Six Questions for Connection

When Briana and I decided to leave Oregon, I had lived in Portland for 15 years and she’d been there for 12. As we prepared for our move to Boulder, Colorado – where we knew no one – Briana was concerned that we’d have a hard time making friends. I assured her it would be a breeze. Maybe I was a little overconfident.

Until then, I’d never had to put much work into establishing a friendship; they just happened. I hadn’t considered that during my tenure as an Oregonian I spent seven years in grad school, I held several jobs, and I lived with many housemates – situations that caused me to be around the same people day in and day out, which made connections easy.  

We found it more challenging to get a friendship started through “single exposure” events. When you’re limited to short, infrequent meetings – like a dinner party or an event at your kid’s school – there’s a greater dependency on “chemistry.” We noticed that even after hanging out with people who were friendly and cool, if we didn’t feel a spark of connection, there wouldn’t be a strong drive to keep the ball rolling. Also, if the connection process started but lacked timely follow-through, it could sometimes get a little weird, as if there were a question hanging there: “Why didn’t we take this deeper? (Was it Murray’s gas?)”

Eventually we found a tribe of dear souls who feel like family, but along the way, it became clear that chemistry isn’t everything. Sometimes it’s not there at the outset – it doesn’t develop until you “learn” each other and discover how to harmonize together. Other times, the chemistry never really happens, yet the connection can still be fruitful. For instance, while we might not share meals together, I know I can count on my neighbors to keep an eye on my house or feed my pets – and I’d happily do the same for them.

Through this process, we felt moved to learn more about community building. We recognized the value in having multiple circles that served different functions. And we saw just how much the people can make the place. Until we made connections, we weren’t sure we wanted to stay; once we found our people, we could easily see ourselves living out our lives here.

We go into this (and much more) in our book, The Well Life. Here’s an excerpt of some guiding questions we came up with to help people build community consciously. Feel free to share your insights in the comments section below.

  1. Describe the kind of community that would make you feel excited to participate.
  2. If you could shape your community, what values would it have? Some ideas: mutual respect, creative expression, healthy living, education, helping, active participation, safety, tolerance of differences, honesty, integrity, fun, equality, inclusiveness, etc.
  3. Write down the names of five people you value having in your life (they don’t need to be local).
  4. What skills and gifts could you share with your community?
  5. What sorts of people would you like to invite into your community to make it more diverse?
  6. What forums can you utilize to make these connections? While the internet can sometimes promote physical disconnection, it also provides lots of tools (evite, Facebook events, Meetup, etc.) for organizing real-life get-togethers.

I encourage you to get a piece of paper (or use your journal) and write freely on these questions, even if you already have a healthy community.

Wishing you an environment that supports you to be your best,

Dr. Peter Borten

11 thoughts on “Six Questions for Connection

  1. If I could only find such a community as you describe, (all of the characteristics & qualities described in question #2) and have the means to belong at my age (54) I would consider that to be a blessing beyond my fathomable concious mind. I have no idea how to begin, where does one even start? I feel within, this is my authentic self. I’m spiritually inclined and my religion is Love. I am open minded to all paths to the Divine (or none). I embrace ideology that spans Native American (Sweet Medicine Deer Tribe of the Twisted Hairs Medis Native American Path/Medicine Wheel, Hawaiian H’o Oponopono Chant of Forgiveness, Wiccan/Pagan Path Honoring Nature,Sound Therapy/Mantra/Drum & Chant among many others. I am on a Healing Path, earn my very modest living as a member of the increasingly oppressive Health Care Community as an Occupational Therapy Assistant ($48,000 year, before taxes). I am Reiki attuned to Level II, & whole heartedly believe in the Power of Love as the Magic to Conquer If am sounding a bit incomplete or disjointed in my description or reply it is because I’m very very tired of working on a world that just feels like endless quick sand and have just had a particularly difficult day digging myself out of the mire of my own making because in my heart, I fight and struggle too hard. Thank you.

    1. Hi Michelle,
      I’m sorry life is feeling so challenging and ungratifying. I know that you know it’s a gift, with so much to discover, to be fascinated by & grateful for. Don’t buy into your mind’s stories.
      Sometimes community building takes work, and sometimes that work is work on yourself. Here’s another article I wrote about it that gets more into the nuts and bolts of connecting: http://www.thedragontree.com/2016/11/10/mindfully-build-community/
      Be well,
      Peter

  2. I love reading your entries, words of advice, etc. Gives me ideas on how to make my world better, how to connect to others, just interesting and useful advice on living a good life. Your messages leave me feeling like I’ve heard from someone that I might meet and have a conversation waiting in line to buy tickets, or at the club swimming pool. You have an easy way with your words.
    Thank you and hope you continue to inspire those of us that really need it and appreciate it!!

    1. Thanks so much, Judy. It’s great to hear these words are being read and thoughtfully considered, and perhaps leading readers to growth, insight, or healing.
      Be well,
      Peter

  3. Thank you for what you are putting out in this world. Please know that just about the time you think know one is listening…. please remember… we are…and we are grateful.

  4. Thank you for what you are putting out in this world. Please know that just about the time you think no one is listening…. please remember… we are…and we are grateful.

    1. You’re welcome & thank you, Erica. I’m glad to hear you’ve benefited from these writings.
      Be well,
      Peter

  5. I l ove seeing the community we can create. Thank you GREAT IDEAS. NEW VISION FOR US!!!

  6. I’m the no one you knew, (albeit not very well) in Boulder before you moved here. I’m sure it was hard to leave all your peeps in Portland. We are happy to have you and Briana here.

  7. Wonderful article! I am ever so grateful for my membership in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, I have a loving, welcoming, warm family wherever I go! I found this to be true in Chunghua, Taiwan as well as Paris, France ( I lived in both places) I haven’t any travel plans ( quel dommage) but if I ever do, first place I go is to an LDS chapel! Again, great article!

  8. Michelle,
    I feel like I wrote your words. I feel like I have so much to give but I also “get in my own way”.

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