The Sacred Art Of Taking A Bath

    —
January 19, 2020

 

When I tell my students that one of the most magical things they can do is take a bath, I rarely have to say anything more, for we intuitively know that the time we take to shower and bathe is time touched by wild magic, and the space in which we do so is space imbued with the scent of the sacred.

 

Make Your Bath Sacred


Consider your own bathing rituals right here and right now. Begin with the fundamental question, “What needs to be washed away, removed, released?” And then, “What kind of bathing appeals to you the most?” A brisk shower or a slow bath? If you use products like bubbles, soap, bath salts, or body scrubs, why did you select them? Do you love to bathe in the privacy of your own home, or do you feel most connected to your remembered magic when you immerse yourself into a wildly running river, the cresting waves of a great ocean, or the green depths of a limestone spring? What elements need to be in place to change your bathing experience from one that is merely practical and about physically cleaning yourself to one that is also extraordinary and capable of washing away deeper marks and struggles?

 

Where do you feel dry?

Just as the land where we live contains water, our soul soil also holds swift rivers, vast oceans, and deep springs. These interior waters are the places understood to hold the human capacity for deep feeling and emotion, creativity, love and compassion, vitality and nourishment. And just like bodies of water in the surrounding world, our interior waters can be dammed up, walled off, covered over, and blocked in a variety of ways. These waters can also be polluted. Sometimes this is done by others or is a result of the toxic aspects of the culture at large, and sometimes we do it to ourselves without realizing it. Having set up house in multiple arid lands, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the presence or the absence water in our surrounding world presses us to ask hard questions about our internal waters. Consider where your life feels dry, uninspired, lacking creativity, fecundity, and fertility? Where are the places that have become too tough and hard and not nearly tender enough? Where has your soul soil been in drought for year upon year, so that all you can find there is dry dust and cracks in the ground? Where is the spark of life lacking or completely absent? 

 

Where do you feel in the flow?

After considering what makes you feel dried up and devitalized, consider the opposite. What calls up your life and creativity? What makes you feel like your inner landscape is well irrigated and flowing with wide rivers or caressed by ocean waves? What are the ways that you best clean up the hurt places in your life? What are the medicines that help you heal most readily and completely? Our work here calls us to an awareness of the places that feel broken, the parts of life and the stories, beliefs, and habits that devitalize us from the inside out. Working with water in an intentional manner can also highlight these places, for we become acutely aware of where precisely there is lack. It is natural to feel that there is not enough water in the whole world to slake the deepest soul thirst and soothe the most parched places of our hearts. It is true: there is not enough water in the world to quench that thirst. But there is enough water in each of us. When you live in a desert, as I have for most of my life, you come to know this as fact. There is good water, strong and flowing, usually many miles beneath the surface, and when the thunderclouds come in and the wind begins to blow just so, the sheer rocks themselves begin to usher forth rivers and streams, and the well that springs up from the deepest self carries on its waves life-bestowing and life-affirming blessings.

 

Don’t have time for a full sacred bath every day? Try these stepping stones instead!

Make moon water. Fill up a clear glass jar with water and leave the top of it open. Set it outside under a full moon. Drink it down the next morning and note the texture, taste, and feel of the water as you do. Notice too how your body feels after drinking it.

 

Create a sacred spray. Get a spray bottle, fill it with water, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils, and use this quick version of sacred water to spritz yourself and your home, as you like.

 

Give yourself a footbath. Fill a basin with warm water, and add a teaspoon of baking soda, some lemon and lime slices, and any essential oils you like. After soaking your feet, pick out an oil or lotion to anoint your feet. Cleansing and anointing the feet is an ancient practice that honors one of the most sensitive (and taken for granted) parts of our bodies.  

 

This is an excerpt from Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Henderson Saussy.

 

Download a free Making Magic journal here.

Briana Saussy is a teacher, spiritual counselor, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, where she teaches tarot, ceremony, alchemy, and other sacred arts for everyday life. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. For more, visit brianasaussy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Sacred Art Of Taking A Bath

 

When I tell my students that one of the most magical things they can do is take a bath, I rarely have to say anything more, for we intuitively know that the time we take to shower and bathe is time touched by wild magic, and the space in which we do so is space imbued with the scent of the sacred.

