Friday, August 28, 2009

The Social Animal

We are lonely.

In New York City, where I live, I'm surrounded by people every day. On the street, on the subway, there's never a second when I'm not alone.

But there is a difference between being around people and really connecting with people. Physical proximity and social cyberspace aren't substitutes for relationship, and we as a culture are starting to feel the weight of that truth. It's part of the reason, in my opinion, that Starbucks has become the corporate and cultural giant it has. You can make coffee at home, but the community that Starbucks provides- a fundamental component of their mission statement, by the way- draws people in droves.

Still, we pick up our latte and sit alone with our computers, rather than talk to those around us. Or we go out to dinner with a friend or spouse sneaking glances at the people one table over, rather than saying hello and striking up a conversation.

The reality is, we are social animals. Just like dogs that sniff and roll around with each other as a means of introduction, we too long to get close and personal. That's not to say we should start nuzzling strangers at cocktail parties, but we've gone to the other extreme, becoming isolationists in a social context.

In my practice, I've recently started suggesting social interaction along with personal introspection as a recipe for progress and growth. And it's working! Joining a choir, establishing a Friday morning coffee group, participating in a hiking club and volunteering are really making a difference in the lives of my clients.

It's not just benefitting them individually, but their marriages and partnerships as well. Without realizing it, our loneliness has caused us to expect too much from the one relationship we do consciously allow ourselves to look and long for. That bridge isn't built to carry that much weight though, so all too often it collapses under the pressure.

But when we recognize the difference between our relational needs and our foundational social needs, and fulfill them both via the proper channels, everyone thrives. Our lives become more rich, and we feel more fulfilled.

Not that that's going to stop me from going to Starbucks every morning... : )

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Monday, August 17, 2009


My recent travels into the technology-free country have taught me so much. I've recognized not only that I have a default addiction to 'checking in' via the many means that technology provides, but how much I've been missing by not consciously creating and allowing for moments of stillness and silence.

So many of us wake up and consider the day ahead based solely on the appointments, to-do lists and messages that flash out from our computers and blackberries, neglecting and therefore forgetting our spiritual, creative essence... our passion. Consider starting with a different focus... on the presence, caring and openness with which you hope to walk into the world. What a shift! A shift that allows everything you do... including errands and email... to become sacred.


I will go out now and call to the winds
To bring forth their joy
Dance under the rising sun
And celebrate the dawning of this new day.
I will wander her lands
And take in her splendor
Listening to her call,
Honoring her rhythms,
Obeying her timelessness.
I will feel, touch, taste, smell and see
All of the gifts she silently bestows
Upon the eager observer.
I will pursue the stillness of my mind
So that hers may become my guide;
Our minds becoming one, our wisdom uniting.
I will love all that I can,
Cherish this gift called life,
And revel in the endless possibilities
Of countless pleasures in all things great and small
In the wonder called...

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