David Robert Jones, MS LPC

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One of my intentions over the past few years has been along the lines of “I accept myself as I am and the world as it is. I am at peace with myself as I am and the world as it is.” Embedded somewhere in this intention is the idea of taking myself less seriously, accepting my imperfections, and coming to terms with my shortcomings.

In a yoga nidra certification training several years ago, my teacher shared a message with me…in front of our whole group. We had just finished a learning module and during discussion I made some “profound” remark that got lots of head nods and affirmative vocalizations from the rest of the group.

I was near the back of the group, soaking up the attention, and my teacher was sitting in front of us all.

Smiling broadly and gazing at me, he said, “Dave, you know I love you.” Bigger smile. Warmth. Care.

I nodded my head. Eyes locked on each other. Everyone else’s eyes locked on us.

“Dave, you’re special…….But you’re not that special.”


We all laughed. Heartily. He held my gaze. He looked at me with love, the kind of love that cares deeply enough to provide course correction for a student who was trying to stand out, to be separate, to be different, to be elevated.

He was getting at the idea that, yes, I am (we are) special and, at the same time, we are not separate.

We are distinct individuals who are also not separate from one another.

Here is when I might write and talk about oceans and waves. You know it. You’ve probably heard it.

But it doesn’t make it any less profound, so, okay, here goes:

Picture yourself standing on an ocean beach, taking in the scene.

Waves rising and crashing and rising and crashing. Over and over and over and over.

Where does a wave come from? Is any wave exactly the same as another wave? When does a wave become a wave? When is a wave separate from the ocean? Where does the wave return? What does the wave become when it returns?

You’re special, but you’re not that special.

You are distinct and unique, but you are not separate.

Kabir says it like this:

“I have been thinking of the difference
between water
and waves on it. Rising,
water’s still water, falling back,
it is water, will you give me a hint
how to tell them apart?

Because someone has made up the word
‘wave,’ do I have to distinguish it
from water?”

I love this idea of connection! I love the thread that ties together distinct-but-not-separate.

But, if you could have been inside of my head and body last night at my daughter’s volleyball tournament, you might have been rightly confused.

To be fair, I’ve come a long way in my relationship with my competitive side. A long way. I no longer throw pool sticks at people when I lose or refuse to go in from recess because my team didn’t have its last at-bat. I no longer put in ridiculous hours of practice and dedication just to prove others wrong. I don’t really spend time fantasizing about beating so and so and using perceived slights as part of my drive to perform. I no longer care as much about what people think and what I think that they think…

I’ve come to see that competition is about relationships and that it requires an agreement and commitment on both sides. An agreement to stay engaged with each other and, at the same time, to try your hardest to accomplish your individual/team goals. Both are necessary. Tennis doesn’t work if we’re both on the same side of the net. And, it doesn’t work if one person leaves/gives up.

You know what it feels like when someone stops competing in a game. It sucks the enjoyment and satisfaction out of the whole experience. We don’t show up to gyms and fields and game nights in our homes if there isn’t an”Other”. We need this “other”. At least, some semblance of it.

Otherwise, it’s like a balloon with holes in it. A rubber band that has been cut in two. A scissor with one blade and handle. A night without day. Up without down.

There has to be tension.

But not too much tension.


Distinct, but not separate.

I relish and delight in competition when both parties are doing their best to win and also, at the same time, accepting and appreciating the fact that they are in a relationship with another being (other beings) whose presence and effort in this game actually make it meaningful and possible. This is incredible and fulfilling and connected to the natural order of things that we see in the world.

Ok. So, back to the volleyball tournament.

There I am watching my daughter play and I am experiencing a number of emotions.

Pride. Joy. Excitement.


Until the other team starts really celebrating, and especially when they celebrate after our team makes a mistake. Over-celebrating.

Some of the girls on the other team seem to be really into this mode and I’m noticing that I am getting quite riled up inside.

I don’t think they were really gloating or taunting, but it triggered the thing in me that I would like to think I have gotten over in my late 40s.

Some part of it is obviously still there.

A little fire, at first. And then I notice I’m creating some stories about these players and their coach and what there parents must be like and how they’re like this because they’re kids from the suburbs whose community supports such and such political position and how that political position is ruining our country and turning people into haters and gloaters and bad sports who need to be beaten here and now in this volleyball game so that they will see that they are wrong and that we are right and we will Win.…

Oh. My. God.


I notice the monologue happening and just start to laugh.

Distinct. But not separate.

I take a deep breath. Laugh some more.



Another deep breath.

What a story I was creating about the “Other”. A story in which they are distinct AND separate. They are not me. They are not us. They are them. Them. Them. Them.


It happens so subtly sometimes.

And, if we’re lucky, we have teachers and guides who can help us step behind it all, notice it, laugh at our imperfections, humble ourselves, and then course-correct.

For me, that meant interrupting the story last night. Deep, deep breath. Noticing my body’s response. Moving my body into a neutral position. Signaling to my nervous system that all is well. Zooming out and seeing both teams at the same time. Zooming out and seeing both sides of parents at the same time.

Re-engaging the pre-frontal cortex.

Distinct. But not separate.

In a battle, but sharing many of the same goals.

On different sides of the net, but dependent on each other to create meaning out of this moment, out of this time, out of this season.

Lucky and blessed to have each other so that we can be the necessary tension for growth and development for one another.

Distinct and wonderful in our distinction, but not separate.

Isn’t that just oh, so good?!

“I have been thinking of the difference
between water
and waves on it. Rising,
water’s still water, falling back,
it is water, will you give me a hint
how to tell them apart?”

Ready to take the next step?

I’d love to hear from you. Contact me via social media or at [email protected].