Seeing and fostering interconnectedness through allyship, clubs and groups, and vulnerability and compassion can nourish individuals, communities, and the planet
Why Foster Interconnectedness?
On this page, you can watch several videos from our contributors that touch on different perspectives around the theme of ‘interconnection.’ With the rise of online culture and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us have felt isolated and less connected to others and the natural world. Consequently, there seems to be a growing appreciation for fostering connections, as we feel more and more the negative impacts of separation.
Fostering interconnectedness in our social worlds may look like allyship, political action, forming clubs and collectives, or simply dedicating time to being present with friends and loved ones. It can also look like learning to be vulnerable with people we trust and learning to reach out when we need help. When we feel connected to a greater whole, our wellbeing can naturally fall into place. We begin to understand that not everything is up to us as solitary individuals. We cannot do everything alone, nor do we have to – the burden of responsibility can be displaced across many people, in a joint effort that nurtures shared feelings of purpose instead of isolating feelings of stress. Interconnection looks and feels different for everyone, depending on whether you are introverted or extraverted, and other factors. Regardless, interconnection is an essential part of wellbeing for everyone, simply because it is true: we do not exist alone, but as a part of a greater social system. Self exists only insofar as there is an Other. ‘No one is an island,’ as the old saying goes. Accepting this truth means that we can begin to work on wellbeing from a whole new perspective, a perspective that understands that when you heal, the world heals, and when the world heals, you heal. This is why compassion is such a core part of wellbeing.
There is also interconnectedness to be nurtured across species and environments. Human beings are more cut off from the natural world than ever in history, which is a state that has lent itself to (and was created by) human arrogance, greed, and exploitation of the earth. Indigenous wisdom reminds us that we, too, are natural entities. Humans came into existence by the same force that created trees and rivers and stones and fish. Our existence is maintained by the same natural energy that maintains all other existence. We are impermanent, living and dying just like the leaves turning from green to brown every year. Our unity with nature is one of the few truths we can count on, and yet we discount it every day, in favour of getting more for ourselves – more land, more development, more money. Interconnection with other humans can help us break this cycle of greed – when we are interconnected, we understand that when someone else gains something, so do we. And so we can learn that when we exploit the earth, we also exploit ourselves. We exist as One, until that balance is disrupted. Human beings have been continuing that disruption for too long, in believing that they are separate from the natural world. But rising sea levels, melting glaciers, worsening storms, and raging forest fires affect us all. Interconnection is a fact that must be realized.
Consider the Following…
A major critique of secular mindfulness is that it puts too much pressure on the individual. How can we ensure that mindfulness is being used to increase social awareness, instead of leading us to ignore systemic factors?
In what ways has your mindfulness practice contributed to feelings of interconnectedness?
What are some specific ways in which Indigenous wisdom can help us foster interconnection in the modern world?
What can we learn about togetherness from spending time in nature? Why might nature have such a profound affect on us?
How might connecting with other human beings also help us connect with nature?
What can we learn about interconnectedness from moments of awe?
Sometimes we can spend time with others without truly feeling connected to them. Why might this be? How can we enable feeling more connected in these moments?
How do community-care and self-care impact one another? How might more relational understandings of health improve our wellbeing on both individual and collective scales?
