For a very long time I prided myself on being a solo adventurer, a lone wolf. I relished the feel of moving about my world unencumbered by the expectations and needs of others. I longed for the leeway to find and follow my own inner voice. But the deeper I delved into the evolution of my own being the more I noticed the subtle shifts that occurred when I gathered with other like minded people.
As someone who didn't quite fit in, I often found it very uncomfortable to connect with many of the communities that I encountered – whether that community were members of my family, groups at school or colleagues at work. Like the scent of hamburgers pulling Wimpie towards his inevitable destination, I found myself over and over again in situations that had me question this assumption of aloneness.
It was in 2001, when I enrolled as a student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, that the pieces started falling into place. My aloneness was so embedded in my nature that I had to have pep talks with myself to sit next to someone new after every break and start a conversation. As I ventured forth I found that many others felt the same. We were all strange rangers navigating a very lonely landscape.
You may or may not have been born into your tribe of choice. Your family, friends and colleagues may get you. They may not. As someone who is separate from the pack it can be difficult to navigate the cycles of ungroundedness, but nothing will shift your experience faster than an aligned and conscious community.
If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
~ African proverb
Today, as much as I treasure my aloneness, my greater gift is connection and community. Here are 7 gifts of aligned and conscious community:
1. Wisdom. When you gather with like-minded people the wisdom of your community is greater than your own. Divergent world views and life experiences provide a richness and depth that gift you a variety of perspectives from which to choose. That's not even counting the specific expertise that each member brings to the party.
2. Gifts. Sometimes it's hard to figure out your gifts in isolation. In community there are abundant opportunities to be seen and heard and you’re given the opportunity to discover your gifts and share them with others. This experience alone will help you get rock solid on your gifts and strengths. Plus, the powerful group intention amplifies your purpose and passion and moves you into inspired action.
3. Leadership. A collaborative community invites you to share in the voice and direction of the group and provides ample opportunities to try out your leadership style. One of my favorite ways to explore this is to host a writer’s circle. There’s nothing like gathering with other highly aware playmates and engaging in regular inspirational writing. You can do this in person, or you can make it super easy and gather on the phone.
4. Belonging. We all have a primal need to belong, to be a part of something greater than ourselves. When you're different, it's an especially precious gift to find others that you can relate to and that totally get who you are. What a treat to discover a community where you can be yourself among others doing the very same thing.
5. Support. There will be days when you falter, lose hope, and your belief in yourself is at low tide. It can seem overwhelming. A like minded community will nourish you and help you handle the dips, as well as celebrate your wins. Some days those big goals just seem impossible. On those days when you most want to give up, you are buoyed by your community. They believe in you, probably more than you believe in yourself.
6. Influence. Communities give you the opportunity to share your influence, to explore a bigger vision than you might be able to execute on your own. They allow members to explore things with each other they previously wouldn’t have been able to. New ideas, resources, and experiences are shared and discussed leading to community accelerated innovation.
7. Evolution. There is nothing that will stretch the edge of what's possible for you, and your community, than coming together on an aligned purpose. When you gather in aligned community you are creating a living organism. This is highly organized intelligence at its best. Not only do you grow, so does the entire system.
A group of people coming together in a state of presence generates a collective field of great intensity. It not only raises the degree of presence of each member of the group but also helps to free the collective human consciousness from its current state of mind dominance. This will make the state of presence increasingly more accessible to individuals.
~ Eckhart Tolle
We’re connective creatures by nature. A vibrantly aligned and conscious community not only empowers you but creates transformation for everyone. If you can’t find your kind of crowd, host it! Take the lead and create a community that alivens your experience, inspires your vision and serves your purpose.
PS Ready to tap into the power of community? Join us …
Relationships can be a glorious adventure. The joy of love and connection is surely one of life's amazing treasures. Relationships can also be a source of great frustration, as well as a powerful tool for your evolution.
All relationships bring up conflict. There are places where you're not going to see eye to eye. Your relationships will stir up some of your deepest stuff. It's part of the design. The key to navigating these rough spots is in seeing the growth opportunities and nurturing loving communication. It's in this loving crucible where you can explore a new way of being.
If you grew up in a loving home with healthy boundaries this adventure will feel familiar. You'll be able to distinguish the blurred edges of you and the other and leap into the unknown with trust that it will all work out. Some of us, however, can't lay claim to this level of comfort. Sometimes it can be hard to draw the line between normal ups and downs and signs of a more serious problem.
