Mindfully Accepting Our Community

A reflection practice to explore how it feels to be part of a community.

Previously, we worked on recognizing our experiences in community, specifically our communities of origin—our families and the life we think of when we recall ourselves as children. Today we’ll continue that reflection, tracking what we encounter in our body and bones, in our nervous systems, as we reflect. We’re inquiring from the inside, exploring what it feels like when we sense we are in community.

We are practicing as individuals, but the hope is to carry this knowing, greater understanding, and deeper engagement forward into our engagement with others.

For now, however, let’s build on what we began last week, using again the helpful R.A.I.N. framework—recognizing what arises, and then accepting or allowing, and investigating, and doing so with non-attachment or non-identification.

Let’s focus on the allowing or accepting part of this process now.

Accepting Our Community as It Is

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Mindfully Accepting Our Community

  • 10:33

Follow the practice:

1. Simply drop into being present in your body in this space, at this time. If it supports you in this practice to close your eyes, feel free to do so once you’re in a comfortable position. Take a very deep, conscious breath and just allow yourself to have the sensation of sitting and breathing.

2. As you breathe in and out, call to mind an experience you’ve had of being in community. Let’s recognize as we do that being in community can be alluring, exciting and something we desire, and it can also be very challenging. Call to mind a particular instance of being in community. Feel free to continue working with your family-of-origin community. Or if you wish, shift and invite reflection on a community that arose out of your experience of, for example, a particular neighborhood. Perhaps it’s a neighborhood you’re living in currently. Maybe it was a neighborhood you lived in at an earlier point in your life.

3. Now let’s turn ourselves toward a particular moment when we struggled to feel a sense of connection or a sense of belonging, of being understood, of being embraced by a particular community. If you find it possible to do so, engage with that image of struggle and place yourself back in that circumstance as vividly as you can. If it’s comfortable to do so, call forth the particularities of the sense of struggle you felt—the conflict, the way in which you felt in some way unable to feel fully at ease in this community.

5. As you breathe in and out, allow yourself to be reminded of what it feels like to struggle to feel in connection with others in community. If you can, attend to this as completely as you can—pay attention to the sensations arising in your body as you recall what you know about this. It could be that this is something that is current in your life. So what we’re asking is, what does it feel like in the body to allow what we have experienced, what we’ve actually felt like when we’re not quite being understood or met or valued or received in community with others? Remember: whatever arises is utterly OK.

6. Gently hold the experience you’re having with love and compassion. Simply be with the feelings and sensations that are arising. Notice if there are thoughts arising, too. You don’t need to squelch them or fight them. Perhaps label them instead, for example, “Oh, this is frustration.” Or perhaps you’re noticing a kind of story your thoughts are telling: “This is me being rejected.” Whatever it is, notice the words that are forming. Now, try to allow them to fall away as you come back to awareness of the body and breath. It’s so easy for us to veer off into words or a full-blown story. With this practice, the “A” for allowing or accepting is truly an invitation to breathe in and out, and to allow any body signals or cues to come alive for you. And this is all happening as you sense into the feeling, the vision, the visualization of being in some kind of disconnect as you seek or have sought to be met in community.

7. As you breathe in and out, invite a compassionate holding, a friendly recognition that we’re just allowing all of this for now. We’re not going to stay in this state forever. What we’re doing is creating the capacity to be with the difficult challenges that arise in community. And to know that we’ve been there before and have moved out of them is very valuable as we deepen our capacity to engage in community with greater awareness. All of this helps us go forward with intention and mindfulness.

8. Let’s see if we can call to mind now a way in which we’ve moved out of struggle. Perhaps you sense a simple opening up of awareness to what there is beyond the struggle. Can you sense calm? Is there also a sense, simultaneously, that you belong? Can you detect a sense of joy, some understanding, even as you feel you’re not being understood? The aim here is to challenge ourselves to open up to what else might be present even when we encounter struggle within community.

9. Stay with the breath: in and out. We’re trying to expand our senses to detect and include a range of emotions, the array of sensations that arise when we take the risk of being vulnerable, when we risk reaching out to connect with others. Focusing on the breath, see if there is any lingering sense of distress or challenge. Invite some self-compassion in to meet what you find. You might pause here and place one hand over your heart and one on your belly, consciously inviting a sense of wellness within you to arise. Keeping in mind that when we suffer—when anyone suffers—we deserve compassion.

10. Allow a sense of ease and a gentleness in holding what has arisen, noting whatever insights have emerged for you. Gently let go of these reflections, coming back fully to your body in this room, opening your eyes if they have been closed.

We’ve been practicing allowing what we know about the experience of being in community. We’ve been allowing ourselves to just sit with the ease and the dis-ease of situations, and the flow of going back and forth between these two understandings. It’s not always easy to be in connection, and yet we’re often invited into opportunities to move through the difficulties toward a deepening of connection with others.

If you’ll continue this exploration of being in community over this coming week, remember to simply pause and allow for a range of emotions to emerge and be felt fully. Just the presence of emotion and sensation might teach us something. And if we can simply allow them to be, we might find we can move through those sensations and feelings, into a more spacious holding of what else is there. That is, a fuller range of human experience.

We’ll see you next week when we’ll move into “I” for investigating. Until then, be well.

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About the author

Rhonda Magee

Rhonda V. Magee is a professor of law at the University of San Francisco. Also trained in sociology and Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), she is a highly practiced facilitator of trauma-sensitive, restorative MBSR interventions for lawyers and law students, and for minimizing the effects of social-identity-based bias. Magee has been a visiting scholar at the Center for the Study of Law and Society and a visiting professor of law at the University of California, Berkeley.

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