I recently joined a powerful group of women who meet monthly and talk, and share resources about writing and motherhood and womanhood.  We talk, we eat, we share and we write.  This weekend we worked with two prompts.  One of the prompts revolved around the notion of family trees – not our biological families – our intellectual families.  Those people in our lives who we have read, studied with, been inspired by and in turn those people who inspired them.  As I wandered off down this path, writing freely – which is still a relatively new practice for me – I started to create this image which I wanted to explore more deeply.

Eleven years ago when I was living in my first American home, in Tower Grove, St Louis, Missouri, I met a woman whose mother was European, who had grown up in Australia, studied in the UK and was now living in the US.  We talked about the issues of living so far away from those who we loved and who we connected with deeply. She said she viewed all these connections like a spider web and that she loved this feeling of being connected to people all over the world. This concept stuck with me.

On Saturday, I explored this as I thought and wrote about who I am in reference to other people in my world.  I created this image of myself as the center of this web.  As I thought about the links between me and those people in my life, I drew lines to connect us.  What happens when the links get tugged?  When someone pulls – will I get shifted too?  Or will the link between us stretch and maybe break? If I am no longer in the center, will someone else take that central place? Or is that impossible, because this is the web of me, of my life and I am an immovable object. Yes, I decided, I am the center, but the web around me shifts. The relationships strengthen and weaken, but I am the center of my life.

As the bonds get stronger do these people move closer to me, to the other people in my web that they are also connected to?  Or do the bonds simply thicken?  As I live far away from some of the most important people in my life, I think that these bonds just thicken – the web that connects us gets stronger & sturdier.  And, as these links strengthen I am made stronger and I am supported.  My parents, brother & his wife, some dear friends live in Europe – and although we are not physically close, the bonds that connect us are deep and strong.  I know that when my children leave my home, wherever they are in the world, there will be a deep and strong bond between us that will not be diminished by distance.  My intellectual family tree is deeply connected to my biological family tree – I come from a family of talkers & thinkers and I’m not sure I can completely disentangle the two trees!

This model of my relationships seemed familiar to me as I continued to write and think about my intellectual family tree.  In yoga we talk about samskaras, the impressions in the mind left by past actions – like the tire tracks left in the ground from a repeatedly taken path. The more these paths are driven, the more deeply the tracks are embedded.  Similarly, like the axons that connect neurons, which are strengthened by the repeated firing of these neurons together, I see my friends and family as a neural network that is created around me.  The more these links are activated, the harder it is to break the habit of the connection – perhaps why we find it so hard when a significant relationship ends.  The connection between the two people has broken, yet the habit of connection is still there.  There is space around us and between us: the element of Space or Ether is necessary because it allows for the freedom of movement.  As academics research and pursue the science of consciousness – both in terms of understanding human consciousness and considering whether computer networks could ever be conscious this space created around the neural networks is sometimes evoked as the potential seat of consciousness.

Three seasons ago, I separated from the father of my children & since then, I have sought out new friendships, particularly with strong, interesting, intellectual women whose friendships I am cultivating.  These help create a web of strength and support around me which nurtures me deeply. The more I think about these relationships, and how some of my previous friendship have deepened, the more I recognize that my relationships are so vital to my life. As I continue to develop new relationships with people of different ages, backgrounds, genders, paths in life, I am truly astounded by how nourished I feel as the center of this amazing web. The connections will ebb and flow with the ebb and flow of our lives, and the spaces between us will perhaps create a unique consciousness.

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” Kahlil Gibran

Copyright 2015, Tamsin Astor.  www. yogabrained.com/blog