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In the woods,
we return to reason and faith.
Nothing can befall me there;
no disgrace, no calamity
that nature cannot repair.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
In the work I have often referred to as “restoring the civic ecosystem”, my practice has to been to focus on ways to connect people with each other and with place…whether it is their own or a more distant place that might need their attention.
That act of connection is critical in doing our work in the world: in affirming our purpose, communicating with others, and completing a task or project successfully. In much of my work with individuals, organizations, communities, and networks it is often the case–because of our cultural “default”–that we don’t have or don’t take the time to connect sufficiently.
And often technology (claiming to better “connect” us) can get in the way.
The most successful people, teams, and communities I have encountered make some form of connection a central part of their practice. Recent analysis (which I found somewhat humorous and in the category that I call “no-duh” research) revealed the essential factor in creating a strong team: it basically boils down to “Be nice.”
Whether it is taking time for self-care to get exercise, meditate, or just go for a walk in the middle of a busy day, reach out to a colleague for a conversation that might not be about a project, but about how they are and talking through the bigger picture of your work together, or starting a meeting with a check-in (no matter how brief), this allows time for connection.
Such practices create a stronger sense of purpose and meaning, more effective relationships with colleagues (and friends and family!), and better outcomes in our work.
The poet Patrick Cavanaugh has written that “Sometimes the truth depends upon a walk around the lake.” The time we take to authentically connect can bring us closer to the truth-whether that is our own, or shared understanding in a team or community.
It is also essential to practice connecting with place: to talk with our neighbors, to notice the feel of the place we work or live as we head out into our days, or to observe some element of nature even if we live or work in a congested urban area. This not only has important physical and psychological health benefits, but brings our attention to participating more fully as citizens-not simply as “workers” or “consumers”-and to connect with how our place and our planet sustain us.
Carl Jung shared that “Everyone needs a piece of garden, no matter how small, to connect them with the earth and therefore with something deeper in ourselves.” Whether it is our own garden or one we simply pause to observe in our neighborhood or on our way to work, this connection can be calming and transformative.
In an era where it seems like political and social discourse indicate a fraying and degraded set of connections, practicing some form of connection can keep us grounded, supported, and acting in a way that restores and maintains the communities and places we care for.
For one human being to love another human being:
that is perhaps the most difficult task
that has been entrusted to us,
the ultimate task, the final test and proof,
the work for which all other work is merely preparation.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Excerpt from “Letters to a Young Poet”