What is Interbeing: Meditation Explained

by | 11 Apr, 2024

A serene landscape featuring intertwined trees symbolizing interconnectedness

Interbeing is a term coined by the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, which refers to the interconnectedness of all things in the universe. It is a concept that lies at the heart of Buddhist philosophy and is integral to understanding the practice of meditation. This article will delve into the concept of Interbeing, its relevance to meditation, and how it can be practically applied in our daily lives.

The term Interbeing suggests that everything in the universe is interconnected, that we all ‘inter-are’. It is a recognition that we are not separate entities, but rather part of a vast, complex web of existence. This understanding can have profound implications on how we perceive ourselves, others, and the world around us.

The Concept of Interbeing

The concept of Interbeing is deeply rooted in Buddhist philosophy, particularly in the teachings on dependent origination. This teaching posits that all phenomena arise in dependence upon multiple causes and conditions, and that nothing exists as a separate, independent entity. Everything is interconnected, interdependent, and constantly changing.

Interbeing is a way of understanding this teaching on a deep, experiential level. It is not just an intellectual understanding, but a lived reality that can be directly experienced through the practice of mindfulness and meditation. It is a way of seeing that transcends the dualistic thinking that separates ‘self’ from ‘other’, ‘inside’ from ‘outside’, ‘subject’ from ‘object’.

Interbeing and Non-Duality

Interbeing is closely related to the concept of non-duality, another key principle in Buddhist philosophy. Non-duality means not two, or beyond two. It is the understanding that reality is not divided into separate entities, but is a seamless, interconnected whole. This is not to deny the multiplicity and diversity of the world, but to see that these many forms are expressions of the same underlying reality.

Interbeing, as a lived experience of non-duality, can bring about a profound shift in our perception. It can help us to see beyond the illusion of separateness, to recognize the interconnectedness of all things, and to live in a way that reflects this understanding. This is the ultimate goal of the Buddhist path, and the essence of meditation practice.

Interbeing and Impermanence

Another key aspect of Interbeing is the recognition of impermanence. This is the understanding that all things are constantly changing, that nothing remains the same for even a moment. This is not just a philosophical idea, but a reality that can be directly perceived through mindfulness and meditation.

Recognizing impermanence can lead to a deep appreciation of the preciousness and fragility of life. It can help us to let go of our attachments, to live more fully in the present moment, and to cultivate a heart of compassion for all beings. This is the transformative power of Interbeing.

The Practice of Interbeing

The practice of Interbeing is not about acquiring new beliefs or ideas, but about transforming the way we perceive and relate to the world. It is about cultivating a deep sense of interconnectedness, a recognition of our interdependence with all things. This is achieved through the practice of mindfulness and meditation.

interbeing

Mindfulness is the capacity to be fully present, to be aware of what is happening in the present moment, without judgment or distraction. It is the practice of bringing our full attention to our experience, just as it is. This can be practiced in any moment, in any situation, not just on the meditation cushion.

Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness meditation is a specific form of meditation that cultivates mindfulness. It involves paying attention to our breath, our body, our feelings, our mind, and the world around us, with an attitude of openness, curiosity, and kindness. This practice can help us to see clearly the reality of Interbeing, to directly perceive the interconnectedness of all things.

As we practice mindfulness meditation, we begin to see that our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions are not separate, independent entities, but are deeply interconnected with the world around us. We see that our happiness and suffering are not just personal matters, but are intimately connected with the happiness and suffering of others. This is the insight of Interbeing.

Walking Meditation

Walking meditation is another practice that can help us to cultivate the insight of Interbeing. It involves walking slowly and mindfully, paying attention to each step, each breath, each moment. As we walk, we can reflect on the fact that we are not walking alone, but are walking with the Earth, with all beings.

This practice can help us to feel deeply connected with the Earth, with nature, with all life. It can help us to see that we are not separate from the world, but are part of it, interwoven with it. This is the experience of Interbeing.

Interbeing in Daily Life

The insight of Interbeing is not just for meditation practice, but can be applied in all aspects of our daily life. It can transform the way we relate to ourselves, to others, and to the world. It can help us to live with more compassion, understanding, and peace.

When we recognize our interdependence with all things, we naturally want to live in a way that contributes to the well-being of all. We see that our actions have consequences, that what we do matters. We see that by taking care of ourselves, we take care of the world, and by taking care of the world, we take care of ourselves.

Interbeing and Compassion

Interbeing can help us to cultivate a heart of compassion. When we see that we are not separate from others, but are interconnected with them, we naturally feel a sense of compassion for their suffering. We see that their happiness is our happiness, their suffering is our suffering.

This understanding can motivate us to act in ways that alleviate suffering and promote happiness, not just for ourselves, but for all beings. This is the practice of compassion, the heart of the Buddhist path.

Interbeing and Environmental Responsibility

Interbeing also has profound implications for how we relate to the environment. When we see that we are not separate from the Earth, but are part of it, we naturally want to care for it. We see that our well-being is intimately connected with the well-being of the planet.

This understanding can inspire us to live in a more environmentally responsible way, to reduce our ecological footprint, to protect and preserve the natural world. This is the practice of environmental responsibility, a natural expression of the insight of Interbeing.

Conclusion

Interbeing is a profound and transformative insight that lies at the heart of Buddhist philosophy and meditation practice. It is the recognition of our deep interconnectedness with all things, the understanding that we are not separate entities, but part of a vast, complex web of existence. This understanding can transform the way we perceive and relate to the world, leading to a life of greater compassion, understanding, and peace.

Through the practice of mindfulness and meditation, we can cultivate this insight and bring it into all aspects of our daily life. We can live in a way that reflects our interdependence with all things, that contributes to the well-being of all. This is the practice of Interbeing, the path of awakening to our true nature.