Intrapersonal means “within a person,” that is, taking place within one person’s self or mind.
It’s not to be confused with interpersonal, which refers to something occurring “between people.”
I include the image above because I think a lot about the concept of alignment. Being aligned with ourselves on a deep level, not just superficially. It occurred to me that, as you start to align two mirrors with each other, the number of times that the reflection bounces back and forth from our perspective increases, creating depth.
This particular example has a visual element, so we are using the sense of sight in order to create the metaphor, however, throughout this post, I would like for the reader to internalize the sense of touch as the primary sensory metaphor for relating to ourselves and others.
In the same way, as we start to really turn towards ourselves from a place of acceptance and become willing to sit with ourselves, we see that the depth of our relationship with our environment increases.
We hold ourselves accountable to our own gaze, starting a conversation of sorts between who we are in this moment and who we are in a larger sense, maybe the collection of all of the people we have been and all of the people we imagine ourselves to be. This conversation can bounce back and forth in an instant, the same way the mirror’s reflection creates a subjective sense of depth, and we can go from not seeing ourselves at all, to having our entire sense of self grounded in the context of a deep and honest conversation.
The depth of the conversation we are willing to have is both determined by are willingness to orient towards ourselves in the first place, our willingness to be honest while we are there, and our willingness to stay there. This may seem overly demanding, but it is also a great source of peace and a fundamental birthright.
Hip-hop and Meditation
The more I delve into hip-hop music and meditation, the more I see a deep connection between these two areas that have influenced my life.
Both communities have practitioners that I find a lot of inspiration from. In meditation, some of my favorite teachers are Thich Naht Hanh, Akincano, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Tara Brach. In hip-hop, MF Doom, Black Thought, Souls of Mischief, Tierra Whack.
In both spaces, I can easily find people whose presence speaks volumes on its own. Individuals who have that rare ability to embody a way of being that leaves you feeling zero doubt on the authenticity of their character.
Who continually and unapologetically uphold a vision for how life can be lived that is so self-evidently vital that they can hardly even bring themselves to do anything else with their lives other than being living embodiments of it for themselves and others.
One thing that fascinates me about both meditation and hip-hop, is that tons of depth can be communicated in a relatively short amount of time.
In Buddhism, the heart of the teachings can be compressed into the Four Noble Truths.
In hip hop, “if you listen sometimes, you can get a whole conversation through, maybe two bars of a song sometimes” (Sample in Earl Sweatshirt’s song E Coli prod. by Alchemist)
In both spaces, the deeper you listen to what’s being communicated, the more that there is to take in. There is depth built in to the communication. And this communication typically comes through words, moods and tonalities, as well as, probably most importantly, the space between.
Mick Jenkins’ song Understood touches on this nicely:
“We say a lot to say a little, and sometimes we say the most when we ain’t really saying shit at all”
Where does the connection come from?
I’ve been reflecting on what connects guided meditations and hip hop, why I’m so inclined to absorb both media deeply and incorporate it into my way of being, and I think it’s because in both spaces there is a huge emphasis on being real with yourself and others.
In both spaces, it’s all about connection. Real, deep, beyond a shadow of a doubt, connection with yourself and others. That honest, connection is the foundational quality that keeps both of these spaces so interesting to me, because it sets a good precedent for our possibilities for relating. Of course this is true of many forms of music, but there is an element of communication that happens with hip-hop that is different. You can simply fit in much more meaning into two bars of hip hop than you can fit in to two bars of any other form of music that I can think of.
If you want to connect interpersonally with people, to resonate deeply, you need to connect with yourself intrapersonally. Because at bottom, any interpersonal relationship stems out of our relationship with ourselves, and leads back to our relationship with ourselves.
The way I relate to you is stemming from the way that I relate to myself, like a river coming out from the ocean of my “intrapersonal” relationship. And if our relationship resonates deeply, then the way that we relate will feed back in to the way that I relate to myself, like a river flowing back into that ocean.
It’s just the nature of being human that your ongoing relationship with yourself is going to be deeper and more fundamental than your relationship towards anything else. After all, you’ve spent every waking moment of your life with yourself, and there are no experiences that you don’t share. That’s why we have to take good care of it. And I believe that the deeper the ocean of our self-relationship is, the more flows out. And the stronger the river of our interpersonal relationship is, the more it feeds our ocean.
I think the biggest similarity I see between hip-hop and meditation is the emphasis on being real or honest with yourself and others.
In the case of meditation that process comes in the form of sitting down without distractions. It’s the process of taking everything away that is standing in between you and a truly honest relationship with your experience. That includes putting away all of your to-do lists, your worries, your ruminations on the past, your anxieties about the future, and seeing what is left over.
What’s left over after all of that is put to the side? Just you. Sitting here with yourself, and with your experience.
This is sometimes called a radical act. Making space to actually be in touch with ourselves. I would call it essential. To me, there is nothing more vital to being alive than being in honest relationship with your experience, without anything standing in between you, even if its for thirty seconds.
The only reason that it even makes sense to call it radical in my opinion is because we live in a culture that obfuscates the value of being in honest relationship with ourselves and our possibilities. We live in a culture that says: “You are not enough as you are. You need to get or become something else, before you can truly be at ease and start living your real, actualized life.” We are constantly bombarded by consumerism and productivity as a way towards self-actualization.
This is not the only way to live, feel and think. I think that is the overall message that I hear from Buddhist meditation practitioners and hip-hop artists alike, and their vision of what can replace it has a lot of similarities, but the way that they communicate and embody it is different.
If you’re interested to dive deeper into the meditation aspect of this post, here are two talks from two different meditation teachers that have been inspiring to me on the topic, one shorter (7 mins) and one longer (45 mins).
In the case of hip-hop, and probably all other forms of vocal music, if you’re able to embody a deep and meaningful relationship to your experience, that feels worthy of being shared, you can express this directly through the way that your voice sounds. Although lots of editing takes place, there is something about this process that is truly organic, and can be recognized as such whether conscious or subconscious.
Not only do artists embody this through their voices, their ways of speaking, their body language, and their choices of when to speak, but they also talk about it in their lyrics.
Opio (Souls of Mischief/Hieroglyphics) in Oakland Blackouts:
Tyler the Creator (Odd Future) in Something to Rap About: