As Above, So Below… Interbeing for the New Year

There is no doubt 2022 was an, ahem, challenging year worldwide. I felt it, and I suspect you did, too. As the saying by Hermes Trismegistus, the legendary figure associated with the beginning of alchemy, the birth of material and spiritual science goes: as above, so below. In other words, what goes on in the world is what goes on inside us. We are affected by world events; conversely, what happens inside us affects the world.

What does that mean for you, I wonder? How do the events in the world affect you? How does your interior life affect the world? What does the astounding connection of all things mean to you?

I imagine a giant web of strings, a cosmically-sized musical instrument. The vibrations from a string plucked in one place are felt in all places and alter the sound of the whole. Or, you know, that butterfly theory. I don’t pretend to be original, just fascinated.

The New Year is an interesting moment, spiritually speaking. It offers an opportunity to put what has happened in the previous turn of the seasons to rest and to choose to face the future with courage, dignity, gratitude, and perhaps an attitude of hopeful anticipation, a willingness to be astonished, regardless of circumstances.

2022 was a rough year for me, too. Apart from the horrific world events —  climate catastrophe, Putin’s war, political insanity — I’ve been dealing with chronic pain, two surgeries (which may or may not have been helpful; only time will tell), and various existential crises. Not much different from what everyone’s been dealing with.

There have been lessons. At my age — sixty-seven — deaths are piling up. Friends, acquaintances, and relatives are leaving with more frequency. I discover I am no longer of interest to most people. I’m just an old woman hobbling about with a cane, easily pitied but rarely engaged. My death certainly feels closer than when I was younger. It’s normal. This is the season of life in which I feel nudged toward an apprenticeship with grief, as someone once called it. I want to begin to make peace with the fact that, sooner or later, I will lose everything I love. We all will.

Soon, as many of you know, I will lose my beloved dog, Bailey. I have lost my adopted mother and father, my birth mother, my father-in-law, and many friends (too long a list to add). I have lost my ability to do many of the physical things I used to do, like yoga, ballet, and hiking. I believe my publishing career is probably over, or soon will be. No publisher is hungry for another novel by an older, white, cis woman (but if you are a publisher interested in such work, let me know!). Several adored friends are experiencing probably-terminal illnesses while others are dealing with profound life changes including the death of partners and careers and so forth.

It’s not that I haven’t experienced loss and grief in my younger years, I have. However, as the end of my own life undeniably approaches, I find my vision is clarified, focused, and directed differently. When young, and if one is lucky enough to have had a healthy and robust youth, it’s pretty easy to ignore certain facts of life, especially in our death-adverse culture.

The whole world, and every sentient being on it, are suffering in one way or another.

What does all this tell me? It tells me this experience is much like being pregnant and suddenly noticing pregnant women everywhere. As within, so without. It invites me to enter a deeper relationship with the suffering world. Grief and suffering are, after all, the one common experience of humankind. I feel the suffering of others, both human and animal, more sharply, and it is more pervasive. I’m not depressed, but I do feel fragile. Spun glass fragile.

I also find myself wondering how to make meaning of this experience.

One of the things that comfort me is observing others going through this same season. How do they handle it? What lessons do they learn? How do they keep from buckling under the weight of grief? How do they keep walking? I find inspiration everywhere, including in those who buckle under the anvil, who crumple and howl. After all, that’s often the appropriate response to enormous loss; to deny it isn’t healthy in any way. I am grateful for those who walk the path ahead of me, leaving breadcrumbs for me to follow. If I can do the same for someone else… well, there’s meaning in that.

Acknowledging this season, I’ve been thinking about what word I’d like to focus on this year. I choose one every year as a spiritual practice, something to focus on and through which to filter the coming year’s experience. Last year it was ‘mercy,’ a word that guided me well. This year, the word I choose — or that chooses me — is a term coined by Thich Nhat Hanh, the great Buddhist teacher who died this year: “Interbeing.”

Thich Nhat Hanh said this about Interbeing: “If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper. Without a cloud, there will be no rain; without rain, the trees cannot grow: and without trees, we cannot make paper. The cloud is essential for the paper to exist. If the cloud is not here, the sheet of paper cannot be here either. So we can say that the cloud and the paper inter-are.”

I get a wide-open, connected-to-everything feeling when I read this, free and serene. I believe that feeling, infinite and holding all while holding nothing, is what lies beyond grief, beyond loss, and even beyond death. So that’s my word.

Perhaps you’re choosing one as well. What is it?


  1. Annie Mountain on January 2, 2023 at 2:14 pm

    I’m keeping this to print off for my 2023 journal. I believe 2022 held so much sadness, loss, unnecessary pain and that look into the mirror and seeing the years are on the slide.
    The pain of hearing things that bring me to tears seems like a daily occurrence.
    I read, I pray, I ask for grace and kiss my pups who are also sliding a gentle goodnight.
    The grains of sand in my toes, the salt air that fills my lungs and tangles my hair continue to replenish me when I feel so caged by society. I look at that ocean and fall into its sometimes soft; sometimes gripping waves, almost testing if I could somehow just float off into the horizon.
    We lay naked in knowing nothing goes with us but the love, the memories, the wondrous moments.
    This year, I will choose to test “Interbe”. I’ll let you know what I find.
    Love to you dearest, precious, wild Lauren. You continue to pull me into and out of my own skin.

    • Lauren B. Davis on January 2, 2023 at 2:31 pm

      Love right back to you, dear Annie. May you find solace and meaning in the great, infinite interconnectedness. xo

  2. Duane Rutter on January 2, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    Of course you have, yet again, described with great authority, the seasons of my own days/hours/minutes as left to me by the various lives I have led.
    Thank you for these words
    May comfort always find you when you are least aware that you need it. ….. oh and all the others times as well 🙏🏻🙂🙏🏻

    • Lauren on January 2, 2023 at 5:42 pm

      Thanks, Duane. Comfort and compassion for everyone.

  3. Maeve W. on January 2, 2023 at 9:18 pm

    thanks Lauren for this beautiful post about the seasons of life. I think most of us are more fragile than even we may realize, and your words certainly struck multiple chords for me. I’ll continue to think about what you shared, and see what word comes up for me to focus on this year. kind regards, Maeve W.

    • Lauren on January 2, 2023 at 9:20 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Maeve. Let me know if a word presents itself.

  4. Anne Moore on January 17, 2023 at 12:56 am

    Thank you for this lovely inspirational blog post, Lauren, and for all your lovely inspirational posts – I get so much out of them and send little pieces of them to friends. I only came across you 6 months ago via searching for comforting words online after the death of my heart dog Willa and was stunned at the beauty and honesty of your writing. Had never known of your books but have ordered Even So and think I am in for a treat. Then I will have the pleasure of reading all your earlier ones and turning my friends on to them too. I am glad to hear you have had more time with Bailey. Now 6 months out from Willa’s departure I’m realizing that, for me, there is no healing, but there is a capitulation, I realized today that it is not death that is so terrible for me, it is separation. I so miss that very special interbeingness with my little friend, and I don’t know how to have it when I am here and she is not. My word for this year is probably “I don’t know anything at all, not a thing, I stand dumbfounded in the face of life” and trusting that there is a long German word for that. Bless your heart, may it fill with compassion that holds you through the hard days.

    • Lauren B. Davis on January 17, 2023 at 10:33 am

      Dear Anne, your post has touched me deeply. So deeply in fact that I wrote you such a long response that I realized it was a blog post in itself. Stay tuned for that response. I hope you won’t mind, but what you’ve said is enormously meaningful to me.

      (And I do hope you find something useful in “Even So” and that you’ll let me know. L. xo

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