Small groups: the most hopeful thing around
Oct 10, 2012
“Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead
I recently completed a year-long commitment to self-development work called the Wheel of Initiation. I’m left in wonder at the power of a small group of people to change the world.
We did change the world. For fifteen people, the world became a shade brighter, a bit easier to accept, and a less random and confusing place.
The world became what it has been all along: a beautiful, supportive place where people can see all of us and find us more than worthy of love and respect. Most importantly, we were able to see ourselves in this way.
What this means is that fifteen people will move out into the world differently. We’ll be more connective and less combative. We’ll accept more and resist less. We’ll find ways to get to places where we want to be more and figure out how to stay out of places we don’t really belong. We’ll say yes to life’s sweetness. And when it’s time to say no, we’ll be more likely to do that, too.
Bit by bit, we’ll all become more of who we really are. We’ll contribute to our lives and the world as a whole the very gifts that are ours alone to give.
A while back, I was having a conversation with a friend about hope. He said that genuine hope – hope that is based on concrete and tangible reasons – is hard to come by.
There’s no question that the world offers a wide and deep selection of reasons to feel hopeless. There is so much pain, so much suffering, for the people of this planet. And much of this pain comes from one another. It is easy to drift into disconnection, into despair.
Which is why I’m such an enormous believer in small groups of people, doing the work of self development together. When we are a part of a group that is committed to seeing ourselves and one another, working towards harmony, life makes more sense. Life works more easily, we smooth the way for ease in our other relationships. We don’t get as caught up in our own default patterns that don’t work. Those things that we do even though we know they don’t work. But that, somehow, we do over and over again.
But if we are committed to changing our outlooks, if we can dedicate ourselves to seeing and understanding our inner landscape, and if we have a supportive and loving group to do it with us, slowly or suddenly, life begins to morph. It begins to make more sense. We begin to not take things personally. We begin to understand that we are completely and solely responsible for our experiences. We begin to accept people and situations as they are, and not keep expecting them to be how we would like them to be.
These are tall orders. And yet a group of committed people, well led, delivers every time.
I started joining my first groups when I was eighteen-years-old. I marveled then at how I could do this: I could do this thing called life! This realization after so much pain and hardship. And then, for a while, I imagined that I knew what I needed to know and I could manage life on my own. I left groups for about ten years. Want to guess what happened?
I lost my sense of serenity, my ability to remember that my life is my creation. I created and lived in pain. When I joined groups again, I saw the peace in my life return. Now I know that my life works best when I am working with others. I find the ways to connect and keep myself supported and loved in groups.
These days, I’m a part of any number of groups. Self-development groups, fellowship groups, writing groups, and women’s groups. No matter what I ever think I know, I will always be a part of a group striving to live life well.
These days, I know that to be the best I can be – mother, daughter, friend, lover, writer, woman, person – I need a solid group.
The miracle is that any group of people—committed and well-led—will serve this purpose. It doesn’t matter the history, the depth of pain, the amount of loss, the volume of hardship that the group has endured. I’ve been in thousands of groups, I’ve led scores of groups. It is always the same: the human being is an adaptable creature. Given love, support, and instruction, we can help one another becoming loving and supportive. Think of it. Any group of people, with any amount of pain, can be transformed.
How’s that for hopeful?
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