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How Attunement & Connection Can Save the World | Dr. Edward Brodkin & Ashley Pallathra

There’s a lot of conflict going on in the world today. We put ourselves in categories and separate ourselves by politics, religion or beliefs. All this division is intensifying our isolation. The only way we’re ever going to come together and save the world is through attunement and connection.


Dr. Edward and Ashley think we’re missing each other. And they’re right.

Dr. Edward S. Brodkin is an Associate Professor of Psychiatry with tenure at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Ashley A. Pallathra, M.A. is a clinical researcher and therapist. Together they’ve written the book Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections, based around the need for more connection in today’s society.

I was so excited to have them on the show, because this is a topic I rant about pretty often. We are so isolated, so separated, so apart from each other! We allow social media, TV and all the other modern conveniences convince us that we’re so different it’s not even worth it to try to connect. Dr. Edward and Ashley share in my frustration in this and they’re trying to show that there’s a better way – for all of us.

This conversation is all about how you can get back to a state of “relaxed awareness”, where you’re connected without stressing yourself out. Attunement only comes when we’re willing to meet people where they are, instead of where we want them to be. You’ve got to drop the ego, guys. You can connect with people you don’t agree with, and collectively it’s the only way we’re going to make sense of this thing called life.

  •  [00:06:58] How the book came about
  •  [00:09:30] How we’ve all lost touch with each other
  •  [00:12:15] What is “relaxed awareness”?
  •  [00:15:38] What happens in your brain when you’re connecting with someone
  •  [00:20:55] Controlling your environment
  •  [00:36:35] How do we get there?

Episode Transcript

Darin: You are listening to the Darin Olien Show. I’m Darin. I spent the last 20 years devoted to improving health, protecting the environment, and finding ways to live a more sustainable life. In this podcast, I have honest conversations with people that inspire me. I hope that through their knowledge and unique perspectives they’ll inspire you too. We talk about all kinds of topics, from camping up your diets to improving your well-being to the mind-blowing stories behind the human experience and the people that are striving to save us and our incredible planet. We even investigate some of life’s fatal conveniences, those things that we are told might be good for us but totally aren’t. So here’s to making better choices in the small tweaks in your life that amount to big changes for you and the people around you and the planet. Let’s do this. This is my show, the Darin Olien Show.

Darin: Hey, everybody, welcome to the show. I’m Darin Olien. This is The Darin Olien Show. Stoked to have you here. Let’s get into it. This is a great and fun episode. I love the coming together of mental health and physical health and there’s no difference, they affect each other. It’s all connected, especially now more than ever. Maybe it’s just because of the pandemic, maybe it’s because I’m feeling it personally as well, and it’s not always easy to keep that positive attitude. Some days, it’s tough, some days, it’s harder. But here’s the thing, when you know things that work, even while things are hurting, or you’re bummed or depressed or pissed off, go back to your knowledge base, go back to what you know is true to help you because every moment you’re creating the next moment that you’re sitting in. So I just want you to remember that you always have the power, that this too shall pass, even if you don’t know when it too shall pass, I promise. So this interview with Professor and Psychiatrist, Dr. Edward Brodkin and his clinical researcher and amazing therapist, Ashley Pallathra. They wrote this incredible book, I’m just gonna plug it right now, Missing Each Other, love that title, How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections. This is what it’s all about. Dr. Edward, Associate Professor of Psychiatry and tenured professor at Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the founder and director of Adult Autism Spectrum Program at Penn State, honored by the Philadelphia magazine as a top doctor in Philadelphia region for 15 years, and it’s been honored as one of America’s top doctors by Castle Connolly Medical School for the past 16 years. He received his AB magna cum laude from Harvard College and his MD from Harvard Medical School, residency, fellowship and genetics at Princeton. Wow, dude’s impressive. And Ashley, clinical researcher and therapist, really got her hands dirty, and her head spinning with her own clients and Bachelor’s Degree with distinctions and neuroscience from the University of Pennsylvania. She received her Master’s Degree in Psychology and is currently pursuing her Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC. She is the author of numerous publications and research articles, and many chapters in the fields of autism and research and social neuroscience and social-emotional functioning and with the youth. And they both collaborated with this incredible book, Missing Each Other: How to Cultivate Meaningful Connections. I love that. I love this conversation. We dug into it, how things are affecting people, how connections really matter. We need to stay connected to each other, period, to our family, to our religions, to our spirituality. We have to, we need to, we need to get back to supporting each other. Stop with the divisions. I don’t give a shit what you believe about vaccinations or not vaccinations or governments or presidents. Who gives a shit on that level? If you’re not connecting with your family and your friends, and all of that stuff. If that’s the case, they’ve already won. They show the reasons how and why these can make a massive, positive effect in your life, getting back to the connections of ourselves inside, and the connections outside to other people, looking at the people in the eyes, connecting to people listening to them, that is the real aspect and fabric of life. Enjoy my incredible conversation with these two badasses.

