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The Art of Connection

The Art of Connection

Living with Spiritual Elegance

by Caroline Phipps

We live in a world that has become increasingly connected and increasingly disconnected simultaneously. Ironically the more we connect electronically and the more we see and hear about what is happening around us, the less we seem to comprehend what is really going on. This feeling of dislocation was becoming so disturbing to me that I felt a need to reach out and connect with others who I sensed were experiencing the same. Then it came to me a few weeks ago that the 13th anniversary of 9/11 could provide the perfect opportunity to celebrate the spirit of connection that blossomed in the days following the destruction.

On September 11th I hosted a screening of a film documentary, by Nina Rosenblum and Dennis Watlington, called Code Yellow: Hospital at Ground Zero, at The Rhinebeck High School in upstate New York. The film relives the response of the hospital nearest to The World Trade Center. Watching the documentary I realized the elegant response of the staff of New York University Downtown Hospital, and their ability to truly connect stemmed from a place where minds and hearts were working in unison.

When the airplanes hit the towers that perfect late summer morning, the jolt to the Nation’s spinal column was the ultimate act of disconnection, destruction and disruption. As the film unfolds the hospital staff narrate the stories of that day and the days that followed. The circumstances were so extreme and normal life so totally disrupted that any pretense or ego was stripped bare revealing true character. Descriptions of medical protocol and procedure are peppered with compassion, kindness, resilience, acceptance and trust that stand in stark contrast to the desolation and dust outside on the streets.

Their stories beautifully illustrate the concept that intellectual energy fuels our external world: the description by Dr. Antonio Dajer with ten minutes to prepare his Emergency Room for an influx of victims. That heart energy drives our emotional, interior lives: illustrated as the staff explains the desire to reach out to help as many people as possible and the profound sadness at not being able to do more.

The parallel narratives of connection and disconnection in the film create a powerfully dramatic story that, in the way of all compelling art, encourages us to examine what we see more carefully. What really is the difference between connection and disconnection and how does that impact our own lives?

So often we have a head/heart imbalance that creates havoc with our ability to connect authentically with one another. Fearing where our emotions will lead us, we can overly rationalize our navigation of relationships with others. Emotions can become the enemy. By making us feel vulnerable, out of control and afraid, our protective impulse can be to squash them. But if we swing too far in the other direction, by allowing our hearts to run the show, we create an over abundance of sentimentality that has no grounding in reality.

The only way we can genuinely connect with one another is to make choices in our relationships that unite the power of the head and heart. And this can be very hard to do. When we are in relationships that are dysfunctional and unbalanced we often tell ourselves that we don’t know what to do about it. We create holding patterns that keep us going around and around in frozen time that do nothing for our future growth and development. In truth we always know what to do but are usually too afraid of changes that will occur if we act on what we know. However, in my experience of working with people and in my own life, I have never seen a decision made with the head and the heart aligned that didn’t change life for the better.

As a living testimony to the power of the head and heart connection, the screening of Code Yellow brought diverse people together in a powerfully congruent and collaborative way. The evening turned into a celebration of the spirit of connectivity that took root in New York, America and much of the world after 9/11. In the words of retired Fire Chief Dennis J.McGuire who had answered the call from Hillside Fire Station in Rhinebeck, “My most enduring memory of that time was how people came together to help one another." His is a powerful reminder that this is the flame we want to keep alive in our close relationships and in the larger global picture of today’s disconnected and confusing world.

When you are experiencing difficulties in your communication and connection with others, stop and run a check on your emotional state and your intellectual response. Make sure that both sides contribute to the dialogue and that both sides are at peace with the decision you make. This is the key to the art of elegant connection.

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