Despite the incredible tools and technology that, in some ways, allow us to be more connected than ever, modern life is mainly taking us towards greater states of disconnection, on several levels. The effects and repercussions of this trend are becoming clearer as we forge our way forward in unprecedented times, separated from natural and ancestral ways of living and disconnected from a natural immersion in networks of human relationship. By extricating ourselves from these ways of living and being, we not only are conducting a great experiment, placing ourselves in conditions never before experienced by the human organism, but also, we are removing ourselves from the things and places that give us a sense of comfort, safety and belonging - a sense of being at home, in ourselves, our relationships, our communities, in the natural world, and in the cosmos. In order to not only preserve, but promote, our humanness, our sense of belonging and our wellness on all levels, it is time to change our approach. It is time to come back home.
Connection is at the heart of who we are on every level. Physically, our bodies have evolved to be woven into the fabric of the natural world that surrounds us, from the very microscopic to the greatest macro level. Sun, plants, air, and water, as just a few examples, are all necessary for life and support and strengthen the body in a variety of ways, many of which are seldom recognized or consciously appreciated. The sun, while nourishing the body directly through the production of vitamins, triggering of enzymatic and neuro-chemical changes, and setting of the circadian rhythms, is also the main player in our entire food chain and supply. The plants, feeding on the sun, then feed us (and the animals we eat). We essentially eat sunlight transformed. Plants also connect us to place, provide healing and nourishment, and feed our souls through their grounded presence and expansive beauty. Through a miraculous reciprocity with plants, combined with the element of air, we are given breath, and life. We rarely appreciate what an abundant and foundational relationship we have with air. Our breath is a continual gift, and through it, we are able to not only survive, but connect more deeply with body, spirit and consciousness, affect the nervous system and calm the stress response. Water is another necessary for life, and through our connection with it, we are nourished, hydrated and cleansed on all levels.
Even beyond these more obvious and necessary relationships with nature, the power of what it provides for us as humans goes ever deeper. Think about how our souls are fed by the pure beauty and being-ness of nature: sunsets, forests, flowers, rivers, mountains, stars, moon, ocean, sky. Nothing compares. Nature provides us with the constant invitation to come into the present moment, to slow down and tune in. It constantly shows up to bring us back to ourselves, and away from our hectic, fast-paced and consumerist-driven lives. It reminds us again and again, with endless patience, that we are here, and we have all we need.
On a micro level, our relationship and interactions with nature are equally significant. Through our exchanges with air, plants, soil, water, animals and humans, we are continually exposed to and populated with the beneficial bacteria, viruses and fungi necessary for life and health. Our internal micro-environment is one of the key determinants for health and greatly affects every aspect of our being. When our microflora is out of balance, we are vulnerable to every health problem, including acute or chronic illnesses, auto-immune issues, mental/emotional imbalance, addictions, cravings, depression and anxiety. The more balanced and varied our internal ecosystem, the more robust and resilient we are, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Given that there are more micro-organism than human cells in the body, one could argue that we are simply hosts and carriers to the micro-flora that live within us, and that the general balance therein is actually the main determinant of not only our health, but also of how we feel, how we act and what we choose to do. Having a healthy internal ecosystem then becomes an issue of not only health, but also of who we are and who we want to be.
Our relationships and interactions with other humans also affect us on multiple levels, from the energetic and subconscious, to the microscopic, to the emotional and psychological. In every exchange with another, be it a hug or simply being in the same space for any period of time, there is a sharing of biological intelligence happening below our conscious awareness. We exchange not only viruses and bacteria, but genetic information regarding our emotional state and stress level, and an energetic awareness and sometimes even resonance with another’s physiologic functions (such as heart rate and blood pressure). This influx of information, both physical and energetic, not only provides an understanding of the other’s state, but also offers the opportunity for an interweaving of our beings on a foundational level. This kind of deep, instinctual communication and exchange serves many practical and evolutionary purposes, while also giving us the very real feeling of being connected to, and accepted by, those around us. In every exchange, we not only diversify our microbiome (which has been shown to serve a protective effect in terms of immunity and sickness) and receive genetic information about current conditions and threats to survival, but also are given the opportunity to empathize and deepen connection. Relating to others in these kinds of meaningful ways can lead to a cascade of neuro-chemical changes and emotions that are highly beneficial on the psychological and heart-level, promoting both emotional and physical wellness.
