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On the Perils of Certainty and the Wisdom of Doubt

By Fiona Robertson.  Lately, I’ve been reading about certainty addiction (or bias). Our brains are apparently wired to perceive uncertainty as a potential threat to our survival, so we go looking for certainty wherever we can find it. We prefer certainties – however painful or uncomfortable – to the unknown and uncertain. We will ignore facts, reasoning and arguments – however compelling – that seem to threaten our sense of certainty. We see certainty addiction playing out in many areas of life, including politics and religion. It is also evident within spirituality.

Certainty feels good. In fact, certainty evokes the same kind of feel-good feeling as sex, gambling and other addictions. It also tends to reduce anxiety; the more certain we are, the more our sense of threat diminishes. No wonder we are attracted to certainty. A lack of physical certainty– food, shelter, warmth – can indeed be a threat to our survival. However, we often act as if our belief structures are equally necessary to our survival. An attack on our beliefs – even hearing an opposing viewpoint – can feel viscerally and powerfully threatening. We invest our ideas and beliefs with certainty, and proceed to defend them come what may.

When we go into defensive mode, we act as if we are defending the beliefs themselves, as if it is the content of the belief or viewpoint that is so important to us. In reality, however strongly we think we feel about a topic, we are also driven by our addiction to certainty. The more certain we are, the stronger and more determined our defensiveness will be. We will do whatever we can to hold onto our certainty, desperately trying to not feel all that comes with uncertainty.

Our addiction to certainty, while it gives us a sense of self and a feeling of security, also confines us. Having a sense of the known – even if the known is unpleasant or painful – is often less frightening than entertaining the unknown, yet it keeps us bound and unable to see wider potential or possibility. One of the many things I love about inquiry is the ability it gives us to question everything, to cast the light of doubt on anything we take to be certain truth. When we inquire, we come face to face with our certainties. I most definitely am unlovable. Yes, I’m better than him. Yes, my opinions are right. We discover just how tightly we are holding on to all our beliefs and opinions about ourselves and the world because we can’t conceive of what or who we might be without them.

Asking the inquiry questions opens up the possibility that things – including ourselves – may not be as we’ve believed them to be. Whatever our answers, the questioning itself can pierce the armour of certainty, or at least open up a slight chink. Sometimes, entertaining the possibility that we may not be X or Y is feels challenging, subversive or scary. At other times, it is liberating or exciting. It is also humbling to loosen the reins of certainty and allow other possibilities and perspectives to come into view. Either way, questioning our certainties connects us with the emotional pain that inevitably resides beneath. Once certainty is no longer obscuring it, the pain can finally emerge. As we continue to feel what has been previously unfelt, we develop the capacity to simultaneously hold certainty and uncertainty, surety and doubt. We ascribe less to an either/or model of the world and see the potential for both/and. We find a place of much deeper wisdom beneath the brittle veneer of certainty, a wisdom that only emerges when we are willing to doubt.

Inquiry does not leave us without opinions or viewpoints. It does not render us incapable of discussing issues or taking a stand on what we feel is important. It does, however, release us from the burden of having to defend our viewpoints in service to our own sense of certainty. We no longer need to be certain, because we are less addicted to certainty and the promise of security it seems to offer. As our need for certainty recedes, our relationships inevitably change. We become less defensive, less attached to our particular certainties.

Whenever we meet certainty – particularly absolute certainty – we see certainty addiction at work. Inquiring into our own certainties injects a healthy dose of doubt into our constructs and concepts. What if? What if this isn’t the case? Is this what I think it is? Am I what I tell myself I am? Again, we don’t need to come to a conclusion. There is not necessarily a definitive answer to these questions. It is the act of asking them in the first place that is most important. Can we stand not knowing? Can we rest in a place of doubt, resisting the temptation to land in a place of certainty?

In our increasingly polarised world, many people seem deeply entrenched in their certainties and unwilling or unable to question them. It seems incumbent on those of us who are willing to do the deep work of questioning to bring the wisdom of doubt to bear on all our beliefs and certainties. Perhaps together we can open up possibilities previously hidden by our collective addiction to certainty. Humbling and painful though it can be to question our sacred cows, how much better it is than to be trapped in our addiction to certainty.

http://www.beyondourbeliefs.org/perils-certainty-wisdom-doubt/

Inquiry and the Ego: Listening to All Our Voices

By Fiona Robertson.

