Through the Lenses of Separation and Interbeing

About a 2 minute read

Logical, rational thinking understandably sees things as separate. 'I am me; that is something "other" than me.'

The “other” can be another person, another group separate from the group to which I belong, or a non-human entity like a river or a forest.

There is another way to see things. Through a lens of interbeing, I am still me, but now I recognize that I’m closely related to everything that the mindset of separation calls “other.”


Here are some ways we might see the world through these two lenses of “separation” and “interbeing.”

  1. Through the lens of separation, everything is (obviously) separate. What happens “here,” or “in here”, is unrelated to what is happening “over there” or “out there.” If you shift a problem away from yourself, it’s the same as solving it.

    Through the lens of interbeing, everything is  intimately and inextricably connected. Change in any part of a system/group/pattern/constellation impacts the whole.
    We can’t, for example, throw our rubbish away, because there is no “away.” We can’t wait for “them” to solve our problems, because there is no “them,” only “us.”

  2. Through the lens of separation, if you want to change something, you must use force. The bigger the change you want, the more force you need.

    Through the lens of interbeing, change can come about in unseen, unexpected, and spontaneous ways. It’s not always dependent on measurable, tangible force.

  3. Through the lens of separation, power is measured in physical strength or in forces that a powerful person or group can bring to bear on another person or group.

    Through the lens of interbeing, power can be subtle or even invisible.
    Power with others (as opposed to power over others), arises from power within self, which in turn is seeded and nurtured by others (for example, the more experienced providing mentoring to the less experienced, to help them grow into their power).

  4. Through the lens of separation, worth is always measurable. The worth of adults is measured in wealth, status, followers, beauty, youth, power.
    The worth of children is measured in behavior and accomplishments that reflect well on their parents and teachers.

    Through the lens of interbeing, worth is a given and need not be measured. You are uniquely, immeasurably worthy, just because you’re you.

  5. Through the lens of separation, nothing is sacred. A river, for example, is just a combination of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, running between banks of elemental stuff we call dirt.

    Through the lens of interbeing, everything is sacred1.
    A river, for example, is alive, teeming with memory, a vital life-force in the landscape and for the peoples whose lives are entwined with it2.

  6. Through the lens of separation, security, certainty, and status are very important. You can buy these things with money, so earning money is much more important than enjoying yourself, relating to others, or relaxing in nature.

    Through the lens of interbeing, one recognizes that certainty never lasts for long and so its easier to be okay with not being certain about most things;
    security comes from relationships, and from right living in relation to the living world around you;
    and status is much less important in a world of interbeing, since individual needs are generously met by the collective and nobody needs to take anything from anybody else by force or by superiority.

  7. Through the lens of separation, natural processes like birth, learning, growth of all kinds, are haphazard and random if left to nature; it’s better to use technology to control and standardize them, often to medicalize them.

    Through the lens of interbeing, natural processes are trusted. Technology serves best when it’s used in a way that’s aligned with natural processes rather than in opposition to them.

Please leave a comment...

I think, I hope, that collectively we're in a transition from separation to interbeing. It's a messy, ragged march. I find myself able to pull some aspects of my life into more connected ways of doing things and remain, for now, stuck in separation in other areas.

How does this look in your life? Please share in the comments? (Scroll down past the End Notes.)


  1. Environmental and indigenous groups are working to restore personhood to rivers and other sacred, living, non-human entities.
  2. Modern science is finally beginning to explore and explain properties of water that have defied the laws of physics – meaning that physicists are going to have to update their laws. It’s becoming apparent that “healthy water” (my term) can store, conduct, and amplify energy and information (my take on the fascinating science I’ve read so far). Article references here and here. Books here and here. Scientific research journal here.
  • Thank you for posting this. I had been reflecting on these ideas even before the pandemic, the extreme weather, the political upheaval this year. But now this mind shift seems even more relevant and important.

    • Thanks for commenting, Carissa. I feel hopeful that the mind shift from control and separation toward compassion and interbeing is gathering momentum; perhaps the upheavals you mentioned indicate an acceleration of the breakdown of the thought-structures and institutions that have been keeping it from happening. Best wishes.

  • Great article! We certainly need a global shift away from separation. I especially liked your links to how amazing structured water is. It shows what a visionary Rudolf Steiner was and shows that ‘New Agers’ working with crystals aren’t crack pots after all.

    • Thanks for your comment, Cathy. I found the water links after listening to this podcast episode — lots more resources at the bottom of it.

  • Marianne Winfield says:

    Hi Kate, thank you for this excellent article. I’ve started to read Gerald Pollark’s book and your links taking the study further are most welcome. Another fast-evolving and fascinating area of research is the amazing world of fungi. I’m currently reading Merlin Sheldrake’s brilliant Entangled Life. This subject is not new to me having read Paul Stamets and Peter McCoy, but Sheldrake brings it altogether with copious references, lots of humour and personal experiences with fungi!

    • Thanks for your comment, Marianne, I’m glad it was helpful. I’ve had Entangled Life on my reading list and you’ve just given me the necessary nudge to get into it. All the best!

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