I had one of those “ah-ha” moments while reading “Returning to Silence” this morning. These two ideas on connection are going to change my way of thinking and my life, forever. The first was, “There is only us.” And the other was about the significance of ritual.

A small side note first, I’ve been listening to the podcast, “Secular Buddhism with Noah Rasheta” the past couple of weeks and it is helping me put Dainin Katagiri’s words into context. The book was recommended as a classic introduction to Buddhism, but I’m finding it a little too spiritual and “out there” to understand on its own. I’m constantly looking up what words mean because he uses Buddhist practices as given information. That’s not a bad thing. I’m learning a lot. It’s just a tad tedious in addition to the flowery and repetitive style he uses.

The positive is that it slows me down and gives me the chance to think about what is written and fish out what I need to know.

What does, “There is only us.” mean?

“We tend to define enlightenment as an experience that creates a difference between us and others.”

Returning to silence by dainin katagiri

Human connection is everywhere in this world. Have you ever seen rock climbers? I live near Joshua Tree National Park, one of the meccas of the rock-climbing world. I’m not a climber myself. I’ve always been a bit of klutz, tripping over my own feet or twisting my ankle on a pebble in the path. It’s best if I keep close to the ground. But I enjoy watching them from below.

A group of climbers are connected to the rocks and each other by rope. A lead climber gets up first, creates a new, or connects to an existing, pick point and latches on. The other climbers follow. The climbers above and below you can help you find a handhold you can’t see from your vantage point, encourage you to keep going, and limit your fall if you miss a step or lose your grip on the rocks. And at the top, the accomplishment is sweeter when you have someone to celebrate with.

The whole world is this way if we can see it. There is no me and you. There is not us and them. There is just the world, and we are all connected to each other. We can help or hinder each other by our actions, but we cannot disengage from the whole.

What is the significance of connection through ritual?

Ritual is everything we do. We have morning and evening rituals: making coffee, brushing our teeth, journaling, reading, meditation, waking up, driving to work. Weekly rituals of cleaning our house, taking care of our things. Monthly rituals of lunch dates with friends or a night out with a loved one. We know the rituals related to holidays, graduations, weddings, births and deaths.

Human connection through the magic of coffee.
Photo by Ben Weber on Unsplash

What is the significance though? Each ritual, if we bring our conscious thought to it, can ground us in the here and now, the magic of the moment we are in. Even making a cup of coffee in the morning can be made a ritual, from the most complicated (grinding beans, boiling water, and pouring it yourself) to the simplest (picking it up at the drive-thru on your way to work). When we bring our conscious thought to it, we ground ourselves. This is this time of day. This makes my heart happy. This is something I share with millions of people that are also doing this, or the human connection of the millions of people that brought this delicious bean juice to me to today.

By the way, there are so many gorgeous pictures of coffee on Unsplash, an infinite variety of styles and how and … just beautiful, like coffee itself. I chose this one because it reminded me of the magic of coffee and the ritual it can be.

Every ritual reminds us of our connection with this world, the other climbers ahead and behind us, the rock beneath us, the sky above us, the creators of the equipment, the experience of those that have gone before, the excitement of those we bring along and teach, and those that stand on the ground and wonder at our achievement.

It makes me think of that feeling of disconnect that comes over me often these days. Do have a country? A culture? A family? Am a part of something bigger than myself? Buddhism has reminded me that yes, I am. I can’t escape it. I can only notice it and accept it.

It doesn’t matter if I subscribe to the religion or not, every holiday my country celebrates connects me to the people that live here if I consciously choose to acknowledge that in positive way.

Every time I walk into a Target for cleaning supplies, order something from Amazon to be delivered, or buy one of those glorious chicken avocado burritos at El Pollo Loco, I can choose to be reminded of my connection to the culture I grew up in.

And my family? We’ve had a rough go of it the past ten years or so. But recently I realized, as I began a sewing project, how connected I am to my grandmothers, mom, aunt, and cousins. We all have our sewing rooms. We all create with fabric in some way. Quilts, bags, toys, and clothes, we all have our specialties.

My aunt and I have grown apart over the years. That has been my fault. As I started a sewing project this past weekend, I thought of her and sent her a picture of it. I opened a door and my heart felt grounded again. I did this unconsciously, before reading about rituals and connection in a Buddhist context.

Now I see how I can personally create these connections and why I need to continue to do so. It takes no law, no social media campaign, no reciprocation, no feedback, to start. All it takes is my own conscious thought. Human connection is the reality of this world. I only need to acknowledge the rituals that bring that connection to my consciousness.

I’m really enjoying reading “Returning to Silence.” If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on this book, go back to my post “New Read: Returning to Silence” to start from the beginning. Other posts are linked at the bottom of that one.