There’s a lot of talk in spiritual circles about the ego, the problems it causes, and how to deal with it. Ego is seen as the cause of our suffering, the root of conflict and pain. But what is the ego, exactly? And does it really deserve such pejorative labelling?

In Latin, ego simply means ‘I’. Over time, the word has accrued many and multi-layered meanings. In my experience, the ego isn’t a single, uniform entity, but a collection of voices or self-identities, each with their associated drives and feelings. We could say that the ego is the stories we tell about ourselves, the selves that we believe we are, whatever their flavour. We might believe, for example, that we are someone who is not good enough, or wrong, or better than others, and we act in the world as if that was the case. We could also say that the ego is the inner, critical voice (often called the superego), the part of us that judges, cajoles, exhorts, criticizes. There’s inevitably an interplay – usually conflict – between these two parts or voices. The self believes itself deficient, and the superego judges and demands and strategizes and plans in an attempt to somehow fix or deal with the perceived deficiency.  We’re all familiar with the inner dialogue that ensues when these two voices or parts are engaged in a struggle with each other:

Deficient self: I know I won’t get this job. I’ve always been terrible at interviews because I get so nervous. 

Superego: Can’t you pull yourself together for once? Why, after all this therapy and meditation, are you still so anxious and lacking in self-esteem? And why are you still eating too much? 

Deficient self (feeling even more deficient): There’s clearly something really wrong with me. I’ve never been good enough, and all of this just goes to prove it. 

Superego: Right, well, I’ve got a plan. Let’s start dieting tomorrow, and book onto that ‘Big Up Yourself’ course that you saw online the other day. Then perhaps you’ll be able to be the person you should be. 

We all know the drill. These kinds of inner conversations can go on interminably. And when we discover spiritual teachings, a third voice is often added, one that denounces both of the other voices, and that believes it should get rid of or ignore or somehow disallow whatever it perceives as the ego. It’s hardly surprising that we find ourselves completely entangled in all of this, often feeling bewildered and at the mercy of these seemingly unstoppable and argumentative voices. It can feel as if they are fixed, unchangeable givens that we somehow have to manoeuvre around, overcome, or vanquish. When we find ourselves unable to do so, we heap yet more judgement or shame upon ourselves.

When we inquire, we can begin to pick apart the threads of conflict, and give space and time to each of these ‘ego’ voices. Not only do we meet the pain of the deficient self, but we also hear the anguish of the superego and its valiant efforts to keep it all together, to make sure that we get through life as best we can. The superego, after all, often does what the deficient self feels it could never do, as these extracts from my journal reflect:

The deficient self says: That Fiona (superego Fiona) has been clever, and interacted with people, looked after me, talked when I didn’t know how, kept me in line, kept me motivated, kept me from the pain before I could really face it. She couldn’t do all that without despising my weakness, hating my pain, and loathing my failures. 

The judge in me speaks: I’ve been trying to protect you. I’ve been so afraid for you. I’ve been so angry with you for being so stupid sometimes. I love you, but I’m resentful of you…resentful of your sweetness and prettiness, resentful of your gentleness and kindness, resentful of your dreaminess and your imagination. Nothing would get done if I left it to you. Everywhere would be untidy, and a mess, and dirty. I’ve just been so exhausted, having to look after you. Sometimes I hated you, I just wanted you to leave me alone and to stop having needs and wants, and to stop needing me. 

Here’s the thing: both of these voices are essentially part of the self structure that developed in childhood in response to whatever circumstances we were in. Both, ultimately, came into being to protect us on the deepest level. It may not feel like it when your superego is berating you yet again, but it is there for the best of intentions. It took its cue from the people around it, believing that if it could somehow be more like them and less like itself, it’d be okay. We introjected the behaviour and beliefs of the adults in our lives, creating a mesh of inner demands, commands, and expectations against which we measured ourselves. Years ago, while doing some inner work at a retreat, I discovered that my superego solidified definitively when I was around eleven years old, and its primary concern was to make sure that it avoided making my mother angry or displeased (something that happened frequently, to my detriment). When seen in this light, how can we possibly continue to label the ego in all the ways that we do?

