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This COMMUNITY thing has been coming up a lot in my life for the last few months – talks with people I deeply respect about just what it means to be in community. Just last week I hosted the amazing Gretchen Miller for 21 Secrets Live!, and guess what her prompt for us that evening was? Yep. Community.

On the left side of this spread, with GIVE, is the word nurture from a dictionary. On the right, with RECEIVE, is become. We talked about the power of online communities – how very real it can be if we let it – and how wonderful it is to let our online connections create real-time bonds and fuel our day-to-day relationships. I’ve definitely experienced this deeply at times.

All these talks and synchronicities about Community in my life have me contemplating further. I’m curious. I’m challenging my own knee-jerk responses in the circles I am part of. I’m noticing, in a new way, how very important my own practices of solitude are to how I show up with others.

There’s a lot of talk about community out there – in the context of groups, and circles, and what have you. It is inspired talk and the efforts to explore what this might mean or become are well-intended. I also see a lot of us just stopping by these spaces and places, like we’re at a buffet, to see if this is the one that fills this space, this ache, this craving we carry for a deeper, rooted community where we can really be seen for who we are, mess and glory. We judge that fit on our own agendas, often rather quickly – are we getting what we want out of it?

I can’t help but wonder, though, that it’s exactly all this fly-by dipping in and out that only perpetuates our ache and sense of separation. Oh yeah, and the part where a community is also about exchange and commitment – meaning we become responsible for its success through what we offer over time, as well. It asks energy of us in order to be sustainable.

Because the key piece for me in this community stuff is RELATIONSHIP. That’s what makes or breaks it. How we RELATE to one another. The choices we make and perspectives we choose that move us closer or further from that connection and exchange – especially when we feel challenged or triggered. The nature of the words AND the silences we offer. This is what we are tending – it is alive. Not just showing up, but HOW we show up, because it isn’t just about meeting the needs of the individuals… it is about how those individuals can become something greater as a UNITY when they are nurtured and challenged to grow in safe space.

It’s not even just about showing up with our truth – but about HOW we show up with our truth. It’s about shared interests AND about owning our shit. For real. It’s about growth – and properly composting our shit as a nutrient for what will come. Community, at its best, gives us a sense of hope, safety and belonging with one another.

How we relate to others begins right at home, in how we relate to ourselves, then our families, then our neighbors…. It can be evident in the care we put into our posts or comments – or any energy that we offer into shared spaces. How we relate becomes the basis for how we commune, which becomes the basis for what we are nurturing to grow in this hard world.

This is hardly a new idea, but a contemplation worth the effort. This is what I’ll be exploring in my own creative prayer art practice for the month of March.

Join in with your practice, if you like. I’ll share extra glimpses and thoughts in heARTnotes, my monthly letter to my mailing list.