By Amy Carpenter, LCSW, CYI
Connections are made, not given. They sometimes take work, at other times are effortless, but either way, connections require us to show up to someone or something outside ourselves.
Because I live in Maine, connections have been essential in getting through the long, cold winters. Even as I write, we now have six inches of snow on the ground and more coming, in mid-April! Winters in Maine are when people go inward, but everyone here knows there must be a balance. Too much hibernation can create the winter blues or a bad case of Seasonal Affective Disorder, and no one wants to deal with that in the middle of eight months of cold.
Being reclusive can be deeply satisfying, if only we could know in advance when we might be isolating too much. As a writer, winter is my favorite season. When I’m not working or parenting, I can lose multiple hours just sitting in front of my computer happily tapping away at the keys, wondering how I can sneak in any extra minute. What I noticed this past winter is that everything was moving along very smoothly in this way…until suddenly it wasn’t. There were no “first signs” or early markers. Instead, there was all at once a deep knowing that I had let myself go too far adrift in my creative outpouring. I missed people.
The truth is I have a lot of people. Family nearby, lots of friends and a very supportive yoga community have helped Maine be my home for the past 14 years. The longing that came up this past winter was about something else. I missed the experience of meeting new people. What I realized later is that meeting new people can create an important connection even if it only lasts a few minutes.
So, I began to experiment. I tried finding out what it would be like to extend myself to relative strangers in my community in ways I never had before. The result was profound. What I learned is that meeting someone new offers a different emotional experience than spending time with someone who already knows us well.
When we encounter someone unfamiliar, we extend ourselves in ways we may not otherwise. We experience ourselves holding a particular warmth, an optic energy that goes hand-in-hand with first impressions and a desire to be pleasant. Although the company of loved ones is always desirable, new connections allow us to extend our auric fields in the amiable duality of getting to know someone while becoming, for the first time, known.
Passersby on the street, clerks in the clothing store, other parents gathered at a school function, or fellow yogis in a favorite class; there are numerous opportunities to cultivate openness rather than reserve when encountering new people. And the pay-off creates the perfect win-win.
One day I enjoyed a brief conversation with a fellow mom in yoga class who admitted she was having a hard couple of weeks. I let her know (truthfully) that I’d always admired her as a parent and that although we didn’t know each other well, I’d always appreciated her energy whenever I saw her in class. She smiled and for a moment I could feel that the connection we experienced was mutually gratifying. We both felt better for the exchange.
Yogi Bhajan taught us, as Kundalini Yoga teachers, to be “the forklift” that helps raise the vibration in others through the transformative power of Kundalini Yoga. This season I’ve seen how living this way, on or off the mat, can permeate our responses to others in ways that enhance the experience of being human. No matter how random or casual the circumstance, we are always in proximity to an opportunity to expand ourselves; to be the Light we want to see in the world, and to widen the circle of connection.
Amy Carpenter is a psychotherapist, writer, and Kundalini Yoga instructor living in Rockport, Maine. She graduated from the Kundalini Research Institute in 2007 and, outside of a recent writing sabbatical, has taught local Kundalini Yoga classes ever since. She has two completed books; Glen Stone, a middle-grade novel, and Channel Crossing: The Challenge and Success of Solo Parenting, a self-help book. Amy was named the 2018 Ilgenfritz scholar for writers of non-fiction through the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. She has contributed articles to PsychCentral.com, The Asana International Yoga Journal and Singlehandedly.me. For more information, find her at: amycarpenter.net