There are two ways of spreading light -- to be the candle,
or the mirror that reflects it.
-- Edith Wharton
The definition of connection is knowing another and being known by another. As our lives get busier and we cram more activities and appointments into our schedules, and increase our pace of accomplishment from a jog to a trot to a sprint, it becomes an out-of-control spiral of do, do, do. Most of us feel disconnected not only from our partners and loved ones, but also from ourselves. Creating authentic intimacy and connection with those we love means putting aside our electronic gadgets, our schedules, and our to-do lists, and opening our ears and hearts and exploring what it takes to simply listen to each other.
Connection and intimacy are interwoven and dependent. They are symbiotic -- one cannot exist without the other. Intimacy is having nothing to fear and nothing to hide. It is rare, and precious. It requires honesty and kindness, trust and forgiveness. Intimacy is being seen and known as the person you truly are.
We can take action, doing something to heal or soothe ourselves and others. You might wonder "Is it enough that my objective is to spend quality time with my family?" Yes, of course! Once again, it is not the magnitude or number of people you affect that counts. What's important is the engagement of the heart.
The Fear of Connecting
Last spring, I hosted a table at the Greater Delaware Valley Multiple Sclerosis Society fundraising luncheon for Women Against MS in Philadelphia. It was unsettling for me to notice that I couldn't get through my lunch or maneuver my scooter among the crowd without seeing someone reaching for a cell phone or already talking or texting on one. The unfortunate message sent out to the people present may be "there is someone else I'd rather be interacting with than you."
I wondered to whom the people at my table could be speaking with on their cell phones between the appetizer and the fish entrée. You would think that we all could have found someone in the room to relate to, given that we were all there for the same reason -- ridding this world of Multiple Sclerosis -- instead of being distracted by our smart phones (and temporarily removed from the event). The thought occurred to me that maybe most of us fear intimacy and deep connection even when we are sitting next to each other at a fundraising luncheon supporting a cause that we all have in common.
Our days are filled with beeps and pings, many of which pull us away from tasks at hand or face-to-face conversations. We may feel that the distractions are too much, but we can't seem to stop posting, texting or surfing. The benefits are obvious: checking messages on the road, staying in touch with friends and family, efficiently using time spent waiting around.
Even while we're standing next to each other... we choose technology to communicate. From texting at dinner to posting on Facebook from work, or texting or checking email while driving, on a date, or sitting across from each other at a restaurant, the connectivity revolution is creating a lot of divided attention, not to mention social angst, danger and separation -- ironically the very opposite of connection!
When someone starts texting at a party, or at a business meeting, or at a luncheon, it may be taken as an insult by those physically present. The downside is that we're often effectively disconnecting from those in the same room. Psychologists agree this is not good and it's time we take a good look at what we are creating. We've come to confuse continual connectivity with making real connection. We're always 'on' and available to everyone in our social and professional circles at every minute; and they are available to us.
When you actually look more closely, in some ways we've lost the time for the conversations that count. Listen closely, everyone, I want to remind you that technology can be turned off.
It's no surprise that, with to-do lists a mile long and overloaded and multitasked schedules, most of us aren't even aware that intimacy and connection are missing from our lives.
We may even feel lonely, and not know why. Something feels "off." With each new gadget or next new thing we acquire, we learn how to connect with others in a new way. We teach our brains how to deal, reorder, repackage, rethink and reinvent. We are getting smarter and faster, yet more and more isolated. We can no longer assume we have someone's full attention when we're physically with them. We're saying to each other in one way or another that we can always put each other on "pause."
As we go through the aging process and experience grief and loss as friends and family pass on, the need for connection to extended family, friends, community, and to all of humanity, becomes even more important. Being connective means being ready to connect. In other words, each time we connect with someone, we should treat the experience with awe and respect, as if it were the same offering of Spirit, not unlike the handwritten letters of yesteryear. We should realize and be grateful for all the things that matter -- beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace -- and begin to awaken to what really matters to us... and why.
WHEELCHAIR WISDOM GUIDANCE:
What or who do you want to be more connected to in your life?
List three things:
You can also list feelings.
What positive thoughts do you nourish to make this happen?
What action do you need to take?
Be bold and disconnect for one day. I am going to experiment with this myself.
Linda Noble Topf is a bestselling author, blogger for Huffington Post and a motivational speaker
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