Excellence Reporter: Evelyn, what is the meaning of life?
Evelyn C. Rysdyk: It is a scientific truth that we are inexorably connected to the entirety of life on Earth. For instance, every human alive today is a descendant of one particular woman who lived in Africa about 200,000 years ago. She wasn’t the only woman living at that time, but only her line continued. We know this because the mitochondrial DNA in our cells has its origin with her.
On a broader scale, we are related to every creature with a backbone. We are related to creatures as diverse as snakes, fish, elephants and polar bears. If we stretch further back in time, we share a common ancestor with sea urchins and starfish. Inside of our bodies, our own cells are outnumbered by a myriad of other beings. Bacteria, viruses, yeasts and naturally occurring microscopic parasites are a part of our internal ecosystem. And the mitochondrial DNA we inherited from our many times great-grandmother is housed in an organelle that was originally a bacteria living 3.5 billion years ago in the primordial sea.
Despite all this remarkable connectivity, our senses continually spin the illusion that we are separate and alone in the universe. Living with that misperception, we have done great harm to each other, other species and to the planet as a whole.
It is only when we expand our awareness that we can perceive how well we are held in the embrace of life. In shamanic journeys, visions and entheogenic voyages we can see hear and feel the threads that weave everything together. These experiences change our perceptions of our place in the Cosmos. Yet, even this extraordinary shift of perception only provides us with knowledge. Creating meaning comes from transforming knowledge into wisdom.
For me, meaning evolves from taking my understanding of connectedness and choosing to allow it influence how I move through my daily existence. When I choose to make my connections more conscious and more thoughtful, I have visceral experiences of the way all beings are connected and I recognize that how I am in the world affects the whole. This provides me with a rich overlay for my everyday interactions with people, animals, the birds at my feeder and the trees that shade my walk. With this richness comes the awareness that our connections are actually relationships that can be fostered through being evermore aware and respectful.
When we choose to be in reverent participatory relationship, we not only benefit the beings around us but also contribute to our own wellbeing. Human beings are wired for connection. We are social primates who are nurtured and sustained through relationship. Interconnection is as important to our mental and emotional health as water and food are to our body. When we treat our relationships with others as nourishment, we can more easily recognize the preciousness of them. We cannot survive without the air the trees create or the waters that flow from rain. In the same fashion, we cannot live well without the laughter of a friend or the touch of a loved one. All of the threads that hold us are necessary and worthy of our gratitude.
And it is in being grateful that we fill with a sense of meaning beyond words.
~Evelyn C. Rysdyk is the author of several noted books on shamanism including, The Norse Shaman, Spirit Walking: A Course In Shamanic Power and A Spirit Walker’s Guide to Shamanic Tools. Along with her writings, Evelyn is an impassioned shamanic teacher. She was featured on The Shift Network’s, 2016 Global Shamanism Summit, and is a presenter for the innovative, international program, A Year Of Ceremony.
Whether through face-to-face contact with individual patients, workshop groups and conference participants, or through the printed word–Evelyn uses her loving humor and passion to open people’s hearts and inspire them to live more joyful, fulfilling and purposeful lives.
Excellence Reporter 2016. Copyright ©2016 Evelyn C. Rysdyk