“If you light a lamp for someone else, it will also brighten your path.” ~Buddha
It’s long been declared that the nature of life is based on survival of the fittest; that we all must constantly compete to survive.
And maybe, in some ways this is true.
But what if there were another truth, something that is even more powerful than competition?
What if cooperation is our true natural state?
Consider this: love is more powerful than hate.
Hope is more powerful than fear.
And if we believe in love and hope, then we believe in the power of unity. We believe in the force of positive energy.
In my own life, I have experienced the power of cooperation. I know how much better life feels when I choose to work with rather than against the people in my world.
When I am willing to find ways to communicate, to release blame and criticism, to connect with the people I share this life with, I open myself to more joy and ease.
When I slip into the mindset of competing with my husband for who has more free time, or who has contributed more to our family, or who has initiated more acts of kindness, I feel detached, separate, and pretty horrible.
This is the underlying effect of competition; we envision ourselves as separate. We lose touch with our interconnectedness, our wholeness, our oneness.
I notice this with my children. When my girls are expressing angst toward one another, I recognize that their antagonistic behavior is not so much about being mean or hateful, but rather a request for attention.
They each want to know that they matter, that they are a valuable part of their family, that they are connected with the people upon whom they rely for nurturing.
It seems to me that perhaps competitive nature is not so much the natural state of being, but rather a result of feeling disconnected from the security and certainty of being part of something greater than ourselves.
I think, in fact, that cooperation is our true nature. We must work together to survive, to thrive, to grow, to evolve.
Not one of us is an island; we know this for sure. But how often do we contemplate the interconnectedness of our lives with every other thing on this planet—even with those from the past and those who will exist in the future?
In the culture where I live, I have seen the idolization of independence, the heralding of the individual as paramount above community, the applause given to those who stand out.
Many claim that these individuals have made their own success and become who they are because of their tenacity and brilliance. And yes, there is something to be said about focus and determination.
But even more, we must recognize that an individual’s success is the result of being part of community.
Malcolm Gladwell explained this so eloquently in Outliers: The Story of Success, “No one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone.”
The truth is, we are all connected, and this really is a good thing.
As a mama who practices attachment parenting, I have long believed that creating a strong bond between parent and child is essential to building a foundation of trust, security, and confidence. I did not ever consider that this attachment theory can be expanded to include all of our relationships.
Recently I read Hold Me Tight, by Dr. Sue Johnson, in which she clearly elucidates how vital it is for humans to create and nurture attachments to the people in our lives. In fact, these attachments are absolutely essential to our wellness, our ability to thrive, our very existence.
In her writing, Dr. Johnson shatters the notion that being attached to someone, whether a partner, a parent, a child, or a friend, is a negative or weak state of being. Attachment theory teaches us that relying on someone for support and love is the essence of our nature.
Some wonder if being attached may cause us to suffer, but if we are able and willing to let go of relationships when they run their course, attachment does not have to lead to suffering. Honoring the essential nature of change in our lives will help us surrender to releasing a relationship when the time is right.
No matter what, it’s good, even necessary, to be attached to others.
Cooperation truly is our natural state of being.
This is not to say that competition does not have its place in our experience. Sometimes a competitive attitude can be useful, but for the progress of life on our planet, we must learn to embrace a new truth: we are one.
Truly, the more we learn to attach to others, to rely openheartedly on our community, to accept our interconnectedness with grace and joy, the more we will thrive as we move forward.
I remember watching Tom Shadyac’s revolutionary film I Am a few years back and being so moved and excited. This brilliant documentary unveils the truth that even in nature, there is an innate sense of cooperation among animals.
The film reminds us that as we choose unity, we elevate the energy and consciousness of life on our planet. We give ourselves an opportunity to live in greater harmony with our environment and with one another.
I know this may be challenging for some to accept. There are many individuals in my life who absolutely disagree with me. And that’s okay, too. Still, I know what I believe. And I release the need to be right. Instead, I invite us all to question what we believe and to ponder what could be rather than what has been.
So even though a dear relative recently expressed to me that competition will always be the nature of life, that aggression and violence are the most basic actions of all creatures on the planet, that we must know how to protect ourselves in order to stay alive in the midst of any chaos that could ensue from natural disasters…
I still believe in unity.
I recognize that the way humans have existed (for the most part) up until this point has been competitive in nature. We have compared, judged, struggled, oppressed, conquered, and still we strive. And yet, there have also been moments of grace and inspiration throughout time.
Consider the gracious and giving heart of Mother Teresa, the desire to free people from the belief of separateness that MLK, Jr. heralded, of Gandhi’s willingness to put others before his own needs.
Even consider the everyday people who are living from a place of love—people all over the world are awakening and elevating their consciousness, choosing to be of service, to give, to embody pure love.
I see it in the communities flourishing around me where people exchange time rather than money for services.
I see it in the way organizations are shifting their paradigm of business to make giving back a priority.
I see it in the countless people coming together who recognize the value of caring for our environment and our planet.
I see it in the kindness people express with a smile as they pass one another on the street.
Cooperation is anything and everything that helps us feel connected, part of something meaningful. It can be a thought, a touch, a glance, an act, a memory. There are infinite ways of being in this world. Imagine if we made being kind the most important.
In his interview about the most astounding fact in his studies of astrophysics, Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson stated, “We all just want to be part of something bigger than us, to feel that sense of connectivity…”
And I agree. Life is meaningful when we share it with others.
So I ask you this: What could happen if we transform our reality, even just our perception of it?
What could happen if we embody the practice of cooperation? Of giving and receiving with an open heart. Of feeling good enough just as we are. Of practicing kindness. Of sharing love. Of truly being the change we wish to see in the world.
Most of us want to live in a world where peace prevails, but are we actually practicing peace in our lives?
Are we aware of when we think critically or judgmentally, about others or ourselves?
Are we aware of when we pull away from the people we love the most out of anger or fear or frustration?
And once we raise our awareness, can we embrace a willingness to change and transform our lives from the inside out?
I invite you to join me on this journey. To choose to see life through the eyes of love. To choose joy and hope over anger and fear. To truly illuminate the light shining brightly within you.
I dare you. Be a revolutionary. Embrace peace and love and unity.
I’m right here next to you.
I believe in us—the daring dreamers, the visionaries, the joy seekers, the love creators.