Thursday, October 28, 2010

A Supportive Community

Risk taking of any kind can be daunting.  The ultimate question - "can I survive?" - may not come up consciously, but the body still responds as if  the question had been asked.  Knowing what 'tiger' confronts us, what risk we have to take to become more fully ourselves, is the first of the Five Questions that provoked my entry into the world of blogging. (see my blog entry 

As I confessed at the start, writing feels like a very risky enterprise for me.  Despite repeated ventures in that direction, whenever I approach the task, my anxiety mounts.  My overreaction naturally derives from my history and what I'm bringing to the endeavor - fear of criticism and judgment, no doubt.  Others may experience similar overreactions triggered by social encounters, financial dealings, or major decisions they perceive as risky...the list is endless.  I imagine that you, dear reader, might already have identified your own "tigers" that tend to provoke a similar response.

To face the "tiger" - rather than run from it - requires courage.  But how can courage be mustered when previous conditioning has so strongly imprinted the message of DANGER?  I propose that a supportive community can do wonders. To change old patterns that have become so deeply ingrained can take more than the mere will power of one.  Even one extra support- a friend, mate, or mentor - might do the job.  More than two can be even better yet!

Ideally, family serves as the primary source of nurture and support.  A family's offer of unconditional love and a place of belonging certainly would seem to set the scene for the growth of healthy and creative individuals.  However, as I know from my own personal experience and as a psychotherapist, the treasure that family can transmit is too often hidden, distorted or apparently absent for too many of us.

So how do we find the courage to face challenges and take risks when we lack sufficient inner strength? Just as toddlers venturing out to explore their surroundings need parents to provide a strong base of security from which they can assert their will, so do we all need a base of support. When we fail to draw strength from our own inner reserves, a supportive community can be vital.

As with the list of individual challenges each of us confronts, there is also an endless variety of  communities or groups: work groups, school groups, neighborhoods and online chat groups.  One can find or create a group for any common interest or goal -  study or recreation, parenting or gardening, spiritual pursuits or following the twelve-step program (see, etc.  But what turns a mere group into a supportive community?

I have come to believe that the prerequisite for genuine support is emotional safety.  When communication is based on deep listening and deep sharing from the heart, we are safe.  (To learn more about HOW to develop compassionate communication, see  More on that in a future blog!)  Instead of intellectual analysis, judgment, criticism or blame,  if we communicate with empathy - exposing our feelings and needs and helping others do the same - then we can take a breath, relax and return to the present moment. Then, despite whatever cloud haunted us in the past or whatever fear loomed from the future, we can stop in the present and notice.

And so I do.  I sigh to myself and am aware: I took a risk, confronted my tiger by expressing myself, and Whew, I'm still here. I'm ALIVE!  

Readers:  Please share your reflections, stories and questions below.  Your authentic communication helps provide a supportive cyber-community from which all of us can benefit!

[Pictured above is one of my supportive communities at a recent Day of Mindfulness in Miami (see  Together, they help me remember that the present moment is the only place to find happiness.]

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Next Phase: The Journey Inward

It's been two weeks since I returned from points west to our new home at 4 Foxfire Road, Hollywood, FL 33021. In the midst of traveling the country, I felt saturated daily with the myriad objects of my perception, from the wide open golden plains and blue skies of Nebraska to the chill of majestic mountains and bugling elks in Colorado to the sandy pueblos and painted desert of Arizona.

Now that I'm back and have soaked in the extensive variations of that environmental marinating process, the next phase of my journey begins.  I sense it's time for me to get cooking and give equal time to explore the inner terrain as well.  The idea that there's no separation between what's "out there" and what's "in here" has floated in my awareness for some time.  The ever changing cloud formations and weather patterns to which I was recently exposed have a corresponding internal dimension within my own psyche. 

Inasmuch as I indulged my five senses with glorious new stimuli and was eager to record what I saw -- my digital camera was often at hand -  I now commit myself to explore the objects of my mind - mental formations of the present and stories of past experiences that have become almost permanent psychic fixtures - and to put them out "for the record."  I hope that by investigating the phenomena objectively I will gain further clarity about that inner terrain and shed light on the perpetuation of or possible liberation from suffering.