I have written about the importance of grounding your spirituality with a specific practice and about the energetic and physical dimensions of health. Now I would like to address the importance of connecting to a larger body, a community of like-minded people. This can take many forms, from a religious congregation or sangha to a book club to a hiking group; any group of people that meets on a regular basis to engage in activity and conversation.
It has been well-documented that people who are supported socially live longer, healthier lives and have better outcomes in health crises. Having a group of friends to support you through life’s ups and downs is a blessing; it’s an aspect of well-being that used to be built in when we lived in smaller communities. Now we have to make an effort to connect with others, but we can choose who we associate with more freely. And who we spend time with is just as important as being a part of a larger community. Mutual values, goals, and intentions that are life affirming create a powerful group energy field. The groups we participate in help us to create and sustain a meaningful life.
It’s wonderful to have friends, but take a moment to reflect on the people you hang out with. Are they optimistic or pessimistic? Do they like to complain about their problems all the time? Some people seem to relish cataloguing their woes, playing the victim or the martyr, and being engaged in drama. Notice your response to this kind of interaction. Do you join in the complaining, reinforcing their negative view? How does this make you feel?
Maybe you try to offer other possibilities or interpretations of the situation to your friend. Deep listening in itself can help a person come up with new responses. What happens then? Do they dismiss your input, preferring to stay stuck in their story – or are they open to a different way of looking at things, making changes, improving their life?
You could also ask yourself these same questions. Sometimes we are the ones in need of a new perspective, and sometimes we are the ones who can offer it! Good relationships are the ones in which you are supported to be the best possible version of yourself. No matter how competent or self-sufficient we may be, we all need the support and positive energy of others for spiritual, emotional and physical health. So choose the company you keep wisely and they will contribute to your well-being.