As we inquire, and the stories of deficiency unravel, we meet the pain that lies at their core. As we do so, the inner voices of deficiency and judgement begin to quiet. This happens not because we make an effort to control or dispel them, but because once the pain is truly felt, the voices are no longer necessary. Their job was to ensure we didn’t feel the pain, because when we were young children it was impossible for us to do so. The job of the ego was always to ensure that we were kept safe, to ensure that the pain stayed under lock and key. Yes, this suppression is ultimately deeply unhealthy, but we don’t need to blame the jailer just because the prison system itself is flawed. Rather, as we open the prison gates, the jailer – along with all the inmates – is also freed.

Gradually, we find our inner voices – the parts we often refer to as ‘the ego’ – become more benign and unified. In my psyche, the previously harsh voice of judgement seems to have been replaced by a wry commentator. One morning recently, as I was switching on the kettle for the first cup of tea of the day, I found myself caught up in anxious thoughts. The commentator merely said, Starting early this morning, are we? The kind humour made me smile, and the anxious thoughts – left uncriticized and therefore not needing to defend themselves – simply ebbed away. The ego itself, like everything else, is made up of words, images and sensations and feelings. As it unravels, it becomes naturally healthier, neither needing to proclaim our deficiency nor criticize ourselves or others. We discover that it is not the enemy, but simply self-fragments that, once tended to, effortlessly transform.

Are You Feeding A Story of Deficiency or Nourishing Yourself?

By Fiona Robertson.

I realised during a recent self-inquiry that I had been feeding my deficiency story – literally.

As I sat down to inquire, I saw the words there is a choice. In that moment, the choice was palpable. It can sometimes seem – particularly when we’re in the grip of fear, compulsion, or intense feelings – that there isn’t a choice. When choice becomes an option, however, we get to see in intricate detail exactly how we make our choices. I saw the moments in which I choose deficiency habits; I reach for the chocolate, or watch yet another episode, or leave the washing up until the next morning.

None of those things are – in themselves – a problem. I don’t have anything against chocolate, television or mess per se. The point is that as we continue to inquire, our ability to discern the difference between compulsiveness and non-compulsiveness, deficient or non-deficient behaviour, gradually increases. The piece of chocolate brownie shared with my sister over a cup of tea and warm conversation the other day? No shred of compulsion or deficiency. The two pieces of chocolate I had after dinner every night the week before? Definitely compulsive and linked to a sense of inner lack. Don’t be fooled by amounts or degree. Yes, the magnitude of the compulsion may be large or small – three family-size bars of chocolate versus two squares of 75% Ecuadorian – but the underlying movement of compulsion is the same. When a deficiency story is running, we make deficient choices.

More words came: There is a choice in each moment. Heaven or hell. It’s in my/your hands. I saw that – when choice is available to us – we can access true self-discipline. This isn’t the punitive, masochistic discipline of should, ought, or must, the inner critic task-master, but the kind discipline of a self that transcends and yet embraces all the stories we tell about ourselves, a self that knows what we truly need or desire because it knows that we are completely whole exactly as we are.

Suddenly, the original intent of commandments and precepts became apparent; they give us a supportive framework to keep us in integrity whenever we are tempted to indulge the deficient self in ways that may harm ourselves or others. Just at that moment, my deficient self (keen to emphasise its deficiency, in case I’d forgotten) said Yes, but I made the wrong choices. Despite its protestations, it became very clear that all that matters is now, where the choice is being made. What are we choosing in this moment?

The deficient self is often lax and indulgent. It wants to treat itself because life is so _____ and it deserves more ______ (fill in the blanks). It has a tendency to talk or think endlessly about its past suffering or inevitable future calamities. It is good at indulging, justifying and punishing itself, often in equal measure. And our cultures cater to or even reward such behaviour. Expensive cosmetics ‘because we’re worth it’. Constant temptations – based on blatant appeals to our deficient selves – to have or get or be more or better.

As I inquired, it became clear that it is time for me to stop feeding or indulging the deficient self, and that this requires a modicum of self-discipline because the deficient self is, in part, a habit. A well-worn groove of choices made over and over again from a simple lack of awareness, a misunderstanding about who I really am. As I stayed with my experience of the deficient self in that moment – a feeling of immense hurt throughout my body – it became very clear that this feeling didn’t want cake, chocolate, television dramas, or any other kind of indulgence. It wanted goodness and a major change in perspective. It wanted to no longer be defined as a self. A sense of self-discipline or ‘moral fibre’ arose, a sense of being able to discern where goodness really lies in any given moment. I saw a cartoon-like image of a cage in a zoo, complete with the caption Do Not Feed the Deficient Self.

