Separation Anxiety

We’re expected to, “Get over it!” In a time with few acknowledged initiation rituals this traumatic breaking of unity is almost universally accepted as a rite-of-passage.

Why does separation – let’s consider it in any and every form it can take. Why does it create anxiety?

What does this say more generally about the violence, incoherence, perpetuating and propagating throughout our lives?

We are told that while our desire not to separate is nice, we must put it aside to be able to face life’s challenges. Not only separating us from those who nurtured us, but from any and all others. From place, from things. We are encouraged to separate parts of our selves. Told to “compartmentalize” our emotions. Creating arenas for greed, envy, power-hunger in all its forms to have free play. Creating ghettos of sentimentality where we cocoon our “softer feelings.”

The weight of the enormity we face is so great. Terrifying enough when we consider the violence occurring “outside.” This pales when we begin to recognize the enormity of what goes on “inside.” We struggle to comprehend how deeply we have been damaged. We quake in fear, afraid of what we might find if we delve deeper.

This, of course, is how a self-hood trapped in the illusion of an Ego sees things. The Ego cannot maintain its supremacy without scaring us into separation. We arrive at a circular impasse. Separation feeds the illusion of Ego. Ego insists we maintain separation.

How can we get outside of this trap?

Coherence is our guide. Every result of every action carried out from within this perspective of Ego and the separation it enforces is mired in incoherence, generating violence and cascades of unintended consequences.

Our original impulse to seek connection and resist any and all appearances of separation is coherent. It gibes with all of our deepest insights into the nature of the universe. It acts as a touchstone, bringing us into contact with tacit understanding.

Error begins precisely at the point at which we ignore or suppress this original impulse to remain connected.

We don’t know how to behave without carving separations. But, this is a result of separation. Not a given, underlying condition.

Here is a foundation. This is where our fears, the anxieties submerging us, can be swept away, resisted. We have a foundational certainty. The hint of a framework for action, for movement.

Once we accept this and follow the reinforcing connections it opens for us, we enter a new realm.


We are debilitated. Cut-off from our abilities. Looking for a capacity to function in all the wrong places. In this destabilized psychological state, we are assailed from all sides by enormity. An enormity we insist on breaking up into a series of endless, nested problems. Our actions generating new problems faster than we can realize it. No wonder we are exhausted, traumatized, unable, or at least unwilling, to slow down and see if there might be another way.

We are addicted to momentum.


Strength is the capacity to move without momentum.

This may seem opaque. We are stuck in Newtonian language, “A body at rest stays at rest. A body in motion, stays in motion.” We all know this catechism.

Within it are dangerous reductions. We assume “a body” to be anything from a sub-atomic particle to a galaxy. We include our own bodies in this category. Any body….

This is a limited definition of body. It assumes that bodies are discreet gatherings of matter and that, outside the kludge of a human soul – often left out – a body is a passive lump of stuff. Any body.

It is true enough that stuff follows a “habit of momentum,” using JMG’s conception. Much more useful than calling this, or any other insight into how things work, a “Law.” But not only does this way of looking at things reinforce separation, all those clumps of stuff just lying there asking for it! Fertile ground for breaking stuff, from smashing atoms to tearing apart the biosphere. It also rends a tear between a body and the energy that animates it. As Einsteinian physics has discovered, there is no separate stuff. It is all energy.

This does take us to a vision of unity. But right now, let’s focus on how we could look at our movements outside of this limiting paradigm of how we perceive inertia.

Certainly when we are propelled by an outside force, our bodies will act just as Newton predicted. Wear your seat-belt dammit! But what about the entire realm of activity in which we are dealing with our body moving itself, using its own power?

In Qi Gong, we move at a pace that eliminates momentum as a force acting independently on our bodies. By moving slowly we remain within an envelope – to use this term from energy-management – in which we have the strength to stop any movement at any time without fear that it will take us farther than we can handle. We can reach, stretch, find the edges of balance and flexibility without the fear that we will “go too far.”

What happens, rather quickly in fact, is that a pathway of mutual trust begins to develop between our conscious “self” and the organism it purports to control. As our will-to-control relaxes. After all, these movements have no “point.” They are simple enough. No need to continue to exert the fiction of having to, “Tell the body what to do….”

As our organism begins to respond to this newly developing trust and rapport with its erstwhile “master,” it relaxes. From this trust, this relaxation, comes not only an access to peace and a font of Joy. We find connection with vitality. Call it what you will, Qi, life-force, Joe!

This vitality and the permeability of our previously thought-to-be impervious boundaries: Between body and mind. Between self and space. Between space and interval and our notions of time. These all break down. Not theoretically. We directly experience the fullness of being. We experience everything as energy. Energy flowing through what we had considered distinct boundaries. Energy flowing around us, through us, and inside us.

This connection with vitality, among countless other things, brings us into an intimate connection with the strength of our body. We discover its limits. We become aware of subtle changes in our strength. We are able to discern its growth over time as movement combines with the energy of life and bring us a foundational physical strength.

