cultural and spiritual growth. I look forward to connecting more and more deeply with my beloved community. It is such an honor simply share in this existence with you. To realize how precious it is, how much we really do need and support one another. Thank you for being here, for bringing your unique perspective and light. Thank you to all of us for showing up.