Since this session, I’ve noticed significant changes. The uneaten chocolate is sitting here on the shelf and the ‘I’ve been working hard so I need a reward’ snacking has ceased. I’ve had unexpected surges of physical energy and I’ve been moving and holding myself very differently – more upright, less apologetically, more solidly.

Inevitably, each time we unravel a sense of deficiency, we grow up a little more. We have fewer excuses to not be who we really are. We no longer feel as if we’re on the margins, defined by our suffering. We act in integrity much more of the time, and yield to the temptations and indulgences of the deficient self far less often. Our long-suffering bodies no longer have to bear the burdens of deficient choices and behaviours. We learn what it is to truly nourish ourselves. We come out of the cage of deficiency and fully into being, into life.

On Discovering the Sanity of Freaking Out

By Fiona Robertson.

Looking back, I recognise that I was anxious from a very young age, but the extent of the anxiety didn’t become apparent until I was in my late twenties and started having panic attacks, a few days after a close friend of mine had dropped dead in tragic circumstances. Very soon I also found myself facing the suppressed horror and grief of a previous loss, the death of my best friend in an accident when we were eighteen.

I didn’t use the word ‘anxiety’ back then. The phrase ‘freaking out’ seemed to describe it much more accurately. ‘Anxiety’ was redolent of something more contained, something that had a beginning and an end and a reason. What I was feeling seemed to have no cause, no start, no finish. It simply waxed and waned in its own way, seemingly without logic. I was at its behest, and no suggested solutions worked. The only thing that did seem to provide relief was connecting with emotion, which wasn’t always possible.

Fast forward to the present, and recently I found myself waking up in the night with anxiety. That rarely happens these days, not least because of all the inquiry I’ve done over the last five years, and the profound unravelling process that’s been going on. As I lay there, the sensations surging, a sentence came to me: The space already accepts these feelings, so you don’t have to. I felt relief at that, and a softening in my body. I fell asleep again, and woke the next day ready to investigate further.

As I inquired, I recognised a deep sense of apprehension. That was the word that really resonated: this wasn’t anxiety, it was apprehension. The words what’s coming next? seemed to be particularly potent. My body braced as it heard them, and I could see that I was simultaneously trying not to brace. Further insights came as I continued looking: that there was nothing I could have done about any of the past events; and that, on some subtle level, I’ve believed that bracing would somehow stop things from happening.

So far, so good. But I knew there was more. The next day, I could feel that my body was still in an apprehensive state. As I was getting ready for bed, intending to have an early night, the invitation suddenly came: You can freak out. Really, you have 100% permission to freak the fuck out!

As I began to accept the invitation, words kept on coming in a steady stream. Waves of emotion and energy arose and fell as I wrote and cried and wrote and cried. The words seemed to pour themselves onto the page:

“Have you seen what’s out there? Killing, starvation, torture, cruelty, pain, tumours, people who are hurt, people doing the hurting, crazy weather, extremes of behaviour and temperature and beliefs and mad beheaders and so much more….illnesses and diseases and battery chickens and planetary changes and things that are so vast and incomprehensible…the possibility of asteroids hitting us…

Who, in the face of all of that, sleeps tight at night? Who, in the face of all of that, is calm and serene and peaceful? And if you are, what are you? Cut off at the neck? Blind? Insane? Surely the only honest option is to freak the fuck out? To freak out at the absolute unsolvability of it all…oh, not to mention death. Life is an absolutely terrifying ride, and if you’re not terrified, you’re not really alive.

All my life, I’ve been trying not to freak out when freaking out is really the only option, trying not to be terrified when that’s really how I am. As if terror was unreasonable, and reason was reasonable, in the face of all of that. Are you kidding me? Have you seen these bodies we’re in and this world? Why on earth would you want to stop me from being terrified? What good are logic and measured tones in the face of all of that? My terror isn’t wrong, and neither is yours. I am so sick of being restrained and playing safe when that’s not what’s here. What’s here is terrified, wild-eyed, sweating, a-tremble and devastatingly, heartbreakingly alive.

