It was a rare radiant afternoon, when I had the good fortune to sit for a few undisturbed hours in Burnet Park and read. I was grateful for the warm clear day, as the summer had been displaying resolute recalcitrance in her arrival. The few clouds that dusted the sky were the sort from which my kids and I conjured mermaids and dolphins dancing in the sea.
I sat on the grass, my back gently supported by a fortuitously placed rock, well worn by wind and rain. Birds shared their spirited songs from the shade of the maples above, as bees hovered low, scouting the clover patches at my feet.
As I drank in the warmth of the sun, I was inspired by the diligence with which one lone honeybee was collecting pollen. I thought what a wonder is this tiny creature. Her ability to fly defies the laws of physics. At just over a centimeter long, weighing only sixty milligrams, she should not be able to fly, let alone carry a load weighing more than she, supported on such gossamer wings. Yet, by beating her wings so rapidly, the vibration allows her to move aloft and journey out into the world to gather the raw materials that fuel her and her colony.
She ventured from home on this crystalline day to forage for nectar. I watched her move methodically from flower to flower. Periodically, she would light on a cluster of white and pink petals into which she dipped her dainty front legs to retrieve the golden prize. At times she would remain only a brief moment, and at others she lingered longer, as it seemed there in lay more treasure.
I noticed, however, that sometimes she would near a flower and then abruptly pull away, as though she knew instinctively that this particular blossom held nothing for her. It seemed as though she had received an invisible message, some signal that this flower was futile, thus she was able to move on, no time wasted in unfruitful territory.
As it turns out, a honeybee can discern from a distance that there is no nectar to be had of a particular flower and will depart immediately, as she senses that it has already been visited. It is clear because the bee that made the first foray leaves a drop of its essence behind. The next bee detects the scent, understands that the flower is spent, and continues on to another. Amazingly, it takes honeybee workers ten million foraging trips to gather enough nectar to make one pound of honey. So effective transmission of information is critical.
By performing a particular figure eight pattern, called the waggle dance, successful foragers share with their hive mates specific information about the direction and distance to sources of abundant nectar and pollen, to water supplies, as well as to potential hive locations.
I find it interesting that the horizontal figure eight, or lemniscate, demonstrated in the bees’ communiqué is also the symbol for infinity. As each bee extends itself to the whole, through it’s messages, it insures the survival of the entire population, endlessly.
Similar to ants, these insects are social beings that cannot function on their own. On the contrary, they flourish as members of a group, and each individual’s function is essential to the survival of the collective. The colony cannot succeed without each bee’s distinct contribution.
The ability of bees to communicate effectively allows these industrious creatures to create the divine substance we know as honey. This sticky, sweet concoction is created in a comb, a series of interconnected cells formed in the shape of the hexagon, notably an ancient symbol of balance, union, interfacing, and community.
To ancient cultures bees signified eloquence, speech, and intelligence.in Hebrew, the word for bee, Dbure, has its origins in the root word Dbr, meaning speech. And so it is not unusual that honey, the gift of their creation, symbolizes learning, knowledge, wisdom, and the riches and sweetness of life.
It occurred to me, while watching this small wonder of Nature that we have much in common. We too are social beings. As humans we function best in cooperation and communion with each other, and through our interactions we are capable of creating extraordinary things.
We, like bees, can suffer greatly if we are separated too long from others of our kind. As research shows, there is a direct relationship between the degree to which a person is separated socially and their level of anxiety. The adverse effects of prolonged isolation can range from a general lack of wellbeing, to extreme morbidity, and even death.
Our purpose, as human beings, in this lifetime is twofold: to communicate and to create, and these functions cannot be carried out in isolation. We need each other in this journey, just as bees depend on each member of the hive for survival. James L. Gould in his book, The Honey Bee, states that the whole fabric of honeybee society depends on communication- on an innate ability to send and receive messages, to encode and decode information.
It is their ability to communicate with such a high level of accuracy that allows them to serve out their functions. Not only do they create honey, but they also aid in the propagation of other life forms. The level to which we communicate successfully also impacts our ability to create, and directly affects the well being of everything else around us.
As form inevitably follows function, we need only observe our physical makeup to understand for what it is we were made. As one can easily detect, we are all created with virtually identical attributes that serve the very same purpose.
We each have two eyes, two ears and one mouth centered on the front of the head, which conveniently pivots from side to side giving us the ability to direct our focus where we like. These features come standard on every model, and are the primary means by which we carry out our functions in this life. My children tell me we were designed this way because we are meant to observe and listen more than we are meant to speak. Yet so often we, literally or figuratively, close our eyes to what it is we would not see, shut our ears to what we care not to hear, and run our mouths for fear of the silence.
To serve our greater mission, our bodies are formed with two arms, each with a hand that is uniquely designed to create. With these arms we are able to help selflessly and to hold gently, and with these hands we can touch and form, both objects as well as ideas. Yet very often we use them counter to their intended purpose. We pull others close only to push them away, when we perceive our needs are no longer being met, or we grasp and hoard, only to discard what we’ve claimed once we determine that thing or person no longer serves its intended purpose.