 

Make Your Bath Sacred


Consider your own bathing rituals right here and right now. Begin with the fundamental question, “What needs to be washed away, removed, released?” And then, “What kind of bathing appeals to you the most?” A brisk shower or a slow bath? If you use products like bubbles, soap, bath salts, or body scrubs, why did you select them? Do you love to bathe in the privacy of your own home, or do you feel most connected to your remembered magic when you immerse yourself into a wildly running river, the cresting waves of a great ocean, or the green depths of a limestone spring? What elements need to be in place to change your bathing experience from one that is merely practical and about physically cleaning yourself to one that is also extraordinary and capable of washing away deeper marks and struggles?

 

Where do you feel dry?

Just as the land where we live contains water, our soul soil also holds swift rivers, vast oceans, and deep springs. These interior waters are the places understood to hold the human capacity for deep feeling and emotion, creativity, love and compassion, vitality and nourishment. And just like bodies of water in the surrounding world, our interior waters can be dammed up, walled off, covered over, and blocked in a variety of ways. These waters can also be polluted. Sometimes this is done by others or is a result of the toxic aspects of the culture at large, and sometimes we do it to ourselves without realizing it. Having set up house in multiple arid lands, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the presence or the absence water in our surrounding world presses us to ask hard questions about our internal waters. Consider where your life feels dry, uninspired, lacking creativity, fecundity, and fertility? Where are the places that have become too tough and hard and not nearly tender enough? Where has your soul soil been in drought for year upon year, so that all you can find there is dry dust and cracks in the ground? Where is the spark of life lacking or completely absent? 

 

Where do you feel in the flow?

After considering what makes you feel dried up and devitalized, consider the opposite. What calls up your life and creativity? What makes you feel like your inner landscape is well irrigated and flowing with wide rivers or caressed by ocean waves? What are the ways that you best clean up the hurt places in your life? What are the medicines that help you heal most readily and completely? Our work here calls us to an awareness of the places that feel broken, the parts of life and the stories, beliefs, and habits that devitalize us from the inside out. Working with water in an intentional manner can also highlight these places, for we become acutely aware of where precisely there is lack. It is natural to feel that there is not enough water in the whole world to slake the deepest soul thirst and soothe the most parched places of our hearts. It is true: there is not enough water in the world to quench that thirst. But there is enough water in each of us. When you live in a desert, as I have for most of my life, you come to know this as fact. There is good water, strong and flowing, usually many miles beneath the surface, and when the thunderclouds come in and the wind begins to blow just so, the sheer rocks themselves begin to usher forth rivers and streams, and the well that springs up from the deepest self carries on its waves life-bestowing and life-affirming blessings.

 

Don’t have time for a full sacred bath every day? Try these stepping stones instead!

Make moon water. Fill up a clear glass jar with water and leave the top of it open. Set it outside under a full moon. Drink it down the next morning and note the texture, taste, and feel of the water as you do. Notice too how your body feels after drinking it.

 

Create a sacred spray. Get a spray bottle, fill it with water, add a few drops of your favorite essential oils, and use this quick version of sacred water to spritz yourself and your home, as you like.

 

Give yourself a footbath. Fill a basin with warm water, and add a teaspoon of baking soda, some lemon and lime slices, and any essential oils you like. After soaking your feet, pick out an oil or lotion to anoint your feet. Cleansing and anointing the feet is an ancient practice that honors one of the most sensitive (and taken for granted) parts of our bodies.  

 

This is an excerpt from Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Henderson Saussy.

 

Download a free Making Magic journal here.

Briana Saussy is a teacher, spiritual counselor, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, where she teaches tarot, ceremony, alchemy, and other sacred arts for everyday life. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. For more, visit brianasaussy.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buy your copy of Making Magic at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

RITUAL: Making Magic in Your Kitchen

RITUAL: Making Magic in Your Kitchen Blog Header ImageTHE HUMAN WORLD AND THE NATURAL WORLD: ONE AND THE SAME

Nowhere is the apparent rift between the everyday and the extraordinary more evident than in the way we regard the relationship between the human world and the world of nature. The rift is ultimately rooted in the opinions and beliefs about these two realms. The natural world is full of surprises, and perhaps the greatest is the discovery that nature is everywhere. The common way nature and humans are regarded in belief and opinion does not match up with the reality. The two worlds are, in fact, one world, interpenetrated by diverse and powerful elements—not only physical forces but also holy helpers and native capacities like memory and sacred imagination. Sooner or later the search for magic brings us face to face with a reality beyond the apparent rift between the everyday and the extraordinary, as we explore not only the verdure of our interior life but also our actual relationship with the surrounding world.

