Humanity takes stiff-legged wobbly steps in the form of fleshy bodies and falls, scrapes its knees, gets back up, and keeps exploring.

Nobody has life figured out.

The most influential leaders in history were closest as they pointed in the direction of love, compassion and forgiveness and opened the eyes of humanity to the dignity of one other.

But as soon as they draw us closer together, we pull ourselves apart.

We have bosses who don’t acknowledge us. We have family who abandon us. We work with colleagues who’d rather compete than cooperate. We have high schoolers killing each other…

A majority of people are living in a quest of one form of security or another. Because there’s no clear direction about what we’re really supposed to be doing between birth and death, attaching security and identity to external things like relationships, status, money, accomplishment and the like, seems normal. But along with attachments comes a deep fear of losing them…and ourselves. There’s the inevitable transient nature of life that perks up again – none of this lasts. It can feel scary.

There are some who seem to do well at this stage between birth and death, and clearly some struggle.

It’s an awkward stage.

If we’re fortunate enough to have loving, compassionate and conscious people to call our spirits to attention, we remember who we are, our closeness is restored, and this stage feels good. Joyful. Meaningful.

Richard Rohr, one of my favorite authors and contemplators, states that psychologists now say there is no such thing as an infant. There is only an infant/caregiver. In the first several months, from the infant’s view, they (the infant and the caregiver) are one and the same.

He says, “We are mirrored into life, not by concepts, but by faces delighting in us, giving us the beloved self-image we can’t give to ourselves.”

Eventually though, patterns develop as infants grow into children and then into adults:

  1. The need for survival and security.
  • I don’t like change or surprise. I like to know what’s happening and when it’s happening. If someone threatens my need to feel safe and secure, I react!
  1. The need for approval, affection, and esteem.
  • I depend on people and circumstances outside myself to notice me. If someone might not think I’m wonderful, it bothers me. I need validation to feel valuable.
  1. The need for power and control.
  • I need to be in control of what is happening and who is involved. I need to have the final say-so in decisions.

What I’ve learned over the last five years is that people are people. Despite the role someone holds, none are immune to the ebbs and flow of this stage between birth and death. None are immune to occasional neediness.

In the gaps between neediness, however, the inherent nature of love, compassion and forgiveness the great sages spoke about, provides freedom to gaze on each other with love.

We mirror the gaze of our caregiver lovingly back into the world and call each other’s inherent nature to attention.

Connection and unity come from being, and the most influential leaders point in that direction. Divisiveness comes from needing. 

It’s a big jump from needing to being, but an attempt to bridge the gap might sound something like this:

I don’t have to prove myself or please anyone. I don’t have to try to perform my way into people liking me to be okay. I trust life and surrender to it. I draw strength knowing that while awkwardness ebbs and flows, I’m always within the greater whole and it’s impossible to be separate from it.

While navigating through this stage between birth and death, remember you’re not alone. We’re all awkwardly figuring it out.

Rachel is a certified coach, navigating the awkward stage with the rest of humanity. Learn more here.




Twitter: @RachelThalmann


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