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.]


  1. Let's see if I've figured it out - just click below the entry where it says comment, sign in (I'm using Google),write away, type in the code provided,and click post. You can tell, I'm quite pleased with myself!

    My experience is that at times deep listening and deep sharing from the heart provides the conditions for safety and sometimes, when I want to hide from myself, or protect an image of myself that does not in fact correspond with who I am, all that deep listening and deep sharing triggers fear in me.
    I find myself curious about what changes need to occur internally to allow me to be willing to see or hear without distortion.

  2. Thanks for figuring out how to comment! Now all the others who tried unsuccessfully can try again & let their voices be heard too!

    Your comment intrigues me. other words, when we try to be anything other than our TRUE self, negative feelings arise. How can we see/hear without distortion? ...become aware of when we're attached to self-images from the past or future & let them go. Ha, easier said than done!!

  3. Hi, Laya, First of all, I want to say that you write beautifully, so I'm glad that you take that risk!
    On community: I tend to be a loner; I like lots of time to myself and I don't have that much desire to be in groups. I have family and friends to hang out with, and I prefer one-on-one when I'm with people. I'm not shy or scared to talk to people, or to share openly. But in groups there are so many people talking, and usually at least a couple that want to take up more than their share of the "air time." Groups often feel like a waste of time to me.
    When I attend a group because there is something that interests me, I often find the people there trying to push me to attend other things, to "create community." It feels kind of forced. If I'm interested in being with the others and have common interests, I would return. But it often feels so contrived to me, or else so disorganized, that I don't. And I just don't like to attend things as often as many people do.
    I wanted to add the loner's point of view to the idea of community! We tend to stay on the outskirts, and it's not out of fear.
    By the way, I'm not Larry, but when I tried to comment as Google, it would only let me be Larry (my husband!)

  4. Hi Loner,
    Your perspective is most welcome. In fact, I share many of your reactions to groups - the feeling of "waste of time" frequently popping up. But SUPPORTIVE Community is what I'm talking about - people that (like your friends and family) can bring out the best in you, hold a mirror when you're stumbling and a hand to help you up. For you, it's friends and family, for me it's not groups for groups sake, but groups with a common purpose of being truly authentic and present for each other.

    From my experience, a true "loner" is someone who lets NO ONE in, who somehow believes s/he is separated from the whole. But we are are part of a whole and what affects one of us ultimately touches us all. The law of "inter-being."