Darin: I can’t tell you how excited I am to talk to both of you because it’s just so important right now, I think, and something I’ve always been fascinated with, the consciousness, the perception of the world. And just the title of your book just brings up so much and kind of pinpoints everything, and that’s called Missing Each other. How many different ways can we talk about us, individually, our society, our collective, and how much we’ve undercut the very fabric of what’s so necessary for us as humans. So with that, as a little teaser, thank you for jumping on board with me, Ted, and Ashley, and for all the work that you’re doing, and will continue to do. So thanks for being here.

Dr. Ashley: Thank you so much for having us.

Dr. Edward: Yeah, thank you so much, Darin.

Darin: So just off the top, I want to get into what the book is because I also have an infinite amount of questions. How did that come about? Because it’s such a great title, and it just speaks so much to all of those issues.

[00:07:04] How the book came about

Dr. Ashley: We take turns telling the story. So maybe, Ted, do you want to go this time?

Dr. Edward: Okay. Sure. So I’m an associate professor at Penn. I’m really interested in the autism spectrum. And so I started this project to develop support for adults on the autism spectrum to help them with social functioning. And Ashley was a brilliant undergrad at Penn, who worked in my lab during college and then, fortunately, took a job in my lab to work on this project to develop these supports for adults on the spectrum. And so when we were developing this, we wanted to develop something that was a little bit different from what had been developed before, which sometimes is based on kind of scripts, like telling adults like, well, in this situation, say this to that person, or in this situation, it’s appropriate to say this. But the problem is, every situation is a little bit different. If you come in with a pre-prepared script, it just may be out of sync, out of tune with what’s going on. And so we are trying to develop ways to teach things that can be contextualized more. And I think at one point, Ashley and I were talking and we kind of said to each other, I think what we’re really trying to teach here is what we would call attunement, like how do you stay in tune with yourself and with the other person, and what’s actually happening in the situation during the flow of that situation. And then the more we thought about it, we thought this isn’t just an issue for adults on the autism spectrum, this is really an issue for all of us, ourselves included. So we thought maybe there’s a book here, maybe there’s something that the general public would really be interested in hearing about, and maybe some of the exercises that we were working on and we were developing, maybe almost anyone could benefit from them. So that’s really how it got started.

Darin: And I love that term, attunement. It brings up so much and just focusing on someone listening, compassionate listening, whatever that is, being present, being in the moment, all of those things. And then this other aspect of what the book title is, and that’s kind of Missing Each Other. The obvious thing that we all do, myself included, I have a Master’s in Psychology and I flub up a million times over if not listening to someone and you’re already formulating what you’re going to say and it largely creates separation and it becomes about you and not about them. It doesn’t allow for connection to really happen. And then you compile that on to all of the distractions that are going on in the world that we definitely are not attuning to people. And then the world at large, all of this stuff frozen in fear, collapsed in our neuroses. Man, there’s a lot of questions in that, right? So these are some big sweeping questions, so then we can get more granular. Literally, what you are feeling is missing in the population right now, in that separation aspect. We all know if you don’t hold the baby, that very fabric of our existence is in jeopardy when we disassociate, when we separate. How can we get back? What can we do to get back to that attunement, to get back to that connection?

[00:10:24] How we’ve all lost touch with each other

Dr. Ashley: That is a big question. I think and I have talked about that, especially we talked about it in the book, this idea that attunement can start at that individual level. But over time, we’re really hopeful that it can have an impact on those levels of yourself, with your families, with your friends, and then ideally, into communities and the larger scope of society. But I’d say, to take an initial jump at that or stab at that, I think one of the big things people are missing is this idea that attunement and connection is much more than just hearing what someone is saying or trying to connect with them. It’s kind of like what you were saying, there are so many other pieces that get in the way of that. And I think that mindful attention to yourself, how you’re reacting to certain things in conversation, or maybe certain elements that are holding you back from bringing yourself to an interaction or conversation could also be making it more difficult to connect. But I think what we talked about in the book is there are so many different areas of connection and conversation that are more difficult for some people versus others. So there’s sort of those different levels. That’s why it’s nice that we break down attunement into these different pillars, which I’m sure we’ll talk about. But it can be helpful for people to get an idea of. It’s a little bit harder for me to sort of stay in the flow of a conversation versus others might have more trouble with sort of mindful listening, or the ability to put those distractions aside. So it can vary.

