I recently came across a book called Coyote Medicine: Lessons from Native American Healing in which the author says,
The Lakota language does not have a concept of strictly mental health. Health is always seen as being part of one’s entire being, of the community’s entire being, existing in a state of balance and harmony. Each person is regarded as an intimate part of the natural world, not separate from it.
I wonder what it would be like to be raised in a community like this, under the conception that we are formed by our relationships. It’s not a totally new concept to me since I was raised in a pretty close knit family and very much feel like I am who I am because they are who they are, but the slight twist on how relationships affect our brain (our brain doesn’t make out relationships, but rather our relationships make our brain) made me think about who I continue to spend my time with and how THEY affect me.
Interpersonal neurobiology is now agreeing with what the Lakota have known for a long time. They are finding that relationships LITERALLY change the structure of our brains. Grace’s little 18 month old brain is already being shaped by the people she is spending time with. She, like you and me, is a relational person- not an individual, automomous unit. And I, as her mother, want to foster happy and healthy relationships.
How many of you feel that you belong to a supportive community? If your were sick (physically or emotionally) do you have a group of people who would take care of you?
I’m not asking you to enter a sweat lodge or Indian prayer circle, but I do suggest searching out (or celebrating your current!) community that instils a sense of contentment and serenity.
Some ways to find community:
- Start with one friend or acquaintance and build from there.
- Offer support to others.
- Join an already existing community.
- Use social media to help build community.
How do you build community?