We also have two legs and feet. Their function is to carry us places, to move us into the world, and bring us closer to others. Yet these ingeniously designed features are falling into disrepair for lack of use, as we turn more often to other means of connection like the telephone and computer, rather than walking down the hall to our colleague’s office to ask a question, or over to a friend’s home to seek much needed advice.
It is no wonder that so many of our relationships are in crisis. More and more we live in isolation, as we move through the world in plastic, metal and glass pods, plugged into devises that distract and cut us off from our fellow human beings. We don’t know our neighbors’ names and we have no idea about our partner’s needs. We have ceased to, or have forgotten how to effectively use the tools that have been given us to carry out our primary tasks in this life.
It is virtually impossible to engage in effective, substantive communication, if we are unwilling or able to extend ourselves to others. So often we assume that those in our lives know, or we feel they should know what it is we need. But how can they? They do not live inside our heads. Their lack of understanding is no fault of their own. It is we who are the cause, because so often we fail to express what it is we truly want, either because we ourselves don’t even know, or we are afraid of the reaction asking might produce.
When we don’t know what it is we want, how can we expect anyone to give it to us? In order to have our needs met, it is our responsibility first to determine what those needs are, and then to communicate them clearly.
Yet, even when we do know what we want, we are often afraid that we will be rejected if we ask. It is unreasonable to believe that by communicating we will be abandoned, and yet many of us do. We believe our minds must be kept private, or we will lose control of them, and of the relationship. Even when we are intimate with someone, we may withhold what is really on our minds for fear of giving too much away, or of pushing the other away. But can such forms of interaction be considered real communication or true intimacy, or are they just hollow shells, illusions of real connection?
It is important to understand, that these fears we hold of rejection, or of a negative response, are simply projections, constructs of our own ego mind. They are the result of a need to disassociate from aspects of ourselves we perceive as objectionable or inappropriate, and so we place them on another.
When we engage in the act of projection, which inevitably hinders communication, it is because we are not willing or able to accept responsibility for the situations in which we find ourselves, all of them ultimately of our own creation. It seems to be far easier to place blame elsewhere than it is to turn the mirror around and be confronted with those things about ourselves that we believe to be unacceptable.
But this is where our true work lies. We need to bring what remains in shadow into the light. When we can finally embrace all of our self, even those aspects we deem undesirable, and absolve our own perceived imperfections, we will begin to release the judgments we place on others, and we will finally taste the rich sweetness of forgiveness.
The Poet Antonio Machado expresses it this way:
Last night, as I was sleeping,
I dreamt - marvelous error! –
That I had a beehive
Here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
Were making white combs,
And sweet honey
From my old failures.
Yet many of us are not willing, or able yet to do this demanding work, and so we hide. We hide in our homes and offices, in our computers and televisions, in our Androids and iPods, in our addictions of every kind. These are the physical barriers we create that keep us isolated.
More critically however, we hide inside our own heads. We remain locked inside fortresses of our own devising, peering out through tiny slits in the stone slab walls we have erected. We sit within these self-made prisons, afraid of connection, afraid of intimacy, and wonder why we feel so terribly misunderstood and so desperately alone, when ultimately, what we fear is ourselves. Our colleagues, friends, parents, siblings, partners, and children are merely mirrors of our own inner lives.
Consequently, what we need to heal and become whole is to engage, to communicate with others in order to understand ourselves, and to realize our essential connection to the Universe. The work cannot be done alone. We need one another, as we are all One. This is key to our spiritual awakening, critical to our salvation, both individually and collectively.
This anonymous quote speaks to this point most eloquently:
I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see.
I sought my God, but my God eluded me.
I sought my brother and I found all three.
Essentially, it is our failure to communicate that keeps us separated. This is at the core of our impressions that we are alone. When we feel alone we are not at peace. So it is only through communication that we can bring about inner peace, and, ultimately, peace in the world around us.
A Course In Miracles reminds us that we never lose what we communicate. So, if I am afraid to express my love for you, because I fear that love won’t be reciprocated, what I am going to get in return is the fear, not the love, which is what I actually want.
When I communicate love, that is what is returned to me, and, in the end, is a gift I offer to myself. I am not losing it by giving it away. When I give truly, unconditionally, love will always be given back in equal measure. What we sow, we will reap.
Similarly, when we communicate anger, jealousy, or revenge, all basic expressions of fear, we convey those feelings, believing we rid ourselves of them. The truth is quite the opposite, however. When we express fear, that is exactly what we receive back, and ultimately what we retain. Moreover, when we express our fear, we are actually engaging in attack, and this act, as we know, is antithetical to communication, making it utterly impossible.
Not only do we attack the one on whom we project our fear, but, more critically, we attack ourselves. When threatened, a bee will sting, and this act leads to it’s own death, for the stinger, along with part of the abdomen and poison sac is pulled away from the bee. When we lash out at others, in essence we, like the bee, are only harming ourselves.
Communication is simply defined as the transactional process of creating meaning. We are forever asking ourselves, “What does it all mean?” So in every encounter we have with another, each of us is constantly creating meaning. Yet, our individual perceptions of a specific encounter, a first date for example, are drawn from our own past experiences, and those experiences form the basis of our beliefs. And we can be sure that what we believe we do see.
