Even though much of my work is literally TOO BIG FOR WORDS, occasionally I am inspired to write, and this is the place for that. Feel free to join in the conversation. Thanks for reading.
Healthier conversations create healthier communities. Think about it. What was the last juicy conversation you had? Who were you with? How did you feel? It’s rare, it’s risky, it’s rewarding — it’s required connective tissue for forming community.
In a time of such polarization and divisiveness, when nearly all systems are crumbling, we are currently in need of connective conversations and community. Consider this the antidote to the circus we watched on TV last week. That was neither conversation nor community. We desperately need to learn how to truly listen to each other, how to be fully present with each other, and how to imagine and create new possibilities.
I recently spent a long weekend on retreat in a remote location a ferry ride from Seattle. 100 folks from around the world and I turned off our phones and tuned into each other, practicing deep listening as many shared stories never before told. Somehow, it was slightly easier to bare our souls with strangers, in an unfamiliar setting. In a simple cabin set on a small lake surrounded by second growth redwoods, we listened to a master storyteller recount an old Native American story explaining the origin of ceremony, and then we practiced belonging to each other.
I heard so many stories of feeling fractured, traumatized, disenfranchised, lost, excluded, disempowered and disconnected. What heavy stories so many of us carry on our hearts! When we practice listening beyond the “Fine” of “How are you?” we help unburden each other from the sense of isolation we feel when walking solo with such tales of trauma. It was challenging and messy work to remain fully present to each other, to listen deeply, and to hold this brave space for four long, intense days. We didn’t fix or rescue each other; we just listened and held each other. The resulting healing and connectivity signaled the presence of true community.
Some say community is a dynamic, momentary experience. Some of us are stuck in roles we’ve outgrown and caught up in patterns of relating too small for our souls. Some say conversation is the practice of being together. Few of us know how to bring our full presence to listen and be with each other. (Turning off our weapons of mass distraction goes a long way to help this, by the by.) Few of us are willing to risk speaking our truth. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford modeled this in a powerful way — and on public TV — last week! Many failed to truly listen; some refused to hear her truth; many seem intent on practicing anything other than truth-telling, to the detriment of our entire community.
Everyone feels a deep longing to belong; yet so few of us experience it. We need to slow down and tune in to first hear our own truth to then be willing to hear the hearts of each other. We need a better opener than “How are you?” We need to discover and practice dynamic ways of being in true relationship and creating authentic conversation. We need to take the risky steps required to practice belonging in community, perhaps at first with strangers where we can shake off the old, familiar ways. We cannot become ourselves by ourselves. We cannot weather these storms or walk through this darkness alone. We need each other to create a culture of belonging.
Our community is bravely leaning into conversations to discuss America to Me (http://www.oprfhs.org/about/America-to-Me-Documentary-Series.cfm) tonite at 7 PM. Some of you are holding these brave spaces — thank you! There are a few more openings in Circles this week and next; sign up here: https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=14905854. You are needed.