My partner, the two young people in our life, and I went out for dinner last night. “So what?” you might ask. Well, when the young people are with us, we usually have dinner at home. It’s often (not always) a time to have some food before getting on with something else, not always together. Last night was different.
Sitting in the restaurant booth, enjoying our pad thai, spring rolls, and sushi, we really spent time together. We shared silly jokes, some conversation about what’s going on in our respective forms of education or work, and hopes and wishes for the coming year. One member of the group had had a stressful situation earlier in the day, so we held a brief round of listening council around the question, “What does each of us know how to do in order to calm ourselves in difficult situations?” We learned more about each other’s resourcefulness and, I hope, expanded our own resources.
What was different? I feel that we were more deeply engaged because we took ourselves out of our usual setting, away from our usual distractions and activities. There are many ways to set up such conditions. Creating a conscious structure such as circle process allows people to relate more attentively and respectfully. Going on retreat in a beautiful natural setting provides a respite from the buzz and roar of everday life so we can listen with more care to ourselves, one another, and the more-than-human members of Earth. Meeting at a nearby tea shop can make sure that we don’t have to attend to the minutiae of food and beverage, so we can visit with less interruption.
For me, all of these ways, and more, are ways of being in council. They’re not necessarily about escaping from the world, but rather they’re about growing cells of heart and connectivity in the midst of a culture that’s top-heavy with head and separation. The more of these cells we cultivate, the more grounded, sane, and healthy we can be, as individuals AND as a species.
So, our dinner out last night was much more than dinner out. It was a bit of good medicine.
What about YOU? In what ways do YOU cultivate heart and connectivity? What takes YOU out of the routine and into conscious sharing time? Please tell us. We’re listening.