Those moments when we feel deeply connected to community and to place are the anchors to our lives. Finding ease by some water, comfort in the embrace of a loved one – these times of connection are also when we experience the most healing and meaning.
It’s not a coincidence – deep connection is the root of transformation. Connection is the essence of the spiritual journey, healing adventures, justice & reconciliation and creative quests.
Have you ever found that you are on a healing, creative, or transformational journey with others and actually feel pretty lonely and disconnected? It makes it hard to get where you want to go, doesn’t it?
Lately I’ve been pondering how the way we introduce ourselves has a powerful impact on building connections and setting the groundwork for transformation. There is a strong American cultural norm to introduce ourselves by what we do. We immediately invite a different conversation if we introduce ourselves by our relationships.
I have observed indigenous people, when introducing themselves in a traditional way, often describe their relationships – who and where they come from. After hearing this pattern enough I began to be curious about introducing myself in the context of relationship.
This is a typical way I have introduced myself.
“My name is Emily Jarrett Hughes. I am an artist healer living in Minneapolis.”
This statement really doesn’t convey from whom and where I come or anything about my relationship to my current place. I could elaborate like this:
“My name is Emily Jarrett Hughes. I grew up in Berkeley, California in a family with deep roots on the East Coast. I have lived in Minneapolis for nearly 20 years.”
Now I’m a woman from somewhere. Through this story of place you can infer some of the history and lineage of my family.
In fact it has often felt tricky for me to talk about my ancestors. Families are always complicated. And knowing that my family has risen and fallen with American history means that there are parts that I’m proud of and parts that I don’t like.
What really shows who I am is the meaning I make of my lineages. For me this means I have made a conscious choice to honor and be inspired by one of my great humanitarian ancestors.
For example if I’m introducing myself to a group with whom I will do deep work I might say:
“My name is Emily Jarrett Hughes. I grew up in Berkeley, California and I continue to be inspired by many thought leaders from that area. My family has deep roots on the East Coast. My partner Elizabeth and I chose Jarrett as our family name partly in honor of my ancestor Thomas Garrett, a Quaker abolitionist. I have lived in Minneapolis for nearly 20 years and a significant amount of my work, creativity, and play is in connection with Lake Hiawatha and the Mississippi River.”
This introduction gives you a very good sense of who I am and what I am about even though I’m still primarily talking about relationship and meaning.
It is personally very helpful to remind myself of my relationships and get beyond thinking of myself as “little-distinct-me” doing my thing. When I remember my family, my teachers, my ancestors, the water and earth I have so much more support around me.
Each of these introductions are progressively longer and more vulnerable. It does take time. It is going to stretch you into mutuality and surrender. It is nothing short of what Richard Rohr refers to as the “identity transplant” required of us to shift into a new paradigm of relatedness.
I encourage you to use a journal to practice remembering the relationships that define you. Especially if there are painful stories or if you have very little information about your lineage you can choose what meaning you make of this and how you want this to define you. Then practice introducing yourself differently to a group.
What is your name and what relationships meaningfully define you? I’d love for you to introduce yourself in the comments (even if I already know you).
If you do practice introducing yourself in relationship I’m curious to hear if you noticed things unfolding in unexpected ways as a result of your introduction.
What would be possible for you if you had in-your-bones understanding of our deep relatedness?
Join me in a nature, contemplation, and experience-based retreat this summer to find yourself Deeply at Home in the Whole.
Feeling stuck with a physical or personal challenge?
So many of our challenges change as we experience deeper connectedness – with our bodies and with the universe. I offer individual qigong healing support based in qigong, an ancient energy-based form of Chinese Medicine.