Darin: You’re talking about that, which is a great combination of words like relaxed as one of the pillars, relaxed awareness. But what is your definition of relaxed awareness when you’re listening to someone? And that’s another part of it just listening, right? But what is that relaxed awareness? What do you mean by that?

[00:12:21] What is “relaxed awareness”?

Dr. Edward: When we talk about relaxed awareness, we’re talking about the ability to be aware of what’s happening in yourself, your own body, your feelings, and what’s happening around you, but to stay relatively calm and relaxed during that. And it sounds simple, but it can be really hard because sometimes we don’t feel good. And there are all kinds of things happening in the world that can stress us out in a huge way. So how do you stay on an even keel and relaxed in the midst of all that? In the book, we point out some remarkable examples of relaxed awareness to illustrate this, like great athletes, who in the midst of the commotion, and the pressure of maximal stress can stay relaxed, aware, and just flowing through what they need to do. These are kind of remarkable examples. But I think there’s the capacity for relaxed awareness in each of us. And one of the things we do in the book actually is we trace things back to infancy. We talked about how when each of us was infants, we had a kind of a relaxed awareness state. When our parents or caretakers fed us and clothe us, we’d had all of our basic needs met for sleep and feeding and so on, babies get into this kind of like alert– what’s called the quiet alert state where they’re calm but really, really alert. And it’s in that state, it’s in that quiet alert state where babies can actually interact the most with their parents or with other people. So we really think of relaxed awareness is a fundamental state that we can get into, but there are so many things in our world like you alluded to Darin that are just pulling us away from it, distracting us, stressing us, making it so difficult to do.

Darin: Maybe unpack that a little bit in terms of like what’s going on because I know you guys have studied and have a huge amount of the neuroscience behind a lot of these things. So what’s going on when we are not connecting, when we are not listening, when we are ruminating in our own brain just to vomit the next bit of ideas we have out on somebody, we’re not seeking to understand, we’re just about us because we’re thinking about our wife yelling at us or whatever? So from that neurological standpoint of collapsed in, and that’s a severe example, but also a very real example when we’re with someone because we’re not really with them. And then that other example of kind of dropping everything and actually being present and actually showing up and actually listening because maybe what we can extract here is that people can understand you’re affecting yourself, you’re affecting your health, you’re affecting your neurology by being in this state. So it’s advantageous for you to bridge yourself over to this other side.

Dr. Ashley: I mean, on one level, we talked about in the book how when you have great examples of attunement and in sync listening, you see a synchronization of brain waves between the two people. We are seeing it at that neuroscientific level.

Darin: When someone’s in that space, what’s going on with them biochemically when they’re neurologically– when they’re in that craziness?

[00:15:44] What happens in your brain when you’re connecting with someone

Dr. Edward: I think there’s an awful lot going on. And you probably know and some of your listeners may know about some of this already. So some of this might be kind of review, but we all have what’s called an autonomic nervous system that takes care of the automatic functions of our body that we don’t normally think about. And that system has these two sides, you can think of it as like a yin yang kind of a thing, a sympathetic and parasympathetic side. And the sympathetic side is the fight or flight or freeze response. It’s the stress, acute stress, like this is an emergency, I’m freaking outside. The parasympathetic side is the relaxation response side where we can let down our guard and really relax. Most of us are in sympathetic overdrive, we’re hyped up, we’re overstimulated, we’re overstressed. And so our balance is tilted towards the sympathetic side. And there’s an awful lot of neuroscientific evidence that being in a more parasympathetic state, or at least having more of a balance between the two is really important for enabling us to connect with other people. And then there’s also the whole oxytocin system, which is involved in connection and the serotonin system, and so on. So all these systems in the brain interact and in complicated ways, but to make it brief, I think, tilting things more towards that relaxation response, that parasympathetic response with more oxytocin is what tends to tilt us toward greater connection, a capacity to connect other people.

