CoSozo Living

The Human Connection
  • Christine Andrew founded CoSozo out of a desire to help people become more empowered to live happier...

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Wed, January 1, 2014
This New Year: Connect With Others to Connect With Yourself
Fresh on the heels of the hustle and bustle that is our holiday season comes a new chapter - the New Year. Full of promise and hope, the New Year brings to us the very representation of what it means to be alive - the promise of fresh dreams and time to fulfill those dreams not yet manifest. The New Year can bring fervent focus and activity to capture what has yet eluded us as we broaden our desires of what we'd like to accomplish and hone our time and attentions to help us realize our goals.

Some of us focus on weight loss or fitness, while others work on ceasing bad habits, or even reducing the clutter in our lives or striving to achieve a better work-life balance. We feel renewed vigor and dedication from entering another new year in our lives and all of those activities can help us feel like we're getting back on track if we feel we've veered off course, or feel like we're gaining traction if we have goals we'd like to accomplish. Our relationship with ourselves is the one constant in our lives and all of these activities are our way of pursuing the best "self" we can be in the world.

The other part of our lives is spent in relation with others: animals, family, friends, colleagues, even our spiritual leaders. These relationships also often make our list of goals as we head into a new year. We identify that we want to spend more time and/or more quality time with loved ones, friends, family, or even participating in philanthropic or volunteer activities. These two primary areas of growth and focus, our relationship with self and our relationship with others, are perfectly designed to help us evolve into the person we have the potential to be.

We all have a story. The triumphs and disappointments, soaring accomplishments and even cringe-worthy moments we'd often rather forget. Take a moment and reflect on the interactions you've had with those who have crossed your life path. How many of those interactions have helped you to define what you want, what you don't want, what you're grateful for, what you yearn for, and have become a part of the foundation of whom you are in the world? How can you open yourself up to the wisdom from connecting more with others? Here are a few things to remember, gleaned in part from my own life and my own "story".

1.)  Don't Dismiss the Seemingly Small Interactions

Years ago I was driving through town running errands on an otherwise non-noteworthy day. My head, undoubtedly, was filled with the lists of things to do and inconsequential thoughts of the events that comprised my life at the time. It was a Saturday near summertime with lots of cars filling the streets, everyone pursuing their own version of accomplishing their day's events.

As I neared the corner of the intersection I glanced to the right and saw someone in a wheelchair stuck in the gravel that lined the edge of a gas station parking lot. It was clear that he was struggling to free himself and his chair from the gravel and I instantly was filled with compassion. I thought of all of the things that I take for granted, like moving freely in my life, and tried to break free from the rest of the traffic to get back to help him. By the time I could get around the traffic I was so far down that I decided not to go back, rationalizing that surely someone had stopped to help him.

I've never forgotten that moment or that decision, all these years later it remains a haunting memory for me of the fact that I could have helped and didn't. We all know our own truths, and with the blessing of time and inner wisdom come to recognize when we are making excuses for ourselves and falling short of our own ideals. In those brief moments, I fell short of my own. I've never known the man's name but he gave to me an extraordinary lesson in my life of what it feels like to look back on a decision, an action or inaction, and know that it didn't represent who you truly are or what you want to express in the world.

In those moments I learned that excuses or rationalizations are a far cry from giving everything you've got, even if ultimately you miss your goal. To be able to say you truly showed up for yourself in your life is the best gift you can give yourself, and that lesson was one I learned from someone I've never spoken with and who crossed my path for perhaps 30 seconds at a distance.

2.)  Stories Can Change

This one is a biggie and has a lot of different layers to it. It is part of the blessing of being alive in the world - being able to determine who we are and what we do while we're here. Our lives aren't stagnant either, we all have cycles where life is good and easy and flowing while other times present challenges and even hardships. We have the option of defining our experiences for ourselves in any way we choose. Think of a story you tell yourself about who you are in your life, what has happened to you, even who you are within your own family. Is it possible that you could frame that story a different way with time or a change in perspective? And if you changed your own story about who you are, what would that mean about what your life stands for and where you're heading?