One City: A Declaration of Interdependence – “What you wear. What you say. What you think/ignore/buy/don’t buy… Welcome to One City-Population: Everyone-where EVERYTHING you do matters. You’ve lived here your whole life, whether you know it or not. Ethan Nichtern, the charismatic and creative force behind New York’s upstart Interdependence Project is your guide to the beauty that is everywhere in the urban jungle-in the rattling of subway trains, the screechings of traffic, the hum and drone of millions scurrying for work, food, sustenance, art, culture, and meaning. There may be no greater setting for exploring the great truth that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. expounded: “Whatever effects one directly, effects all indirectly.” One City melds Dr. King’s message with modern Buddhist wisdom to offer a new way of understanding what binds us all together-no matter where we are, no matter who. With its pop-culture savvy, humor, and literary liveliness, One City will speak to–and even, it’s fair to say, help define–the spiritually-inclined, conscious Next Generation.” – ethannichtern.com
Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society – “We have always been, and will always be, interconnected—through family, community, and shared humanity. As our planet changes and our world grows smaller, it is vital we not only recognize our connections to one another and to the earth but also begin actively working together as interdependent individuals to create a truly global society. The Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is uniquely positioned to guide us in this process. Drawing on years of intensive Buddhist training and a passionate commitment to social issues, he teaches how we can move from a merely intellectual understanding to a fully lived experience of connection. By first seeing, then feeling, and finally living these connections, we can become more effective agents of social and ethical change. The Karmapa shows us how gaining emotional awareness of our connectedness can fundamentally reshape the human race. He then guides us to action, showing step by step how we can change the way we use the earth’s resources and can continue to better our society. In clear language, the Karmapa draws connections between such seemingly far-flung issues as consumer culture, loneliness, animal protection, and self-reliance. In the process, he helps us move beyond theory to practical and positive social and ethical change.” – wisdomexperience.org
The Holistic Curriculum, Third edition – Originally published in 1988, The Holistic Curriculum addresses the problem of fragmentation in education through a connected curriculum of integrative approaches to teaching and learning.
Helping Ourselves and Encouraging Others
Ms. Munjee speaks about using mindfulness to address social injustices, such as through allyship, forming communities and encouraging others to speak up for social change. She discusses the critique that mindfulness, a secular practice centred on the individual, places responsibility on the individual to feel better rather than on the structures which cause people to feel bad. Ms. Munjee advocates instead that mindfulness can be used to raise awareness and acknowledgment of the problem, rather than sweeping issues under the rug.
The Interconnected Self
Dr. Stellar explains that ‘self-transcendent’ emotions make our sense of self less central to our perspective and decisions. They blur the boundaries between self and other, allowing for a shift in focus. In this way, reduced salience of the self can sometimes be a very good thing.
What are Pro-social Emotions?
Dr. Stellar lists some of the specific emotions she studies that are known as pro-social, because they promote altruistic behaviour. These can also be called ‘self-transcendent’ emotions. Dr. Stellar believes they play an important role in our understanding of wellbeing
Building Collective Wellbeing
Dr. Mulligan defines ‘wellbeing’ in contrast to ‘wellness’ as something very broad that encapsulates all facets of our lives. This broadness means that wellbeing is relational, and that self-care and community-care are intertwined. Building the resiliency of our communities is something that we can only do together, and in doing so we also help ourselves.
Relating to the Natural World
Iehnhotonkwas reminds us that human beings are just another component of the natural world, and this is why being out in nature replenishes us. The earth nurtures us and gives us positive energy that cannot be received from manmade environments. Our role is to be caretakers in return, and we have failed to live up to that task. Yet no matter how badly we behave, the earth is there for us unconditionally.
Connecting with the Earth, with Community, and with the Body
Dr. Miller explains what he means by interconnection, pointing to deep ecology and Indigenous perspectives as a guide towards seeing ourselves as part of a web of life. He elaborates on three primary connections: with the earth, with community and with the body. He also offers some advice on how you can cultivate these connections, for example, by forest-bathing, joining a sports team or social cause, and regularly doing physical exercise such as yoga, Tai Chi or another physical practice you enjoy and helps you “feel at home” in your own body.
Taking Local Steps to Make Global Change
Dr. De Souza-Kenney asks the major question of health equity: how do we get diversified diets and nutrient density to the populations that need it? There are many global-scale and national-scale ways of answering this question, but we can also begin with ourselves and our own communities.
Meeting Difference and the Importance of Empathy
Dr. Richardson discusses the way in which studying history can broaden one’s perspective and generate empathy. So often we get caught in thinking that our experience is universal, which is not at all the case. Understanding people from other places and times can help us understand each other, and see that the choices each person makes are perfect under their idiosyncratic circumstances. With greater empathy, we can move towards making choices together. Part of building an environment of empathy is helping students understand that they don’t need to prove themselves in the classroom; everyone is there to learn together and from one another.