According to the dictionary definition, my kin are those with whom I share ancestry and the word kinship describes the quality of being kin to another. As a first year osteopathy student I remember visiting the Natural History Museum in London and walking through all those halls filled with the skeletons of dinosaurs and other creatures of our world today. And there, clear to see was the same essential plan in just the bones. And of course all those creatures also had sinew and blood and a heart that beat in rhythm to the flow of their blood. Just like my body. The only difference it seemed to me was the nuances that made it possible for the kinds of experiences unique to each creature. Otherwise the same plan at work in the business of life as that creature.
More than 30 years has passed since those visits, and in that time I have come to know that the natural state of all life on the earth is one of interbeingness. That we inter are. That I am, only in relation to others. And Ive also come to see that I have been born into and raised and lived in, a culture which is built on a lie. The lie that I can exist in isolation. Even that it is possible for me, or any one of us to live good, contented lives separate from each other. This lie says that if I have enough of the right kind of stuff then I am free to be independent. That I won’t need to navigate the messiness and complexity of relationship and can keep at bay, the loneliness and dullness of that life, by enjoying instead maybe, some kind of drama on a screen. (As a lover of stories, I’m not advocating a world without storytelling. I just want to be clear on that point.) Or that I can access information, as much as I wish, and mistake that for knowing, really knowing about the ones I share the earth with. Real knowing isn’t ever finite, it is alive. Alive with curiosity, surprise, discovery and edginess at times too. It’s more than just a mind thing. It’s a felt experience. Felt in the very substance of our bodies. We are inherently designed to be receivers of information, by virtue of the molecular arrangement of the fundamental structure of our bodies, We are inherently designed to be receivers of others’ experience and to be transmitters of our own. Creatures walking on the earth, living every moment of our lives embedded in the experiences of all the life around us. Sharing breath with trees, soil and the animals and more. Every kind of life sharing life in a multilayered web of communication. And this kind of knowing, of experiencing of life around us, cant be analysed and understood in its wholeness by our minds. That is something we can only understand through a felt experience. Through the body and our sensing, when the mind is quiet.
My own experience is that when we come to that felt sense of our place in the web of life, then we feel all the other life around us differently. The tree outside our house is as much a neighbour and part of my sense of community, as any human neighbour. And I’m interested to know the tree as another being, not to name them in my mind and then think that substitutes for knowing them. I get to know how they are in different weathers, different seasons. I get to know something about the life of the creatures living in and on their body. Not just general information. But the specific experience of that tree. And if I sit with them awhile, I get to sense them in their uniqueness. I might sit and tell a story to them. Hang out with them, doing nothing much. Just like you do with friends. Then the tree has value to me, just because they are. Not because they are a source of shade or timber. I am in love with them. Just because they are and I am.
The practice of kinship then is not nature connection or forest bathing. It is instead a remembering of ourselves as an integral part of nature, but just that, a part. No more important or less than any other kind of life on the earth. It is a practice of heart connection. Not a superficial sugary kind of love though. It takes us instead to a practice where anger and despair are transmuted in the strength of the heart field into compassion and understanding. Where differences live and the edginess of that gives life space to be, to thrive, to become more fully. It is a practice of remembering. Literally putting back together the parts. The parts of ourselves we lost in the belief of separation, in the structure of top down hierarchy. And it is a remembering of wholeness.