Monday, November 14, 2011

Making Connections

Today was an unusual day for me. After ten days of houseguests and multiple events, plenty of relatives, miles and miles traveling through Southern California, I was looking forward to (introvert that I am) the comfort of a familiar routine. I was relishing with anticipation some time for myself and with my own thoughts. As I left the driveway, I sighed with a sense of relief. Ahh! Time alone! Bliss! Quiet! Relaxation. As it turned out, my drive time was my "alone time."

Because when I got to the gym this morning for my usual workout, I saw an dear friend in the parking lot, one I hadn't seen in months. All my grumpiness vanished with the joy of meeting her by chance. We chatted. Another friend joined us. Leaving that conversation and heading toward the entrance, I saw another friend that I hadn’t spoken to in over a year. We caught up on our news. Taking the stairs up to the weight room, I saw another old friend: one I hadn’t seen in over three years. As we spoke on the stairs, another friend came by. I floated up the rest of the stairs. It was wonderful to have seen those friends! I had completely forgotten my crabbiness and fatigue.
It’s not that I have SO many friends, that’s not the point (or necessarily true). The point is that, during that fifteen minutes, I re-connected with people who are important to me and we maintained our connections. After class was finished, another friend came upstairs and we brought ourselves up to date with her family’s news. Later in the day, leaving the dentist’s office, I saw an old friend from years back who, unbeknownst to me, also uses the same dentist. I was beginning to feel as if I were in a time warp or a movie from the multiplex: Connection Day 2011. The feeling persisted when I came back home and looked through the mail, filled with newsletters from not one, but three organizations, and read about doings and concerns from near and far--locally, in northern California, and in Pennsylvania.

Today's chance connections filled my tired spirit with joy. Even though felt physical fatigue, the positive energy of seeing dear faces lifted my heart. I enjoyed a surge of gratitude for all those people in my life who have supported, befriended, and encouraged me. I reflected back through the past ten days with a renewed spirit. I savored every human connection that kept me in touch with others. With that surge of gratitude, I wanted to give back the same. Who can resist the genuine love of family and friends and not want to share?

We are, every one of us, connected. Whether we know each other or not, we make an impact on one another. In fact, the word yoga implies connected-ness, as it is a joining or yoking together of many aspects of our lives: breath, spirit, body, and humanity. Yoga teaches us to pay more attention to cause and effect. We practice on our mats by noticing how a posture changes if we simply straighten our elbows or relax the muscles of our thighs. Time spent on our mats can also illustrate our interconnectedness with others. As we practice in a group class, we may notice that one person toppling out of a balancing posture can bring down the whole class. We may notice how two or three strong breathers in a room can inspire the entire group to deep, rhythmic breath. Yoga reveals the powerful effects our actions can have--negative or positive.

Moving deeper into the philosophical aspects of interconnectedness, I discovered that “connected” is a mathematical concept as well. In the world of mathematics (a place that I visit very rarely), connected can be “not decomposable into two disjoint nonempty open sets” or “having a continuous path between any two points” (used of a curve, set, or surface). So, what does that mean? Some illustrations of connected-ness (math style) are helpful:



Looking at the illustrations above, it’s clear that connected-ness doesn’t have to be in a straight line. The shaded spaces, the shared boundaries can be interpreted not only as places where sets connect, but how we connect during our daily lives. Even the tiniest point creates a connection, as in the bottom right example.

Positive and affirming connections, filled with compassion and respect, initiate a chain reaction throughout the day, and even beyond. One aspect of our practice is to strengthen our connectedness--on the mat, in community, and in the greater world.

Until next week, namaste,

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