Learning how to speak to these holy helpers means learning the language of nature. This is the language of the wild and natural world, the language of the wind through trees and birdsong at dawn. But it is also and equally the language of that wondrous creature called Homo sapiens sapiens, for in knowing nature, we also come to know ourselves.

All magic originates in the natural world. From the ingredients used in ritual and ceremony, to the clothing worn, the talismans treasured, the foods eaten, and the medicines taken—all of them begin among plant and fungi, animal and mineral, as do we. The role that nature plays in magic cannot be overstated, but it can be misunderstood. Magic is like a wild animal, but in the common understanding, what wild actually means tends to be a pale and shadowy reflection of what it really is.

FIELD NOTES FROM THE EVERYDAY

The experience of nature does not begin in a wild forest or rushing river valley. It begins right here. If we cannot discover the materials we need for magic already present in the everyday, then we will not find them at all, no matter how far we journey, no matter how breathtaking the scenery along the way. Noticing is a lifetime of work. For most of us, noticing will not happen in a pure and unpolluted wild place, for these places are few and far between and often hold secrets that are not meant for us. It will instead happen in our kitchens and front yards, where nature is just as present.

What is entirely familiar and known, hidden in plain sight? Where might nature be found? One answer is the kitchen and the cupboard. These are the spaces where nature has made herself most at home within the home itself. In folk traditions, magic was made in the kitchen—through cooking and making use of the ingredients found within the kitchen—from the spice cabinet to the pantry, and since the advent of the icebox and refrigeration, the fridge. For it is here in the kitchen, even within the simplest and most stripped-down kitchen, that we routinely come into contact with some of the most tangible elements of the natural world—animals, plants, minerals, earth and air, fire and water.

Go into your kitchen and pick one area: the spice drawer, the cupboard, your refrigerator. Pull everything out and set it on the counter. What comes from animals? What comes from plants? From fungi and bacteria? From minerals? Don’t limit this inquiry. Glass is formed from silica and fire. Plastic is a petroleum by-product, and what is petroleum but a product mined from the earth? Paper wrappings started off as trees. Metal appliances were once veins of ore buried within the dark ground. Dare to find one item that did not begin its life firmly rooted in nature; it is not possible. You needn’t go into a nature preserve to come into contact with the whiskers and muddy paw prints of magic. There it is, padding across the stovetop and through the pantry.

As you go through the above process in your kitchen, certain ingredients will stand out above all the others. They seem to have vibrancy, an attraction. They feel potent. As a root doctor or cunning woman might say, they have mojo.

When it comes to working, wandering, and wondering through the wilds of the kitchen, it is important to heed your own personal responses and impressions, and not be overly concerned with conforming your taste to dictionaries and lists of correspondences compiled by various sources. Meanings and interpretations are best grown from the soil of your direct experience; these are the meanings and interpretations that are just right.

A sacred artist who knows ten different ways to work with a single ingredient will make more effective magic than one who has the wherewithal to buy ten different exotic ingredients. Why? Because in the former case, there is a real relationship. In the latter, there is merely acquisition, and they are not the same. So start where you are and with what you have.

RITUAL—KITCHEN MAGIC

In response to the increasing tempo of modern life, many wonderful grocery stores offer prepared foods as a convenience. When cooking is outsourced regularly, however, we become detached from the necessities of food preparation, from the ingredients of the food, from the nature of the food, as well as from the space or nexus that holds the cooking and food in the home. We lose a sense of the alchemy inherent in all of these things. So, given this newfound knowledge based on our own experience and a desire to explore kitchen magic a little further, it is time to cook something up!

