This past month I have been reading about the ideas of belonging and community. I just finished revisiting a wonderful little book titled “If I Live to Be 100″, by Neenah Ellis. It relates a series of interviews with people who have lived to be 100 years old or more-centenarians. The author wanted to learn what they each felt had made their lives worthwhile after living such long, full lives. Their individual stories are very different and yet all included a common theme-the importance of personal relationships and belonging to some kind of community in order to feel loved, fulfilled, engaged, and happy. They found within their 100+ years of life that they needed to communicate as well as listen, give and share as well as receive. They knew the value of developing an interdependence with others, of being part of some type of positive “community”. Spiritual leader and activist Thict Nhat Hahn calls this concept “interbeing”.
Being part of a community is critical to living a full life, but so is being alone. And what is amazing is that we learn and practice these two ideas within our yoga community. In fact, a yoga class is a great example of both… when we practice, we share space with others yet we sit alone on our mats, each with our own intentions, focus, and feelings. As we are led through the poses and meditations we feel the support of each other. We are both alone and together. True community. The energy we each brings supports ourselves and transmits itself to the larger whole.
Neenah Ellis writes of a “glow, a magnetism, a “vibe” that she felt when interviewing the centenarians. She said she felt a deep connection but learned that it also had a scientific explanation. Scientists call this vibe a “limbic resonance”, or “the innate ability of mammals to feel one anothers’ emotional state”. It is a major source of human happiness, In fact, experiencing this connection with others helps us all to slow down, listen, and learn from one another.
As you enter the transition period between summer and fall, sending children off to their own school communities, joining community groups yourselves, filling time with new projects and tasks, think about what you involve yourself in. Does the group you are in nurture you, expand your sense of self and connectedness and make you happy? If not, find the one that will. This is what matters.