When people go within and connect with themselves,
they realize they are connected to the universe
and they are connected to all living things.”
Hurray for Part 3! In the time of Covid, we are looking at what many of us feel is lacking right now: connection. We are feeling lonely, isolated, fearful, and upset. Those feelings are valid. We are in a pandemic! And. We can lovingly choose how to deal with those feelings, and to cultivate more hurray in our day. Not some short term happiness that comes from ignoring feelings or stuffing them down, but true lasting fulfillment that comes from honoring and releasing them, redeciding how to move forward, and celebrating.
You know me, by now, maybe. I’m all about saying hurray inside, outside, and underneath™. And it’s my belief that anything – including connection – is best experienced and cultivated from the inside out. If you’re not sure what these three phases are, here’s what I mean:
- Inside: relationship with your emotions, self talk, divine connection, your “inner” life. Your self image.
- Underneath: relationship with your physical body and what’s underneath your clothes. Your body image.
- Outside: relationship with those around you, your work in the world, how you present yourself to the world, your “outer” life. Your public image.
In Part 1 of this series we focused on Inside, and getting connected with emotions, thoughts, feelings, and even divine power. Then we focused on Part 2 and Underneath, with our bodies and what is underneath our clothes. Now it’s time to move outward and focus on what’s Outside of us.
To be honest, this is where most of us start with when it comes to connection. We see connection as only possible with others. Or, we see ourselves as totally disconnected and separate from others. The truth is we can cultivate both connections with ourselves, and we are truly connected to all others at all times. Wow. Ok we just got really woo-woo there. I know. But bare with me. The gist is that when we focus on connecting lovingly with ourselves and our own bodies first, we are more able to connect lovingly with the world and people around us. That’s why it’s so important to work from the inside, out.
There is an opportunity here, as we are all cooped up in our homes with ourselves or a small group of people, to look for quality connection outside of us. When connection to our work in the world, or opportunities to showcase our personal style, or literal contact with other people is not readily available to us – we realize just how critical it is. We truly are meant to live in community with others. And doing so without attaching your entire happiness or worth or lovability is key here. Because it’s forcing us (with love) to get creative with connection with others, this strange quarantine time can really help us prioritize how we do it and welcome in a higher quality over quantity.
I, for one, am a true extrovert and my top love language is physical touch. I can’t wait until I can hug other people, soak up and share in their energy, and meet in person to exchange ideas. That kind of connection lights me up. And when I lived in New York City, it was easy to go out and get this kind of connection daily. When I moved to Oklahoma a few months ago, the opportunities to do so were far less. I had to seek out opportunities for connection with other people. And I had to get intentional about my efforts, and creative with my options. Most importantly, I trained myself to be open to connection in new and beautiful forms. I had a practice of intentionally connecting with others outside of me (after I’d connected with myself inside and underneath, of course) once a day. That may be a Zoom call, or a trip to a store, or a coffee with a new friend. It was weird and awkward at first. But creating the habit helped me stay committed to connection.
Then Covid happened. My daily habits sure did help sometimes (I was already used to Zoom and working from home), and went out the window other times (no more going into a local store on Main Street for conversation). One of the blessings of these strange and difficult times is the opportunity to get resourceful, creative, and inventive with how we do most things. Including connecting with others. There are lists and lists of ways to connect with others and the world outside of you, and today I’m focusing on one special way that came up in my heart first and was affirmed by two amazing resources in a row. Keep reading to see what I mean.
How to Connect OUTSIDE
One of the best places to start is with my OUTSIDE resources page on this very website! You’ll see blog posts categorized by what you may need right now. We are always adding new blog posts and resources so come back often!
Practice suggestion: Write a Letter
A note: When I outlined this blog post, I left this portion of the post blank so that I could think and feel into it, and come back with some wisdom. I had already written to my assistant, Kat, that I wanted to suggest a letter writing practice. But I hadn’t flushed out the details. I have been practicing “leaving space for magic” and asking for guidance regularly. And my goodness, was I supplied this time! In leaving space for this section just yesterday, I literally woke up to two amazing resources that fit in with the letter writing theme perfectly today. I am both amazed and not surprised. This is what living in alignment looks like.
