HomeWorkplaceThe pandemic of the separate self – part 2

The pandemic of the separate self – part 2

- 10 Mins Read

The pandemic of the separate self – part 2

DAN SIEGEL is a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine and executive director of the Mindsight Institute. In part 2 of his interview with UDAY KUMAR, he speaks about intraconnectedness, alloparenting, presence, connection, open awareness, and love.


Q: My teacher, Daaji, says that while survival of the fittest may apply in the overall scheme of survival, human beings evolve only through cooperation.

DS: Totally. We’ve forgotten that.

Q: Then, you were talking about the sense of Self, and I remembered that once he said, “If you’re sitting in this room, the walls create the impression of space inside and space outside. And if I take away the walls, then what remains? It’s just space.”

DS: Exactly. Just this morning I finished writing a book about exactly that topic, called Intraconnected. I think it’s a moment for humanity to take a deep breath and say, “Okay, we did it this way, we tried to make it work, but it’s not going to work like this. So what’s another way to do it?” The book makes suggestions, not on specific things, but rather, “What’s a way to be in the world that resonates?”



Q: You’re not talking about small fixes here and there. You’re addressing the question: How do I conduct my life on this planet itself? This needs to be rethought. I would love to read it, because you mention the five pandemics – one of them is about the environment. Many times, people ask the question: How do we live in tune with nature? Daaji says that living in tune with nature is actually resonating with the principles of nature. And he says if that’s the case, if you look at a mango tree or an apple tree, it doesn’t need mango juice or apple juice to give you fruits. It takes a little water and sunlight, and gives you the best fruit in return. So, one principle in nature is to take the minimum and give the maximum. And for human beings, the most important thing is to accept minimum love and give maximum love.

DS: I think it’s a moment of bridging these areas of science and spirituality. It’s all in the idea of being in service, and how we can learn from the wisdom of ancient teachings and contemplative practices. Weave it together with this cross-disciplinary view of science, and come to some thoughtful ways that collectively we can move forward. We really need to think deeply about the next steps for humanity.

Whether you’re a parent raising your children, a teacher in a school, people in the medical world, people running a business, people running a government or non-profit, there are billions and billions of people on our planet. So how do we actually make a shift where people realize that it’s survival of the most cooperative? It’s survival of the most compassionate. The science that I review in the book shows how our origins as a species were collaborative. We have something called “alloparenting,” for example, which means we let our babies be taken care of by more than just the mother.



I think it’s a moment of bridging
these areas of science and spirituality.
It’s all in the idea of being in service,
and how we can learn from the wisdom of
ancient teachings and contemplative practices.


Q: Sarah Hrdy, right?

DS: Yes, Mothers and Others by Sarah Hrdy.

In my new book, Intraconnected, there is the idea of feeling things from the inside out. And as your teacher said about the walls, this is actually learning how to use a lens of identity so that you can focus the lens close in and say, “Okay I have a body,” and at the same time focus that lens wide and say, “I can literally see beyond my skin and I am also the tree. I am also the cloud.” And that’s not just trying to be poetic, it’s trying to say, “There’s no reason the skull or the skin should be seen as the final boundaries of you.”

Q: It’s going beyond my physical being to my subtle being, which can be pervasive, and finding the connection with all things.

One thought I latched on to while you were talking about parents, which I have seen, is that it has been a tough year for families, in general, just having to do a lot. One of the things that is compromised in that process is presence. So, any thoughts or suggestions on how to regain the presence parents may have lost in the last year?

DS: It’s such a great question. I think that presence has three qualities to it, and each of them contribute to this question you’re asking: What do we do as parents? And presence is a great central feature to highlight. Those three are: Connection to your child, Open Awareness so you’re able to receive from your child, and then you have Love. If you like acronyms, that spells COAL.




When parents bring presence,
then children will develop resilience.


In the past, I would talk about the word “mindfulness,” where COAL was an acronym for “curious, open, accepting, and loving.” This new COAL overlaps with that, but it’s “connected, open awareness, and love.” Those three things are almost like three threads of a singular tapestry of presence. And they’re what’s described when people do this practice of the “Wheel of Awareness.” It’s been really fascinating to watch parents start to do the wheel as a practice, as they can become more present. They can feel the deep connection. They can enter this state of receptivity called open awareness. And they can let the natural vital force of life – love – arise in their being and in their doing.

