When we are born, we are wide open; innocent and vulnerable, we know nothing, and trust everything. From that moment forward, we develop a shell of protection. This may occur quickly if our infanthood is traumatic, or more slowly if we are raised in a nurturing and safe environment. But the shell develops, either way—in response to being denied, physically hurt or neglected, snapped at, not understood, or any number of other ways we are shaken into learning that we are separate. Our parents teach us this, too, in hundreds of tiny ways. I cannot speak for all cultures, but in this culture, we do not escape the experience of separation.
We cling to our shell because it is familiar. It is how we have learned to move in the world, based on decisions we made at a very early age. I learned that I needed to protect myself from my older brother’s wrath, and then expanded that worldview to include all men. I learned that if I didn’t abide by my mother’s rules, she psychically withdrew her love.
Later, some of us are drawn to unlearning this sense of separation that we have accumulated. This can occur abruptly, but more likely it will take a chunk of time. For me, it has taken years. Perhaps this process begins on our own, but it is more likely that we find a teacher, someone who can point both by the example of their presence, and their teachings, to the deeper truth of who and what we are.
Finally, after many decades, and with the pointers of more than one teacher and a dear and thoughtful husband and friends, I learned to see the ways that I cut myself off, make myself separate. Even later, I clearly saw how believing my thoughts framed my world, and the old patterns and conditioning fell away more quickly. This leaves a softer and more vulnerable heart; this is the process of cracking open. Just like the baby chicken who grows until its shell is so unbearably tight that in desperation it flails and pecks it until it breaks, we too must crack open the shell of our own creation. After the first crack, though, when a touch of light pours in and we taste a new way, the unlearning may be able to be slowed, but it will not be stopped. We crack open to the truth and to love until we see that it is not two, never separate—never was, never can be.
© Amrita Skye Blaine