Fear, let me tell you now, is not, repeat not, the opposite of love. Fear is utterly inseparable from our source. It is the most natural thing in the world, and only becomes a problem when we shut the door on it repeatedly and insistently demand calm. “Calm down,” you say. But no, I will not calm down. I will freak out for as long as the freak out lasts.

Now I see: the freaking out wasn’t ever wrong. The freaking out when my friends died wasn’t wrong for a second. None of the freaking out I’ve done before or since was wrong. It is such a relief to be allowed to freak out, to not have to rein it in or calm it down or pacify or placate or deny. To just be able to say yes, it really is like this. This feels so humane, just so humane.

There’s such wildness and honesty and animality that’s been lost since we became civilized, since the mind began to believe it could control, contain and solve – despite all the evidence to the contrary. Whoever first had the bizarre idea that it shouldn’t be like this? How did we become these irrationally rational creatures, only half alive? This fear is our very life-blood, if only we knew it. It seems tragic to me now that we cut it off.

There’s nothing to remedy. I’ll say that again: there is really nothing to remedy (and I believed for so long that there was). It was trying to not be freaked out that really did for me, not the freaking out itself. I see an image of gathering up all the freaked-out Fionas of various ages, from very young to middle-aged, so they can freak out together. I watch that for a while and it’s very sweet.

Then I see: there is no safety. Aah, that feels like a true, instinctive knowing in the core of my being. I see an image of a cave in prehistoric times, of being asleep at the back of the cave, a fire lit near the entrance. As I look, I see the paradox; when we knew we weren’t safe, we were able to distinguish where the threat really lay. Somehow, the lie of safety – a promise that can’t be delivered – has made it all so much worse. It’s as if we were built to operate in unsafety and it’s messed with our systems that we live like we do, so we have to evoke or create unsafety to keep this part of us alive.

There’s such a sweet relief in saying, “I’m going to die and I have no idea what will happen and that freaks me out.” Such piquant honesty, free of the guile of the rational or the spiritual. It’s the precariousness of life that renders it so immensely, unspeakably precious. In our drive for rationality and so-called objectivity, we lost something so vital and deep – the wisdom of the body, which knows it is going to die, which knows it makes total sense to freak out. Back in the cave, I sense the sheer aliveness of how it was to live then, the heart-racing, blood-pulsing, balls-out aliveness! How dead we became.

The myth of safety: my body is rejoicing as I see that. And somehow, seeing the myth of safety makes it clearer that there’s no threat or danger here just now. It’s as if holding on to some idea of safety muddies the waters and sets up a kind of dissonance, a sensate or visceral dissonance between what my body knows and what my mind believes. I see an image of a fourteenth century scene complete with plague pits, and sense the ever-present knowing of life and death that people had back then, without the shroud of supposed safety blinding them to the deeper realities.

I’m free now to be my basic self, free to be back in the cave. I can be left alone to get on with being terrified without this overlay or veneer of “yes, but we’re supposed to be civilized.” Of all our feelings, fear brings up the most shame: our civilized, enculturated self is so ashamed of this instinctual, animal part of us. The creature-self arises in fear, terror or rage, and we loathe it, despise it, shame it, patronise it. And yet we’re also terrified that we’ve lost contact with it, because somewhere deep inside we know that it’s the sanest, most vital part of us.

Curling up in the dark, warm cave of my bed, my body feels so good now. It was right all along (it’s resisting the temptation to crow). I feel alive, in contact, co-ordinated, poised, creature-like.”

Finally, the words ceased. Before falling asleep, I saw how my mind had become disembodied, and how this split between the civilized and the instinctual parts of my being had, in itself, been terrifying. I slept well, and awoke in wonder at the wisdom that can emerge when we’re willing to be present to whatever comes. I don’t know how this process will continue to unfold; I do know that my relationship with anxiety has undergone a profound change. It is such a bone-deep relief to realize that my body is far, far wiser than I have ever imagined.

Acceptance comes in many forms. Sometimes it is gentle and demure, with a kind touch and a loving whisper. At other times, it throws off the restraints of civility, and comes in swearing, howling and heavy-handed to wrest us from whatever beliefs have held us hostage. There are times like this when the structure of inquiry falls away and the process unfolds from the depths with an intelligence of its own, when our beliefs are swept away like ninepins and everything we thought we knew is turned upside down. It is at these moments that we most rejoice.

