What can we gain by sailing to the moon
if we are not able to cross the abyss
that separates us from ourselves?
— Thomas Merton

I often wonder if disconnection is the fundamental ailment of our time. Our calendars are full, we are plugged into social media, we go to church or temple, make sure our kids go to soccer practice, go to weddings and funerals, and meet friends for happy hour - and yet there is often a feeling of disconnect, isolation, and loneliness. We collect people who “like” us, but does it really mean anything? We can feel like we have a thousand friends because Facebook tells us so. Busyness intrudes upon the quality of relational interactions. It is difficult to slow down enough to be present with others. We listen to sermons and lectures, but we wonder how to apply these teachings so that they are grounded in our lives. Many activities feel like obligations that have us going through the motions. Our unions have a surface quality and often lack depth. How is it that we miss the mark?

People experiencing depression are often really complaining about a profound sense of disconnection from others, themselves, and life. They don’t know who they are or what they want. Feeling a deep sense of unworthiness, they are disconnected from their essence. People with depression often believe that something is wrong with them, when really its just that they've lost the way to their own hearts and the hearts of others. They try very hard to connect with others only to find politeness without presence. People who are depressed want to belong but wonder if they do or can, or what it means to truly belong. They want more from life but don’t know where to look or how to find what they are looking for.

Most couples believe that they are fighting or disagreeing about their partners' behavior - what they did or didn’t do. Current theory points out, however, that behavior is not really the issue about which couples quarrel. Underneath their complaints is actually a sense of emotional disconnection. When one person says, “You work too much,” what they are really saying is, “I feel disconnected from you. I miss you.” When they complain that the other doesn’t listen or “You don’t hear me,” they may really be conveying a sadness related to emotional disconnection. 

True connection requires that we employ the art of presence. It means that we must slow down, unplug, make time, and evaluate the quality of our relationships. It asks that we allow ourselves the refuge needed for replenishment and reconnection. The good news about missing the mark is that we can always aim again. We can ask for more, stop abandoning ourselves, and take the time to relish this precious life, even in the midst of suffering. How do we begin to live life on life’s terms? Can we ask, “What does life want from me?” Can we open our hearts just a little to take in the beauty and pain of being human? Connection requires a certain kind of tenderness. Tenderness requires vulnerability which we often equate with weakness. I think it requires tremendous strength to let down the armor to offer tenderness and be real.