Sonder — The essential concept you probably haven’t heard of
Photo by Alex Alvarez on Unsplash
The light in me honors the light in you, or some dumb shit like that
Don’t you just hate people?
I mean… they’re assholes, right? They cut us off in traffic. They put signs for the politicians we dislike in their front yards. They have 12 items in their cart when the sign above checkout lane clearly states Express — 10 Items or Less.
It’s like death by a thousand paper cuts, living with other people.
Other people. Exhausting.
I moved back to my hometown a few weeks ago. I was driving to the grocery store and totally forgot the right lane, the lane that I was in, ended. I had to jerk the wheel to merge over or risk hitting the median.
One of my old classmates is running for Congress. He’s a really cool guy and I’m so excited for him. His campaign even has yard signs!
There’s just something about a local grocery store. I love them. I always laugh at check out when the cashier asks if I found everything I was looking for. That and and then some, right? My list only had like five items but the Larabars were on sale. Oops!
Some people though, right?
It’s so easy to forget that the people around us have lives as real and complex as our own. Each person is an entire universe of experiences, motivations, priorities, and proclivities.
It’s when we remember this that we experience something called sonder. Sonder is the awareness that every person we come into contact with is narrating an always-on story in their own heads that’s every bit as real and true as our’s is. In their story, we may just be an extra in the background.
Through this idea of sonder, I’m reminded that we are all souls having a human experience. We are all children of the Universe — mini-divinities brought down to Earth for a good time. In this way, we are all related. Connected. A human race. But more importantly, a family of souls.
Ram Dass teaches us that we’re all just walking each other home. And it’s often when I’m on walks or stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line, that I fall into ego and forget my soul-connection with all of the people around me.
I start telling myself stories. Making judgements. Wow, not picking up your dog poo… you suck. Dude, can you drive any slower? Okay lady, it’s called six feet of separation so if you take one more step closer to me I’ll…
Whoa. Yeah. Sound familiar? It’s so easy to slip into our own narrative and forget.
I like to practice remembering. It calms the ego.
Something I’ve been doing lately, when I’m out and about, is greeting the people I pass with some version of, “Hi, sibling!” in my head. Externally, it might look like a smile. But it’s normally an unnoticeable, neutral face. I’m not trying to interact. I’m just trying to acknowledge the me in others. The light in me honoring the light in you — namaste, y’know?
It’s so simple. So silly. But it can also be effing magic.
At the very least, it feels ridiculous and makes me giggle on the inside. There is no way that chick is my sister. Like seriously? Fine. Whatever. HI, SEESTER!!! And sometimes that little giggle turns into a bloom of joy. My energy shifts outward and I can feel the intangible threads tethering us all together. I’ve seen glittering gold strands draped over each of us as we move past one another like a rippling gossamer blanket. And I remember. My soul remembers.
Simple practices like this, ones that shift daily activities into spiritual practices, can transform the fabric of our planet.
The next time you notice yourself getting pissy with humanity, practice a little sonder and see what happens.
Words from “Desiderata” by Max Erhmann, drawing by Janina Lamb
About The Author
Sarah is a classically trained marketer, philosopher, and artist. A self-described ‘wounded healer,’ her writing, much like her coaching, is focused on how we heal ourselves through relationship with others. You can find her irregular writings on Medium and her post-class reflections here on Self-Care Society both under the handle @thebestofsarah.