Darin: I talked to this science writer, she wrote a book called Good Chemistry, so many articles about that. But even that idea, like sitting down with someone and just connecting with them, looking them in the eyes for more than 30 seconds can start to change everything. Turn on that oxytocin, make that better feel-good molecules, support positive serotonin. Just that act alone is creating such amazing chemistry that you don’t have to bio hack your way getting some countertop schwag from some biohacker that it can all happen inside. And I don’t want to make light of it, but I do because we can do these types of things. I’m thinking about people right now, and there’s so much going on, but if you just spend time, even with your significant other listening to them and staring at them. And you’re saying that there’s a ton of evidence that shifting that spazzed response, that freezing response, would you say then that the parasympathetic shift is a great or very close correlate between that attunement side of getting attune to that other person, and then having this cascade of beneficial compounds as a result?

Dr. Edward: I think it is. It’s just sort of intuitive. If you think about it, if you think of a time in your life when you are in a total panic or freak out state, you can be so freaked out that you just lose touch with everything, like you lose touch with people around you. I mean, that’s an extreme example. But I think there’s a real important relationship between getting into that more relaxed parasympathetic state and connecting. Now, it’s a matter of balance. We don’t want to be so relaxed that we’re like falling asleep kind of relaxed, right? So that’s why we call it relaxed awareness because in some ways, the two almost sound contradictory.  It’s the yin and yang thing. But if you can integrate these seeming opposites, and get into this balanced state where you can be aware, yet relaxed, I think that really helps with connection.

Dr. Ashley: Just gonna add a thing. Also, the other benefit is that a lot of us are living in these chronic stress states. So we’re having these elevated levels of cortisol for longer periods of time than is ideal. And so thinking about that too, if you want to take it from this angle motivating people to stay connected in that way, you’re then going to be able to balance that out. I mean, there’s generally going to be levels of cortisol emitted when you have any sort of interaction. There’s a level of stress that comes from just being and doing, but it’s when we get into that chronic elevated level that is more dangerous for our health, and so having that uptake and the connection and parasympathetic side is, it would be great.

Darin: Yeah, now more than ever, it’s almost like we need to double down on the things that are gonna balance us even more when we’ve got higher states of collective stress in our lifetime. This is probably the most gnarly, global, stressful situation any of us have ever gone through. So what are some of the ways that you guys think are the most effective and powerful to kind of shift, turn off some of that sympathetic dominance, and to help balance the person again.

[00:20:39] Controlling your environment

Dr. Ashley: I’ll just start as a therapist, I think one of the biggest things that I’ve talked to with clients is just controlling your environment and doing what you can to manage things environmentally. So the amount of screen time that you had, the amount of news that you’re ingesting, just doing basic hygiene for your sleep routines, just the basics. Like taking care of that at this point, especially in this last year of the pandemic is where we can start and sometimes the most that we can direct our energy towards. And that’s going to have more of a massive impact than people realize as well on your ability to then have the energy to want to connect in these highly distressed states, just one of those initial steps.

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Darin: The obvious here is that we’ve got COVID, we’ve got climate change, we’ve got politics, we’ve got so much that on the one hand seems that it’s necessary in our society, but yet creates more and more separation, more and more divisiveness more and more, right and wrong, and goes against, again, that human nature, that human side that we really do better as a shared collective. But let’s unpack this stuff because it makes me crazy too because seemingly good people fighting a good fight, but yet there’s always this judgment. So how can we navigate that and kind of minimize the effect that that all is having on our life, but also, how can we start viewing these things in a more healthy way?

