If “well-being” — [defined as] functioning well as a person, not as an instrument — is the supreme goal of one’s efforts, two specific ways stand out that lead to the attainment of this goal: Breaking through one’s narcissism and breaking through the property structure of one’s existence. –Erik Fromm, The Art of Being
What Fromm means by “breaking through the property structure” is for us to focus less on doing and having and more on being. In my view, if we are secure in who we are, strongly rooted from a sense of self, our actions and “property” (stuff) will be reflective of this. When we are too caught up in our doings and “getting stuff” (including having beauty, success, recognition) we will lose our connection to our true self, our inner being. “Being” for me is about “becoming;” and is done best in correct relationship with others. Being ourselves, becoming who we already are, together, breaks one’s narcissism because becoming is wholly dependent upon our interconnectedness.
We are not in this alone.
Everything we do effects everyone else.
Jack pines . . . are not lumber trees (and they) won’t win many beauty contests either. But to me this valiant old tree, solitary on its own rocky point, is as beautiful as a living thing can be . . . In the calligraphy of its shape agains the sky is written strength of character and perseverance, survival of wind, drought, cold, heat, disease. . .and integrity that comes from being wha you are.” Douglas Wood, Fawn Island, Taken from Parker J Palmer’s book, A Hidden Wholeness
To break both our narcissistic leanings (“it’s all about what I get out of this”), we must gather together in meaningful ways. A Jack Pine is wholly dependent upon its surroundings. We have to find ways in this chaotic, and often frightening world, to gather with others who are focused on being, who are attentive to inner work. Our well-being is wholly dependent upon who we gather with and for what purposes.
Also, since our inner landscape reflects and influences the outer world, we must gather together and strengthen our inner qualities of courage, compassion and attentiveness. I have found the best way to strengthen such inner qualities, to further our becoming, and to find tangible ways to be ourselves, is to gather in circles of trust.
I often refer people to the Center for Courage and Renewal to join in one of their circles of trust. (The Center offers a variety of programs as well as circles of trust throughout the US). I offer transpersonal circles of trust (see below my upcoming circle) as a way to explore our individual and collective capacities for well-being. These programs and circles also offer training and encouragement in holding your own circles of trust.
When we gather with others in a good way we find ways to strengthen our own inner integrity while we build on the beauty inherent in each other. These gatherings also help us confront any negativity that is “out there.” Gathering together with such purpose sends a collective energy and message out to the world:
Beauty before us
Beauty behind us
Beauty below us
Beauty above us
Beauty within us.
We walk the Beauty Way.
My upcoming transpersonal circle of trust: The Courage to Be Yourself: The Zero Point Circle in Madison WI begins soon! (Room for You…for three more).
In a circle of trust, we practice the paradox of “being alone together,” of being present to one another as a “community of solitudes.” Those phrases sound like contradictions because we think of solitude and community as either-or. But solitude and community, rightly understood, go together as both-and. To understand true self–which is to know who we are in our inwardness and ‘whose’ we are in the larger world–we need both the interior intimacy that comes with solitude and the otherness that comes with community. Parker J Palmer, A Hidden Wholeness (Everything you need to facilitate and participate in a circle of trust is in this book)