Looking for In-terdependence on the Outside
By Kimberly Carmitchel
I am a seeker; I came that way – painfully wondering and wandering in search of oneness. From childhood I resented this human form and wanted to return to the unity of oneness from whence I came. I wanted to be the oneness I knew of, yet in form we are charged with feeling separate, and then relearning that we are interdependent – a oneness that co-arises in many forms. From inside it felt like a steely-blue heaviness, a longing to let go of this separate form. I would only later learn we call that renunciation.
So off I went on my life journey to return to interdependent co-arising. I know that ‘all causes and conditions co-arise in this moment to create this manifestation’, but like a good human being with dualistic vision, my eyes point outwards so that is where I looked. I would learn, work, sacrifice, and control to ‘help’ others in some way; imagining we could beat this multitude of divisiveness back into a pulpy oneness.
I stepped into the fullness of dense human samsaric experience — thunk. God it felt heavy. The pressure of feeling separate when we are not is suffocating, piercing, pinching, just too weighty. For me there have been many times when it just wasn’t worth it; ‘what’s the point’ – so close to just finding a way out.
I am lucky, I don’t know why. I have a super power. Devotion, Determination and Perseverance. My life commitment is to persevere on this journey, and somewhere inside me, the power and strength of our interdependent unity pulses, carrying me forward despite how painful or difficult it is. I kept marching on.
I asked every teacher I could find, how do I help others come to this oneness with me? What is my purpose? Where should I go, what should I do? How do I help others see that we are not many, just one co-arising dance of interdependent pristine, primordial potentiality. How do I make that awareness manifest in form.
Over and over I received the same answer – in essence, ‘you help others by working on yourself’. “No, no”, I thought to myself, “they aren’t understanding the question I am asking”. It was only years later I would understand that it was I who just couldn’t hear the answer they were giving.
Mixed in with the medicine men, teachers, masters and guides, I remember one time I went to see a Shaman. Sitting in a circle with 20 others, from across the room, I asked him, “What should I be doing that would be the most helpful in moving people towards recognizing our oneness, knowing our interdependence, working together?” As the words came out of my mouth, an energy rose in my chest; that awkward feeling, when you feel embarrassed, like perhaps you have said something stupid and in fact don’t even deserve to be here. From across the room the Shaman says to me, “Did you just feel that charge of energy in your chest?” He continued, “I did”. “Work on that” he said.
Remember those stories of masters slapping a student up-side the head and they crumple to the floor in a heap only to lift their head in awakened enlightenment? Well – that isn’t me. I’m a slow study. I have been on the gradual path, sloughing off dead and bleeding bits of ego for eternity. But— I keep my super power in tow; “even at cost of life I shall preserve my mindfulness and mental sanctity”.
Another time I remember, I had been working so diligently in my practice on understanding, recognizing and releasing my sense of self as separate when one day I was driving down the street past a bus stop. I had a sudden awareness that if I didn’t exist as a separate self, neither did that man standing over at the bus stop. I later talked to my teacher about this and he said, “Of course, self and other co-arise”. I felt stupid, but I got it, he, the man at the bus stop, was only an other because I was holding on to my self-ness.
If people keep telling me to work on myself, there must be something to it. Another nugget of wisdom finally sank in. I had heard this analogy of playing in samsara being like playing a board game and it really spoke to me. I came to understand that running around trying to ‘do’ things, help people, fix the problems others were experiencing, was in essence only supporting and extending the samsaric illusion of separateness. When I look and work outside myself to find in-terdependence, it is just moving game pieces around on the chess board of samsara. I am playing in divisiveness; trying to buff the sharp edges off of our being separate. From my sense of self, I play — sliding my attachment three spaces on the perpendicular, move fear back two spaces and one to the left, two spaces forward with desire, and at ALL COST, protect the king, sense of self.
With the help of many dear teachers and dharma friends, I have come to understand that in-terdependece is something I must find inside. I had to close these outward facing eyeballs and look within. With repeated, tender, determined examination, I found that there is nothing to find out there, that we cannot make separate that which is one.
What has always stood between me and resting in union with the co-arising manifestation of all, is my sense of self. When the king falls, in a non-linear, open, spacious wonder of wonders, the whole house of cards self-liberates. There is no I to find a “you” to be interdependent with, we just are.