Hi, friends. I hope you find life treating you well and that you've befriended the present moment as much as the present moment has befriended you.
September was the month of family and community on my feng shui resolutions chart.
Family and community come together because ultimately (and if we're lucky), they provide us with a sense of belonging. After all, we're social creatures. We're pack animals. We have a need for other people in our lives.
I find it fascinating that in my time doing anthropological fieldwork and interviews, whether in Shanghai, Tokyo, or anywhere else, one of the greatest needs people express is to have a sense of belonging in the world. We need to feel that we're a part of something larger than ourselves, that we're not out here going it alone, and that others understand our struggles and our trials.
Community belonging can mean something a little different to everyone. For some, our greatest source of group identification and belonging lies with our immediate physical community like the neighborhood we live in, our town, or our city. For others, we feel we belong among people who participate in the same activities as us so fellow yogis, dancers, or athletes. We may also feel belonging among classmates or schoolmates, or we may feel most at home among our fellow professionals and colleagues in our field. Most of us have a sense of belonging that looks like an overlapping venn diagram -- we feel varying levels of belonging to a number of different loose groups and organizations.
We may choose to ground ourselves in family, friends, or another type of community, but the important point is that we find a way to retain inner stability when chaos happens around us. And boy, does it happen!
But other than supporting a greater sense of inner resilience, what is group belonging good for? Group energy. One of my favorite rituals to observe is Balinese dance of all types: kecak, barong, legong, you name it. In these beautiful, moving Hindu ritual plays accompanied by dance and chanting, it's believed that the performers, as well as the audience enter into community trance. Only when Westerners discovered and commodified Balinese dance did it become a consumable good for Western observation and consumption, but originally, ubiquitous community plays served a solely artistic and spiritual role. The Balinese knew and still know how much community trance brings health and healing to all who participate.
What do I mean by trance? Some might call it euphoria or ecstasy, but I just call it flow. Any time we engage in activity that absorbs our attention, we become anti-ruminative, we feel instead of think, we learn to "be" instead of to analyze, and we do wonders for our health and well-being. Humans love to flow. Moreover, humans love to flow together. So I frequently search for group flow activities. I dance with others. I sing with others. I do group yoga. It is essential that in current world conditions and all that civilization has brought us in terms of technology and development that we not turn our backs on the wisdom our ancestors brought us about TRULY staying connected with others (not just on Facebook) and feeling that we're a part of something beyond ourselves.
So here are ten little tips for helping you and me to flow as a member of a larger whole:
- Get out! Go to something new or unexpected. Circulate in unfamiliar environments. Too many people hold themselves back due to social anxiety or just clinging too hard to their comfort zone.
- See people with a blank slate. Do not project your fears, judgments, or assumptions onto others. All of us are in this life with a different path and different goals; it's foolish to assume that just because you wouldn't do something another does that they don't feel great about themselves and what they're doing.
- Listen to people. Try to really hear and understand what they're communicating. You may find a need that they have in their words.
- Build bridges. When I'm in a new social environment, I look for ways that I can build bridges with other people, that is to say, I find common ground. You'll be surprised how much you find you have in common with others if you engage in a bridge-building practice.
- Laugh and make others laugh. They say that making someone laugh is like giving them a mini-vacation. And it's so true. Laughter breaks up tension and brings joy.
- Be light and hopeful, let loose, and don't take yourself that seriously. The ego wants to let others know that we're someone or something, but the soul is actually just craving connection. So drop the facade and get real.
- Let things go. Don't hold onto resentment or negative feelings about others. It only ages you.
- Sincerely support other people and their dreams. This isn't to say you need to go around being part of a cheerleading squad for everyone you encounter, but support the dreams of people that you believe in and let it be known.
- Share your skills. Paid. Unpaid. Share 'em to the extent that you feel comfortable. You never know what opportunities may open up as a result.
- Serve. Take the time to help others in need. Life is unknown to all of us. We never fully know how people get into positions of extreme need, and none of us are exempt from being in such a position. Compassion and service bring alleviation to others' suffering, helping us all to thrive and grow.
So friends, I hope this little piece is helpful to you all in your community or family belonging endeavors.
For those who aren't able to find belonging among so-called "family" or if your value system varies too greatly, create your own family, your own tribe of like-minded individuals who get you and support you. There are people out there who will vibe with your particular type of crazy and accept you with all of your quirks and idiosyncrasies. That's the beauty of life.
When we pay attention to the nine bagua areas of our lives, we create balance and harmony in our environment. We're more in tune with ourselves; we know our priorities; we act with conviction; and we take care of the people and things around us. This, of course, creates a strong resonance in our surroundings that in turn, comes back to us. Through the process of resonant synchronicity or entrainment, we all feed off of each other's energy. Just one person's positive resonance, if the person is strong enough, can drastically change an environment.
Good luck, friends!