Many of us live in cultures that teach us we need to look out for ourselves, because no one else will. To survive, we must perform to receive acceptance and material resources, and there is a belief that there are limited amounts of either, so we believe we need to compete with each other. Enough is never enough. Personal vulnerability is seen as a sign of weakness, and vulnerability hampers our ability to compete for external titles and financial security. Because we are pitted against one another, we are also deeply lonely. The basic requirements of human thriving are simply not met in these conditions.
Inner and outer connection is fuel for our pilot light (Elder Geraldine Manson). Our pilot light represents our essence, our true nature, and the connection of our mind, body, and spirit. We know we are thriving when the nervous system returns to the ‘back seat’, and we experience a deep trust that we are enough, and we have enough. Emotions can be seen as messengers, not threats, and from this place we become able to live inspired lives, informed by our unique calling. Meaning and purpose infuse the moments of our day, and out of an overwhelming sense of abundance, we naturally want to share it with others. Once we receive the tune of unconditional positive regard, deep in our roots systems, we naturally provide it to others. In genuine relationships, we experience the felt sense of community in our body. We become each other’s medicine, healing in relationship with each other.
We move at the pace of trust. We will heal at the pace of our body’s ability to trust others, and vulnerability is the threshold that must be crossed for the development of trust. To develop the ability to be vulnerable, we must cultivate trustworthy relationships that mirror unconditional positive regard. This attunes us to a more secure way of being, expanding our window of tolerance for vulnerability, and ultimately, providing the antidote required to treat the disease of disconnection. When we express ourselves from a place of authentic vulnerability with others, we are essentially allowing them to sit alongside our younger, wounded self – medicine for the disconnected self.
Our conditioned bodies will naturally resist vulnerability. This is a normal result of abnormal conditioning. It can feel dangerous, and per the old storyline, it is. Not wanting to be seen as ‘weak’ conflicts with our innate desire to be authentic. As a result, we become incongruent individually and collectively. When we buy into the story that our ‘real’ authentic self isn’t good enough, leaving us too vulnerable to show up in the world, we experience shame. And we carry this shame with us. We tend to operate from two extremes. From one extreme, we fear not having and being enough, driving us to take what we can, while we can. Despite the abundance around us, we can only feel that scarcity that drives us to ‘get ahead’ of others. From another extreme, because it goes against our true nature to ‘other’ one another, we are ashamed of ourselves for living this way. As a result, we often overcompensate by neglecting self care in other areas and people-pleasing, or fawning. We have become incongruent.
Congruence, which looks a lot like speaking up when something doesn’t feel right, or taking care of our own needs, can be interpreted as selfish. Many of us are afraid of being labelled as such, so we become extremely selfless, driven to attain the approval of those around us. This flipping between extremes has become normal in individualist cultures. The antidote is remembering how to live in community with others, and letting it sink deeply into our root systems again. As we receive the felt sense of connection and security amid trustworthy others, we naturally start to shed the conditioning that fuels disconnection. and shame of incongruence. Community is indeed our collective medicine.
Community is a feeling that we carry within us. A feeling of being seen, welcomed as we are, held in unconditional positive regard, and interconnected in a space of relational security. To cultivate the felt sense of community, it requires common intention and trust. If either is missing, community cannot happen.
Community is not a place, a group, or theory. Community is a feeling in the body.
Pulling from the tree analogy shared in Chapter 1, consider that trees grow and thrive in large communities, which we call forests. We know now that trees share resources freely with each other, giving in times of plenty and receiving in times of need. Those in need receive without social consequence or shame. In their season of abundance, they freely extend this same help to others. When a tree requires resources, it is not blamed for this, or considered a burden. There is no question of the value of one tree over another, or whether a tree is deserving of aid, resources simply go where they are most needed. When one tree flourishes, the entire forest benefits. In time, much like trees in a forest, when we come together as a community, through symbiotic relationships, we can all flourish into our most resourced and empowered selves.
Healing in a Community of Practice
If unconditional positive regard is the primary medicine of Roots the Thrive, communities of practice are the container that holds that medicine. The term community of practice simply describes a group of people who share an intention for something they do and gather frequently to learn how to do it better (Wenger-Trayner & Wenger-Trayner, 2015). In Roots to Thrive, this shared intention is to cultivate a space of unconditional positive regard, expand awareness, learn to soothe the body in times of stress, connect heartfully, and live in alignment with what we feel called to.