Perhaps you were raised in a home with an alcoholic parent and spent much of your life telling yourself and others that it wasn't safe to trust others. You developed emotional walls that could shield you from unexpected outbursts from others and most importantly, guard your heart from the hurt that those close to you could cause. Your story over time became, "My dad was an alcoholic and as a result I don't trust a lot of men." As you progress through your life though what you come to realize is that while the essential facts of your story are indeed true, what you really learned was to become self-sufficient and to trust in your own ability to provide for your needs. While both may be true, you can recognize the strengths that you gained from a challenging experience and use those strengths to carry you forward in your life.

3.)  The More You Give Of Yourself, The More You Receive

My husband and I were in Thailand a couple years ago during monsoon season. The flooding was devastating, affecting some 65 of their 77 provinces, particularly in Bangkok and the Chao Praya river basin. We went to their version of the Red Cross to volunteer, a journey that lasted a couple hours as we weren't sure where to go.  When we finally arrived we found our way to their blood center and the sight literally took our breath away. The hallways and corridors of the modern, two story facility were lined with people. As we opened the main door to the building to enter we both were stunned and it took a moment to take it all in. Hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people had all come down to donate blood and plasma for all of those in need. It was single-handedly the most beautiful visual of the massive potential of the human spirit that I'd ever witnessed. The outpouring of love and compassion was palpable.

When we found our way in the compound to the area where they were loading food, water, and supplies to be shipped out to the affected provinces, we found another surprise. We'd come to volunteer, to help these beautiful people who had been so kind and welcoming to us. But when we found the coordinator, she told us they'd had so many volunteers come there simply wasn't enough for more people to do. I'd never even considered that could be possible before - that in the face of a natural disaster so many people could pitch in, there wasn't anything else that could really be done. We did ultimately find a few ways to help but we got far more than we gave.

By the time we left, we'd spent the afternoon there. We'd come to give of ourselves, to share with others, to help, thinking that we'd be giving to them. But that's not what happened. I could never put down on paper the enormity and sheer beauty of what a gift it was to see such an incredible out-pouring of love and when I imagine what's possible in the world, the miracles that we can create if we choose, that is undoubtedly the memory that I retrieve.

4.)  Don't Discount Those Who Are Different

We seem to be in a time in our world with a lot of black and white thinking. The sentiment seems to be that people are either with us or against us, depending on whether they agree with a given political or moral position, with very little discussion once those "positions" are known. Years ago, I was living with my boyfriend at the time. I found myself on a work trip with a colleague who was a born again Christian. I hadn't known that he was born again until that trip and much of the trip focused on his concern for the spiritual safety of my soul, given the decisions I'd made about living with my boyfriend.  At the time, I'd known of born again Christians but had never met one, let alone had the opportunity to talk about what that belief system meant and what their specific beliefs were. It was a fascinating and enlightening conversation.

Years later, I formed a deep friendship with a woman who is an atheist and got to have the most exhilarating conversations about what it means to be an atheist and how life looks and feels through that belief system, particularly around the areas of death and the afterlife. I'd never considered what the world would look like as an atheist, nor what life would mean through the framework of an atheist perspective and I found the process of considering all of those new possibilities extraordinarily interesting.

For those unfamiliar with my history, I grew up as a minister's daughter. My dad spent his entire career as a Presbyterian minister so religion has touched my life almost my entire life. I am passionate about spirituality and have my own views of religion. I could have discounted both of these relationships merely because their belief systems were different than my own but if I had, I would have missed out on the tremendous opportunity to see the world from a different perspective. I don't ever want to think that I know it all or become closed to new possibilities in life. There are always so many new things to discover about this mysterious process we call life. Being able to consider these new perspectives brought more depth to my life and even more importantly opened to the door to deep and respectful friendships that have enriched me as a person.

Every person who crosses our path has a story as well. Whether their experiences are similar or completely foreign to our own, they have something to offer us that can help us connect with the most authentic parts of whom we are. By connecting with others, we open the doorway to deeper aspects of ourselves. Take a chance this New Year and include on your list of goals to connect more with others. You won't be disappointed!

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