By Linda Katz

Reposted with Permission by Sheila Kelley S Factor

I held her hands in my own and looked down at her fingers, knuckles, and nails. I gazed upon her palms and fingertips feeling the years of work that every woman carries with her. I looked into her eyes, and not knowing her story, where she comes from, or what she does for a living, I felt her in my own heart. I sensed her strength and her struggles as tears gathered in both of our eyes.

This moment was the highlight of the workshop I attended this past weekend by Sheila Kelley, the founder of S Factor. In this exercise we were tapping into our intuition as women and I could never have predicted the emotional wellspring that bubbled forth from us both.

Words were unnecessary. The past and the future were not a concern. We were simply two women coming together to witness one another fully in the here and now. And the emotional connection was palpable in a way it could never have been if we tried to pin it down and categorize it with words.

Though I love writing, I became starkly aware of the inadequacy of language to capture the human experience.

It’s the butterfly syndrome. The beauty of the butterfly is in its flight, its spirited dance as it delicately flitters to and fro. When you capture it and pin it to your board with its wings spread out for all to see, the majesty is lost. Using words we try to pin down our feminine experience, the butterfly that is our own lives, by attempting to capture and categorize a field of emotion and experience much too deep and vast for mere letters on the page.

In that moment, I was moved by the power of true authentic connection between women. It is the healing balm for our collective emotional ache. It is an audible sigh of relief as we let the shells we have built as protection around ourselves crumble to the ground like the ruins of ancient civilizations. Finally we are free to stand and be seen in our vulnerable radiance.

What sets authentic connection like this apart from the plethora of other forms of connection that we may already have in our lives?

I have touched upon one of the key elements already: lack of language. Words and language are the building blocks of story. Don’t get me wrong, stories can be empowering, teach us and help us to understand the greater meaning behind events in our lives (I am telling you a story right now!).

But stories also hem us in. We unquestioningly believe the ones we tell ourselves, whether they are true or not. We can’t be free to connect with ourselves as we are now when we are entrenched in our stories, trapped in former iterations of ourselves that our souls grew out of a long time ago. Stories are the fuel that feeds our limiting beliefs about ourselves, others, and the world. Without them, we are free to feel and behave in a way that feels the most authentic to us in that very moment.

Another thing I realized about authentic connection is that it allows us to drop our roles, the labels that we put upon others, as well as ourselves. When I looked into eyes of that woman, she wasn’t a mother or daughter or wife. She wasn’t a democrat or republican. She wasn’t a coach or accountant or actress.

She was something so much greater.

A spirit cannot be categorized and put into a neat little box.

We had no labels or definitions for ourselves. There were no preconceived notions of who we were “supposed” to be. She was free to be herself and I was free to be me, whoever I wanted that to be for that small moment in time.

I will be taking what I have learned from this profound experience of authentic connection and carrying it with me into my daily life. I am finding ways of interacting in new ways with those closest to me, and seeing my friends and family for who they are now, not who I expect them to be. This isn’t easy. The roles we have assumed, our old ways of being, feel as easy as sliding into the ruts of a well-traveled road. But they prevent us from showing up as we are right now, and from truly seeing others in the same way.

I am also exploring more about body language and how I can communicate without words, especially when words feel hollow and insufficient. I have a tendency to be verbose, so this one is tricky for me, but it’s worth it. My job not only as a coach, but also as a fellow human being is to explore, consistently grow, and carry what I have learned out into the world so that hopefully it will help another soul in need.

I ask you to consider these questions:

  • Do you crave more authentic connection? If so, how can you seek that out or how can you show up more authentically in your existing relationships?
  • Are you willing to allow others to see you fully, just as you are?
  • Are you willing to see those around you as they truly are, to hold that space for them and not look away even if it gets uncomfortable?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, let’s make a pact to engage more authentically in all areas of our lives. Doing so will help us to heal not only our own emotional wounds, but also those of the world at large.