An important way we practice this is by promoting honest self-expression. We witness each other while simultaneously mirroring unconditional positive regard. Through mirroring, we can support others to see themselves, letting go of stories and patterns that no longer serve them. In doing so, we tune into this secure frequency, enabling us to better withstand the stress that often comes with vulnerability. As our courage and confidence grow, we naturally expand these relational capacities and authentic ways of BEing into our day to day lives. When we attain these secure attachments to self and others, we shift into ways of being that:
1) promote self-compassion and greater inner alignment and authentic expression (congruence), and
2) provide the agency and confidence necessary to successfully navigate life’s challenges (sense of coherence)
Intentional Communities of Practice: Working with our Narrative/Story by Todd Haspect
One of the general themes we collectively work with in your community of practice is the concept of staying out of ‘story’ (or ‘narrative’ if that lands better for you). Our stories matter, but their usefulness in healing is limited. “Story” typically keeps us in our heads and focused on the past.
Staying present and dropping our focus into the body are two key practices we work on in our limited time together. These practices are meant to guide our check-ins, check-outs, and compassionate witnessing (you will learn more about these things in our first week)
I am inviting us all to lean into this. Whether we are responding to a weekly question or offering compassionate witnessing, it is normal to be pulled into our familiar stories. This is often connected to the patterns we want to shift in ourselves and so is valuable to notice. When we find stories popping up as we listen or respond, let’s pay attention to what our bodies tell us about this.
This takes practice. As you develop in your process, a Community of Practice (CoP) facilitator may offer a prompt in this regard. An example may look like, “I could hear you being pulled into story. This seems important. As you were speaking, what did you notice ‘below the neck’?”
Pause to Reflect: Who do you feel emotionally safe with?
Consider how you feel in your current relationships. You may not have relationships that you feel safe in. This exercise is about developing the ability to listen to your body, feeling into the people in your world that demonstrate unconditional positive regard – even if they are people you don’t know well, or are people from your past. To get you started, consider the below questions:
Where and with whom do you feel the most self-conscious?
With whom and/or where do you feel the least self-conscious?
Who can you be the most honest with, without fear of rejection? For example, who can you say ‘no’ to and trust they will still accept you?
Pause to Strengthen: The Buddy System
The buddy system is a short (5-15 minutes a week) touch point outside of the Community of Practice meetings in which you can practice showing up in the world as your authentic self in a supportive container. Just as we will be leaning into vulnerability in our small groups, the relationship with our buddy is a place to lean into vulnerability and “test drive” our authenticity in a container of unconditional positive regard. Testing the relational container (with agreements in place that ensure our psychological safety) in this way, is how we develop the relational trust necessary to develop a sense of security/community within. This is also an opportunity to practice the new tools we discuss during the Community of Practice each week, going beyond our comfort zone just enough to begin loosening old patterns/belief systems.
The first week your facilitator will randomly assign you a ‘buddy’ from within your small group. You will be encouraged to check in with each other once/week using a communication method that aligns with your partnership (zoom, phone call, text, email, in-person). We encourage everyone to work with their buddy to decide what method of communication works best. Not only is the touch point an opportunity to practice giving and receiving unconditional positive regard, it is also an opportunity to use your voice – ensuring the process works for your particular needs and wants.
It’s important to have a defined structure with these buddy check-ins, at least to begin with. It provides predictability and clear expectations. Below is a structure that has worked well for participants in the past and can be used as a launching pad. Feel free to adapt the structure to how you best see fit, including how long your check-ins are.
1.) Quick check-in: identify 1-2 physical sensations you are experiencing and 1-2 emotions. Try to avoid explaining, rationalizing, etc.
2.) Longer check-in: each person shares on a deeper level, leaning less on content details, and more on what is coming up in the body (which is often activated by the content of our days/weeks, but not the focus here).
3.) Check-out: Again identify 1-2 physical sensations, and 1-2 emotions, again without explaining or rationalizing. Notice if anything has shifted from your initial check-in.