“Try to realize it’s all within yourself, no one else can make you change
And to see you’re really only very small and life flows on within you and without you”
– George Harrison
I fondly remember attending a mindfulness meditation retreat on Cape Cod three years ago. The leader was a man named Flint Sparks (I would have gone just because of his wonderful name!). The title of the week long seminar was “Growing Up and Waking Up.” At the time, I was experiencing a deep but, in retrospect, somewhat troubling embrace of aloneness and solitude. Those who know me know I embrace these qualities of being generally and believe they are lacking in our lives.
But this was different. I am strongly drawn to Buddhist teachings, the Zen schools in particular, Soto Zen even more so. And here was Flint Sparks, a clinical psychologist and zen practitioner. What could be more perfect: a week at a seminar with him on the Cape, in August. I was sure that my quest for deeper and enduring truths about the human condition, wisdom that I might pass along to persons I encountered in my clinical practice, would be gleaned from my week on the Cape.
I was right. For the first three days I met many other participants and we meditated. Together. In a group. Flint shared some of his beautiful photos and wonderful Zen and psychotherapy teachings. We were encouraged to share what we were learning within our small groups, with one another. As we did, we took these gentle jewels of teachings and discussed them with each other. I grew to understand the many desires I believed were unique to me were shared by others. I developed an enlarged understanding of my self relative to others. I never forgot that week on the Cape.
So, what were the deeper and enduring truths? I came to realize I could not “grow up or wake up” alone, in some perfect “zen” like solitude, but only in relation to and in the presence of others. Over the time that has passed, I have spent considerable time in my clinical practice with others helping to ease their suffering from their behavior: their aloneness, their hurts and self-imposed isolation from others and from their experiences in life. For many, they have descended into some perfect but impaired solitude in their experience. Our sessions become a healing vessel.
Of course no man is an island. We can’t do it alone. The “it” is learning about ourselves, healing ourselves. We can only grow up and wake up in the presence of others, interacting. Reconstructing. Social isolation has been very much deepening in our technological age. We have to work harder to make social connections, share our experiences, learn more about who we are through connections with others. In this way you may be able to
“Try to see you’re really only very small and life flows on within you and without you.”
Dr. George Geysen is a clinical and forensic psychologist in private practice in Glastonbury, CT at The Glastonbury Center. Learn more at www.drgeysen.com.