I was listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcast with Walter Isaacson, president of the Aspen Institute, author of the Steve Jobs biography and most recently the biography of Leonardo daVinci. Something he said struck me — he always likes to physically visit the things he is writing about. For example, he went to Venice and persuaded the people in the Galleria dell’Accademia to let him see Da Vinci’s drawing of the Vitruvian Man, which is normally not on public display.
There is something different about seeing the thing in person, instead of reading about it or seeing pictures of it online. We can learn more than we ever could before via the Internet, and that is a good thing. We can talk to people online we normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to know or meet, also a good thing.
What is missing — as more people talk about the increasing sense of isolation we nevertheless feel despite the easy access to seemingly everyone and everything – is the emotional or energetic connection.
I was talking to a client about an upcoming trip he was taking. What was most important to him was the feeling he was anticipating having by being in a particular place. He could literally take in the energy of the place, and feel it transform him. Experiencing the energy on a deeper level is what was important to him.
Most of us may not have that capacity to that degree, but most of us have it to a greater degree than we probably recognize or honor.
In another instance, walking past an old building, a friend stopped in appreciation of the workmanship involved in the creation of it. “I can feel the energy of the people who put in those bricks,” he said. That’s why old buildings meant what they did to him. Their having “soul” was not just an idea, it was a living reality.
The energy of a place or person changes everything. So many times I have had an argument in my head with someone, getting more and more worked up with my side of the story, feeding my projections of what they are thinking/feeling/saying, etc. etc. And then when I actually meet the person, in person, all that sort of goes away. The reality of them (and the energy of them) — versus my projection of them, my mental construct of them — changes everything.
One thing I have learned as a psychotherapist over the years is that everyone has their story. Everyone, once you scratch the surface even a little, has a context that makes whatever crazy shit they’re doing understandable. But that takes listening to people with more than just my mind — I need to take in more than their words.
The same can be said for places, or for objects (ever seen Michelangelo’s “The David” in person? Holy smokes). We can keep the mental construct of a place or thing in our minds, or we can go there, scratch the surface, and let ourselves really feel it.
Keeping things detached from us is protective – we don’t have to risk being challenged or changed. But it’s a bad bargain. It keeps everything as a mental game, it keeps us in our heads, and not our bodies or hearts. It makes it easy to keep our projections and the justifications for our projections unchallenged, so it’s easy to treat someone badly. They aren’t real, they’re literally a mental construct we made up. And as long as we aren’t challenged to connect with them at a real, emotional, energetic level, they get to stay that way.
I invite you to experiment with paying attention to what the energy of a “thing” or person feels like to you in your body. How does it show up for you? What happens when you’ve been detached for a while, stuck in your mind, online, not engaging with anyone face to face…and then how does it change when you risk the real conversation?
Showing up for Life in person is risky. But the engagement of it emotionally and energetically is what gives life its meaning, which is what matters at the end of it all.