Advanced Disconnection

AJ Dahiya

The advancement of technology has revolutionized the way we live. We have access to untold amounts of information at our fingertips, the ability to get to know people thousands of miles away, and instant shopping with next-day delivery. 

In comparison to the days of yore, many of us will see how much we have advanced as a society. We have come leaps and bounds from the days of primitive living, superstition, and folklore.  

I agree that technological advances have positively impacted society in many ways – but as with all things, there’s always a price tag. Are we clear on the price we are willing to pay?

For many the air has become unbreathable, water undrinkable, food uneatable and the earth unlivable. With the rapid advancement of today, we seem to also be rapidly losing our connection to things that were held sacred. As an example, do we still consider the earth as Mother? If so, perhaps we should reassess the way we treat her. Do we see other living beings as holding inherent value? Do we perhaps need to reevaluate our value system to put people first and things second? Along with modern advancement, we have also advanced a crisis in mental health, fragmented relationships, depression, exploitation, and divide.

We can celebrate the progress that humanity has made and gratefully acknowledge how our lives are better today than they were hundreds of years ago. What I would like to offer is that we consider that true advancement goes beyond gadgets, technology, and modern comforts. For advancement to reach its full potential it must also include advancement of consciousness. 

Without including human consciousness in the equation we are perhaps missing an important and valuable opportunity that has been afforded to us by the modern world. Unless we are innovating ways to create more kindness, compassion, and connection or society is actually devolving as opposed to evolving, even if that devolution is taking place with a phone in one’s hand. In today’s world we have learnt to love things, and use people. 

If we fail to evolve in consciousness, individually and collectively, all of our other advancements simply become instruments of our inner suffering, rather than instruments of our ultimate liberation.  

This is an invitation, rather than a critique. We are all invited to advance society together by becoming heartivists. It’s an invitation to learn to love people and use things. An invitation to live a life of compassionate action. 

Conscious Feeling

AJ Dahiya - Conscious feeling

About a year ago I had surgery. I was fortunate to have a wonderful team that, even all this time later, I still recall with tremendous gratitude. Under their skillful care, the difficulties I faced for some time were healed. 

Lately, I’ve been thinking in particular of the anesthesiologist, whose job is to put the patient into a state of unconsciousness. While I am an advocate for conscious living, in the setting of an operating theatre unconsciousness is welcome on the part of the patient. Why? Because in such a state one is no longer in a state of wakefulness and therefore one can no longer feel. 

To truly feel is only possible when we are awake. 

While unconsciousness is welcome when we do not want to feel the pain of the surgeon’s blade, in the realm of social good, compassion, and activism we want the polar opposite – we want to be as conscious as we possibly can.

To be conscious means to be awake, alive, and aware. An alternate definition is to be deliberate and acting with intentionality. Weaving all these thoughts together, then, we can surmise that to feel requires us to be awake and intentional. 

Yet the world is awash in unconscious feelers; those who form strong opinions and become emotionally reactive, clinging to a particular position without ever really examining the identities, fears, and emotional underpinning of those assertions. 

So often, we beat back the feelings we deem “negative,” disallowing ourselves the opportunity to examine or learn from them. In doing so we deny the intelligence of our emotions and create the conditions for disconnection. Unconscious feelers are numb; it is easy to become apathetic and deny injustice if we are continuously training our hearts to reject that which is uncomfortable. 

To develop conscious feeling is not an invitation to become swept out to sea in the current of your emotions. Rather, it is an opportunity to sit with your reactions, impulses, and predilections so that you can see them clearly. 

As Victor Frankl famously wrote: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

The Place Where We Are Kind

This week, I am drawing inspiration from the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. In particular, his poignant piece “From The Place Where We Are Right.”

From the place where we are right
Flowers will never grow
In the spring.

The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.

But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place
Where the ruined
House once stood

In these words I feel a call to humility, mercy, and compassion.

Indeed, so much of our political and social discourse has come to feel like a “ruined house.” Yet at a time of such great division in the world, Amichai’s simple reflection reminds us that even across great differences we have so much in common. We all long for safety, love our children and families, and want to be understood. And perhaps even more fundamentally, I suspect we all have our doubts. We wonder if we are choosing the right paths – whether we are doing enough – both individually and collectively. Yet we hesitate to give ourselves permission to admit that there is so much we do not understand.

If we lead with these “doubts and loves,” perhaps we can stand together not in the place where we are right, but in the place where we are kind. If we choose to listen more, perhaps in this stillness we will hear the whisper of our own consciousness, reminding us of the beauty and promise of our interconnectedness.