August

Community & Space

THEME: Summer offers more opportunities to linger with family and friends. When we make space for quality time with others: camping, hiking, road trips, BBQs, and gatherings that extend long into the evening, our sense of belonging feels firmly rooted. This month, we will explore what it means to belong and how to capture your space in the community.

 
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CHECK-IN: What communities or spaces have you been spending time in this summer? (Group: Take note of shared groups.) What do these communities bring to you? How do they fulfill a need to belong?

MINDFUL PRACTICE: A great deal of our sense of belonging has to do with how we define our space. We may feel we belong when we are amongst our besties or in the middle of a dance fest with strangers. What about the moments when we are alone and feeling isolated? If we sit in awareness of that emotion and realize millions share the same emotional space, can we value even these darker moments? Can we belong to the human experience?

Sit in a circle (loosely). Take a glance around the circle to acknowledge each woman and her place in the space. We'll do a guided meditation practice.

Sit in an upright position, your hands on your lap. Take a few deep breaths to relax and let the tension leave your face, shoulders, arms, torso, legs, etc. Feel your body settle and feel more grounded.

Place your focus on your heart and the space it occupies. How amazing this keeps you alive and connected to the human experience. Shine a little love and appreciation on the space your heart occupies.

Your heart works in concert with your mind to generate a lifetime of emotions, connecting you to thousands of others. Imagine a pathway that joins your head and heart. Wrap some love around this space.

Now, expand your focus to the entire internal space that is your body. Your soul's vehicle for a lifetime. You belong in this space. It is yours. Take a moment to appreciate the magnificence of your vessel.

Next, sense somebody sitting next to you. Feel the space that you share. You two are connected because you both belong in the space. Shine a little love on the space that you occupy together.

Finally, imagine our entire circle of women. Sense all the energy and souls filling this space. We all belong here, we each add value and help to create this space.  We belong with one another, even if we aren't close friends outside of this community. Take in the love of belonging here and now.

 

Slowly open your eyes and take the hand/s of someone near you. Take a deep breath.

SHARE: How might you use this practice to increase your sense of belonging elsewhere?

I recently read an article: https://onbeing.org/blog/seeking-community-here-and-now/

I pulled some excerpts from OMID SAFI, director of Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center:

The 13th century, Sa‘di’s Rose garden, is the masterpiece of Persian prose. In the text, the great poet talks about a person having gone to a public bath. There, someone brought that person a piece of clay from a beloved. The clay was ever so fragrant… like a rose. The person begins a dialogue with the piece of clay.

Are you Musk? Or amber?

You scent is intoxicating!

The clay answers back:

I am just a humble piece of clay.

But for a day or two

I’ve kept the fellowship of roses.

It’s their companionship

that has had an impact on me.

Otherwise, I am just ordinary clay.

In Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions, the clay refers to the earth/dust material that we as human beings are created from. We are cosmic dust, spinning and dancing away in space. What makes us become human is that the clay becomes suffused with spirit.  Sa‘di’s telling of the story is about the fellowship of the roses making the spirit real. Fellowship reinforces teaching. We need each other.

Community is about much more than one person entering a space, and then another person entering the space, and so on. Community is not merely a gathering of individuals coming together. Community is an almost alchemical reaction that happens among all that we are capable of being and becoming. It is the encounters with our fellow human beings that determine what notes emerge from us. We have a say in the matter, we have so much say in the matter… but the beauty of our companions also has a say. The beauty of our fellowship has a say.

So many are taking care of our bodies through exercise, yoga, or similar ways of strengthening our bodies. Again, beautiful. We know that our bodies and souls mingle.

I wonder how many of us are equally purposeful about the fellowships that we keep. Of course, even Sa‘di points out that it is possible to learn from the rude and unrefined. But for those innermost companions of the heart, how lovely it would be to surround oneself with the fellowship of roses.

When I was younger, I used to judge the company I would keep based on the qualities those friends displayed. I sought friends who were kinder, gentler, more luminous than myself. Now, my focus has shifted a bit more inward. I am more focused on qualities that different fellowships bring out in me. Whose companionship makes me kinder, gentler, more aware of our interconnectedness. Some people bring out my inner demon, my inner jerk. It is not always even about them; sometimes it is about the particular dynamic of my qualities and their qualities. This sense of remaining mindful — and heartful — of the impact of our community on our hearts calls for a more vigilant and careful inner inspection.

This community is heavenly, but it does not descend from heaven. We have to seek it, work for it, and build it here and now. This is all of us: spirit-filled, rose-scented cosmic dust seeking fellowship.

 

JOURNAL: What do we do when somebody brings out the worst in us? What if they are a vital part of the community in which we belong? Is there or has there been somebody in your life that fits this scenario? How did you handle it?

CLOSING: In the next month, be aware of your community. Are you spending time with those who bring out your best? Can you soften the effects of those who seem to tap into your inner demons? Whoever you are spending time with, for a few minutes or days, know that you all belong in the space.