Practice: Interbeing

We live in the illusion that we posses a self which is well delineated from the world around us. Whereas in fact, we are interwoven with everything around us in innumerable ways. No particle in the universe exists independently. Everything is affected by everything else.

Modern science has shown the inter-relatedness of many social and natural phenomena. However even in ancient times, interbeing has long been seen as one of the fundamental truths about existence, especially in Eastern cultures.

The principle of anatta is one of the foundations of Buddhist thought and asserts that there is no distinguishable self in any living being. As such, we each exist only within the context of everything that surrounds us. Pratītyasamutpāda is another principle which states that nothing is created in isolation. Anything is created in the context of something else which already exists. 

Just like embracing forgiveness and gratitude, I believe that meditating on the inter-dependence of all things aids us in expanding our consciousness and brings us joy and wisdom. To aid in this meditation, I have developed the following simple practice:

  1. Breathe in and out slowly three times.
  2. Become aware of your body and its current place in space.
  3. Expand your mind and attempt to become aware of everyone else who is currently in the same building as you, then of everyone in the same city, then in the same country and then on the whole of earth. Realise how you are not so much different to everyone else but just one minuscule piece of an incomprehensibly large whole.
  4. Become aware of your body in its current place in time.
  5. Expand your mind and attempt to feel and become aware of everything that has happened to you since yesterday, then since last week, then since last year. Expand your mind further and become aware of all that has happened in the last one hundred years. Realise that everything you are in this moment is the result of a long chain of events, and your moment now is but a drop in the ocean pulled by the tides of time.

I believe it is essential for embracing the truth of interbeing that we acknowledge what an infinitesimal piece of existence we are. We are bound to overestimate our own importance and agency and underestimate the torrential power of the context that surrounds us. If we accept our own irrelevance, it is easier to realise we are but a part of a very big whole. This I believe can be a great source of comfort and strength, since it fulfils our natural desire for something in our lives that is larger than us, such as a divine power.

There may not be a god who cares about our fate and desires but being part of something so grand, so incomprehensible as our world is a miracle nonetheless. Embrace the beauty of being part of this miracle and relieve yourself from the need to be something special; we all are, together.