Science has proven it, and our entire being already knows it: the single most important element to our health and well-being is meaningful community. One that cultivates deep connections with our fellow human beings.
For me, there are certain days of the week, and times in life, when being alone feels overwhelming. Sometimes that’s just being alone in your own thoughts and situation, even with plenty of company, family or friends around. Other times it’s just being alone with nothing to do on a Saturday night. And yet these painful times are good, as they keep us searching for more. More connection. More intimacy. More need for sharing deeply with those that will listen. More community – Community to deepen the human connection.
Many times this lonely feeling gets a thin veil of suppression by going out with ‘friends,’ or just watching a good movie to escape from the moment. But the pang of a deep-seated need does not go away. And for many of my fellow entrepreneurs and over-achievers, it can turn into just doing more work, burying ourselves in the feeling of being productive and successful. Yet, as we all know, that feeling keeps creeping back. You can’t shake it.
Lately, in my case, I would use meditation and reading deep Buddhist books to fill the time. I convinced myself that cultivating wisdom and inner strength usurped any outward activity that my so-called ‘feeble outward mind’ desired.
And even though the first step in a mindfulness living practice is to build inner strength of presence and full awareness, it is not meant to be a replacement for the activity of engagement in the community. Our participation is vital to our very existence.
Why is human connection (i.e. community) so important?
This question kept nagging at me. Why do I need more than just my own peaceful self? Why aren’t my son and immediate family enough? What is it that my deepest self keeps craving?
So I went on a bit of a quest for that answer.
I worked on finding and creating mindful sanghas (groups), attended social gatherings beyond the friendly cocktail parties, and participated in numerous mindfulness events, all to see what could happen if I went looking for my fellow “seekers” in life.
3 findings on why we need community more than ever:
- Active Empathetic Listening
We humans desperately need to be heard – fully and completely, without judgment or ramifications from friends, spouses or family. We need a place to let all our self-judgment out into space where it’s okay to just label it. A place to know you are not the only one.
We have lost our way in having a supportive and consistent connection to others, those connections that mean more than the chit-chat over coffee or the cocktail laughing with more talking at each other than listening to one another. The classic phrase of “Yeah, yeah, yeah…” is our way of saying “Yes, yes, I know what you’re saying and if you’ll please stop so I can share my thoughts…” We need the space to be heard and allow our suffering to be released in its full and open truth – with no fear, no anxiety, and no judgment.
- Depth of Inquiry Beyond Societal Comfort
Much of today is very surface level contact. “How was your day?,” “Did you see the news about Donald Trump?,” “Can you believe what happened to Kara?,” and it’s reinforced inexorably through our habits of TV (especially reality TV, the worst of it’s kind), social media addiction and all the superficial importance (money, fame, ‘success’) we have deemed our de facto belief system.
With all this shallow content and conversations, we have an empty spot that gets no nourishment. Our seeds of deeper inquiry receive no water. And at certain stages of life, we hit a breaking point, and say “What in the hell is this all about!?” And for many, that becomes a mental breakdown, when the lack of examination of our beliefs has us questioning the very meaning of life.
And so we need to start sooner. Sooner we must ask the hard questions. Sooner we must be open to getting comfortable with simple truths like “Who Are You?” and seeing we don’t know the real answer to that question. People willing to share views, fears and bigger questions that our soul needs answered.
Deeper inquiry allows our minds to get out of the comfort zone and explore. We need it. We require it. Our suffering becomes too great without it.
- Being Part of Something Feels Right
Finally, I’ve found that being part of something is of great value. A movement, a religion, a group of identifiable values – it’s important to all of us. And we imbibe the values and our belief system from this group. For some, it’s groups that believe being a successful entrepreneur is important above all else. For other groups, it’s being part of a clan that has social norms and gives a sense of belonging by attending regular functions. And for many, what’s missing is being part of a group that shares common values and is willing to hold you accountable to those beliefs. We once called that religion, but in modern day society, that notion seems to be antiquated.
A group or community can serve as that listening post. A group can cultivate an environment of deeper inquiry. A community can allow you to belong to something that tickles the soul. A community that moves past our egoic need for recognition and status, and allows us to just “be” more fully human.
There you have it. Deepening the human connection is paramount to our moment-to-moment joy and everyday happiness. And as mentioned, I have started the journey for such a community. I invite all who wish to explore to join in this deeper inquiry, whether that’s online via simple email, or at a local mindful community gathering, a small sangha or part of something bigger.
May we all help one another find our own ever-important community.