This ritual is not about releasing the inner Julia Child (although if you feel called to do so, then by all means do). It is about taking time to connect with nature hidden in plain sight, in your own dwelling space, and coming to know one aspect of it as well as possible.

TIME

  • 1 hour

MATERIALS

  •  a simple recipe
  • your Making Magic journal, or your favorite personal journal
  • a door (optional)
  • a special talisman (optional)
  • a candle (optional)
  • incense (optional)

PROCESS

Cultivate calmness both within and without. See, sense, touch, know, hear, and feel your relationship to the otherworld and your holy helpers that reside there.

Incorporate any other pieces of ritual you would like: open your “door;” touch your talisman, sharing with it your desire for this ritual; or light the candle or incense, as you like.

Begin to prepare the recipe. Take time for and give attention to each step. Pause and feel into the ingredients you are working with—where they came from, how they arrived in your home. Even boiling spaghetti in water can become a springboard. The spaghetti was once wheat in a field—where? What did its life cycle look like? What animals and plants depended on it?

Record your impressions in your Making Magic journal.

Make the serving and eating of the food a ritual as well, allowing yourself to fully savor the entire experience. When you are attentive and open to what the ingredients actually feel and taste like—and not just the idea you have of them—you discover their essence or inherent properties, qualities that can’t be taken away. Be open and curious about the differences that make garlic garlic or an apple apple.

This is an excerpt from Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Henderson Saussy.

 

Download a free Making Magic journal here.

 

Briana Saussy HeadshotMaking Magic BookBriana Saussy is a teacher, spiritual counselor, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, where she teaches tarot, ceremony, alchemy, and other sacred arts for everyday life. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. For more, visit brianasaussy.com.

Buy your copy of Making Magic at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making Magic in the Kitchen Blog Pinterest

RITUAL: Tracking Memory

Ritual: Tracking Memory Header Image

Consider your own experience of the acts and beings involved in memory and imagination—before science enters the picture. Consider what memory and imagination are like from your inner experience—not from the perspective or the studies of cognitive neuroscience or psychology. Science seeks truth and finds it, but the search here is for what supports that truth from within.

Say, for example, that a person weighs 170 pounds, measurable by a standard scale. She may find it difficult or even impossible to pick up 170 pounds of deadweight, if she is not a weightlifter. But how does it actually feel to be 170 pounds? It doesn’t feel at all like lifting deadweight. From the inside of her own experience of that 170 pounds, moving about in full health, she feels relatively light—maybe even light as a feather. This is the inner perspective of memory and imagination that we’re looking for. Our inner perspective does not cancel out the scientific perspective; they are complementary.

Memory is fascinating. I encourage you to get interested in the ways of your own memory. It has a unity, like our physical bodies or a landscape have a unity, and this unity can be touched or awakened at almost every part of point.

RITUAL—TRACKING MEMORY

This small, simple, but very potent daily mental cultivation ritual has its roots in the practices of ancient Greek philosophers and mystics, as well as in the mindfulness practices of Buddhist lineages. Variations of it are used in therapeutic contexts to support survivors of abuse, war, and trauma of all kinds.

This ritual serves two purposes. First, it heightens your awareness of your relationship to memory and to your experience of the present moments that are distinguishable from and underlie memory. Second, it attunes you to your everyday experiences.

TIME: About 15 minutes

MATERIALS:

PROCESS:

Breathe in a blessing on your physical body. Exhale in gratitude.

Set your timer for fifteen minutes and record the events of the previous day, without comment or judgment. Start anywhere—with what happened in the morning, afternoon, or evening. There is no need to try to pick an interesting experience or “problem area” to focus on. Making breakfast, walking down the street, working in the office—all the little, seemingly unremarkable things that happened during the previous day are what you’re recording here.

Simply describe what happened or what you were doing in as much detail as possible, including the sights, sounds, and any other details that seem relevant. Don’t get into the mental or emotional details of these happenings, such as whether you were worried while you were walking down the street, or whether you were thinking or feeling something profound. Resist the temptation to comment on what happened.

Take your time. When the timer rings, put your writing implement down, even if you are not finished.

Breathe in a blessing on your physical body once more and on your willingness to show up for this work.

Exhale in gratitude.

Move forward with your day.

