Connect with Community

By Jennie Hastings
[Savvy Self-Care]

Author note: This will be my last Savvy Self-Care column. It has been a great learning experience to share these ideas with you. I am looking forward to reading what is to come in this column in the future. Please find me in the Mindful Money column. I'm looking forward to continuing this journey together.

Self-care is the practice of maintaining one’s body, mind, and spirit in a way that promotes wellness. As massage therapists and bodyworkers, most of us realize we need to take good care of ourselves so we can take good care of our clients. Though we are interested in taking care of ourselves, hardly anybody wants to be an island of self-reliance. I have found that some of the most effective self-care I can do for myself comes from engaging in community.

What is Community and How Do we Find It?
I would define community as a group of people who are deeply connected. A community can be a family, a neighborhood, or a group of people who come together because they share a common interest. The unique connection you share with your community does not necessarily mean you love the other members, although you might. The connection is that you are all drawn together by something you recognize are bigger than your individual selves.
A like-minded community can fill us up like nothing else. When we relax into our connection with other people, we take the focus off our individual self and place it on the collective whole. From this place of perspective, our individual challenges do not seem like such a big deal. We laugh and smile. We serve others, which provides a special energetic charge to our beings. We feel purposeful and appreciated. And we learn to receive kindness and help from others who are also offering their own special gifts.

What Communities Do You Belong To?
When I look at my life, I honor my family, yoga, dance, friend, and work communities. In all of these groups, there is an element of love that brings us together. I also identify a few places that could use more love, or perhaps areas where I need to make a decision to move on. Take a moment and consider the communities you are a part of and discover what it is that binds you together.
Are you part of a community that lights you up when you think about it? If so, wonderful! This is the kind of connection that is great for everybody. You get to look forward to this connection and feel the emotion it stirs in your heart even when you are busy doing other things. You know you are in a nourishing community when you think the other people in it are amazing and you find yourself thinking of nice things you can do for them.
Chances are you might also be part of a community that is not fulfilling. If so, what is it that binds you together? Is it necessary that you stay in this community? I know some people struggle with their connection to family. Other people, like me, have a hard time moving on from friendships that are no longer beneficial. Maybe you find yourself part of a community that you did not choose. If you discover that the only energy connecting you to a group of people is guilt, fear, or some other negative emotion, simply notice that. Bringing it to your awareness can help shift you into more of a connection with this community or help you walk away.

Your Best Self Through Community
My friend Natalie recently joined a community yard-work group in her neighborhood. She and 30 other people descended on a neighbor’s yard one Saturday morning. She said that with so many hands, they transformed the way it looked before lunch. Natalie said it felt like participating in an old-fashioned barn raising. I noticed the light in her eyes as she described these neighbors getting together to help each other. I know the idea is that at some point all the people she helps with their yards will come to hers. But from my point of view, it seems she gained something already, regardless of when, or whether, the favor is returned.
In a nourishing community, giving and receiving is reciprocal. People can offer their talents and receive the talents of others. No one has to do it all by themselves. Members of a community inspire and anchor each other while holding a special focus. This does not mean that being part of a nourishing community will always be blissful and fun. On the contrary, it can sometimes mean slogging through some tough times. But the sense of connection in community is sustaining and something we all need.
Sometimes the best self-care will be to bring your best self to a community you are connected to by love. You may doubt that your contribution will be important, but it is. Realizing your own value through contribution is perhaps the most nourishing thing you can do—it’s a win-win for everybody. May you find the sense of belonging in community that fills you up with love and light.

Jennie Hastings is a board-certified massage therapist, writer, and yoga teacher. She is the author of The Inspired Massage Therapist (Massage Blossom Books, 2012). Hastings believes having a career in massage and bodywork means having infinite possibilities, and she is always exploring new ways to evolve her practice. You can find more from her at