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The Power of Community in an Age of Lonliness

In Mindful Living by Richard Klein

March 13, 2016

We were never meant to do it all on our own

Last month I was privileged to have had a few wonderful conversations with people who had been through our Healing with Addictions Program. I wanted to see how they were, and to find out what aspects of the retreat had been central to their experience.

SKylght modifiedI was surprised when the word “circle” kept coming up. The circle they were talking about was the physical circle that is created every time people sit down together in a group in the round Malocca building where we do this work. The circle is that, and something more.  It is also a group of people coming together with a common intention, holding space and bearing witness to each other’s  healing.

The power of the healing circle

Often in these circles there will be heartfelt sharing with tears, yes, sometimes, laughter, where something difficult of the past that is perhaps never before been shared, or turned to, is now held in common.

In such moments there is a peace that gets made with the past. What happens in these moments is that someone is seen in their authenticity, perhaps for the first time, by a community of people to which they belong. When this happens something important about their experience gets validated. This is circle.

The world we have created is a paradox in so many ways. This blog is a form of sharing into an online community, as is facebook for many people. And yet it is a facsimile, a virtual community, where we get the taste of something but not that much of the nourishment.

We are social creatures, yet increasingly, people live in isolation and loneliness.

Of course, there are many reasons for this. We live separate from each other in our nuclear families. Our economy is structured so that  people are working harder and harder just to get by. There is little time to socialize and people come home tired and turn to the television or the internet for solace and distraction. Our culture celebrates the myth of the heroic individual, the self starter, the entrepreneur smart enough and tough enough to rise to the top of the heap. Each Apple product, The ‘i pod, the “i” phone,and the “i”pad’  places the ‘I” front and centre for a reason. Because we relate to the world as individuals.

circle of handsTribal cultures know that no one can do it alone. That was part of what was so devastating about the residential school system that was forced for so many years upon Canada’s native peoples. It ripped apart the social bonds that held the traditional culture intact.

At the addictions Retreat one of the hardest things for people is to learn that it is okay to ask for help. in fact at certain times it is absolutely essential. Yet people are caught in the notion that they need to figure it out on their own and this plays out like a defective piece of software.

Human beings are wired for connection, we are uniquely social. Our language, our emotional sensitivities and our artistic expressions  only make sense within a community context.

That’s why the word circle kept coming up in my follow up conversations.  For it was pointing at a deeper longing to belong to something bigger than ourselves.