COAL (Connection, Open Awareness, and Love) is what presence is made of – the three threads of presence; the tapestry of presence. And the good news is: If I’m doing something, whatever that practice might be, my parenting will be totally different, and my child will develop resilience. One practice is the Wheel of Awareness, where the rim is the many things I’m aware of, and the hub represents the experience of awareness itself. I need to learn to distinguish the hub from the rim, the knowing in the hub from the knowing in the rim, so that when I’m really there for my child, I’m coming from the hub. I may have all sorts of thoughts or memories or excitements or disappointments or expectations or judgments, and all that rim stuff, but when I drop into the hub, it’s “Connection, Open Awareness, and Love”– COAL.

So I am so happy that you brought up the word “presence,” because if you had to summarize the science of attachment and parent-child relationships, presence would be the best summary of the whole thing. When parents bring presence, then children will develop resilience.

My wife wrote this really great book called The Gift of Presence with “ce,” and it was a joke, because presents are gifts, right? It’s a mindfulness guide for women, although men can read it, too, and it’s a beautiful example of seeing how to become present and show up, for life is available to us whether we’re parents or not. We can do it with our neighbors, we can do it with our friends, we can do it with our partners, we can do it at work, and we can do it with government. I was working in a parliament in another country and we did the Wheel of Awareness.



It’s the deepest sign of strength to bring
that heartfelt experience of love
and collaboration, cooperation, compassion,
and connection to the way you design law,
or design a company,
or the way you are present as a parent
.



Then there was this silence between the two of us.
I asked, “Well, can I ask you a question?”
He goes, “Okay, sure.”
“So, when you’re making federal law, you’re coming up with the plans for national policy, are you leaving love out of your reasoning?” His eyes got really big, and then he ran over to his colleagues. I don’t know exactly what they said, but we can only hope that instead of … Imagine what he’s been taught over the years – that love is a sign of weakness – when, in fact, it’s the deepest sign of strength to bring that heartfelt experience of love and collaboration, cooperation, compassion, and connection to the way you design law, or design a company, or the way you are present as a parent.

One parliamentarian didn’t want to share during the sharing time, but he spoke with me afterward and said, “You know, I didn’t share during the sharing time.”
I said, “Yeah, I noticed.”
And he said, “Do you want to know what my experience was?”
I said, “Sure.”
And then he started to cry, and said, “When I got into that hub in the practice, I have never before felt the experience of being connected to everyone and everything, and so much love.”
I said, “Wow, thank you for sharing.”
He said, “You’re welcome.”
And I said, “So, you didn’t want to share that with your colleagues?”
“Oh no, no, no. They would think I was weak if I talked about love.”

So this is the moment! The pandemic is inviting us to let love lead us, let it guide us, to teach from that place, to live from that place, to learn from that place of love. I think if we do that, we can have a very different way of being on the planet.



The pandemic is inviting us to let love lead us,
let it guide us, to teach from that place,
to live from that place,
to learn from that place of love.
I think if we do that, we can have
a very different way we are on the planet.


Q: I really like this, because what you shared both from a practical standpoint and an overarching philosophy is: When I stop loving, the one who suffers the most is me. I have dammed up the river flowing from within me.

Taking the question of presence a little further, and you also spoke about alloparenting, I want to share something with you. My teacher often speaks about a concept called the Wisdom Bridge. He makes the case that we are suffering from the mass extinction of wisdom in society.

DS: Oh yes.

Q: His point is that the wisdom bridges are breaking down between generations. Grandparents and grandchildren today are not spending enough time together. Very soon, we will be at a place where we lose so much generational wisdom in society that we need to start rethinking family. We need to start thinking alloparenting.

Dan, your work is making a big difference. I didn’t even get into interpersonal neurobiology, and to me that is real quantum awareness. You’re looking beyond and bringing in the quantum field of awareness.

DS: The book called Intraconnected begins and builds from that place.

Well, it is an absolute honor to be here with you and I look forward to continuing our conversation.

Q: Thank you so much. My best to your family.

DS: Thank you, and us to you, too.



Interview by UDAY KUMAR
Illustrations by ANANYA PATEL



Daniel Siegel

Dr. Siegel is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, the co-director of the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA, and the Executive Director of the Mindsight Institute, for the development of mindsight, insight, empathy, and integration in individuals, families, and communities. He is the author of five New York Times... Read more

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here