by Groundswell V cohort member Daphne Woo
The world is becoming increasingly consuming, and often one can feel isolated and overwhelmed at the state of affairs. Many busy lifestyles incorporate routine to facilitate through hectic schedules and we use digital devices to organize our calendars. Social media, texts, and emails are convenient means to stay connected. We whip around from point A to point B to reach appointments, classes, meetings, and other commitments.
As we navigate through our lives in this ambitious way, I have to wonder: a) to what extent are we compromising our physical, mental, and emotional health to maintain our lifestyles? And b) what is the effect on our communities?
I’m not going to fill this blog with pie chart statistics; I don’t have scientific information on hand. However, I will share my own experience. I’ve been there, victim of this lifestyle – and in many ways, I am still there. If I stop to think about it, I believe this lifestyle exists to maintain a sense of belonging. My thoughts are that this sense of belonging could be effectively nurtured beyond our own comfort zones and into the community.
A sense of belonging.
What is that void that needs to be filled? With a sense of belonging, comes a sense of purpose. This is felt, not thought out.
Let’s take this notion outside the conditions of our digital devices. When there is a sense of purpose and support within a group, great things can happen. I just finished listening to a Live Stream of Waking Up Your Body, Your Brain, and Your Life: A Conversation with Eileen Fisher and Anat Baniel. “It’s amazing what can happen when we evolve ourselves”, quips Anat. She says further: “It is not until we feel, that we learn how to do anything. Thinking is embedded in feeling. Creativity is embedded in Feeling. So many of us have been taught to move away from Feeling.” Halfway through the conversation, she advises: “If you are stuck with anything, do the following:
- Move with intention towards what you feel. Pay attention to what you feel.
- Slow down.
- Reduce the force so that you can feel.
We’ve all been a part of different groups. Sport, work, family, travel, music, church, volunteering, etc. Think about some of the groups that you’ve been a part of. Remember the feeling you got when you achieved a goal together? Dare you say it was even magical?
Personally, I’m grateful for the phases in my life whereby I’ve experienced the magic of being a part of a group or team. Each one has lent to a different dynamic, and of course, revolved around a different goal. For instance, when I first moved from Canada to the Netherlands in 2003, I took part in a language and integration program. In Dutch, this is called, inburgeringsprogramma. There I became classmates and fast friends with a variety of folks with a different story to tell, all of us relocated from different countries – Iraq, Turkey, Kurdistan, China, Kenya, Burundi, Philippines, Azerbaijan, U.S.A, just to name a few. I still recall someone calling us “The United Nations”. Beautiful times of a group of people facing individual yet shared struggle of learning a new language in a new country.
Fast forward to now, November 2016. Just within the last three months alone, I have bounced from belonging to dedicated cross-functional teams within a large apparel company, to being part of a larger community. Weeks after I resigned from the company, I found myself part of a dynamic team paddling 420km downstream the Yukon River. After that, I moved on to my current passionate Groundswell team within cohort V. A planned holiday moved me to a beautiful group of yogis as we embraced our learnings in Thailand. Now I’m back to Groundswell and allowing more magic to happen. Again, this is only within the last three months alone. Realizing this, I know one important thing: “I belong where I’ve chosen to be”.
Correct. I’ve chosen to be at these places. Within each of these places, a team was created mostly of individuals unbeknownst to me, simply because each person chose to be there. Indeed, great things happen within each of these groups.
I think that’s pretty cool.
A group could share space and time for one day, or one year. The goal achieved could be a great game played, or meaningful discussions had. In some form or another, that sense of belonging is sparked.
Your experiences shape who you are.
I’d been living abroad for about a decade. I relocated back to metro Vancouver in the Spring of 2012. One morning in June 2012, just weeks after I had returned, I was reading the Vancouver Sun newspaper. I was taken aback when I saw an article whereby Vancouver Foundation cited that a survey indicated that metro Vancouver habitants were feeling a growing sense of isolation and disconnection. One-third of the people surveyed voiced that Vancouver can be a hard place to make friends. This bothered me. It did not to match the perception I had of Vancouver all those years I was living in the Netherlands. I felt naïve and delusional. What could I do? I decided to attend this dialogue, Building Community – Social Connections Matter to better understand this topic. This invited people to not only listen to what the panel had to say, but also ask questions and engage in conversation around building a healthier community.
What does it mean to be part of a community? I really like the positive feel of this word. Seeing connections and building bridges amongst all the groups that we are in. The sense of belonging and that each participant is an equal member and has the capacity to contribute in their own special, unique way. This leads to collaboration. So what happens when a collaborative community is in effect? Going back to what Anat Baniel said, “It is not until we feel, that we learn how to do anything. Thinking is embedded in feeling. Creativity is embedded in Feeling.” Consequently, creative output becomes a result when individuals come together to do great things.
Through consistent practice of collaboratively working together, people allow themselves to evolve and open their hearts. Such positive energy can be harnessed and empower individuals towards making thoughtful life choices.
There is an urgent need for more empathy and compassion in the world. Healthy communities will manifest that. As in the words of Michael Stone, Buddhist teacher, psychotherapist, yoga teacher, author, and activist: “Articulate a spiritual practice that focuses both on personal healing and social awakening. I believe that inner transformation and social awakening are one.”
In Taiye Selasi’s TED Talk, Don't ask where I'm from, ask where I'm a local, she communicates deeply and beautifully the dialogue of personal identity. The topic not being where one is “from” but rather, where one has “been” local (in terms of life experiences, not necessarily geographically). I highly recommend watching this in it’s entirety. For now, most specifically, I would like to bring attention to one point she makes:
"Replacing the language of nationality to the language of locality asks us to shift our focus to where real life occurs".
Shifting our focus to where real life occurs, the here and now. All things said and done, your experience shape who you are, and what you contribute to others. What are your rituals, relationships, and restrictions? There is such strength in that diversity. Many of our experiences bring us together with a lot of similarities, while at the same time, we can embrace the valuable learnings from our differences.
This is why your contribution to community truly matters. The relationships you have with others is a reflection of the relationship you have with yourself. Where you’ve been comes along wherever you go.
Thanks for reading. Want to share your thoughts around this topic? I would love to hear from you. Feel free to reach out. firstname.lastname@example.org