Our lives today are nothing like we were naturally selected for. Our brains and bodies were not built for this: this current moment, these present stressors, or this way of life. But we were built to adapt to adversity. Even though humans may not have been fashioned to last through longitudinal stressors without the coping strategies that keep people well, we can adjust.
How do we adjust? The trick is to evaluate the strategies that worked to keep us surviving and thriving for millions of years. To attempt to replicate these strategies and slightly adapt them.
One adjustment tool that has worked is by creating a community in which we belong. Historically people have done this through practicing religious beliefs. From someone like myself, who does not practice organized religion, this strategy has never been accessible, but I have studied this tool for survival and have come to a conclusion.
Connection and belonging are mechanisms for comfort delivered through community gatherings. For many, the underlying beliefs of religion are less important than the gathering, the routine, the wrapping around by humans, the sense of being held by a shared value system. The other element in religion, that is deeply powerful, is the worshiping together, the focus on the present moment through rejoicing in song, storytelling, word, mentorship, and coaching through life.
These relationships, this uniting and gathering across a common cause, this mindful practice of values and beliefs, this revisiting of a shared experience, incrementally over time is critical to our survival. We have to create a community which we belong to. We have to join a group that welcomes us no matter how our life is progressing, how we are feeling, what pain we bring or what joy we can share. We must create our own “church”, our brain and body need us to.
Building a community is hard work. For some of us sometimes, this feels insurmountable so we have to join someone else’s to try it on for fit. We have to accept an invitation even if we feel like we don’t have the ability/capacity/reserves….it might be our “church” and it could be our community. We have to reach out to others that are alone and lonely and ask them to join with us to celebrate, gather, rejoice, share, support, and hold one another.
A community of belonging involves shared interests/beliefs in a known and steadfast place, over time, where people will come and go. Although some of these communities have become exclusionary, some have become even more inclusionary over time. We all need this strategy in order to survive and thrive through a moment we are not built for. Let’s build this for one another, reach out, reach in, and understand, we cannot walk this every extending path of adversity alone.
Tips to create a community:
- Focus on the shared values of the people in the group not on who is in the group.
- Make it routine, whatever it is…our brains and bodies need something to look forward to.
- Add joy, pleasure, sharing, rejoicing, storytelling and song as ingredients to build community.
- Let there be a known gathering space where people can come and be.
- Building community requires showing up for one another.