Last night, I went to see Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. As you probably know, Anthony Bourdain was widely known for his NYT bestselling book Kitchen Confidential. He then catapulted to global stardom for his food and world-travel television shows like A Cook’s Tour, No Reservations, and Parts Unknown. Anthony Bourdain committed suicide at the age of 61.
My boyfriend, Alan, and I talked long into the night about the story, about our own stories, too.
One of the questions we pondered was why someone who had so many people who knew and loved him would feel so alone and hopeless that he’d choose to end his life. It’s one thing for Angela and Alan to ask these questions but can you imagine the pain of being his best friend, his lover, his own daughter having to now live with the unanswerable question, “Why didn’t he call me in his darkest hour?”
There are few who understand
This morning after meditation I picked up the Tao Te Ching which I’ve been working my way through, verse by verse, every Monday morning. Today it was number 70.
I was struck by these lines:
“My words are very easy to understand… yet there are few who understand me… so few understand me — a rare treasure indeed.”
Bourdain, who was a powerful storyteller, clearly had a way with words. His words were what got him out of a hot kitchen at La Halles restaurant in NYC and into the bellies of millions. Yes, millions had an appetite for Bourdain’s words which makes it even more confusing and tragic that perhaps he never felt understood, despite his bold storytelling and straight-to-the-bone questions he’d ask his uber-successful friends, like this one, “…but are you happy?”
As I was pondering the Tao and also still pondering the movie and the aloneness that Anthony Bourdain must’ve felt–that we all feel to one degree or another–it’s easy to conclude that we feel alone because of a lack of connection. Most definitely recently, with COVID-19, and racial and political conflict drawing brutal lines.
What’s not so easy to understand is that we feel a lack of connection EVEN THOUGH we’re the most “connected” people in the history of the Earth, and EVEN AMIDST a sea of admirers and acknowledgment, and EVEN WITH a rich inner circle of family and friends. EVEN WHEN we have everything we can possibly have (even a way with words) we still feel disconnected and deeply alone.
It’s not enough to blame it on a lack of connection. It seems to be a lack of meaningful connection that becomes our disease.
A sad trend shows that “deaths of despair“, from drugs, alcohol, and suicide are surging. And in the U.S., life expectancy is at its lowest level since WWII.
Meaning matters more than happiness
This word, ‘meaning,’ matters. James Hollis, Jungian psychoanalyst and the author of seventeen books, has written extensively about the importance of meaning and says that the goal of life is meaning, not happiness.
We are all meaning-seeking, meaning creating creatures and when we experience the loss of meaning, we suffer. ~James Hollis
I take meaningful connection, then, to be the kind of connection that’s more than just someone you can call and have a nice chat with. It’s a kind of connection with someone who’ll hear you, see you, be with you, understand you. Not just someone who’ll hear your words, someone who’ll understand what your words mean. Maybe even the words you don’t say.
“…there are so few who understand me.”
The ancient text of the Tao reveals that this lack of understanding is nothing new, it’s quite common in fact, and the solution lies in something more than words. It requires knowing, sensing, and feeling at a level beyond words. It requires reconnecting to the Truth Of Things–our Source, our Self, and Each Other.
We seem to be in a crisis of misunderstanding when we ask the question, “What’s the point?” and the answer comes back null and void one too many times.
How to reconnect to meaning in our life
The way back to the meaning we’re craving is through stillness. Kay Lindahl of The Listening Center teaches the sacred art of deep listening as a transformative stillness practice. She says deep listening has 3 qualities that work organically together. (See how to practice at end):
- Silence: listening to God
- Reflection: listening to Ourselves
- Presence: listening to Each Other
As Kay explains, silence, contemplative listening, cultivates our relationship with something bigger than us. Call it God, Divine, Source, Wisdom, Universe, Nature.
Reflection, inner listening, helps us connect to our higher self and know who we really are. Angela with a captial-A. Our Real Self. It helps us to hear the voice of our Soul, that part of us that’s beyond our personality, accomplishments, and bank accounts, so we can know what really matters to us.
Presence, then, is listening to others with an open mind and heart. It’s paying attention to who you’re with–without your own agenda. We’re connecting at a heart level with compassion, empathy, and nonjudgment. We don’t listen to reply, we listen to understand and the other person feels deeply known.
Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people cannot tell the difference. ~David Augsberg
There’s hope for mutual understanding
The worrisome disconnection we feel day to day has its genesis in deep waters. If we’re disconnected from our Source how can we really know our Self? And if we’re disconnected from our Self, how can we possibly have the wherewithal to understand anybody else?
It’s imperative we restore our connection to the Truth of Things (as I call it) which includes the truth of who we are, where we come from, what’s really going on around here, and what really matters to us.
Reconnecting to the Truth of Things makes it possible to restore meaningful connections with others and have any hope of mutual understanding.
We need to wake up
Spiritually speaking, I believe we are God’s idea in physical form. I believe all of creation is the same One Thing and it’s both obvious and ordinary but also hidden from us like a precious jewel. If we walk through the world asleep, we’ll not find the jewel. We’ll continue misunderstanding and be just another one person standing in the masses of humanity who continue to populate the islands upon islands of loneliness.
That’s why we collectively need to wake up. So when you’re in your darkest hour, you know there are “a few” who can take your call and understand you all the way through to the morning.
And then of course you can be that lifeline, too.
Truly listening to someone is one of the greatest gifts we give to each other. ~Kay Lindahl
It’s in stillness that we know. It’s in stillness that we wake up and restore our lifeline to meaningful connection with God, Ourself, and Each Other.
It’s how we know there’s hope that we can be understood and so we pick up the phone and make the call. It’s how we can be the one who answers that call. One of the few who understands.
How to practice:
- Silence (listening to God): Spend at least a minute each day in silence. Use intention to listen for God, source, wisdom. Establish a daily meditation like the method I teach, the SEED Method, or centering prayer, or another practice you can learn from a qualified teacher.
- Reflection (listening to Ourself): Take a deep breath before you respond. Listen to your soul and get to know yourself through self-inquiry, free-writing, journaling, meditation, and other self-awareness practices. Establish a daily practice that you enjoy.
- Presence (listening to Each Other): Be mindful of each moment, pay attention and be with the person you’re with. Mindfulness is something you can practice anytime while doing ordinary things. Having a daily meditation practice builds your mindfulness muscle and over time you’ll notice you’re being more mindful (and more present) more often.
A daily meditation practice is essential.
Daily meditation is best when you have a proven and easy technique like the Simple, Easy, Every Day (SEED) Meditation Method. I can teach you! Get notified of my upcoming meditation class by filling out this form:
Credits and Resources:
- National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 800-273-8255
- Kay Lindahl at The Listening Center
- Listen to this interview with James Hollis: The Goal of Life is Meaning, not Happiness on SoundsTrue.
- Featured pic is Anthony Bourdain painting by Dane Shue
- Life expectancy, Falling by David Leonhardt of New York Times