Welcome. I am so glad you joined us. Please, settle in and get cozy.
I want to talk about 'community,' something the Living Section is becoming very active in creating. Our writers are aligning, and we are delighted to be reaching out to so many of you. What does community mean? Is it an old fashioned barn raising from days gone by, or a church social, or town festival? Where does community start, and why is it important in the first place? Nowadays, community means a Facebook group or "Twittering" thither and yon.
Community is all those things, and so much more.
Countless studies have shown, unequivocally, without others in our lives, we are lost. According to John Cacioppo in his new book Loneliness- Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, loneliness is the most detrimental emotion we can experience and social isolation can have an impact on our health comparable to high blood pressure or smoking. In tribal eras, the greatest punishment one could receive is banishment. Even today criminals are put alone in a jail cell - and the ultimate punishment: solitary confinement.
So, we need each other. But how do we make that happen? People are busy. People are concerned with their own lives. No one has time. No one cares. Where has that gotten us?
Our prosperity has driven us apart. We live in single dwellings and we don't physically depend on one another for survival. But our spirits do. We need to feel there are people out there who care about us, who we can turn to in tough times like now.
How do we start? Let's examine all the spheres of people in your life that have the potential to become a rich and authentic community, and for fun, look at them as seven ingredients needed to make a magnificent "Cake of Community Life."
1. Community With Yourself
The first ingredient is You. Think of you as the cake pan. Do you have a sense of community with yourself? Do you love and accept yourself; 'warts and all?' Do you create time and space to nurture yourself, be it exercising, enjoying a quiet cup of tea or curling up with a book? If not, this is the first place to begin. Befriend yourself. Take yourself in. You have a unique purpose on Earth and we are waiting for you!
2. Community with Your Partner
The second ingredient is your committed partner. Some of us have one, some of us don't. If you do have a lifelong partner; is there a sense of community between the pair of you? Do you and your beloved make time to acknowledge and nurture one another? Do you have peace and comfort in your foundation? Think of our partners as the flour in the cake. Many forget to create special time together in the frantic pace of life. Whether it is a date at the movies, twilight stroll or vacation getaway, continuing to reinforce community with our love is vital.
3. Community With Family
Wherever you are on the wheel of family- young professional with parents and siblings, married couple with kids, empty nesters with adult children, or elders enjoying the fruits of grandchildren; family is our most common community. For some, it is a supportive one, and for others a challenge. Some people create their own family. Nurturing your sense of community within the family has become more and more critical. Today, TV's and computers are in every room, and a many families spends their evenings plugged into some other world than the one going on right under their nose. I think of family as the eggs in our cake batter.
4. Community of Friends:
Our friends are our rocks. In a later article, I will dedicate a full piece to exploring who are the rocks in your life. Our friends become the constant place to fill daily chatter, share entertainment, recreation, and be a shoulder to cry on when we need it. Do you consider your friends to be a community? Many of us have what I call, "fast food" friendships that are surface level and not very satisfying. What we crave are those down and deep kinds of friends that love us without condition and make life worth living. Check out Gretchen Rubin's post from last week on "7 Tips to Make New Friends ." Friends make life so sweet they are the sugar in our mixture.
5. Community with Neighbors:
Some of us are blessed to have an active neighborhood that enjoy regular parties, pitch in with watching kids, and pick up each other's mail. Others live in crowded suburban neighborhoods or big urban apartments for decades, and don't know a soul. I consider neighbors a hybrid of family and friends because you are "stuck" with the neighbors you have, much like family. With luck, and some effort, many of them can become loyal friends, even if you have little in common and may not have chosen them. Neighbors are the oil.
6. Community with Co-workers:
For many of us, we spend more time each day with our co-workers than we do with our partners, family and friends combined. Some people are blessed to love their job and love the people they work with. Others may not be so lucky. It is too bad that so many work environments have still not embraced the power of nurturing the humanity of their workers, and create a community style office environment. Those visionaries who have; like Google, The Body Shop and many direct sales companies, enjoy a level of productivity unparalleled. What a joy to feel that your co-workers are your community and everyone supports one another in work life, and in home life. Co-workers are the salt and baking soda.
7. Community with the World Around You
What outer tribes are you a part of? Maybe you are active with your college alumni, involved in local charities, your children's school, or sports teams. All of these are larger communities of which we take part. As a modern twist, many of us feel a tremendous sense of connection and community through virtual social networks. Facebook alone has brought more old friends together than ever imagined possible. All of these larger circles are like the icing on the cake.
Close your eyes and imagine all these aspects of community. Surround yourself with the layers and layers of people who penetrate and influence your life; all the people of whom you have the opportunity to touch each day. We need each other.
There is one final component of experiencing authentic community that is the grandest of all. It is the heat that bakes our cake. It is the alchemy that transforms a bowl full of goop into a warm, moist, delicious wonder. The hot oven is the Great Mystery that surrounds us all. Call it God, Goddess, Buddha, Mother Earth, Great Spirit, Yahweh, the Force or as David Eagleman says in his book, SUM: Forty Tales from the Afterlives: "Possibilian".
This heat is the 'something deep inside' that stirs us to levels of awe, joy, inspiration, epiphany and steadfast knowing that We Are All One. In those moments, there is no need for 'building' a community. We are already a tribe, already connected, already whole.
How is your cake looking these days? A little lumpy? Too many eggs and not enough frosting? Searching for the heat? Do you have a rich community life, and if so, how did you create it? We would love to hear your comments and I will feature some of them next Sunday, my new regular day on Huff Po, where I will describe how to make a gathering more satisfying. Please leave a comment below, it is easy to do and if you want to be informed of next week's post, click on the RFF feed button.
Follow Kari Henley on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karihenley