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Monk in the World Guest Post: Rita Simon

I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Rita Simon’s reflection “This is My Home, and These are My People.”

We are not two seagulls separated by 6 feet of water; we are two seagulls connected by 6 feet of water. – John Bell 

There is no difference between healing your body, healing the Earth,or helping another to heal. It is all the same body. — Alla Renee Bozarth

What do you see? Two seagulls are bobbing on a lake a few feet apart with the water surrounding them. You point them out saying, “Look at the two seagulls sitting on the water.” Do you see the seagulls as two separate creatures separated from each other by the water between them, or do you see them as being connected to each other by the water? This question was posed at an online retreat I recently attended, and I will admit that the idea that the birds were connected rather than separated really pulled me up short. A ‘light bulb’ turned on in my brain. Huh! Wow!  I guess I have never thought of it that way before!

Probably the greatest delusion we human beings have about reality is that everything we sense, what we see, hear, touch, etc., is a solid and separate entity. We particularly see ourselves as separate solid beings that are not connected to anyone or anything else, yet it is impossible to be separate! We are connected with everyone and everything everywhere in ways we don’t even know! All creation, from the farthest reaches of the Cosmos to the smallest particle within our bodies, is part of the body of the Cosmic Christ. Everything exists in an unbroken wholeness in flowing movement.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.” –John Donne  

I am sure we have all heard, or even said to ourselves or others, “No man is an island,” knowing in our inmost, deepest selves that none of us survives nor stands alone, ever. We are all emanations of the forces of life. Where do we begin and where do we end? What is the separation between me and the breath and the houseplant and the Amazon River and the ocean plankton? We are all connected. Without one there is none.   

This last year has been exceedingly difficult for human beings in every corner of the Earth. We have all experienced the tragedies and challenges of the COVID pandemic, climate disasters, violence, and hatred in different ways and to different degrees. The truth of our inter-connection is that an injury to one of us is an injury to all of us. If any one of us is hurting, we are all hurting. None of us is free if not all of us are free. “You are a part of me that I do not yet know!” So, who or what can be excluded?

We can begin to become aware of our habits and thoughts of separating, of how we mentally and verbally separate things, ideas, and people into categories of less than or better than, of worthy or unworthy, of belonging or not belonging, etc. As we become more aware of the ways we separate in our minds, speech, and actions, we can begin to counter our own delusions of separateness. We can vow to awaken from the delusion of separation and help build a strong community of connection around us, beginning right here, where we are, as we are. Healing even one small part will be healing the whole world.

Contemplate your connection with everything you experience when you are in nature, whether watching the sun rise or set, or looking at the stars or moon, or noticing the trees beginning to bud in the spring. Stop, breathe, look deeply. Feel your connection and say to yourself, “This is my home, and we are all one body.”

Contemplate your connection with others when you are with family or friends, or in the grocery store, or airport, or doctor’s office, or wherever you are with other people. Stop, breathe, look deeply. Feel your connection and say to yourself, “This is my home, and these are my people.”

“This is my home, and we are all one body.”

“This is my home, and these are my people.”

Rita Simon, a retired family physician, is a member of St. Anthony Spirituality Center’s lay preaching team. They plan and present annual themed retreat weekends for a wide range of spiritual seekers. Rita practices embodied spirituality through vocal and instrumental music, yoga and dance, and the enjoyment of nature’s beauty. Rita lives in Chippewa Falls, WI, USA.

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