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Being in Community Gives Us a Sense of Belonging

I arrive back in Northern California with a tender heart, feeling both tired and very well loved. I traveled back to the East Coast with my daughter, to visit my family of origin and to spend time in an incredible community of what I call my “chosen family.” Both legs of our trip were filled with richness, fun, laughter and deep connection.

Our journey was nourishing and now, I am integrating back into the life I have created here on the West Coast, far away from so many I hold dear, far from the gritty, New Yorkers and the solid New Englanders, and I feel a mixture of gratitude and grief.

Sitting in this moment of transition, it is clear to me that community is essential. Gathering as humans, coming together, to love, share, to bear witness to the comings and goings, the losses, sorrows, joys and to all of the passages that occur in a life, like the sudden loss of a 30-year job, a birth of a baby or passing of a loved one.

There is something very healing about taking time to step out of one’s ordinary, day-to-day reality and pause, to stop and listen to one another, to meet the sacred, heart-wrenching or perhaps, deeply tenderizing experiences together, to realize that we are not alone.

I share this window into what I have just lived in hopes that it may inspire you or catalyze movement in you, a movement toward true connection or authentic relationship.

It is as if I have eaten a bowl of the most delicious and hearty soup, a soup prepared with love, one that has simmered for hours on the stove, its’ flavors blending and deepening, eventually culminating in a subtle gastronomic delight, one that ignites the tastebuds and fills the body with rich, potent nourishment.

Much healing was derived from spending time in an inter-generational container, with friends from far and wide, in nature, swimming, dancing and pausing. There is a magic that happens when a tribe gathers, and I am blessed to be a member of a tribe that has been gathering together every summer for nearly 40 years in New England to dance and celebrate life in community.

There is an alchemical process that happens in both the individual and the collective when we gather together over time to share our wisdom, insights and creative expression, one that is unparalleled, and in a sense, is the gateway to a mystical realm.

When we gather regularly with a clear purpose, there are “anchors” that immediately drop us into a certain way of being. Do you remember what it was like to walk into your mother’s kitchen and smell the sweet, buttery aroma of your favorite cookies baking? Just think about it, and, you are instantly transported back to a moment from your childhood. It’s like that.

In our community, Chaz has been baking fresh whole wheat (and now gluten-free) breads, seemingly since the beginning of time. Just one whiff of the bread baking and I am home.

Feelings of familiarity are evoked and, it is here that we begin. The ground is familiar, like a pair of well-worn shoes, that both cradle and support us, allowing us to move about with ease.

In this safe environment, we journey into the unknown realms of the psyche, we pause, diving into creative intimacy. We dance late into the night, swishing across the wooden floor, as beautiful music invites us to fly around alone, or move together, in near stillness. Anything is possible. A doorway to belonging has opened.

In another moment, we sit at picnic tables or on the grass, under the open sky sharing meals, sounds of our children in the background, laughing on the play structure, little ones running around, pods of friends talking and drinking one another in. Space for tears and laughter. Here, everything is welcome.

This incredible community of Dance New England is so consistent. Out of the four hundred or so people gathered, over 100 have spent hours doing the hard work of setting up camp and everyone volunteers doing kitchen work, cleaning, caring for our space. Camp is a labor of love. This is how we gather together to form this 11-day village, 300 of us having attended for many, many years. Being at camp takes on the flavor of a rite or a ritual, a bridge into our authentic selves. For many of us, this community invites us to shine our light brighter than before.

I, myself, have been present at nearly 20 camps. I am amazed to see children who once played tag on the lawn, now are teens or young adults, some of them here with their own husbands, wives and children. Proud grandparents (my generation) look on adoringly or hold babies. Humanness at its best.

Witnessing is one of the many blessings of gathering in community. To know one another deeply over the seasons of life is deep soul medicine. It gives us the chance to be seen and received for who we are, in our strengths, our brilliance and, in our fallibility. Here we can experience unconditional acceptance.

It is this that feeds us, that invites us to show up, vulnerable and real, to take risks, to open our hearts wide and embrace one another. We drop into an easeful way of being in ourselves and are held by the greater community which, deposits us, like a feather floating to the ground, ever so gently into a sense of true belonging.

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