The Pan Society path of modern animism is sovereignty, connection, and Oneness, but what is “connection?” Yesterday it came to my attention that some people might not know.
We have the post of the glossary of terms sticky posted on our blog to facilitate communication. Sometimes when someone says something, we are not talking about the same thing – particularly when it comes to spirituality. Culture and life experiences influence how we see the world, so our understanding could be different from the mainstream or niche view.
When I’m speaking of Connection in the Pan Society context, I am not talking about socializing. It’s bigger than hanging out with friends or being a part of a family.
I’m not talking about sex, hooking up, or romantic relationships. It’s bigger than the body or touch.
In the holistic, animist world, everything is already connected. The things we most easily relate and connect to are in our inner circle. These are things like our families, friends, and culture.
The next closest ring may include things like our communities like schools we went to, neighborhood, ancestors, church, gods, past lives, and the land around us. These are also part of us, but they affect us less as they are not as close to our day to day awareness.
The next ring could be our state, country, or our religion. At some point, we start to include things like plants, animals, the mineral kingdom, space, and the Universe. Keep in mind that everyone prioritizes their rings differently.
The things in the inner ring may or may not be healthy and stable. If they are not, we may not know how to have healthy connections because we didn’t grow up with them. We also may put our effort into cultivating connection with things that are more distant from our center.
Barriers to Connection
Lots of people don’t realize that they don’t know what healthy connection looks like. We may have learned barriers to connection and engage them habitually. This can block our experience of connection.
So, let’s look at them. If you have these patterns, you may not be experiencing healthy connection.
Stonewalling – this is refusing to engage and not following through. It could look like avoiding conversations or just saying things like, “I’m not going to talk about that.” This is invalidating and frustrating to the person who is trying to connect. You diminish yourself by not speaking your truth.
Defensiveness – this is feeling the need to guard against danger. It could be that you see confrontation, insults, or rudeness where none is intended. Or it could be that you react to intended ugliness by protecting yourself more strongly than is required.
Avoidance – if intimacy and connection came with pain, we might have learned to avoid it. So, we shut it down by avoiding it with body language, spacing out, escaping, or creating too firm boundaries.
Dependency – this is basically clinginess. If we fear abandonment, we can cling to people just to have someone near. We may engage in people pleasing and manipulation to stay in the relationship. This can also make us vulnerable to abuse. This isn’t healthy for others or us particularly if the relationship isn’t balanced.
There are other behavioral habits, but you get the idea.
So What’s Connection Like?
I have to thank people who are willing to be vulnerable and share their experiences in places like Talking Circles, therapy, tours and just general conversation for enlightening me about this. When something is obvious to you, you don’t talk about it. I don’t going around announcing that I am human or female. We all already know. So I didn’t know how connected I was until I could peak inside of someone else’s existence. It’s hard to language what it’s like to be female or human because you don’t know anything else. There is no duality within. I will take a crack at it though.
Connection is like a game of ping pong. I serve. You can hit the ball back, swing and miss, or stop playing. As long as we’re both in the game with each other, we’re connected. If we’re playing parallel games, we’re not connected. When we’re both in a groove of moving the ball back and forth and exchanging energy, we’re deeply connected.
I said nothing about touch, conversation, or even people necessarily. You can have connection without touching, speaking, or even being in the presence of another person if you’re connecting with your feelings, the sea, or the past. Everything is available.
People are the hardest. They have sovereignty. They can say no and not play. Plants and animals can too, but they have fewer defenses and barriers. They are almost always a yes. Ancestors are pretty easy. Children are easy.
How to Practice
So you want to practice? Great! You can do this without the other partner knowing that they are playing a game.
The first step is to adopt an Observer stance. No matter what happens, stay present, objective, and observe without reacting or judging.
Now attempt to engage with something. This is your “serve.” Notice if they engage back. If so, this is them hitting the ball back. If not, they’re not in connection mode. You can either try again or respect that they don’t want to play and move on.
If I am distracted, busy, tired, hungry, irritated, or not interested, I might decline to engage. If I am unsure of what is being offered, likewise, I might decline to engage. When you feel it’s the former, it’s best to respect the boundary and try later. If it’s the latter, that’s a better time to try again in a different way.
Practicing is easiest when you have a strong sense of sovereignty. This keeps you safe enough to stay in the game. After all, you might be the one who leaves the field.
I didn’t realize it until I had been leading tours for many years, but connection is what I was offering. Connection to the land, feelings, and each other. In a place of safety, we just go their naturally. If we know how, we can create it with anything or anyone that wants to connect with us.
So, if it’s easier to practice with non-people, try that. Let yourself be in a mindful space and tune into the space around you. Let it be as it is. With practice, you will sprout roots in your body, home, ancestry, faith, and all of life.