not strangersOne of the biggest socially awkward things I experience has to do with the fact that I don’t actually have a sense of “stranger” with most people.

What I mean is that I very much feel that saying “A stranger is a friend you just haven’t met yet”. So when I meet people, I bring a familiarity that can feel, well, awkward. Because I act like we are friends and forget that there are social protocols to new interactions and, by not following them, I am disrupting the box and warbling reality.

I seem to always forget that there is a prevailing mist of separation and “other” that dominates the landscape.

If you watch children, they certainly don’t have a sense of otherness the way adults do. I think it is actually very natural to be inclusive and familiar, to be open and heart-centered, with anyone we meet.

One of the things I say to clients, a tool I give them for their toolbox, is this:

Assume connection.

Our underlying assumptions, whether or not we are aware of them, create the lens we look through. This lens determines what we see and what we find.

There is actually a very small amount of information the human brain can take in. When we understand this, we can begin to question what filters, or lenses, we are engaging. And when we can see these lenses, we can then examine if these lenses support our intentions in the world, support our hearts and souls.

If not, we can make a conscious choice, and effort, to cultivate and use lenses that do support our intentions.

In this way, “assume connection” becomes a notion we can bring in whenever we become aware of a state of separation, like the concept of “stranger”.

It is very common to hear people who are engaged in developing their consciousness to say that they believe that everything is connected, that we are all one. And I believe in the sincerity of someone when they say this.

Yet there is a difference between a theoretically lived belief and an embodied belief.

It takes a great deal of courage to embody our beliefs, to think and act based on them.

I recently met someone for tea who was previously a Facebook connection that I had met only through Facebook. We instantly clicked. And throughout our conversation she kept bringing up the contrast between the familiarity of our interaction and the fact that we don’t know each other.

I could feel the openness of her heart and that she actually seems to be someone who embodies “a stranger is a friend you just haven’t met” in a world that insists on separation. And she navigated that water by being both open and acknowledging of the “otherness” reality so many people carry.

And so she and I co-created the space to be as comfortable as we are together given that we do not really know each other.

That’s what it takes, two people willing to be in connection from a heart-space rather than a story about how long or how well or what common whatever we share that allows us to justify connection.

Long ago I gave up on the idea of connecting with people through being understood. Or even through sharing common interests.

I am much more interested in someone’s heart and their ability to live from their heart. If you do this, I do not care if you are a knitting bootlegger who wears your underwear on the outside to football games, we’re going to be good.

It just seems like we are too often focusing on the wrong indicators to give permission to connect or be more comfortable with one another.

Personal ads exemplify this. Here people are, trying to meet someone to have a love relationship with, and they are talking about their hobbies. It reveals that we actually think that what we do is even remotely relevant to who we are.

When we expand the way we think of connection to include how our hearts are, we immediately open to a much larger pool of people.

A nice side-effect of this is that it also means many prejudices simply fall away because we are no longer associating who we are with what we do. So a person who engages in something you might find objectionable for some reason can be separated out: the activity can be objectionable for you, it doesn’t mean the person who does the activity is necessarily objectionable.

I really think that the whole “stranger” or “otherness” thing is a convenient way to stay safe. At least, it creates that illusion. But it’s really a way of keeping the world small and of not living from the heart. Which is fine – I actually think any way you or anyone chooses to live (let’s not be ridiculous – I’m not talking about child molesters or psycho killers) is perfectly fine as long as there is consciousness about it. Be small, but know you are being small and let it be a choice you are making. No biggie.

The point is that there is a truth of connection. And that we are far more alike than we are unalike. And I think that living from this place is far more honest and gutsy than acting from separation.

But it does take two.

And, like my new friend at the tea shop, it is okay to speak to it, to bring to consciousness the reality of both the familiarity and the newness of an interaction.

We just need to gauge one another’s pacing and make space for how we each are comfortable, or not, as we adjust our dials to authentic connection that supersedes the current social myth of separation.

We all find meaning in different ways and we all interpret actions and words differently, so we just have to allow room for learning each other’s meaning-making system. As long as the assumption of connection is the container that these interactions happen within, we’re good. As you reach for me, I reach for you, and love will find where the openings are in each of us and guide us through the maze of illusion to each other.

A final note: in the same way that we can be related to people and not like them, it is simply a matter of statistics that we will have easier connections with some people than others. You don’t have to force it. And you don’t have to “tolerate” people you don’t like. It’s not an either/or proposition. There are plenty of people that I feel a general connection with that I have no desire to specifically connect with. It’s not a big deal, it’s a matter of a variety of factors influencing that moment. Just don’t carry it with you because we all grow and change and, at some point, you may actually align with someone in the future that you can’t imagine ever aligning with in your present. Love is funny that way.