A Field Guide to Life – Principle #8 – Unity

by Brad on December 25, 2012

This installment of A Field Guide to Life shows how everything is connected to everything, all a manifestation of the same energy of creation. It challenges you to reinvent your life story – to one that acknowledges the connectedness you share, with others and with all life.


Principle #8 – Connectedness

“I am a part of all that I have met.”– Alfred Lord Tennyson

Nature’s Principle: Fourteen billion years ago, the universe sprang into being with a flash of primordial energy, energy that to this day powers all of nature’s creative processes. Due to that singular event, everything in the universe always has been, is now, always will be, inextricably connected to everything else. Whether matter or energy, animate or inanimate, visible or not, it’s all the current manifestation of energy from the universe’s creation. We experience the expression of this energy, manifesting in different ways and rates, making things appear separate to us, when in fact, they are truly all one. Because of this, an action by any thing affects every thing. Even the mere presence of an organism affects every other organism. All opportunity, therefore, unfolds only from the unity of this whole, an interconnected sea of possibility, infinite, without boundaries. Meaning derives not from details or individual events, but from the context in which those events exist. Details have no meaning when separated from the whole. In order to know a thing, we have to know what it’s connected to, because connectedness is one of its attributes. Everything is “context sensitive;” nothing survives as a fragment.

It’s impossible for our minds to fully grasp the significance of the mystery; in fact, all we can do is observe it. One conclusion we can draw, however, is that life is not the straight line, cause-and-effect system we learned in school. It’s a miraculous, complex, often-unpredictable web of interconnectedness. Quantum science has taken the principle of connectedness a step farther, with a concept of non-locality, which asserts that a change in condition of a particle someplace in the universe can result instantaneously in a “paired change” in a related particle, no matter where in the universe it may be. This idea of non-local action, or “cause at a distance,” violates all our cause-and-effect learning. Yet its truth asks us to see life as a unified whole, everything connected.

The Opening Offered: The interconnectedness of absolutely everything means all our struggle – uncertainty, chaos, sadness, complexity, fear – is inextricably tied to everything else in life. Chaos is part of wholeness, not something we rip apart from its surroundings to make us feel better. This offers a phenomenal opening; it’s not life or the world, but rather the way we see life and the world, that creates the problems we experience. Only by changing the way we believe, see and think, about ourselves, others, work, life and our world can we bring inside our frame or view that which we formerly thought was separate from us, and therefore an object of our control. The key to expanding our perspective is to see everything for the interconnectedness it is, despite our not being able to know it all.

Prevailing Wisdom: We’ve learned we need to be in control of our lives. Unaware it’s futile, we create all kinds of elaborate structures to give us a [false] sense of certainty, in a world that is inherently uncertain by design. Even classical science as we learned it in school encourages, or better said, depends upon, this: break the world into little pieces, get to know the pieces, feel good you know and control something, then move on to the next piece; keep repeating throughout life. It’s a compensation strategy for our unwillingness to accept uncertainty and complexity as facts of life. It’s so ingrained, however, that we fail to see that it has caused more problems for us than the uncertainty it’s designed to eliminate. We’ve gone so far as to disconnect ourselves from soul, spirit, feeling and intuition, just to ‘be in control.’ Then we wonder why we feel lost.

The Opportunity/Promise: Our true potential lies in knowing that every belief, thought, word or action makes a difference – whether intentional or not, whether positive or negative. Too complex to be fully grasped, the idea is not too complex, however, to be fully experienced. By seeing and allowing connectedness, we start to discover that meaning comes from life’s context, not from the day-to-day happenings and events. By seeing meaning in a new way, we’d create meaning in a new way. And by always feeling a sense of connectedness, we’d have a natural antidote to the loneliness and despair that permeate our society. Looking at the principles of connectedness and simultaneity together, we see that all possibilities not only exist in each moment, but they’re completely connected to each other in an infinite sea called the “field of potential.” We create order out of that chaos with our perception, bringing one possibility into reality with intention, and so giving life its meaning.

Nature’s Story: Between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, the latest cycle of glaciation drew to a close. As the up-to-9000-foot-thick ice cover receded, it exposed a land scraped clean of life. From places to the south came lichen, pioneers to colonize newly exposed land. A combination of algae and fungus, lichen is a community, an association built around common purpose. The algae provides a food source through photosynthesis, and the fungus provides structure, so it has form and place in which to live. Lichen colonize bare rock, and over hundreds of years, work their way into cracks, breaking rocks apart, the first step in the formation of soil. In time, there’s enough soil to support plants unable to live on bare rock, but now at home in a newly emerging landscape. Millennia pass, and as more plants grow and die, decaying plant matter returns nutrients, creating more soil. Eventually forest covers the land, as we see today across central Canada, for example. Forest and land become home to more plants, birds and animals, suited to a changing landscape. It’s a community, too, self-organized out of the myriad choices available, nature having stepped into the opportunities offered, one after another. Nature’s creative expression drove the process, with each species matched perfectly to the conditions at the time. A single tree in this forest never stands alone. It’s part of, and inextricably tied to, soil, nutrients, water, and ultimately to the sun’s energy that powers the process. Trees themselves come and go, with rhythm that never stops, yet with only the process creating them sustained. The forest we see today is both the same forest and a very different forest from the one we’d see hundreds of years hence. A great-horned owl on a spruce branch is, both at the same time a single organism and nothing at all without the entire forest community upon which it depends. Connectedness. All is one.

My Story: Although connectedness is evident everywhere, I need to be aware of it lest I get caught in the trap of separateness that defines our world. When immersed in “life as story,” however, I find I hold life more sacred, thereby noticing more. When I notice more, I experience life more fully. (See practices to grow awareness). I once had the opportunity to be part of a Native American tradition of connectedness. The premise: personal culture, the carrier of life meaning, is an invisible container, a basket woven of the threads of experience – connectedness to the land, family history, sense of self and place in the world. It’s up to each of us to weave our own story by making conscious the threads from which we derive our sense of meaning. I learned about cultural baskets in a deeply personal way, a high-desert wilderness retreat in native tradition, sleeping under a blanket of stars breathtaking beyond compare, waking to the howl of a coyote at dawn, and to sunrise that slowly painted the canyon walls with a soft red glow. As I sat quietly one morning near the remains of the previous night’s campfire, warmed by the sun now piercing the desert’s cold morning air, a teenager in the group walked quietly toward the fire pit and sat at its edge. Without a sound, yet with clearest intention, he gathered twigs of sagebrush, bits of straw, a few bark peelings, and assembled them into a ball, which he cradled in the palm of his hand. He then coaxed a single ember from the old coals into the ball and blew on it lightly until smoke, then a spark, appeared. As he deftly set the glowing ball into the fire pit, we watched together; a fire was burning. It took perhaps 15 minutes; done in silence, in peace, with reverence and love. Yet it loudly declared his intention, belief in self, trust in the unknown, and deep connection with the land – no doubt threads of his cultural basket. And in that moment, of my basket too. All connected.

An Invitation: Everything you think, say and do profoundly affects your life as well as the lives of others. You choose the energy (attitude, awareness, attention, acceptance, action) you put into life, then receive back according to what you put in. What’s possible in life comes wholly from your way of seeing; the more clarity and perspective defining your view, the more possibility you have. We’re all storytellers; we create, tell and live our stories. Our stories create our reality. How might you change the course of your life simply by changing the story you tell? Think for a moment; what is the story you tell? How does it compare to the story you live? How do the choices you make affect your life? The lives of others? How would life be different if you lived from the knowing that all life is connected and that everything you think, say and do affects everything else? Do you gratefully honor the gift that life is. 


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