Soul-Nourishing Gifts Of An Accidental Tribe
I’ve told this story so many times in conferences and workshops over the years, I can’t believe I haven’t shared it here in Pathways until now. This is the story of why I am passionate about creating community. Here it is.
When I reach down into the core of my being to examine my passion for community, I find a bejeweled memory that is more of a feeling, or essence, of something I experienced firsthand in childhood while sitting at the feet of my mother’s eight sisters snapping beans for canning, sorting and passing down clothes from my older cousins, playing with my new baby cousins and listening to adult discussions, sometimes over my head, but centered around how best to care for children and homes.
In the small community of my mother’s biological family, I had many mothers ready to care for me, which they did many times during my childhood. A trust in others, and this world, was placed in my being through their care and commitment to one another…and it is still there.
Looking back, there were signs all around me at that time that the world was changing, and quickly. I remember examining the loose stitching and thin material of a size-seven girl’s dress in the new K-Mart and deciding I preferred my mother’s home creations; going to a new “burger” restaurant and enjoying the truck-bed ride with my cousins more than the dry sandwich; discovering that store-bought pickles missed the flavor of the joy of preparing them; and listening to my paternal grandmother say that my grandfather would not be “doing trade” with the new and novel “grocery” store in town, as their produce didn’t pass his inspection.
By the time it was my turn to have a baby, the memory of a tribe of mothers and fathers to care for me was only that, as many of us did what nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population now does every five years, on average: We moved away. The first six months of my premature son’s life were spent indoors, battling severe exhaustion from an extended hospital stay, early induction, colic, undiagnosed dairy allergies (for my son) and unbelievably, teething that began at eight weeks like popcorn (a family tradition on my husband’s side, his father later told me). I was a modern woman, right? I could figure this out and push through the peanut butter days with my supportive husband for relief in the evenings, right?
Sitting alone on my sofa, nursing my premature son with CNN on in the background for company, I was too tired to name the thing that wasn’t right with this unforeseen scenario, but I could feel it in my gut. Something was very, very wrong…
As I have shared in many conferences and workshops over the past 15 years of holistic parenting advocacy, while I gave birth to a baby in December 1997, I did not become a mother until my son was 7 months old, after a woman I met in a Lamaze class invited me to attend a meeting in a park of mothers who were interested in “natural” living. It was a ridiculously long ride to get to the meeting, 25 minutes glancing at my son in the mirror set up in his car seat. But my curiosity, and probably that core essence in my gut, led me out of my isolation and to a large circle of radiant women sitting under tall Virginia pines in a public park.
In July 1998, I sat on the ground in a circle of 25 or so women and shyly turned away to nurse my son. What happened next is the truest thing that has ever happened to me: When I turned back to the group of women, finally relaxed and ready to be present, something held tight and low in my being unraveled—a knotted, ancient grief that released in an instant. While watching a 2-year-old bolt through the middle of the circle and plop on a welcoming lap beneath the bouncing breasts of a woman casually holding up her shirt, I felt a sensation above the top of head opening, expanding and then…POW! I got The Download. “Oh,” I thought to myself. “I’m a mother! Did anyone else feel that?”
I looked down at my son as if for the first time, with new eyes and a new understanding. I knew. I knew things that I did not know until that moment. Who I was. Who he was. Who we were together, inseparable, bonded and one. With the immeasurable support of this circle of women (and men) intent on exploring wellness and making informed choices for themselves, I was empowered to create a foundation of joyful wellness for myself and my family over the next few years that would last us our lifetimes.
And that is why I am passionate about creating community. I have yet to tell this story in a group and not choke up at the memory of it. (I am writing this now at my kitchen table 15 years later and still, predictably, verklempt!)
Over the years, after I’ve shared this story, many people would come up to me and say things like, “Oh, you need to read the physicist David Bohm’s work on how information gets transferred through quantum downloads in groups.” Others have quipped, “Monkey see, monkey do!” Back then I thought, “Who cares? I got just what my son and I needed, right when we needed it!”
Today, with the hindsight of 15 years of activism for holistic parenting, I am more curious about the insights and practical possibilities of quantum physics suggested by human consciousness research, especially as it relates to creating family wellness (and it does; see our feature on page 10). In Pathways, we explore this emerging science and its relationship to wholeness (what we are naturally) and healing (how we become whole again).
Clearly, something big is unraveling and downloading in many of us—so many, in fact, that social scientists Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson have a word for us: Cultural Creatives. In 2013, Cultural Creatives are becoming more sophisticated about finding each other and engineering our own brand of community. That circle of women I joined in 1998, as we lugged our treasured lending libraries around in our car trunks? That collection of families grew up to become the nonprofit Families for Conscious Living, and its legacy lives today in the core insights of more than 300 international Pathways Connect Gathering Groups.