In addition to the one-on-one, our connection to the larger community also helps us know ourselves, find meaning in life and feel a part of the world around us. As we weave ourselves into a community, we create our place within it, define and refine our gifts, find a sense of purpose and feel a part of something greater. Looking at our history as humans, it is clear that we were never meant to be loners, physically or psychologically. We need each other, we need to relate, we need to feel purposeful, we need to be valued, we need to be loved and we need to feel like our existence has meaning. Social support and acceptance create resilience on every level. It feels good to care and be cared for, to have a place and to contribute to the lives of others. Having a solid social support structure and meaningful interpersonal connections contributes to wellness in body, mind and spirit and provides a true sense of rootedness, belonging and stability in life.
While there are many external factors that influence how connected we feel, there are also several aspects of our internal processes that affect our ability to connect and how at home we feel with ourselves. Our relationship to self is truly foundational, and colors the way we think, how we feel and how well we are able to relate to others. Unfortunately, modern life and all that comes along with it is constantly pulling our attention out of and away from our inner senses and knowing, and tends to keep us operating on a more distracted and superficial level. High levels of stress and busyness keep us running from one activity to another, and our constant connection to screens and technology prevent nearly any moments of stillness or presence. This severely limits an even base-level awareness of our thoughts, feelings, sensations or body’s messages. On a deeper level, how can we ever hope to get in touch with the callings of our soul when we can’t even hear what is presenting itself to us obviously in each moment? How can we connect to our higher self, soul’s purpose or higher guidance without moments of pause and reflection? We rob ourselves of the opportunity for clarity, wisdom, intuition and knowing by being occupied in every moment, and by relinquishing boredom and stillness for constant activity and entertainment. This go-go-go lifestyle, which is uniquely modern, also fries our nervous system and adrenals and leads to over-stimulation, reliance on addictions and substances and emotional instability – all factors which further damage our relationship to self and create discomfort and disease in the body.
Our relationship to self is also often deeply damaged by wounds to our sense of self-esteem and self-value. This may begin in childhood, as we strive to live up to the expectations and ideals of our parents, teachers and other respected adults. We set in motion patterns of people-pleasing, attention-getting and validation that end up distancing us from our true selves, serving our deeper need for acceptance and recognition but creating inauthentic ways of interacting and being in the world. In addition to this, we are also immersed in an over-arching culture of competition, scarcity and unrealistic ideals and images. Our personal sense of value wanes as we live up to ideas of how we should be, compare ourselves with those we see around us and in the media, and are affected by the criticism and judgements of an overly harsh and competitive culture. As we lose appreciation for our bodies, the value of who we are and what we are here to offer, we create deep wounds that distance us from who we are at the core, hiding away the real version of ourself and feeling unfulfilled and disconnected.
We are also often cut off from our spiritual awareness from a young age, and taught to believe only in tangible physical reality. This leads to further disconnection from the self, as we lose our sense of the expansive, energetic souls that we truly are. If we are able to reconnect to this expanded version of ourselves, we get a very different perspective about our place within the cosmos, finding greater meaning and purpose in life and tapping into new kinds of support and wisdom.
While the conditions of modern life may stack the odds against us, it is not too late to change and create new habits and ways of living that support greater health, rootedness and fulfillment. Every act of conscious reconnection begins to shift our habits and contributes to the growth of not only healthier and more balanced ways of living, but also of new personal and cultural values and priorities. Every time we connect, with ourselves, with others, with community, with nature, with spirit or with our deepest and wisest soul-self, we weave ourselves back into life, and the nourishing experience of being, truly, at home.