Dr. Edward: Those are such important questions. You’re really hitting on some big issues that we wanted to get at. We’re stuck in a negative feedback loop, or we’re stuck in some sort of vicious cycle because we have these huge problems facing us, like COVID. COVID is the immediate one, right? Climate change is the really big one in the background, and there are so many others, and the racial justice issues and all kinds of things. And I think the thing is these kinds of huge global problems, they demand an ability to work together, to cooperate, to work as a human family and stuff. But I think what happens is, instead of that you get a lot of fighting and a lot of divisiveness and blaming, the other side is the enemy, and so on. And it’s really hard to see how we’re going to address something, let’s say like climate change if we can’t work together to do it. There’s just no way to do it without human beings working together. So it’s really a hard situation. And I guess what we’re trying to say in this book is that we’re not claiming that we have the full answer for these enormous problems, but what we’re trying to say is that each of us as humans, was born with some capacity to connect with other people. That’s what we were born with. That’s our human potentiality. And then somewhere along the way, it feels like a lot of us have gone off track somehow. And we’ve lost some of that ability to connect. So I guess what we’re trying to do is give a book-long kind of pep talk or encouragement of like, look, you guys, we all have this capacity. You’ve got it in you. And even if it’s gone off track, somewhat, there are ways to develop it. And we offer some practical exercises that people can do on their own or with a partner or things like that to try to develop it. Now that alone, of course, is not going to solve climate change. But I think if each of us as individuals can start to work on developing this capacity to connect better, what we’re hoping is that’s going to diffuse out and improve our ability to listen to each other and maybe stop demonizing each other so much and get to the wisdom that yeah, we’re going to have to somehow or other work together and see each other as all fellow humans no matter what our race, or this or that, or the other thing, to try to address some of these huge problems.

Darin: There’s so much beauty in what you’re saying because you just said, well, it’s not going to change climate change. And part of me was like, well, isn’t it because in the very fabric of what we need to do, we actually need to do what it is that you guys are saying. In order for us to actually get to the point where we can actually take action to it then would actually address the physical manifestations that are causing problems with injustice, with climate change. If we look at what we’re trying to do as these fractions or factions of people, we’re just trying to be right. Now everything is politically religious in a certain kind of way. If you’re not believing this, then you’re that. And that has nothing to do with creating anything meaningful to create change, that all it’s doing is keeping separation. But what if we change the way we’re having these conversations and just make it into a common sense? What if we have a solution over here that fits for everybody? But the problem is, no one’s getting to that place because they’re stuck in this right and wrong scenario. And it goes across the board. So what is your most optimistic view of how we can change ourselves and our society? If I were to give you a magic wand, and people would follow everything that you’re going to say and actually do it, and believe me, everyone listening, I did not give them any questions ahead of time, so this is like full on hot seat. So both of you, if you knew people were going to take what you were going to say as truth and take it on and let it affect their lives, what would you tell them so that they could be free of more suffering, and liberated to maybe contribute to a healthier society? What would you say?

Dr. Ashley: Well, I’ll jump in sort of based of what you were just describing. It’s this idea, I think, especially in Western society, but I think now more globally as well is that the idea of getting your voice out there or leadership or asserting yourself, we place a high value on that of being a leader driving the agenda, whatever that might be. And I think, in some ways to meet someone where they are, rather than just lead with your own agenda could be perceived as more passive or weak or not necessarily the ideal. And I think, in some respect, to answer your question, I would start with this idea of us really needing to meet each other where we are. And that’s so much harder than you think. And I think part of that starts with your own house, yourself, trying to assess and get a sense of what is making it hard for you individually to meet people where they are, to not drive your own agenda, just expressing your experience, but then also at the same time finding those connections of where I do connect with someone else, even from a wildly different point of view. And that takes a lot of practice. It’s very hard to do that, to put aside ego, to put aside your own anxieties or worries or stresses. A lot of what we talked about, the foundational elements start with just looking inward, which is sort of paradoxical when we’re writing a book about connection, but it takes a balance between the two.

Darin: Doc, what about you?

Dr. Edward: I think if I have the magic wand and could get everyone to do what I wanted, I guess I would have them read our book and kind of, hopefully, understand what we’re trying to communicate. Sometimes what I think of like at a really, really big picture level, like humanity, and all these big problems we’re talking about, like COVID, climate change, racial justice, whatever. The analogy I think of is like, humanity is on a boat. Let’s say a smaller number of people on a boat together, and the boat is like Earth, right? And the boat is heading into a big storm. But instead of accepting the reality of the storm, or whatever, instead of working together and figuring out like, what are we going to do here, it’s like half the people on the boat are saying it’s the other people’s fault. The other half of people are saying it’s their fault, we’re not going to work with them. And if we’re not going to work together on this boat, and we’re riding into the storm, it’s not going to be pretty, I guess, my utopian magic wand thing would be that we would all develop that relaxed awareness, sympathetic-parasympathetic balance, be able to really sit down, listen to each other, try to understand each other’s point of view, like Ashley said, meet each other where we are. And even if we have differences or differences of opinion, say, look, guys, we’re all on this boat together, we’re stuck here together. Even if we don’t agree on every little thing, we better figure out a way to work together and treat each other decently and tolerate our differences but work together.

