Connection with others is what makes life meaningful. Other people are a source of both joy and suffering. Both are true.
“The surprising finding is that our relationships and how happy we are in our relationships has a powerful influence on our health,” said Robert Waldinger, director 80 year Harvard Study.“Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care too. That, I think, is the revelation.”
Connection with other people can’t happen on a truly authentic level until we are able to connect within ourselves. I was first drawn to meditation as a way to reduce stress. I was burnt out from 7 years working at AIDS Calgary. Someone suggested I try meditation. Within 2 weeks I had a situation at work where I remembered to take a breath and space opened up for options I hadn’t previously seen. I was convinced!
During those first seven years of practice and immersing myself in the teachings, I developed close relationships with my teachers and spiritual friends. I became aware of feelings of love and connection in my heart center. I had never felt anything like that before. I was falling in love with my own basic goodness. I was beginning to trust myself and others. As I meditated, I was becoming known and connected within. My inner landscape became familiar.
The most important work we have is to get to know and support ourselves. It is also true we need to feel connected. As children we literally need other people or we will not survive. It is so often the case in our modern culture that parents have limited capacity to provide a safe, nurturing home. This is especially true where intergenerational trauma exists, where there are cycles of abuse, where our parents are too traumatized and shut down themselves to provide the safety and connection we need.
When I interviewed Dr Gabor Maté for the Radical Recovery Summit in September, he spoke of self-regulation as developed through contact with people who are regulated themselves. Self-regulation has a lot to do with safety, as does co-regulation.
As I healed my own trauma and calmed my nervous system, I have developed self-regulation. I know and trust myself. As I work with people individually and in groups, I am able to support people through co-regulation. As they feel safer, their window of tolerance for being present with uncomfortable or scary energy within widens. As they heal, they gradually become more regulated and no longer need such close support to stay self-regulated. This is part of our human brain and nervous system. It is not so mysterious really.