“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.” Brene Brown
I suspect that one way of talking about the need for a harbor in our lives is disconnection. We can certainly have any number of experiences that leave us feeling disconnected from the most important relationships in our lives as well as a much broader and perhaps deeper sense of disconnection–from the world, from the Universe, from God.
Take a moment to think about what kinds of experiences leave you feeling disconnected. Whatever specific details we might put to these experiences, they likely result from events that devalue us, where we are not seen, not heard–in other words, disconnected from other human beings and communities who help us find belonging, meaning, guidance and wisdom in the world–from others who allow us to know the experience of love.
In almost every religious community I’ve ever belonged to, I’ve come across a story–often isolated, but sometimes not that runs this way. An individual or a family had a significant loss–a death, a job termination, a serious diagnosis of illness or even simply their own long absence from the community. “And no one called us to express concern (sympathy, care, curiosity, compassion) about what had happened to us.”
In our relationships and communities, we have the simple but amazing powers of seeing, hearing and valuing others. This is, as Brown says, the energy of connection. It is what we have been calling the experience of harbor. We each need this kind of deep connection. We each have the ability to create it with and for others.
My friend, Harry Wingfield, said to me recently about his experience of taking art lessons: “I didn’t learn to draw so much as I learned to see.” If religious community and spirituality are anything, they do not teach us to be religious or spiritual so much as they teach us to see, to hear, to value beings wherever we find them. They help us find our power to connect and enter more deeply into that interdependent web of all existence.
For this very reason alone religious community is everything
This is the very meaning of mutuality, of companioning,
of community. It is a core expression of love.