As some of you may know, I have been participating in a year long meditation program called A Year to Live, based on Stephen Levine’s book of the same name. Facilitated by Mary Stancavage, we met in the famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery this month. We were given what has been one of the most difficult and eye-opening practices yet. A reflection from Roshi Joan Halifax:
What is your worst and best case scenario of how you will die? What am I doing now to prepare for whatever death is given to me?
At first glance, this may seem dark to say the least. As I pondered my worst case scenario, flashes of pain and fear rushed through my mind. But as I dove deeper, I got to something surprising buried underneath. I was holding on to fear but this wasn’t the fear I expected. In my silence, there was this nagging worry about people reading my diaries.
Yep. You read that right.
The fear of being seen…
The thing I found at the bottom of this pile of anxiety and anguish surrounding death was really about being found out…about being truly seen. There’s no deep dark secret in those pages. Just moments of weakness. Moments of being less than the perfect image of myself I’ve spent years building up to try to present to the world. And yet, like everyone else, I am not perfect.
I came to the second part of the exercise, my best case scenario. There were the obvious answers - I would like to be asleep in my bed, at home, and with no pain. And what I also saw clearly was that I desired to be surrounded by friends and family - by people who loved me and I loved them.
In reflecting on my potential passing, I learned something very valuable about my life in the here and now. I want to feel connected to people, deeply connected. And yet on some level, I am afraid to share myself, my whole self, imperfections and all.
Is Social Media making you depressed?
Though technology seemingly connects us to people and places faster and further away than ever before, study after study is showing that people are feeling less and less connected to each other. We start to see only curated versions of one another’s lives with less and less actual interaction and it’s causing unexpected results.
I recently read an interview in Forbes with Melissa G. Hunt, the author of a study by the University of Pennsylvania on social media and mental health.
“It is a little ironic that reducing your use of social media actually makes you feel less lonely," said Hunt. "Some of the existing literature on social media suggests there's an enormous amount of social comparison that happens. When you look at other people's lives, particularly on Instagram, it's easy to conclude that everyone else's life is cooler or better than yours."
The article goes on to say more about the feelings of jealousy, inadequacy, and depression arising out of the use of technology and more specifically social media in today’s world. That even just lessened use made a difference in the overall well-being of individuals in the study.
So what do we do? What do I do? What can we do in this age of disconnection?
Get out in nature!
Neuroscience News recently ran an article about a study by the University of Hong Kong with kids and nature. Their study found:
1) The more enjoyment of nature children displayed, the less overall distress and impairment they exhibited.
2) Greater responsibility toward nature in children was associated with less hyperactivity, fewer behavioral and peer difficulties, and improved prosocial behavior.
3) The more aware children were of nature, the less emotional difficulties they exhibited.
As for myself, last week with a group of friends, we organized a beach clean-up and meditation. Even in an urban beach area like Venice, the sound of the waves became a force for calm and stillness. Our afternoon was filled with stories, laughter, and hugs. We ended with hot tea and those waves, those beautiful waves. They are like Mother Earth’s metronome.
I sat, reflecting on the Alan Watts quote - “You did not come into this world, you came out of it. Like a wave from the ocean, you are no stranger here.”
Truly, that sense of connection and caring for the world around me, feeling a part of as opposed to separate from, is a strong antidote to loneliness and disconnection.
Be vulnerable with your friends <3
The truth is when we share the good, the bad AND the ugly…when we share our hopes AND our fears…when we are vulnerable…that’s where the connection lies. Sometimes in our darkest moments, even in silence, the act of sharing with a friend, being heard and being seen - that’s all we really need.
Brené Brown’s TED Talk on vulnerability is one of the most popular of all time. There’s a reason this talk resonates with so many people. I’m not the only person out there who has moments of self-doubt, who is afraid to be utterly seen. So many of us, whether we are aware of it or not, have learned that we were not ok just the way we are. We’ve been conditioned to think that we need to be something else, look like someone else, act like someone else. In the end, we don’t feel that we are enough.
At Worthy Beyond Purpose, our wish is for every person to be able to recognize their worth independent of life’s circumstances. That you are enough! Like Mr. Rogers says, “There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you just the way you are.”