Have you ever walked entered a room full of strangers, or stepped out of an airport into a new city, and felt like you don’t belong?
In our fast-paced culture, and our turbulent world, safe havens for support and solidarity are a priceless commodity. My work as studio owner and head of the Vibrant Business Collective gave me the opportunity to create a community framework built on the tenants of understanding, compassion, and deep listening. The reason is simple: I believe that true safety and support can only be achieved when these values are upheld.
Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase “The opposite of addiction is connection,” coined by Johann Hari and popularized in his fabulous TED talk (watch here). I’d go one step further, and say that, in my experience, the culprit of much of the negativity, fear, and turbulence in the world is a lack of connection, understanding, empathy, and support. How much could be remedied by the simple act of truly listening? How much violence could be diverted if the aggressors were given an outlet to express and process their emotions? This all begins by creating a compassionate venue for these voices to be heard, where people can come together and air their beliefs without fear of being reprimanded, antagonized, bullied, or annihilated. And we each have the choice, every day, to cultivate this safety and understanding.
When I speak of spaces, I refer to three primary things: physical spaces, virtual spaces, and metaphorical/ emotional spaces. We can each do our part to contribute to making these spaces (both around, and within us) feel safe and supportive. I’d invite you to consider the following:
When you a part of group gatherings, are you an energetic beacon, or an energetic vacuum?
Perhaps the most powerful tool you can harness, when interacting with others, is deep listening: not only hearing words that are spoken, but also taking in the other inputs you are receiving. Many times, we say one thing but mean another; body language often conveys much more insight and understanding than speech. Simply looking someone in the eyes and saying “I hear you” can be the greatest gift you can give. Deep listening can, and will, transform your relationships: it will instill trust, it will lay the basis for mutual support, and it will create a whole new capacity for connection and empathy.
In your virtual spaces (in particular, on Facebook and other social media), are you contributing to an environment of fear, or one of love?
If you are prone to getting sucked in by heated dialogue, or emotionally consumed by debates or articles you take in, consider changing your approach. If you decide to engage in politics, or other charged topics, perhaps you can take a moment first to check in and see what your motives are; if your desire stems from a hope to convince or convert others to believe as you do, I’d recommend you consider expending your energy elsewhere. Helping foster a space of support can be as simple as posting a “gratitude shout-out” to a friend or business, or making sure you are engaging from a place of trying to improve the online experience. Let’s fill our friends News Feeds with inspiration, generosity, and love!
Are you creating an emotional terrain that is joyful and life-giving, or depleting?
If your inner voices are anything like mine, they have decades of history saying things like “You’re not good enough,” and “Everyone else is better/ smarter/ prettier/ more successful than you,” and “Look at all the ways you’ve failed.” My favorite way to combat this deprecating dialogue is to stand strongly in my truth; to own my full, wild, wacky, brilliant nature without apology or reservation. This means, I acknowledge my strengths, but also my weaknesses, and give myself permission to be imperfect and make mistakes. Even in situations that feel intense, or when things seem to be going wrong, perhaps there’s a simple reframe that will allow you to consider how even the hardest situations are, somehow, working in your benefit. And telling your inner critic “Yeah, okay, I messed up, and I’m learning from my mistakes and moving on” is infinitely more empowering than wallowing in shame or guilt.
Safe and supportive spaces help individuals thrive, learn, and grow. They help people relax into their bodies, and do the “deeper work” of tuning into their emotions — which, in turn, leads to more caring and compassionate communities. What will you do today to help others feel safe and supported?
Leave your comments below!
Classical pianist, piano teacher, and business consultant. The thread that unites all of my work is my passion for connecting people more deeply: to themselves, their communities, and their work. I teach piano to kids and adults of all levels and backgrounds, in a beautiful studio in downtown Portland. I have an active concert calendar as a professional classical pianist, in Portland and beyond, with proceeds from concerts benefiting local organizations and charities.