Dr. Ashley: I feel like as you were talking, I was thinking about that within that takes a lot of practice learning how to tolerate negative emotions, or negative mood states, being able to sit with the fact that I don’t agree with this person, or maybe my idea is wrong, or maybe the storm actually is coming, and I need to go with this other person’s idea rather than my own. And that is exceptionally difficult for people. And so that’s part of it, as well.

Darin: It’s a huge opportunity. And you said, like building the resilience up individually. Because Listen, we’re all going to get hit with challenges, and then how we respond to those challenges largely, will dictate how well we do and the spectrum at which our emotions are going to take over. There was a moment I was in Australia not that long ago, and I got to sit down with some Aboriginal researchers and elders. And we asked them a question of like, what is it going to take to have these divided absolutely on paper and in media, and everything, divided? And basically, they said the same thing. It’s like, you have to meet them, completely take them in, and understand where they are at. And exactly what you’re saying in that if you don’t do that, it just keeps the game going. It just keeps the right, the wrong, the good, the bad. And you’re just fighting without ever even looking at each other without ever really taking that in without ever really having that awareness, that listening, these pillars that you have eloquently put together. And if we don’t get out of that cycle, we’re literally just gonna fly into that storm, and there’s gonna be consequences. We’re already seeing consequences all over the place. There are consequences and storms everywhere. And I’m not that confident in how organizations and systems are reacting to them. And it’s like, we’re all a bunch of adolescents. It’s like a teenager just running around emotionally. How do you deal with that? How do we get these out to more and more people, more and more kids, conflict resolution? How do we do that?

Dr. Ashley: I think you’re right, that starting with our generation is important, and people can definitely model that for you, the parents, family members can be practicing these skills. I think part of what we talked about with these exercises is the idea that a lot of these skills, like Ted is saying, are innate. And a lot of them maybe are just harder for some people or others. And it’s something that you can strengthen and it’s malleable, and it’s something that can just be worked on like a muscle. You mentioned resilience earlier and I think of resilience in the same way. I think sometimes there’s this myth that you either are resilient or you’re not, but it’s just a mix of skills. Part of that is being able to lean into others connect with others. And those are things that you can practice and model for youth. I think that modeling piece is huge, especially since like you’re saying, it’s hard when kids read the news now, and we all read the news now and see that people are just talking and completely shooting darts and missing each other. It’s unbelievably frustrating sometimes that I even just titrate how much I’m taking in because I can’t handle it.

Darin: I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve definitely done a bunch of workshops, I’ve spent a lot of time practicing methods and connecting from spiritual circles to musical events to mindfulness exercises, and it’s these beautiful moments that happen when everything falls away and you’re realize, oh, man, they’re the same as I am. And then all that stuff falls away. And you realize that connection literally, is one of the greatest superpowers that we have. And yet, we spend all of this time frickin avoiding it exactly what you’re saying. We are insane. Like, like when we get to connect, it is the most beautiful, intoxicating thing ever. So let’s talk about connection. What does that mean? How do we get there? What do we do in the midst of just absolute 3D annihilation of our senses?

[00:36:33] How do we get there?

Dr. Edward: I think you describe that so well, Darin. And it’s one of the things we were trying to get across in the book is that one of the things about connection and attunement is that there’s like a beauty to it, and there’s like a euphoria to it. So it’s not just like a dry, sterile academic, whatever scientific thing, but that bliss kind of euphoria that you feel. And I think most people can think of some experience, whether it was connecting with one other person you’re in love, or whether it’s like a musical, like you were at a concert that was so good, or you were playing in a musical group or singing in a chorus or something where you just lost touch with the earth for a second, it was just like transcendent. And those are like moments of connection of pure attunement. And so one message for kids is it’s fun. I mean, these are good things. These are things that make your life better. These are things that make your life meaningful. And the other thing about just getting back for a second to your question about kids is that I feel like the younger generation is, in many ways, is looking at the older generations. And I’m saying this counting myself, in some ways, at least mid if not older generation, the younger generation is looking at us saying like you guys messed up. You’re leaving us kind of a crappy legacy here and we want to do things better. And maybe the curriculum that’s been taught in school for 100 years is not the full set of skills, we’re going to need going forward to address the problems of the future. So maybe we’re going to need some more experiences connecting and communicating and cooperating. And it’s not just like me, me me, ambition, get my temporary short-term career advancement in the next year, but it’s about the future of all of us.