The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too. ~ Ernest Hemingway
It’s hard to see what’s best for yourself when you’re invested in a relationship. It’s not always easy to remember who you are and what you want. Sometimes you put up with a lot of crap. Sometimes the pain of certain relationships is less intimidating than the pain of letting go of that person. You can start to lose yourself and forget to make yourself and your happiness a priority.
It’s no secret that emotions color your world. When you're around loved ones – whether it's your partner, a family member or a friend – it’s common to think the best and rationalize their behavior (especially when things go wrong).
You will experience pain in relationship. It's inevitable. Relationships that drain your life force and diminish your being, however, are toxic. It doesn't matter if you love this person. If your authentic self withers in their presence and you lose your power it's time to wake up.
We’ve all endured the company of people who were not shooting for our highest good but when those people are in your inner circle of friends and family it's dangerous to your well being. When your relationships turn into a heated battleground on a regular basis it's time for a reality check.
Want to know if your connection is healthy or unhealthy? Here are 10 signs you're in a toxic relationship:
1. Growth is discouraged. Whenever you aim to grow and improve yourself, the other person responds with mockery and disbelief. There is no encouragement or support for your efforts. Instead, they keep you stuck in old judgments insisting that you will never be any different than you are now.
2. Avoiding each other. You find yourself keeping busy so you don't have to spend time with your loved one. You find things to do that keep you away from home so you don't have to risk engagement. At a bare minimum, you should be able to tolerate your loved ones presence. If you can’t even bring yourself to be around him or her, you should really just call it quits.
3. Criticism and contempt. No one is perfect, and the closer you become with someone, the more obvious the imperfections become. There is nothing wrong with criticism that comes from a positive place. When criticism is used as a channel to express contempt or disdain for someone else, it can make the other person feel unvalued and worthless. A healthy, loving relationship is filled with support and encouragement, not criticism and contempt.
4. Arguing without communicating. It’s natural to get upset and argue, but if there’s no exchange of communication and neither party conveys why he or she feels how he or she does, nothing will be solved. Clean communication – without temper tantrums and repudiations – is a foundation for healthy relationships.
5. Negative energy. Feeling uncomfortable or tense around someone is just your body reacting to the negative energy surrounding you both. Negativity can drain you mentally, physically and emotionally. It will also make you sick. Nothing good can come from an environment that is debilitating.
6. There is a constant power struggle. When you argue, does it seem like your partner is focused on winning rather than on resolving the conflict? Instead of approaching the situation with compassion and empathy, does your partner seem more concerned with being in control? The habit of control never comes from a loving source. It's a sign of fear and a reluctance to ‘do the work.'
7. You’re not yourself. You modify your behavior so as to not set them off. You don’t feel free to speak your mind. You have to put on a different face just to be accepted. You realize you don’t even recognize yourself anymore, and neither do your closest friends and family. When you can’t be your authentic self, it’s emotionally draining. A healthy relationship should make you feel fulfilled, while a toxic one sucks the life out of you.
8. You can’t seem to do anything right. If you’re in a constant state of anxiety around your loved one and feel like you can never do anything right, that’s one of the biggest signs that your relationship is dysfunctional. Once you get to the point where you feel like everything you do upsets him or annoys her, and you’re tiptoeing around in your own relationship, you need to understand that you aren’t the problem. If you're walking on egg shells it's time to exit stage right.
9. It's all about them. You’re unable to have a two-sided conversation where your opinion is heard, considered and respected. Instead of acknowledging your feelings, they battle with you until they get the last word.
10. You’re not happy. When you feel bad about yourself when you're around your loved one it's impossible to be happy. Every day brings another challenge. When you're exhausted from trying and you no longer see the possibility for good things in your world, it's time to cut the rip cord. If hopelessness is a headliner in your world you don't need more reasons to go at this point. You're done. Just go.
Toxic relationships are tricky because they don't fit into a neat little box. They're not black or white. With a little work you might just make it. You wouldn’t be internally conflicted if there wasn’t a mixture of good and bad in your current relationship. That's what makes it tough. While you're on the fence about the relationship you can't move forward.
To be fully seen by somebody, then, and be loved anyhow – this is a human offering that can border on miraculous. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
It isn’t realistic to expect to be happy in every moment of your relationship, but as a whole, you should both add to one another's lives not detract from them.
The next time you find yourself in a quandary – should you stay or should you go – ask yourself, “Is this relationship a power source or an energy drain? Now you know.
PS Your relationships can power you up or bring you down.