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Do You Belong to a Group or to Yourself?

rib-cage-cradle-hands-inner-lightI attended the 2011 LOHAS Forum last month. This is the same annual gathering where, nine years ago, I met my wonderful business partner and great friend, Renee Moorefield. The mission of the LOHAS movement really grabbed me back in 2002:

Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS) describes an estimated $290 billion U.S. marketplace for goods and services focused on health, the environment, social justice, personal development and sustainable living.

Today the movement still grabs me. Can you imagine a gathering of like-minded people rallying around a mission like that? If you can, then you might understand why such a gathering creates for me an experience of belonging. It rejuvenates me and boosts a commitment to my own sustainable life.

At Wisdom Works, we define belonging as “the degree to which you participate in social systems (such as family, friends, professional networks, support groups, etc.) which provide you a sense of connectedness and well-being.” Let me personalize it. The feeling of being with the LOHAS ‘tribe’ goes beyond mere association or relatedness. For me it is a palpable unleashing of my purpose; it allows me a chance for authentic self-expression. It supports my self-knowledge, self-awareness, and self-regulation. This sense of belonging within a larger, meaningful mission has the added benefit of creating a greater sense of belonging to myself.

matrix-beyond-physical-realityHere is what I mean: At the event, I found myself open and curious, greeting people with much more enthusiasm than my typical MO. My thinking was sparked by interactions with those who were taking giant leaps into new opportunities. The myriad of ideas exposed relationships and linkages that left me breathless and desperately reaching for something to write with. There was so much, coming so fast, that I was afraid I couldn’t capture enough of the inspiration. It was like I was in The Matrix – seeing behind physical reality to a web of energy and possibility. The clarity of my vision was sharpened. I felt bigger than normal, more articulate and understood at multiple levels.

Most of us have had experiences like this. What do we do when it’s over? It can be easy to drop back into our normal pattern of living and forget the thriving part of ourselves. How do we keep the benefits of this refreshed sense of belonging working for us? There are many ways. One of my new favorites is through social media.

I’ve discovered that blogs, e-newsletter subscriptions, and other forms of modern connectedness can sustain our communication and continue to foster our pursuit of our own potential until next year’s gathering. But without care you could spend all day reading the latest news feeds, blog entries, or Twitter dispatches. I have carefully chosen to stay connected with certain people who embody qualities I want to nurture in myself:

  • Futurist John Petersen stays alert for unexpected emerging trends. I subscribe to his FUTUREdition e-newsletter (read a sample or subscribe here).
  • UnitedHealth executive Deneen Vojta is working to create positive change within an established and influential structure. I have emailed Deneen to learn more about her work and I’m watching this website to track her progress.
  • Coach Mark Lefko is creating forums for progressive leaders to support each other through Conscious Leader Roundtables. I’m following Mark on Twitter.
  • Slam Poet Theo Wilson, who performs as Lucifury, models radically honest expression. Since he is local to my area of Denver, I regularly look for events where he is performing on local entertainment websites.

“Following” these individuals is not just about consuming the latest wisdom. It also reminds me to connect with my own capabilities. The next time you find yourself experiencing a sense of belonging, really notice what that experience feels like and what it can do for you. Isn’t it funny that membership in a group can provide a more powerful connection to yourself?

Photos by Shandi-lee and Todd Huffman