All of us have been touched by warm and fulfilling connections to the world around us. When we feel this way, we know things are right. For those of us that have not much of that, we think that we may be missing something or something may be wrong with us. When we are not connected and touched by others, we know things are wrong. Each of us have a deep knowing about our primal need for relating, our need for the spiritual. There are many barriers obstructing connection and closeness to others. Emotions such as jealousy, envy, hatred, anxiety, are examples of obvious barriers that encourage a sense of isolation and separateness. We leave our happiness in the hands of others when we blame others for our unhappiness and hate. Some barriers are less obvious like obsessive thinking. From a Buddhist psychological practice, this challenge of understanding and letting go of our barriers to others is called “path.”

Path is the understanding through direct experience how our barriers get in the way of closeness to others. As we walk along path patience, tolerance and determination are critical. Can we gentle with ourselves? Humans continually consciously or unconsciously take note of differences between each other. We are wired to see the differences, and socially conditioned to judge or compare. Some of this conditioning has to do with wounding by other humans. Tremendous effort is necessary to root out this barrier. This is a noble and lifelong endeavor to see the similarities, the shared humanity with other beings. We can witness and let go of this misperception though non judgmental present moment awareness, by allowing for that part of the our mind that judges? Are we able to be gentle and understanding with that part of the mind that judges? We need walk through the judging mind to let go of the judging mind! We can then deepen our attention to our own precious humanness, and the exquisite person we are standing with. Letting go into spaciousness comparing and judging thoughts with gentleness is freedom from barriers. Sometimes the letting go of the barrier naturally leads to deepening attention to the other.

We have to have a clan, a group, support. That may be a couple of good friends or a group that practices what is healthy. Being consistently alone is fertile ground for sense of being different, or flawed. Having loving accepting friends can propell us from unique and flawed to similar and connected. Other people are a joy in out path to connect.

What can make a clan attractive is joy that can come from the activity that the clan is engaged in. The activity may have a profound effect on unraveling our sense of disconnection. If we share an activity based on something that matters to us, that we value, we naturally join others in heart and mind. We can be connected in activities such as sitting with the elderly, feeding the homeless or taking a stand for people who are different than the majority culture. If one has joy with the environment or adventure, an outdoor wilderness travel group could be a good fit. Or if one values the arts, how about a book club?

Path is about consistently cultivating an intention to let go of hatred, grasping for the feel good, and being checked out. This is the way to connection. We let go of the barriers through present moment awareness with lovingkindness. Meditative practice includes developing non judging awareness about our mind and the conditions around us. When we move about the world, out minds are conditioned to notice and react to what is different. Can we apply this mindfulness to the judging, and the sense of separateness? Often that is enough and the patterns of disconnection will fall away. We then can activate an intention to be kind to ourselves and the others. This intention develops into the joy of openness and love for all beings.

Questions for reflection: Do I have a friend that I could tell everything? Do I have friends that I do things with? Am I practicing kindness daily? Am I generous without being found out? Do I know that I am responsible for my unpleasant emotions? When have I been in conflict with someone I am close to, did I try to understand their views? When was the last time that I apologized? Where is my joy? If I am not practicing my joy, what is stopping me? If my old joy is no longer available, what is my barrier to my new joy? What stops me from having friends that are culturally different than? Can I be kind to people I meet “on the street?”