Our customary understanding of physical strength is tangled up in feats of power. We think of a weight-lifter pressing six hundred pounds. We think of an athlete pushing – usually his – body into and through some grueling exertion. When we turn this view on our own body we are tempted to push it harder than it can handle.

We force it into precipitous motion at the mercy of momentum we cannot control. If we’re lucky enough not to injure our bodies outright, we are relying on the larger muscles masses of our legs, arms, torsos, to wrestle with a situation we’ve thrown ourselves into with no way for our body to respond other than by reacting precariously.

Moving below the threshold of momentum is an entirely other form of action. The large muscles have little to do. We ask ourselves then, Why is it so hard?

Moving without momentum requires the coordination of all our muscles, ligaments, and bones working together. We discover just how weak our smaller supporting-muscles are after a lifetime of uncoordinated momentous effort. In this discovery we begin to find and build a foundation of strength.

This is a manifest instance of an insight into the difference between strength and our notions of power. We find parallels between our gambits to wrestle with inertia in all our actions, acting out of a misunderstanding of what our own strength is. We experience the difference between chasing an illusion as we strive after power to satisfy our will and immersing our selves in the connection and synchrony of energy flowing through a unity. A unity of which we are a part, as well as an holistic expression of the whole.

Separation is a lie. No wonder our first reaction is to become anxious.

Moving without momentum becomes an approach to every form of action. Moving without momentum means that we can adapt to a situation at the finest grain of our perception. There is no lag. We continually adjust within a view of time that is not broken into ways and means, actions and results. Each moment unfolds and flows into the next. As our attention gains its own form of strength we can perceive how each moment is not discreet, but part of an infinitely subtle flow. As our attention becomes accustomed to this view, we find that our adjustments cannot be separated from what “triggered” them or what they “cause.”

We discover that what we had considered our all-important Will has nothing to do with it. That our best comes when we partake of the flow and connect with what is tacit. What underlies every moment and is interwoven in how what is implicit comes into being.


Why do these essays have this particular, probably exasperating form?

Beyond whatever habits of action, quirks of an individual history and make-up, there is a drive to present the form insight partakes of. It is a way of writing/reading/thinking that resists the temptation to develop momentum. All the stops and starts. The turns. The essays into carving distinctions where we expect to find the obvious. These are ways to counter momentum and allow what is there to be found. To allow what arises from the tacit underpinnings of life space, room to show itself.

I have no use for building mausoleums, for entombing previous insights as thoughts. The appetite for “answers” is one I actively work to subvert. Both in my own desires and in any potential reader. What is at the heart of any value to be found here is tied inextricably with how insight comes into being. Any focus on gathering, holding, polishing, storing them away; is counterproductive.

That said, these essays have a chronology. They build on each other. Taking any one in isolation will only give a partial and perhaps even mistaken sense of how the whole unfolds. Each is a reflection of what has come before. Together they are a record and a vessel for whatever meaning they may hold. Each cuts away at our conditioning in a specific manner. Together the underlying series provides points of coherence that do build. They develop a series of implications from which subsequent insights arise.

The impulse to demand answers is a symptom of our dislocation. No benefit can be gained by mining insights in such a manner. The only thing we can find valuable is to participate in insight.


The universe is subtle. It calls on us to be subtle, to enter into its subtle nature, to develop creatively. Lost in fear and frustration we cannot be subtle. All we want are answers! We want tricks we can plug into our play-book. We have no patience with what it takes to change. All of our customary mechanisms block us from any possibility of change. Making it harder to change, the more we think we must.

To be strong requires patience. Patience gives us a capacity to let-go of striving. To find joy in being. Wherever we are. The strength to be subtle.

In this we arrive at a fundamental level of coherence.

Our recognition that all known pathways are corrupted by inherent incoherence –down to the level of having thwarted our most basic impulses – provides us with the gift of clarity. There is great value to be gained by stripping away our old patterns. Finding a foundation built on trust and connection. In trust and connection – found, not imposed by violence – we contact coherence. We lose this illusion of separation. Lose the anxiety it has brought forth in us.

We act. But, we do not act to impose. Our action, the convoluted path that brings us to a moment of clarity, brings about a result. But the result is arrived at in the midst of the fully ineffable nature of subtlety. We cannot pry apart means from ends. We are left with no tricks, no techniques to flash the next time to avoid having to be.

When we have found a different sort of comfort in being a part of this process something happens to us and through us.

One of the first signs is that we lose anxiety.

We believe we are not, cannot be separate. Anxiety is not “beaten out of us.” It has lost its reason.

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Published by Antonio Dias

My work is centered on attending to the intersection of perception and creativity. Complexity cannot be reduced to any given certainty. Learning is Central: Sharing our gifts, Working together, Teaching and learning in reciprocity. Entering into shared Inquiry, Maintaining these practices as a way of life. Let’s work together to build practices, strengthen dialogue, and discover and develop community. Let me know how we might work together.

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