Community is about giving
Many of us belong to different communities in our lives. Whether that’s our group of friends from high school or our colleagues at our workplace or connections we’ve made our local gym/studio/class/etc. In many ways, the communities that we belong to give us a sense of our identity. For example, attending a local improv class gives us a sense that we can be open and funny with others, or going to a CrossFit gym means we care about our fitness and health. While both of those examples might be true, I don’t think it’s the whole story.
In the book, The Courage to be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi and Fumitake Koga, a philosopher and a young man spend five nights discussion and debating the meaning of life. In the fourth night the conversation turns to community,
It is when one is able to feel “I am beneficial to the community” that one can have a true sense of one’s worth”…it is about having concern for others, building horizontal relationships, and taking the approach of encouragement. All these things connect to the deep life awareness of “I am of use to someone,” and in turn, to your courage to live.The Courage to be Disliked (pg. 189)
The philosopher strikes an important point here in that it isn’t enough just to belong to a community but it matters if you’re contributing to making it stronger. Only when we decide to actively participate in a community do we feel a stronger tie to our identity and our ikigai.
One thing I’m thinking about more often these days is how I can strengthen the bonds to the communities that I belong to. How can I carve out more time for friends and family members? How can I reconnect with friends that I’ve lost touch with? How can I strengthen the existing communities I’m a part of by starting something, improving something, or providing feedback to? How can I expand my thinking from just my local community to something more global?
I don’t need to answer all these questions right now but they’re good ones to start pondering.
Practice more loving kindness
Yes, the concept of “loving kindness” may seem a warm and fuzzy, but I’ve recently come around to embracing this idea after listening to Tara Brach’s book, Radical Acceptance. Through a mixture of personal stories and Buddhist teachings, she shares ways that we can come to love ourselves as who we are wherever we might be in our journey.
As I’ve reflected on this topic, I’ve begun to realize how fundamental practicing loving kindness with ourselves can be. Without the ability to love ourselves, it becomes very hard to encourage, trust, and love others. If we can find ways to be more self accepting of both our virtues and flaws, we might be able to live a happier life.
One way to practice this is through a quick morning meditation. Take 5-10 minutes every morning and repeat a simple mantra, “May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I be at peace.” If it helps, hold one or both of your hands over year heart to feel more connected with your body. Then expand your radius of loving kindness by thinking of someone else you wish happiness, health, and peace. Finally, you move onto wishing this to the world around you.
If you asked me even a year ago if this was something I was interested in, I probably would’ve said no. Not because I didn’t need to have a daily practice like this but because I don’t think I fully loved myself as much as I do now. If you feel discomfort doing a meditation like this or even contemplating doing it, there might be something there for you to explore.
For those interested in loving kindness meditation, Oak is a beautiful, simple, and free app that can help you get started.
Journaling to clarify your thinking
The final thought I have is around journaling. The benefits of journaling have been covered quite extensively and I’m sure many of you have tried journaling before. I’ve been an inconsistent journal for the past few years but have really enjoyed the process when I did get into a regular rhythm. When I did fall off the horse, it was typically because I felt daunted by either A) the blank page or B) (ironically) the limited space available with certain journal templates.
I’ve been trying a different approach this time borrowing some wisdom from Michael Bungay Stanier’s book, The Coaching Habit. In the book, Michael shares 7 key questions to help people be a bit more “coach-like” in their conversations with others. By sticking to questions as the “coach”, the idea is to help the other person uncover their real challenge and come up with their own solutions.