This is an excerpt from Making Magic: Weaving Together the Everyday and the Extraordinary by Briana Henderson Saussy.

Download a free Making Magic Journal here.

Briana Saussy HeadshotMaking Magic BookBriana Saussy is a teacher, spiritual counselor, and founder of the Sacred Arts Academy, where she teaches tarot, ceremony, alchemy, and other sacred arts for everyday life. She lives in San Antonio, Texas. For more, visit brianasaussy.com.

Buy your copy of Making Magic at your favorite bookseller!

Sounds True | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ritual: Tracking Memory Pinterest

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Metabolizing Experience

In order to know and befriend ourselves at the deepest levels, one of the core foundations for true healing, we must cultivate a new way of relating with ourselves that allows even our most difficult and challenging experience to disclose its meaning, intelligence, and purpose in our lives. To do this, we have to slow down and shift our relationship from one of thinking about our experience to fully embodying it. We have to allow ourselves to truly touch it and be touched by it rather than merely orbiting around it, where we are sure to continue to feel some degree of disconnection. Just as we must properly digest the food we eat to absorb its nutrients, we must also assimilate our experience to receive the wisdom and sacred data within it. All through the day and night, we are receiving impressions—through our mental, emotional, somatic (i.e., body-based), imaginal, and spiritual bodies. Life is a constant stream of experience—conversations with friends, caring for our kids, cooking a meal, wandering in nature, practicing yoga or meditation, engaging our work and creative projects, reading a book, shopping for groceries, running errands. But to what degree are we experiencing all of this? How present are we to our moment-to-moment experience, embodied and engaged, allowing it to penetrate us, where it can become true experience and not just some passing event? To what degree are we on autopilot as we make our way through the day, only partially connecting with our friends and family and engaging the sensory reality of what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch?

I’m pointing toward a way of “metabolizing” our experience that allows us to touch and engage it at the most subtle levels, where it is able to disclose its qualities, intelligence, and purpose. By evoking “metabolization,” I am making use of a biological process in a metaphorical way to refer to working through and integrating our experience, especially those thoughts, feelings, sensations, and parts of ourselves that historically we have pushed away. Other words from the biological sciences, for example “digestion,” “absorption,” or “assimilation” can be used to point to the same idea, indicating that it requires concentration, attention, and a certain fire or warmth to “make use” of our experience and mine the “nutrients” contained within it.

Just because we “have” an experience does not mean we properly digest and absorb it. If our emotional and sensory experience remain partly processed, they become leaky (a psychic version, if you will, of “leaky gut syndrome”) and unable to provide the fuel required to live a life of intimacy, connection, and spontaneity. This inner psychic situation is analogous to not properly chewing and breaking down the food we eat and thus not being able to mine the energy and nutrients our bodies need to function optimally.

Although the desire for change and transformation is natural, noble, and worthy of our honor and attention, if we are not careful, it can serve as a powerful reminder and expression of the painful realities of materialism and self-abandonment. One of the shadow sides of spiritual seeking and the (seemingly) endless project of self-improvement is that we never slow down enough to digest what we have already been given, often much more than we consciously realize. In some sense, most of us have been given everything in terms of the basic alchemical prima materia required to live a life of integrity and inner richness, but not the “everything” the mind thinks it needs to be happy and fulfilled, found by way of a journey of internal and external consumerism. And not the “everything” that conforms to our hopes, fears, and dreams of power and control and that keeps us consistently safe and protected from the implications of what it means to have a tender (and breakable) human heart, but the “everything” already here as part of our true nature, the raw materials for a life of inner contentment and abundance, revealed by way of slowness and humility, not unconscious acquisition.

It is important to remember that for most of us, healing happens gradually, slowly, over time when we begin to perceive ourselves and our lives in a new way. Each micro-moment of new insight, understanding, and perspective must be integrated and digested on its own, honored and tended to with curiosity, care, and attention. Before we “move forward” to the next moment, we must fully apprehend and open our hearts to this one; this slow tending (metabolization) is one of the true essences of a lasting, transformative, and deep healing. If we are not able to metabolize even our most intense and disturbing experience, we will remain in opposition to it, at subtle war with it, and not able to be in relationship with it as a healing ally.

