Bigger and Why It Matters

“The cosmos is within us. We are made of star-stuff. We are a way for the universe to know itself.” 
                                                                                                                                                                                   ~ Carl Sagan

Life is bigger than you, much bigger, and yes it matters.

If you read any Buddhism at all, you will come across the idea of  inter-being, the idea that we are all connected and that there is no separation.  At first (and for quite some time) this can be very hard  to wrap your head around.  For many years I misunderstood it to mean that you and I are one, when so obviously we are two different people.  I've now come to understand inter-being as the idea that we are a part of something much larger than ourselves - much as our hearts and lungs do not exist independently, neither do we.  All of our organs are a part of our bodies, there really is no separation.  At what point does your heart end?  There is no exact point at which your lungs end - they are all connected - your body is a system.  You (and I) are a part of the entirety of all that is.  We may feel that we are separate, but that is illusion.

Living as a self-centered individual leads to fear and doubt.  We build walls, our world closes in, and our heart tightens up like a clenched fist. 

In order to open our world we must realize that everything that we do and experience contributes to the process and evolution of the Universe. Our contributions will continue to reverberate forever.  We cannot separate ourselves from everything else out there.  We are part of "it" and "it" has no end.

Realizing this, selfish or hateful acts no longer make sense.  Being selfish or harmful to other beings when we are a part of the whole is like the heart refusing to pump blood to the lungs or the lungs refusing to supply oxygen to the remainder of the body.  We are all interconnected and part of one great system.

Why is this important?  Because as we come to realize this deep down, then we understand that we need not fear death, we need not be greedy, we need not be selfish.  As we begin to truly see the connectedness of all that is then we see life in a new way and everything changes.  Our fear slowly dissipates and our heart begins to unclench.  Our thinking becomes more clear and the path (life) seems less confusing

It's not easy to consciously live as a part of the whole, moment by moment, realizing that we need not be greedy or fear the death of this thing we call "I". Our egos will fight it.  As an ancient Zen master once said, "It is like swallowing a red-hot iron ball.  You try to vomit it out, but you cannot."  It requires concentration and commitment.  As first we may intellectually realize the truth of inter-being, but that is only the beginning.  Quiet meditation and looking deeply will eventually help us to realize this truth on an entirely new level.  Maybe just a little at first, but that's a start.  It's the start of a whole new way of living.

Zen Presence - Ideas for Meaningful Living




  1. Great post, Dan. :-)

    I think that there is a flip side to it, too. The lungs can't continue to oxygenate blood, if they don't accept any from the heart. I know many people--including myself, for much of my life--who believe that they have to completely deny their own needs, in favor of the needs of "others." Is it really "me" and "others"? Are we really in a category all on our own, with all of humanity in a separate category? I definitely do not think so.

    I think a lot of fears, and fear-based behaviors, come from the illusion of separateness.

  2. Hi Dan,
    You recently attacked me in the comments field at another blog, telling its owner it’s a waste of time having a conversation with me. May I ask what I've said that provoked this reaction?

    1. Nothing you said provoked that reaction? Maybe something he said provoked that reaction.

  3. Well, he came off as both misinformed and stupid, as well as proud of his ignorance. Was your comment intended as a warning that he was making a fool of himself?

  4. Thanks for sharing this, Dan. You put into words nicely what I've been learning over the past few years. Though I won't stop learning ever, this feels authentic and right to me. I find it a little disheartening when people choose to behave in crappy or destructive ways because of this interconnectedness. When I see someone being hateful toward someone else, or self-absorbesd, etc., I almost feel the blow myself. It's all a weird mix of uplifting and depressing at the same time.
    Thanks again for sharing.

  5. During a rough patch in my life I was welcomed by a Native American people who taught me so much about love and connection. it was there I found acceptance and learned to see the world as inter-connected. Great post sorry it took me so long to reply.