This year has been quite an adventure. I've moved from having many of my heroes on my vision board to meeting nearly all of them in real life, and in many cases sharing conversations in their living rooms, during long in car rides together or even in their bedroom (don't worry, nothing risqué was involved).
And one thing has hit me: for all of their kindness, genius, wisdom, fortune, renown and fame, all of these so-called heroes are completely and profoundly human.
I don't mean this in any sort of negative way. I guess, at first, I was disappointed. I almost didn't want these people to "fall" from their hero status to live amongst the rest of us ordinary beings. There was some part of me that found it comforting for me to hold some people just so far above me that their state of mind, their presence, their life seemed unattainable.
I found it comforting to have idols I could strive to become. Instead, I found that these flawless archetypes are the stuff of myths and Biblical stories. And, while they set a wonderful standard, I have (as far as I know) yet to meet a living human being who embodies only ego-free compassion and light.
Maybe such beings do now exist in flesh. I don't know. Either way, I believe such a being would actually invoke a very different relationship from a mythical idol on a pedestal. Rather than making me feel small, below, "less than," this person would witness me (and every person) in our full light. They would truly see my Self beyond the confines of my ego, and witness the full, expansive highest Self I believe we all contain. (And, when I say "all," I truly mean everyone -- from Gandhi, the saints, Buddha, Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King, Jr., to murderers, terrorists, and even the most "evil" leaders.)
In Judaism, there's a belief that evil is but a shell covering the spark of the Divine within every person. To live in an enlightened way is to search for that spark, that light, within each and every person.
I also learned: the very part of me that is capable of putting someone on a pedestal above me is the same part of me that erroneously believes any other being could be below me. It's this false sense of hierarchy that allows me to talk to a Starbucks barista or a housecleaner differently than I would speak to a celebrity or "spiritual leader."
And, that's bullshit.
Yes, and please pardon my French, but from the enlightened perspective, whether Christian, Buddhist, or Eckhart Tolle, there is not a single one of us who is any more important than anyone else. Seriously. And, to truly embody this non-dual perspective, I must remember this in every single interaction. Can I meet someone at a soul-level? Can my deepest, highest Self meet their deepest, highest Self (the true meaning of namaste)? Can I somehow transcend my ego and theirs, for us to truly connect?
As Henry David Thoreau said,
Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?
This plays out in everyday interactions. As I walk down the street, order a cup of tea, speak with my mentor, or go on a date, I aim to connect beyond labels, beyond egos, and truly meet each person at a soul level. I do this by remaining connected to my deeper Self, the spark of divinity that resides beyond egotistic understanding.
This isn't always easy, because interactions are usually influenced by emotions, projections, and desires. However, as soon as I catch myself focusing on anything less than a soul-level connection, I consciously bring myself back to my inner being, by focusing on pure awareness. And then, from this sacred place, I reconnect.
This is perhaps my most powerful practice. This is a practice of love.
Yogi Bhajan said, "Love is a process in which ego is lost and infinity is experienced." And, by staying grounded in consciousness, in pure potential, we allow the ego to dissolve into infinity. Reaching that place -- even for an instant -- is a miracle.
I recently watched a wonderful talk by Eckhart Tolle at Wisdom 2.0, where he discussed staying rooted in the "now." He clarified that being present is not only an awareness of sense-perceptions (as many of us think), but also a deeper connection to our very awareness. Who is the "I" observing our sensations, emotions, etc.? How can we become aware of this awareness, this consciousness? As Eckhart says, "Right now, put your attention not on what you are conscious of, but on consciousness itself. Feel the I AM. That's it." (Full talk available, here.)
As we do this, we plug into the very awareness that exists in us all -- and become ready to connect with "others" beyond ego, and experience our infinite connection.
What are your ways to transcend supposed hierarchies and connect on a deeper level? How can we make this our (perhaps most profound) practice?
Please share your thoughts and strategies in the "comments" section below.
Adapted from a post at: sharonsalzberg.com.
Follow Jamie Lauren Zimmerman, MD on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jamielaurenzimm