We all have pivotal moments in our lives where we feel stunned into a new way of thinking and relating to the world. And if we're lucky, we have more and more of these moments as we awaken. One such moment occurred for me the other day. A person I'd never met before, uttered the words "I don't owe you anything." Just five words. Right? No big deal. Except this seemingly ordinary comment snapped me into a deeper willingness to evaluate what "owing"someone actually means. And here's what I know:
We're all connected
Being a kind person who's able to be respectful of other's times, considerate of their feelings, and able to be accountable for how I affect others is a huge priority for me. I walk through each moment of my life following a few basic "golden rules" not because I owe others anything, but because I owe them everything. And you know why? Because I see no fundamental separation between myself and others. This doesn't mean I don't have healthy boundaries or that I don't see myself as a separate physical being from others. It's more that as I'm able to fully love myself, it's second nature to extend this same love to all other beings. It also means that I'm continually tapping into the universal force of love which doesn't discriminate between a separate "I". So, when someone says to me "I don't owe" you anything, I hear them. I understand. It's so much easier to walk through life not wanting to be accountable to others. Wanting to believe that our actions and our desires are uniquely ours and that they have no effect on others is so freeing, isn't it? But when we tap into that universal connection, is that really true? I don't think it is. And deep down I don't think many of us do.
We're hardwired to care
We aren't teaching our children that they don't owe anything to anyone. We teach them they they're responsible for their actions, for being good local and global citizens, and that hurting others on purpose is harmful. We try to teach them to be patient with themselves because it takes time to learn how to make angry hands and voices into calm hands and voices. But we don't consciously teach them to shut down, self-isolate, and completely stop feeling a sense of accountability for how they affect others. We hope that as they get older their hearts will weather life's storms without getting bitter and that even when we're gone, they'll have the love of kind friends and the family they create.
And just when we think we're the teachers, our little ones help us access and sometimes reacquaint ourselves with that loving, kind, open-hearted child nature within us. We remember that as small children an entire universe of connectedness could be built in one afternoon riding bikes, making mud pies, singing silly songs and sharing the same space with a friend. It wasn't complicated. We gave because we're made to give. We cared because we're made to care. And all of it was effortless.
Building Malleable Boundaries
And now, as adults, many are finding connection to be effortful and downright exhausting. I'd argue that building walls and distancing ourselves from one another requires way more energy than keeping our hearts open and connected. As an old spiritual teacher once said to me, "you think you're building a wall to keep others out, when in fact you're locking yourself in." And yet, it's incredibly difficult building malleable boundaries (walls) that both protect and allow the "right" ones into our lives.
So, while we're all doing the best we can I hope we can remember to tap into our inner child wisdom. I think I have a few more mud pies left in me. How about you?