by Jeannie O’Neill, Education Director FLSM

It is a myth, this American experience of fierce individualism,  with an end goal of independence. Society behaves as if we should strive to reach independence in this lifetime and that it is a true measure of greatness;  independent thinkers, independently wealthy, independently owned and operated. We even measure children’s growth by milestones of independence. The truth is that no one is ever truly independent, this focus on “the self” causes suffering. The expectation of being self-sufficient, not ever met, is often a source of frustration and resentment. If we changed our thinking towards interdependence we are so much more likely to have reasonable expectations of each other and society. We learn to lean on each other in order to move forward.

The African Proverb speaks volumes here; “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” This lesson is what I cherish the most about learning communities. In the microcosm of the classroom, we experience how delightful it can be to need each other in order to progress. We experience how the collective humanity is more powerful than individual motivations. Educational institutions of all types and sizes experience a certain level of this choreographed dance of interdependence. However, this message is amplified in a classroom of light workers; massage therapists, reiki practitioners, yoga teachers and sound healers. These communities of interdependent healers know that to thrive, we need each other, to learn, we need each other. In order to grow, and travel safely on this journey, we give to and receive from, each other.

For those of us who meditate regularly, patterns of interdependent interaction begin to bubble to the surface. We notice that as humans BEING, we co-arise in development in every single moment, while mutually conditioning one another. Metaphysically speaking; I AM because YOU ARE. The barista handing me coffee with a smile creates a moment of kindness that I feel and project to the next customer as I hold open the door for them. Human interactions spread externally and create neurological pathways internally. The web is always interdependent. For those of us more practically minded, if the goal is true independence, why am I not farming, harvesting, roasting, grinding and brewing my own coffee? Our interdependence makes us stronger and our lives richer, and not just because of our coffee network.

Take a moment and notice the most common words that are associated with SELF; selfish, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, self-harm, self-doubt. Of course, not all SELF-words are negative, but the ones that are, certainly roll off the tongue. Growing the SELF creates a separation from the world, a false independence, and a focus on the “I” and the “mine.” Seeing the SELF diminish creates space for world connection. In classrooms here at Finger Lakes School of Massage I get to witness the dissolution of SELF and the rise of connection. The peace that is so palpable here is due to overflowing interdependent energy, that arises when we give and receive each day to the people around us.