By JiJi Russell
As I talked to friends, colleagues, family members, and even near-strangers last month, I noticed the potency of our emotions as we traversed the holiday season together. There is so much to bring forth: the social events; the finding and offering of gifts; the meals we prepare and share; the charities where we offer our time or money; events at our churches, our schools. It seems we want to do so much in such a short timeframe. And even if it’s in the name of good causes and fun times, it can often deplete our reserves. It can leave us physically and emotionally spent.
In last month’s article, “Give Yourself a Gift,” I offered five short practices that might help bring greater balance, energy, and/or clarity to you during the hustle-bustle of the season. The focus was inward.
This month, as we enter a new year, we focus on reaching outward—to the places where we worship, play, and serve others. These are our healing places. When we unite behind a shared cause or interest, we have an opportunity to offer support and direct our creativity and skills toward a positive end. Finding time to spend in our groups is as important as finding time to spend alone. In addition to helping others, it cannot be overestimated for its ability to uplift ourselves.
For me, there’s my office team, which is involved in a plethora of community service efforts; the book club of like-minded moms, who enjoy good food and lively discussions together; a wondrous women’s healing circle I am part of, which takes me further along my own path to understand the powers of healing. All of these groups offer a bright spot in my life, and can give me a boost when I feel depleted.
This is a fine time of year to think about the groups that are meaningful to you. It does not matter how formal or informal these groups may be. Group involvement raises me up personally and, I believe, helps me be a more compassionate and caring person. Simply being part of a group can bring you closer to your innate joy—not to mention the good we do for our community when we do something together.
If you feel a little disconnected—to the point where it’s hard to imagine how to connect, think about where you already feel the most attraction.
If you attend church, chances are there is a group in your church that serves the elderly, homeless, disabled, or other people. Often, simply offering your time and compassion is all it takes to make a difference. There are many community groups who also help in this way. If you are interested in the study of the Bible or other spiritual texts and traditions, you might find or form a study group.
Share your talents with others who enjoy a particular medium or creative expression—or learn something brand new to you. From quilting groups, painters clubs, singing ensembles, there are so many ways to express your creativity in community. Check out the schedule at Opus Oaks in Berryville for starters.
Or find a group of people who share a common interest. Are you a collector? A Civil War enthusiast? Are you a sometimes stamp collector; or do you enjoy foreign languages, old movies, sports; cooking, or gardening? Sometimes our solitary pursuits are the perfect avenue to finding others and enjoying time to discuss, share, and work together.
In the various healing arts-related roles I play in my life, I see and hear of so much suffering. The suffering of any person always poses difficult questions for the one affected and the ones who bear witness. What can we do to help bring some relief? What have we learned? How shall we move forward? It seems we cannot ever “know” the answers until we experience difficulty, either directly or in a support role.
As the pace of life and the challenges become ever more complex—both personally and as a community—I believe it is incumbent upon us to create more positive “handles” to hold onto. It helps to recognize the power of support within groups of friends, family, co-workers, church members, all uniting behind causes or ideas that raise us up. Would we be more stable if more people did this? Would we look out for each other more frequently? Would we experience more joy in life? Would our collective emotions rise up?
I believe the answer is, “Yes.” I hope you can find or create a circle of healing, service, prayer, or meditation—a positive place for you and your group members to do good things.
Have fun discovering (or re-discovering) what makes you feel happy and connected. And may your work together echo outward into our community and the world.