On Healing the Divisions Within

By Fiona Robertson.

Many spiritual teachings refer to the illusion of the separate self; the belief in being an isolated and deficient self seems to lie at the heart of our suffering. When we assume – or when life circumstances have led us to conclude – that we are unlovable, wrong, damaged or inferior, we are bound to suffer for as long as we continue to believe that assumption. Many of us know that suffering intimately, just as we know the relief that comes when we realize that we are not the person we have assumed ourselves to be.

When we inquire, however, we discover that very often we are not experiencing ourselves as a single separate self, but rather a collection of selves or parts relating to one another (and the outside world) in a variety of ways. A sense of internal dividedness or separateness mirrors the illusion of separation between the self and the world. We are separated selves as much as we are separate selves.

There is frequently an internal battle being fought to keep the divisions intact. Our sense of self depends on maintaining a kind of painful status quo, ensuring some parts, selves or feelings do not ever see the light of day. Inner barriers or barricades stand guard to protect us from having to feel what our sense of self depends upon us not feeling. It is as if these inner walls of Jericho separate the functional ‘me’ from the terrifying mass of thoughts, sensations, memories and emotions that we have relegated to the shadows. The prospect of dismantling the walls and barricades and actually feeling everything that we have made it our life’s work to not feel can be terrifying in itself. The self can feel as if it will be annihilated or cease to exist if we feel what it has tried so hard to keep at bay.

As I was inquiring recently, I discovered a deep inner divide. The session began with sensing into how exhausted I was feeling and I began to ask the question, “what is exhausting?” Several answers came, including “compassion fatigue” and “it’s so exhausting being around pain.” Grief came and went, as did the words, “I can’t ask for support”, “I need support” and then “I can’t ask.” The instructions or commands “don’t ask” and “don’t assert yourself” arose, along with bodily sensations and images. I looked at the words and then brought my attention to my body’s response. The felt sense was of being inferior, not mattering, not being equal.

As I came right into this feeling, I realised I’d been trying not to be it. As if I’d been trying to be outside the feeling, as if I’d been located in my head and subtly separate from and trying to manage the feeling. I stayed with this – letting the feelings be exactly as they were – and suddenly an image appeared. I saw myself standing in the school playground, aged about seven or eight. A group of children were picking teams for a ball game and I was second last to be picked.

At first, it didn’t seem to be a particularly striking image. However, over the years, I’ve learnt to take time with words and images, to give them a moment to land, to let the body respond to them in its own time. We never know which images will be pivotal in a session – sometimes, a seemingly innocuous image can hold a whole story in place. And that turned out to be the case in this session.

As I continued to look at the playground image, I saw that – in that moment – I’d not wanted to be her, so I separated myself off from her. As I acknowledged this – “I separated myself from you, the girl in the playground” – I felt into the strong sensations in my chest which seemed to be responsible for maintaining this division. I realised that I’ve done my best (unconsciously, of course) to uphold these divisions. Another question came: what if these divisions weren’t maintained?

The answers to that question took a variety of forms. There were images of derelict, overgrown sites. The sensation in my chest became even stronger, and I continued to feel what a huge strain it is to maintain the division. After a while, I naturally returned to the image of the girl in the playground. As I did so, the words, “that’s when I fragmented” came to me, and I felt the deep pain of that fragmentation, the turning in on myself. I saw that – in that moment – that particular part of me believed that fragmenting was my only hope, because it believed that it couldn’t survive as a unified, integrated being with needs. It became clear that I had cut off from that girl in the playground because she was in need of support and believed – not without reason – that she couldn’t ask. There’s always a kind of logic to the self-configuration. As an eight year old, I took the only decision available to me at that time, a decision to sacrifice a part of the self for the greater good of the whole, as it were.

The very seeing and feeling of this part of myself – the eight year old girl in the playground – enabled it to begin to integrate. The division began to heal. As we do this precious work of discovering, meeting and acknowledging the parts of us that we have disavowed, we find ourselves becoming more whole. We no longer have to put such tremendous energy into maintaining the divisions (no wonder I began the session feeling exhausted). The feelings and selves that we had to abandon or reject during our formative years are still present; much as the boundaries and barriers have separated them from us, they have also preserved them. They have been waiting – patiently – for us to return and reconnect with them. And as we become less separated from ourselves, the illusion of separation gradually fades.