In Tibetan tradition, there is an image of the hungry ghost, a figure of the imaginal realms with a large, distended belly and tiny mouth. No matter how much food (experience) is consumed, there is a deep ache and longing for more. Regardless of how much is taken in, the ghost retains an insatiable hunger. Because this one is not able to digest, make use of, or enjoy what is given, a primordial hole is left behind that can never seem to be filled. One invitation, as this image appears in our own lives, is to slow way down and send awareness and compas- sion directly into the hole, infusing it with presence and warmth, and finally tend to what is already here, not what is missing and might come one day in the future by way of further procurement.

Just as with food—choosing wisely, chewing mindfully, allowing ourselves to taste the bounty of what is being offered, and stopping before we are full—we can honor the validity, workability, and intelligence of our inner experience, even if it is difficult or disturbing. The willingness to fully digest our own vulnerability, tenderness, confusion, and suffering is an act of love and fierce, revolutionary kindness. There are soul nutrients buried in the food of our embodied experience that yearn to be integrated, metabolized, and assimilated in the flame of the heart. But this digestion requires the enzymes of presence, embodi- ment, compassion, and curiosity about what is here now.

Let us slow down and become mindful of the ways we seek to fill the empty hole in the center, whether it be with food when we’re not hungry or experience when we are already full. And in this way, we can walk lightly together in this world, on this precious planet, not as hungry ghosts desperate to be fed but as kindred travelers of interior wealth, richness, and meaning.

This is an excerpt from A Healing Space: Befriending Ourselves in Difficult Times by Matt Licata, PhD.

Matt LicataMatt Licata, PhD, is a practicing psychotherapist and hosts in-person retreats. His work incorporates developmental, psychoanalytic, and depth psychologies, as well as contemplative, meditative, and mindfulness-based approaches for transformation and healing. He co-facilitates a monthly online membership community called Befriending Yourself, is author of The Path Is Everywhere, and is the creator of the blog A Healing Space. He lives in Boulder, Colorado. For more, visit mattlicataphd.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Re...

Tools for Cultivating Supportive Friendships & Relationships:

CHRISTOPHE ANDRÉ:

For this toolbox I’d like to put forward a little bit of theory about how we are supported by relationships — that is, to offer an overall look at what we receive from our relationships with others.

The five benefits of relationships. Studies show that social support can be broken down into several families of benefits:

  1. Material support: Others can help us in concrete ways. If I’ve broken my leg, I will be glad if somebody will do my shopping for me. If I have to move, I will be happy to have my friends help me transport the boxes.
  2. Informational support: Others can advise us, give us useful infor- mation, and play the role of human search engines — as intelligent as Google but alive and compassionate — and they won’t resell our personal information afterward.
  3. Emotional support: Others are the source of positive emotions; they give us affection, love, friendship, trust, admiration.
  4. The support of esteem. Others can remind us of our value and good qualities, tell us what they like about us, and sustain our self-esteem at moments of uncertainty.
  5. The inspiration of their example: This is more difficult to evaluate scientifically, but it’s quite real, as we have indicated.

The four varieties of relationships. Another important point is that it is helpful to cultivate varied social relationships, just as it is important to have a varied diet. There are four families of relationships, distributed in four concentric circles:

  1. Our intimates: the people we live with, whom we touch and embrace practically every day. This means mostly our family and best friends.
  2. Our close relations: our friends and colleagues, people with whom we regularly have close and regular exchanges.
  3. Our acquaintances: the whole network of people with whom we have a connection, even occasional, and who we keep track of and who keep track of us.
  4. Unknowns: those who we might also have relationships with, depending on our character. This includes people we might speak to on the street, on public transport, in stores. They can also be sources of help or information for us, as we can for them.

Specialists in social relations remind us that it is important to draw sup- port from these four circles — not only from our intimate and close relations—and to sustain our connections with these four relational spheres by giving and receiving help, information, support, eye contact, advice, and smiles. Because the idea is not only to receive but also to give, by speaking to unknowns and maintaining warm relations with our acquaintances, neighbors, and shopkeepers, we do ourselves good. And we embellish the world, improve it, and make it more human!