So here I have a few resources and practice suggestions to help you connect with one aspect of OUTSIDE: other people.
First, I woke up to something beautiful on Facebook. Look, I know that social media can be fraught with traps for comparison, griping, and agitation and sometimes disconnecting from social sites can be beneficial. And yet, we are pretty lucky to have Facebook (as one example) in which to stay socially connected when we are physically distant. I’m thankful! And for years I’ve been curating people in my life, and folks in my Facebook feed that are aligned with my values and who (more often than not) share wonderful, interesting, beautiful things. This is paying off x10 during Covid. My Facebook feed is often a wonderful place to be. And it’s not too late for you to start cleaning up your social media feeds. That being said, two lovely people shared the same story in their feed and I just happened upon it this morning.
The story, shared by a Father on Twitter, is about a young person who has a beautiful letter writing practice, and who sent a letter of gratitude to his postal worker for helping him deliver those letters. What unfolded as a result and the overall message had me sobbing (with tears of wonder at the beauty of humanity) this morning. What is especially exciting is that the caption for the post was “Connection”. And the page sharing it was “Outside Voice.” Which seems especially divinely created for a blog post I’ve titled Connection During Covid Part 3: Outside. Don’t you think? Give it a read here:
I’m not crying, you’re crying. Actually no, I am 100% crying. I love this message and this sentiment so much! Writing a short letter and sharing and listening helps us feel seen, heard, and (you guessed it) connected. A DM or a text can work, too. But a handwritten letter (jokes and colorful drawings are optional and highly encouraged) is especially “Hurray!”. I also hope you read through the Dad’s notes on mental health at the end. As a person with a panic disorder who regularly practices what she preaches (and teaches) about emotional health, his loving suggestions are equally very “Hurray”.
“The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.”
-Rachel Naomi Remen
A few moments after I wiped the tears away from my eyes I went to make breakfast. I fed my (wailing) cat, Sunny, and started on my coffee and eggs. I put the latest episode of The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos on my Amazon Echo. I’ve only listened to a few of her podcasts before and I’ve really liked them. Dr. Santos blends emotional intelligence and feelings and humanity, with science and facts. She also has great guests. This episode started out with a description of “griping” and eventually landed on how gratitude is a better practice for emotional well being. And then. She and her guests discussed writing a gratitude letter to someone, and its immense benefits. In fact, while griping might help you feel OK in the moment with a quick emotional release, gratitude (and especially this practice of writing and sharing a gratitude letter) can help you feel more happiness and fulfillment … for up to a month. A MONTH. Science! Give it a listen here and visit her website for some resource material as well as a Gratitude Letter template.
One thing that Dr. Santos and her guests realize is that sharing your gratitude for things and people can feel cheesy at first. It can also feel vulnerable. Gratitude and sharing it with someone takes courage. It’s revealing. And it’s important. Breathing through the discomfort to positively affect your own emotional well being and someone else’s is really worth it. Connection is worth it. We may be locked in our homes or cautioned against physical connection right now. And that can feel isolating, scary, and lonely. So start from the inside, out and connect. The cure for loneliness is connection. We are all truly in this together, and more connected than it may feel right now.
There are many ways to connect on the OUTSIDE. And one major way is to lovingly connect with gratitude to someone in your life with a letter. Write it out. Be brave. The simple act of writing it has benefits. And then send it. Share it. Connect.
Your Turn: When has writing a letter helped you feel more connected? Have you tried writing to someone during Covid? What was their response? How did it make you feel to connect in this way? Let us know your experience on my Instagram!
Credits: Photos were taken by the lovely Becky Yee. These photos were taken in Paris on a Hurray Vacay trip. No airbrushing my face or body, ever. Hurray!