Darin: A true-life skill that you just talked about there that is so easily blown off. It’s so easily disregarded, and I think it literally has the fabric of changing everything for us and giving us meaning. And when we connect, we see that there’s no separation, we see that we are them and they are us. And it transcends all of this other stuff. And I think if that’s not and should be a part of every curriculum of not just kids, us, what if we can just create moments? I think make connection cool again. You don’t have to go to the pause and meditation for a week. I find my mornings that literally connecting with whatever this mystery, the source, the god, the incredible infiniteness that moves everything, that to me is just taking a pause and just look around. Like the fact that we lose touch with the miracle that we are, we’ve got a body that self heals itself., we throw stuff in our mouth, it digests it, it uses it, it spits it out, and we just keep going, we fall asleep we wake up, it’s a brand new day, we get to study things, learn things run around in the sun, jump in the water, like what the hell, his is a freakin miracle. And then we’re running around pretending that other people don’t exist and they’re wrong and all this stuff and say, we are insane. I just find it so funny that we get so focused in all of this stuff that means nothing, means absolutely nothing. And the superpower is everything that we’re discussing here. That’s it, that will create the meaning. It doesn’t mean you have to let go of everything that you care about in your life but will give you the fortitude and the breadth and the depth of what this really is, getting connected to yourself, getting connected with others, attuning to yourself, attuning to other people, having more awareness. Wouldn’t everyone just want more awareness? That’s a good thing, right?

Dr. Ashley: Yeah, definitely. I would say also, lending yourself a little bit of self-compassion. We’ve gotten into this state of being like you’re saying, we wake up, we go through our day, we’re often mindless about it. And so forget going to huge retreats or feeling like I need to do X, Y, and Z every single day, we’re not even saying like sit on the yoga mat and meditate 20 minutes a day. A lot of our exercises, we really try to be practical about what can people take-off of the yoga mat and take into their day, into their meetings, into their commutes. At the end of the day, just starting with one breath, like you said. If you’re reading through at work or you’re on your computer all day, just start with one breath and know that it’s not just one breath. That one breath can set you up. It can have a huge impact and you should feel proud to start there and then work your way up.

Darin: That’s so powerful. Again, one of my favorite titles now is Missing Each Other. I just love that. And if this book and your work and your life’s work and how people get back to connection, attunement, the realization in that is there’s infinitely more to them and to us and more available to us in that space than some of the distractions that are going on then I’m all about it. How can people find you, follow you? Obviously, we’ll put show notes for the book and everything else, but how can people follow you and stay in touch with you guys?

Dr. Edward: We have a website for our book, That’s probably about– if I had to name one, I’d go there first. We’re also on Twitter, so I’m @TedBrodkin and Ashley’s @ashleypallathra. And now we’re also blogging about themes from our book, both on Psychology Today in our Medium. So if you go to Psychology Today or Medium, and you look for the Missing Each Other book blog on both of those sites, you can find us there too. But we’ve got links to the blog on our website.

Darin: Nice. Any closing words you want to give to the humans listening to you guys right now and who are maybe distracted with the distractions that we all get distracted with?

Dr. Ashley: I would just reiterate, like what they just said, which is what we talked about, huge questions, that can make us feel so incredibly overwhelmed and in some ways make us want to retreat and just isolate more. And so like what I was saying, bring yourself that self-compassion. It doesn’t start with those big themes, it just starts with those individual moments and to take that one breath in your day and see where that takes you.

Dr. Edward: I completely agree on that. If in some ways you’re not happy with the way things are in the world or in our society, it doesn’t have to be this way and that we all have the power in us to connect. We have variability among us to greater or lesser degrees but we all have some capacity to connect and you can develop that in yourself. So it’s something that you don’t have to wait for other people or our government or political parties or whatever to do it. You can start to do it yourself, like today.

Darin: Like today. Anyone listening, today, now, yes, now, like right now. Yes, do it. Sounds good.

Dr. Edward: Let’s do it. Thank you so much, Darin.

Dr. Ashley: Thank you.

Darin: You guys rock. Thank you very much.

Darin: What a fantastic episode. So tell me, what is one thing you got out of today’s conversation? If this episode struck a chord with you and you want to dive a little deeper into my other conversations with incredible guests, you can head over to my website, for more episodes and in-depth articles. Keep diving my friends. Keep diving.

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