 

MATTHIEU RICARD:

The importance of social connection. We should choose to live in an environment where people are warm, altruistic, and compassionate. If this isn’t the case in all areas of our living space, we should progressively try to establish these values or, if it’s possible, we should leave the toxic environment.

In this connection, I like to cite the case of a community on the Japanese island of Okinawa, which claims to have one of the world’s highest concentrations of people aged a hundred or over. It appears that the main factor in this exceptional longevity is not the climate or the food, but the power of this community, where people maintain particularly rich social relationships. From cradle to grave, they relate very closely with one another. The elderly people in particular get together several times a week to sing, dance, and have a good time. Almost every day they go to schools to greet the children (whether they have familial links with them or not) at the end of the school day. The elders take the children in their arms and give them treats.

Draw inspiration from the righteous, from people who, in our eyes, embody the values of impartiality, tolerance, compassion, love, and kindness. In these times of the migratory crisis, I think of all those who have taken great risks, and I remember those who protected Jewish people during the Nazi persecutions of World War II, particularly those who hid Jews in their homes. These people have since come to be called “The Righteous.” The only common point that emerges from their many accounts is a view of others based on recognition of their common human- ity. All human beings deserved to be treated with kindness. Where we saw a stranger, they saw a human being.

Meditate on altruistic love. Studies in psychology have shown that meditating on altruistic love increases people’s feelings of belonging to a community; it enhances the quality of social connections and compassionate attitudes toward unknown people, while at the same reduc- ing discrimination toward particular groups, like people of color, homeless people, and immigrants.

Draw inspiration from friends in the good and spiritual masters. I recommend that everyone see a historical documentary made in India by Arnaud Desjardins at the end of the 1960s, in which we are shown the most respected of the Tibetan masters who took refuge on the Indian slopes of the Himalayas following the Chinese invasion of their country. The film is called The Message of the Tibetans.

 

ALEXANDRE JOLLIEN:

The audacity to live. Existing, opening oneself to the other, is running a risk. It means dropping one’s armor, one’s protective coverings, and opening one’s eyes and daring to give oneself to the other and to the entire world. There’s no way you can invest in a relationship, so throw out your logic of profit and loss! What if we were to embark on our day without any idea of gain or of using our fellow human beings? What if we stayed attentive to all the women and men it is given to us to encoun- ter on that day, looking to find among them masters in being human? 

Identify our profound aspirations. Helping others can often amount to imposing a view of the world on them without really paying any attention to what they really want in their hearts. A man bought an elephant without giving any thought in advance to how he was going to feed it. At a loss, he was obliged to turn for help to those around him, and what he got from them was, “You never should have bought such a big animal!” What does it mean to help others? Does it mean committing completely to being there for them? Does it mean going all the way with them?

Authentic compassion. A will to power might enter into our move- ment toward the other—a thirst for recognition, a twisted attempt to redeem ourselves. Daring a true encounter means quitting the sphere of your neurosis and walking the path of freedom together. There’s no more “me,” no more “you,” but a coalescent “us,” a primordial solidarity.

Coming out of the bunker. As a result of having been burned in our relationship with another, the temptation is great to put on armor, to completely shut ourselves up in a bunker-like fortress, even to the point of suffocation. Don’t our passions, our griefs, our loves, and the fierce- ness of our desire remind us that we are essentially turned toward the other, in perpetual communication? Is there a way to live the thousand and one contacts of daily life without our ego appropriating them?

This is excerpted from the newest book from Matthieu Ricard, Christophe André, and Alexandre Jollien, Freedom For All Of Us: A Monk, A Philosopher, and a Psychiatrist on Finding Inner Freedom.

Copy of MatthieuRicard-AlexandreJollien-ChristopheAndré©PhilippeDanais2017

 

Matthieu Ricard is a Buddhist monk, a photographer, and a molecular geneticist who has served as an interpreter for the Dalai Lama. 

Christophe André is a psychiatrist and one of the primary French specialists in the psychology of emotions and feelings.

 Alexandre Jollien is a philosopher and a writer whose work has been attracting an ever-growing readership. Together, they are the authors of In Search of Wisdom and Freedom For All of Us.

picture of the book titles Freedom for All of Us

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