What an incredibly provocative word: interbeing. I have been inspired with this word. Interbeing is an idea, a placeholder for perspective off which our action might leap. The ideas fuel the movement, the momentum, the action and the action builds new worlds. Interbeing is between things, binding events and beings to each other. It is more than binding it is inside, from within, internally creating being, which is presence. Being is found with company, ever present, never alone, always already in the middle of things. Interbeing is a world of relations, constitutions of interconnected energy.
Interbeing even flows between the East and West. Traditions as different as their histories and culture are from the land and sea that separates them merge around the the concept of interbeing. Below I comment on two traditions that use interbeing in ways that mark similar paths, yet diverge in their historical lineages. The first roots from the philosophical West in the frameworks offered by Deleuze and Guattari. I look to a fellow colleague’s work in the integral field to explain the D&G notion of interbeing as an ontology. The Eastern tradition brings us toward an interbeing via Thich Nhat Hanh. Deeply contemplative, we are offered a principle of dependent co-arising, and further, a way of awareness and action to bring the self to nonself. In both instances interbeing calls the practitioner to new heights of consciousness, creative ethics, freedom of the mind and active, embodied justice.
WEST: Speaking about the nature and quality of interconnections Sam Mikey explains D&G’s notion of rhizomatic connections: “Rhizomatic connections form open territories that are not constricted by the enclosing frame of a rigid borderline.” (Conley 2006, 95). Sam further explains, “A rhizome is a milieu that opens and conjoins. This does not mean that rhizomes are opposed to closings or disjunctions. Rather, the openings and conjunctions of the rhizome make it possible to integrate closings, blockages, and impasses: ‘we can realize that even an impasse is good if it is part of the rhizome’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1986, 4). Sam continues better than I could summarize – here it is: “The rhizome overflows boundaries and conjoins binaries and dichotomies. In other words, the rhizome is ‘always in in the middle, between things, interbeing, intermezzo,’ such that ‘the fabric of the rhizome is the conjunction, ‘and…and…and…’ (Deleuze and Guattari 1987, 25).”
It is the notion of interbeing that interests me here. It is fundamentally a notion of overcoming. For D&G the rhizome is theory of being, an ontological principle, leading Sam to write that, “Everything can become part of the rhizome.” How this is, the quality that makes the rhizome a fundamental ontological principle is interbeing. It performs interbeing.
EAST: The West is one way to speak of the concept of interbeing. Another from quite a different tradition, less French, hails from the East. The Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh, speaks of interbeing as a principle of interconnectedness – that nothing stands alone, independent of all other things. All things are dependent on one another and mutually co-arise. We have both mutual co-dependence and co-arrising from this concept, but there is more. Interbeing points the Buddhist practitioner to the impermenance of all things and eventually to nonself and the end of suffering.
Thich Nhat Hanh: “In Buddhism the most important precept of all is to live in awareness, to know what is going on…to be aware of what we do, what we are, each minute.” In the presence of awareness we realize that no thing is independent or alone, that all things are woven, all things breath together. An awareness of interbeing is more than knowing co-dependence constitutes reality; it is a process of relational change, where dynamic interaction – of one thing being apart of another or of one thing being nothing without everything else – shifts awareness toward emptiness and applied to the self – nonself. This is a process of self transformation based in interbeing or knowing that the self is as much all other things as its is an independent thing because without all things it could never be. “Life is one. We do not need to slice it into pieces and call this or that piece a self. What we call is a self is made only of non-self elements…We have to discard all distinctions between self and non-self.” And in that awareness: “Unity is diversity and diversity is unity.” And finally: “To practice mindfulness and to look deeply into the nature of things is to discover the true nature of interbeing. There we find peace and develop the strength to be in touch with everything.”