Presence is the most precious gift we can give each other – Marshall Rosenberg.
At Co:here we strive to nurture relationships and a curiosity about neighbouring. One thing that we’ve been learning is that if our relating is only about ‘doing’; if it’s all about service; me helping you or you helping me – then our relationship is thin, vulnerable to conflict and takes a long time to grow.
But if we spend time being together – (not doing) relationships can thicken, they can grow roots and can give us a deeper sense of knowing ourselves and a sense of belonging.
What we are learning is that being together is harder than doing things for one another.
I know what you’re thinking: “can’t you be together while you do things for one another?” Maybe. But the helping force is a powerful force. Especially in helping sectors like social services, medical systems, community development and housing. If service is the only way we can connect with others it will take a long time to grow authentic connection.
I get it. Given the choice, I would choose doing rather than being. We aren’t rewarded or paid to ‘be’. And it’s harder for me to be present to people in my life (i.e. my kids) to play a game, sit down, or get lost in a rambling conversation. It’s easier for me to be task-oriented. It’s more comfortable to be productive and helpful. I love being helpful. I’m good at it.
But in a community like Co:Here if we were only about helping and providing acts of service – our relationships will be stunted, especially when conflict or difficulty comes to the surface. Even on good days, we can easily slip into helping mode rather than making time for the mundane things like eating food, chatting in a pod, connecting about the ups and downs of life. But if we don’t, we miss out on being human together.
Nurturing a sense of wonder and curiosity of who we are in community takes practice. That’s why we’ve started to gather weekly to be silent together. In the spirit of practicing being together, for 15 minutes every Wednesday afternoon a few of us gather in the reflection room and are silent together.
There’s a candle, there’s some music to transition us into and out of silence, and that’s it. We just sit there – together. Awkwardly. It’s been pretty great.
I think it’s harder to be present to people than it is to help them. I think it’s harder because helping is something I can control – I can offer it or not. It can be one sided, and often embeds power-imbalance.
But for a deeper, thicker community, people must feel that they are not just needy – rather they are needed.
And for those of us who find ourselves in situations where we are more inclined to help than be present to people – Try practicing being in those spaces (without doing) and see what happens. When we practice we can become more comfortable. When we become more comfortable, natural connections can grow.
What are your thoughts on being in community? Do you find it hard to not help too? I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out firstname.lastname@example.org