Mind Matters: Interbeing

The Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, defines our connectedness to self, to other, to the earth, as interbeing. Interbeing does not dismiss the I or the self but does reframe it in such a way that we see how connected we are to everyone and everything.

Recently, a client reflected on his life and world events and how the two intersect. He pondered what effect he has as one person in the vast array of the moment’s tragedies—what is the relationship between his banking job and the fact that millions of bats are dying in the US of a fungus disease? Meanwhile a gunman has killed twelve people in Washington, DC. Of course, human life is priceless but he reflects if bats—and bees too—are goners, are we far behind? After all, one bat eats thousands of insects a night and bees pollinate crops. Both are a farmer’s friends—hence, everyone’s life support system. Without their work, we perish.

At first sight what we consider trivial may have dire consequences. We wake up to gunmen killing people—and we care, at least momentarily. Yet, we hardly “bat” an eyelash at news about creatures we may believe to be useless or disdainful. That tragedy is not so visible. However, without awareness of “interbeing,” we do violence to ourselves and each other. So there is a connection between human behavior and nature! Consider that there is a continuum of violence: the acts of killing innocent victims are most horrendous, but the spectre/spectrum of violence does not stop there. Blatant disregard of vanishing species, the pollution of the air and water is collectively abusive also.

Ah, but here is where the “I” comes into play. Rather than despair, “What’s a person to do?” the rallying cry can be what can “I” do in my own way to care for the “interbeing-ness” of the world. Heroic acts aside, baby steps are wondrous!

Instead of putting discarded, yet still usable, objects of affluence in the trash, fill the SUV or minivan and take them to Habitat for Humanity’s Re-Store, or whatever charity suits you. Landscape with native plants to invite the birds and bees! Recycle, yes, but beyond that, note the words of violence many of us use towards the anonymous drivers that surround us. Breathe and be aware—we are not ego-centric islands but interbeings walking not just on but with the earth. Or, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, “Walk as if you are kissing the earth with your feet.”

And drive as though your mother or your son is in front of you.

* Kayta Curzie Gajdos holds a doctorate in counseling psychology and is in private practice in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. She welcomes comments at MindMatters@DrGajdos.com or (610)388-2888. Past columns are posted to www.drgajdos.com


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About Kayta Gajdos

Dr. Kathleen Curzie Gajdos ("Kayta") is a licensed psychologist (Pennsylvania and Delaware) who has worked with individuals, couples, and families with a spectrum of problems. She has experience and training in the fields of alcohol and drug addictions, hypnosis, family therapy, Jungian theory, Gestalt therapy, EMDR, and bereavement. Dr. Gajdos developed a private practice in the Pittsburgh area, and was affiliated with the Family Therapy Institute of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, having written numerous articles for the Family Therapy Newsletter there. She has published in the American Psychological Association Bulletin, the Family Psychologist, and in the Swedenborgian publications, Chrysalis and The Messenger. Dr. Gajdos has taught at the college level, most recently for West Chester University and Wilmington College, and has served as field faculty for Vermont College of Norwich University the Union Institute's Center for Distance Learning, Cincinnati, Ohio. She has also served as consulting psychologist to the Irene Stacy Community MH/MR Center in Western Pennsylvania where she supervised psychologists in training. Currently active in disaster relief, Dr. Gajdos serves with the American Red Cross and participated in Hurricane Katrina relief efforts as a member of teams from the Department of Health and Human Services' Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.Now living in Chadds Ford, in the Brandywine Valley of eastern Pennsylvania, Dr. Gajdos combines her private practice working with individuals, couples and families, with leading workshops on such topics as grief and healing, the impact of multigenerational grief and trauma shame, the shadow and self, Women Who Run with the Wolves, motherless daughters, and mediation and relaxation. Each year at Temenos Retreat Center in West Chester, PA she leads a griefs of birthing ritual for those who have suffered losses of procreation (abortions, miscarriages, infertility, etc.); she also holds yearly A Day of Re-Collection at Temenos.Dr. Gajdos holds Master's degrees in both philosophy and clinical psychology and received her Ph.D. in counseling at the University of Pittsburgh. Among her professional affiliations, she includes having been a founding member and board member of the C.G. Jung Educational Center of Pittsburgh, as well as being listed in Who's Who of American Women. Currently, she is a member of the American Psychological Association, The Pennsylvania Psychological Association, the Delaware Psychological Association, the American Family Therapy Academy, The Association for Death Education and Counseling, and the Delaware County Mental Health and Mental Retardation Board. Woven into her professional career are Dr. Gajdos' pursuits of dancing, singing, and writing poetry.



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