Most of us have personal wellness on the brain right now - we’ve made a resolution or two to exercise more and eat well. As I discussed last week, many of our new year’s intentions fit well with winter wellness, or Kapha season as it’s called in Ayurvedic medicine. Admittedly, my posts here tend to explore ideas for individual health, but today I’m thinking about communal wellness after spending the holidays with family.
I’m mulling over our conversations, or lack thereof. I observed a pattern that surprises me whenever we’re together, yet it’s not new. Somehow over the years, as we became a family of adults, we lost our childlike curiosity. We stopped asking questions about each other’s lives. Oh sure, there’s the occasional “seen any good movies lately?” But I’m longing for more. We need to go deeper if we’re going to know each other as we are now, instead of who we’ve been in the past.
Maybe I noticed the lack of meaningful conversation this year because my toddler recently transitioned from a phase of narrating his life to constantly asking “what…?”What are you doing? What is she doing? What is that noise? I wonder what that could be? He’s asking all the questions while the rest of us walk around completely incurious about each other’s lives. I find myself taking a cue from him. What made us stop asking about each other’s lives? Has our love affair with screens dampened our inquisitiveness about the world and the people around us? Have we just become self-absorbed? Too busy with careers and kids? What happened?
When we stop asking questions we start making assumptions. Our perceptions of our relatives, friends and co-workers become based on outdated information. It’s like we’re refusing to acknowledge our continual state of change when we stop asking and listening well.
Listening is an everyday art and virtue, but it’s an art we have lost and must learn anew. Listening is more than being quiet while others have their say. It is about presence as much as receiving; it is about connection more than observing. Real listening is powered by curiosity. It involves vulnerability — a willingness to be surprised, to let go of assumptions and take in ambiguity. It is never in “gotcha” mode. The generous listener wants to understand the humanity behind the words of the other, and patiently summons one’s own best self and one’s own most generous words and questions.
- Better Conversations, A Starter Guide
I love these words from On Being's Civil Conversations Project. As I set intentions for 2018, I’m reminded to focus outward as well as inward. To prioritize knowing the people I spend regular time with, to dig a little deeper than “how are you?” and expect to be surprised by the responses I get to questions I ask.
One thing I love about The Riveter is our commitment to building community. I’m especially excited about the recent addition of our monthly Supper + Salon and Morning Assembly. Illness kept me from attending either of these at the end of 2017, but you can bet I’ll be showing up this year! I’m looking forward to investing in relationships with people I see daily, but don’t really know. Because I can only be so healthy on my own. True wellness means cultivating vibrant inner and outer worlds. As we kick off 2018, I hope you’ll join me in making a commitment to curiosity and vulnerability in our relationships.
Rebekah Papé is a writer, yoga teacher and The Riveter member. She regularly consults on projects designed to bring people together over good food and conversation and currently co-hosts The Seattle Digest.
Photo by Ruby Somera Photography.