Isn’t that the question we ask others or ask ourselves when we decide how much to invest in, open up, offer emotional honesty and trust in a relationship? The word insular keeps coming to mind while reflecting about the kinds of lives we are all living. The majority of us are living on the surface and attempting to stick to what is familiar and perhaps what we perceive as safe or paying off in some way. However, this very stifling tendency originating in the untamed mind is due to the very human yet destructive habits of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain.
According to Google insular can be defined as:
- Ignorant of or uninterested in cultures, ideas, or peoples outside one’s own experience;
“A stubbornly insular farming people”
And lacking contact with other people.
“people living restricted and sometimes insular existences”
It can also mean:
- Relating to or from an island.
“the movement of goods of insular origin”
It is not a surprise that the origin of the word insular comes from the Latin word insula meaning island. ‘Island’ is being used in the sense of narrow mindedness. Therefore it is the notion of living as an island and with a narrowness of feelings.
So let us apply this to ourselves.
Most of us will steadfastly proclaim we are open minded. Do you? I know I have most of my life and can still catch myself denying when my judgments and limiting beliefs cause a narrowing of that open mind. We must take notice of where we commit to staying small in our minds and attach to ideas that feel comfortable, safe and familiar resulting in the withholding of our hearts from ourselves and others. This withholding happens more often than we would like to admit, thus reinforcing that insular existence and often leading to struggles with loneliness and being alone.
Let’s get honest though. To be open we must put our true selves out there and that would require a commitment to creating deeper and more vulnerable connections with ourselves and others. Are we really taking the time to do this? Many of us are convinced we are doing our best in our connections and what is required in life, checking the next box on our to-do lists to be “successful” and/or to feel good.
BUT WAIT!!! What about the things we “say” matter most???
Most of us say we prioritize our wellness, each other and quality of life! Our true nature is expansion. Our purpose is to evolve (SELF REALIZE). Of course we do so in some ways during our day to day lives, often regardless of how much we operate in auto pilot, i.e. mindlessly. However, living and connecting deeply requires the consistent practice of stretching our hearts and minds to be progressively more open. We must exercise our “opening up” muscles in spite of the fears, thoughts and sensations that lead us to disconnect again and again. This creates separation from ourselves, life’s true purpose and disconnection from all of humanity, even those we believe we treasure the most! I am not suggesting we are each on our personal proverbial islands ALL of the time. We must admit however, while closely examining our levels of true presence and our untamed thoughts, we will find ourselves there quite often.
Stretching into intimacy and honest connection is yoga.
We attempt to train the body to stretch, become more flexible, to heal and become unstuck, and to strengthen using the physical practices of yoga such as asana and pranayama (poses and breath control). In doing so, with humble and heartfelt dedication, our bodies become more and more open, awake, connected, supple and strong over time. So too is it necessary to stretch and strengthen the mental, emotional, relational and spiritual aspects of ourselves.
A vital component of this expansive journey is the experience of community and the practice of learning how to expand within that community while supporting others as they practice doing the same. This is the purpose and goal of the human family at large. For some, a sense of community may be found within their families, for others it may be found in a group of friends, and still, others may find community within their religious affiliations, within their work and school lives, with those sharing common interests, activities and causes. All of these can be considered a spiritual community if collectively there is a conscious agreement to embody supportive and proactive attitudes towards personal and collective development. Prioritizing the cultivation of safety and trust through learning honest and insightful communication practices that encourage intimacy and the growth of sincere vulnerable connections.
Due to the complex natures of human beings, our ignorances and fears, many of us do not know how to create honesty and intimacy with ourselves or our own families. Of course we express that same resistance and create disconnection with the rest of our relations. Because we relate in the various superficial streams and habits of society, we can mindlessly and easily cast judgments, hold resentments, miscommunicate, sweep hurts under the rug, AND often feel alone and lonely. There you have the self created insular life. We must take a minute to realize the personal and spiritual neglect as well as the feelings we are denying. This denial perpetuates even more disconnection from self and others resulting in avoidance through busyness, numbing tactics and fillers.
Whether we are aware or not, our insular lifestyles create our suffering.
This disconnection brings light to our beliefs of separateness. However, God, the Universe, Life, Creative Force, Love (all of the above or whatever you wish to call the divine creative energy) is ever present within and around each one of us whispering us back towards connection and intimacy. That whisper is within urging connection. That ache and sincere longing for union is placed inside each one of our hearts to serve as a sound signaling our way home to wellness, wholeness, truth, purpose and meaning.
Ultimately, that journey IS a solitary journey between oneself and that divine whisper. However, until one arrives at that level of spiritual development, we each must simply return to learning how to connect with each other. We must learn how to trust each other, to care for, to challenge with respect, to support, to discover and be our true selves among others and to allow all to do the same. We must practice love as we are all so far from the embodiment of the Supreme Truth of Love. And that is OK. We are where we are. Love is so beyond what our human minds can comprehend. We are like little children playing house when we experiment with and practice loving. It is OK to fall short. But we must practice; we must practice together as a community (with unity).
Can we count on one another? Yes, if we choose.