Silence, Separation and Connection

I’ve been thinking about connection.

About how in the face of our western, independent mindset we get to feeling deserted, lost and alone. About how the very pain of that experience can open us to see the illusion in that thinking and feel the deeper truth of our connection to . . . well . . .  everything.


Photo Credit: arcaion via Pixabay

This month I spent a week in meditation at a retreat center in New Mexico. The setting was a nature preserve in the middle of national forest. Our group of about 40 people was invited to make a commitment to silence and encouraged keep eye contact to a minimum. We began and ended each day with a session in the mediation hall, but most of the remaining hours were spent outdoors.

When I was describing it to someone afterward she asked, “Well if you’re not talking or looking at each other, why do this with other people??” Before I did this kind of retreat, I wondered the same thing. 

There’s a remarkable thing that happens when we drop the social mores of polite interaction & conversation. 

We drop the social masks as well. 

The invisible barriers, self-protection, and defenses seem to fall away. In all that silent, internal processing, a deep well of connection reveals itself.

Here’s how it showed itself to me this time.

My experience on other retreats has been that the second day finds me feeling raw and vulnerable. This time was similar. I should mention that I’m aware I have a pretty well-developed radar system. I tend to notice the energy of what’s going on around me, and for the most part, I have a pretty peaceful relationship with that part of myself.

On day two I showed up for the morning meditation, found a space to sit and settled in. As we sat in silent meditation, someone to my left coughed. A wave of energy pushed up against my left side. It felt a bit like standing outdoors when a strong wind kicks up & pushes against you. In my mind, a little whisper of self-recrimination said, “Seriously?” Then just in case I didn’t “get it” there came another cough, this time from behind me & to my right. Another wave. Followed by a much louder, more critical, more judgmental, internal recrimination. “Seriously? Seriously?? You have to feel coughs too??” The criticism wasn’t pointed at the people nearby who simply had to cough. In classic form, it was directed at myself. 

I’ve invested a lot of attention and intention toward putting down that deeply-entrenched self-criticism and embracing the more gentle, more sensitive part of myself. And yet, in an instant, that hard-won, peaceful relationship with my sensitive nature had dropped away and the old internal, berating, sarcastic voice in my head was humiliating one of the most precious, tender and loving parts of myself. In that silent meditation hall – with huge windows looking out onto shimmering aspens and an unspeakably beautiful meadow, supported by the shared intention of a room full of people – some precious, young part of myself was getting tormented by another part of me, a me that decided long ago it’s much more safe to be tough, defended and not to feel.

It was all that silence that let me watch with such clarity as this old, painful dynamic unfolded. 

It was all that silence that let me watch, with gratitude, the deep well of connection that supports us when we stay with our pain long enough to discover what’s waiting just below it.

As I sat with my internal process, I noticed the field of grasses in the meadow outside. Without an ounce of contrivance I could see how those of us inside the meditation hall were just like that field of grass, fed by the earth and sun, tossed and turned by the wind. And under those supple, flexible blades of green, an interwoven, interconnected root system.

In the following days I was drawn, again and again, to reminders of that interconnection and all the ways our critical inner voice can make us feel separate.

I settled into that magnetic rhythm of sunrise and sunset, felt the nourishment of the rain and sun, embraced the gratitude for delicious foods, woke to the songs of birds, leaned into old, strong tree trunks. I witnessed the river directed by the landscape and the landscape shaped by the water, birds carried by delicate feathers on invisible winds. I watched the natural cycles of birth and death in the landscape outside my skin and in the landscape within my own being as internal storms rose up and then melted away into a deeper, more complete truth.

This human existence is filled with messages and experiences that tell us we’re separate, alone. 

Yet, what I was reminded of during those few days was the deeper truth of how profoundly we touch and are touched by everyone and everything around us.

At the close of the retreat when we were told of the shootings in Orlando, I’m sure I’m not the only person who met that new reality with an open and empathetic heart. Who felt a kinship with those deeply impacted by this tragedy and a true wish for their comfort and healing, for the comfort and healing of us all.

For me, this is the challenge and beauty of life. To live in this world where it all exists – hatred and love, violence and compassion, separation and connection. To witness it all, allow space for it all in our hearts and minds. And to hopefully find the courage and the peace to continue to open, to embrace our interconnection, to love freely and to act with compassion.

May we all be well.

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  1. Barb June 26, 2016 at 7:37 am #

    Beautifully described, Kelly.

    • Kelly June 29, 2016 at 10:36 am #


  2. Winnie June 26, 2016 at 8:25 am #

    To recognize connection to all in a field of grasses is a profound insight that is instantly knowable. Thank you Kelly.

    • Kelly June 29, 2016 at 10:36 am #

      You’re welcome! I hope it helps you notice your own reminders of connection. 🙂

  3. Rhona August 14, 2016 at 9:12 am #

    Just reading this blog, so beautifully detailed, brings a soft wave of peace. Thank you for sharing your insights.

    • Kelly August 15, 2016 at 9:36 am #

      Thanks Rhona! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

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