So if I believe I am unworthy of love, everything I experience, during our first date, will serve to reinforce that belief structure. Every subsequent interaction I have with you I will interpret as support of my belief that I am undeserving of your love. The impact of this cannot be underestimated. Our beliefs, which are simply constructs of the ego, ultimately determine our perception of every situation in which we find ourselves, however misguided those beliefs may be.
Perception always involves interpretation, and this means that it is not whole or consistent. And as all meaning is based on perception, it is ultimately subjective in nature, and therefore highly prone to misinterpretation.
It seems Gorgias, an ancient Greek philosopher was aware of this when he stated:
“It is impossible for an idea to be the same in two different minds. Therefore, nothing can be truly known by all humans, and nothing can be communicated.”
Now it all may seem futile, or appear that the nature of our innate mode of communication is inherently flawed. Yet this is not so. We have merely lost sight of a critical element that can rectify our errors of interpretation.
Many ancient sources of spiritual wisdom, such as Buddhism, Hinduism, and the Yogic traditions, as well as more contemporary spiritual movements like Unity, hold an awareness of this fundamental principle. Current spiritual teachers like Ram Dass and Eckhart Tolle, are also reminding us to Be Here Now and to tune in to The Power of Now.
A Course in Miracles refers to this principle as the holy instant, a moment when we are in full awareness of the interconnection among all beings and with the Divine. In this moment, now, we are whole and therefore holy.
With the holy instant we are called upon to release one another from any guilt we would lay, for guilt only serves to disrupt communication. The ego tries to convince us that loneliness can be solved by guilt. Who among us has not been on the giving or receiving end of a guilt trip? “What do you mean you’re going out with your friends again tonight?”
The purpose of the holy instant is to suspend judgment entirely, which always rests on the past, as past experience is the basis on which we judge. “Well you have gone out with your friends for the past four consecutive Friday’s! Why don’t you want to spend time with me?”
In the holy instant it is understood that the past no longer exists, and with its release the drive for guilt or vengeance is gone. Everything is gone except the Truth, which lies here in the present. We are here, now, together in this moment. This moment is all there is, and in the present exists perfection.
Years ago, my daughter Kate shared some words of wisdom with me she had heard in school when she asked “Mom, why do we call this moment the present?” As I took in her question, she quickly chimed, “Because every moment is a gift!”
When we release the past, we give the gift of forgiveness. To forgive is merely to remember only the loving thoughts you gave in the past, and those that were given you, and to release everything else, and so the gift of forgiveness is passed on to the future in the form of Freedom.
The holy instant is a time in which we give and receive perfect communication. It is experienced now, in the present. This moment is one in which the mind is fully open to give and to receive. In this moment of awareness there is the recognition that all minds are in communion with one another and the Divine.
Thoughts of the past are simply noise. They are like static that keeps us from receiving a clear signal from the person with whom we are trying to connect. Projecting into the future can be equally disruptive to the clarity and truth of now. Both are inhibitors.
When we can quiet the noise, what in Yoga we call the vrittis, or the fluctuations of the mind, we can open ourselves to more authentic communication with one another and with the Divine. This is what we attempt in the practices of Yoga and Meditation.
So often our communications with others are disrupted by this noise, this cling and clatter ringing in our heads. It is deafening, and deadening to our relationships. These distractions come from within and also from without.
The practice of pratyahara or drawing the senses inward is the 5th of the eight limbs of Yoga. This practice, in combination with pranayama, or breath awareness, the 4th limb, is key to quieting the mind and tuning in to the present moment, which allows for the cultivation of dhyana, or the practice of meditation.
In this instance, shutting the eyes and closing the ears to external stimuli is very beneficial. But it is not done in an effort to shut off the outside world, as much as it is to open to the realms of the world within. It is from this place, in stillness, that we can begin to make a deeper connection with our Higher Self and with the Divine, which will ultimately translate to our relations with others.
When our interactions with others stem from center, the place of calm clarity within us, then real communication can begin, and when communication is open and unencumbered, our creations will then be nothing but inspired, for the Divine in you will be communing with the Divine in me, and we will be one.
And then, like the bees, we will come to understand the power of communication; we will learn that each of us must give of our own unique gifts, unselfishly, in the pursuit of the common goals of wholeness and healing, so that all of humanity will benefit from the richness of those sweet rewards.
We will once again know the meaning of this powerful Hindustani greeting:
I honor the place in you of Love, of Life, of Truth, of Peace. I honor the place in you where the entirety of the Universe resides. And if you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are One.
Katrin Naumann worked for 20 years as a Theatre Artist, both behind the scenes as a Costume and Scenic Designer, and on stage, film and TV, as an Actor. She has been a lifelong adventurer on the path of Self discovery, which has led to her current role as Director of Inner Balance Life Works. Her holistic healing practice focuses on offering pathways toward (R)evolutionary Self Transformation. Katrin serves the community as an Energy Healer, Intuitive Spiritual Guide, Qigong & Yoga Instructor, Author, Public Speaker, and Workshop Creatrix.