On Being Together
The whole is greater than the sum of it's parts - Aristotle
"You are the Average of the 5 people you spend the most time with" - Jim Rohn
I just returned from a work retreat in Mexico with my Ayurveda teacher. I use the word “retreat” quite loosely. While I certainly was “retreating” from my usual busy schedule of teaching, running my yoga and coaching business, and daily office work, etc., I wasn’t lying in a hammock for hours under a palm tree, green juice in hand. It was hard work. If you are lucky enough to meet someone who has some of you want, offers to teach you what s/he knows and is capable of transferring knowledge, inspiring and (most importantly) calling you out on your shit, you jump at the chance. About 30 of us heard her call, listened, and headed to Mexico for the retreat that wasn’t a retreat.
If you are interested in a retreat, you likely have adopted a growth mindset, and welcome the opportunity and perhaps discomfiture of introspection.. where am I in my life, my job, my relationships? and what, if anything, needs to shift to live more fully? Sure, we can ask these questions on our own.. There are millions of self-help books, podcasts and lectures we could attend from the privacy of our own home, but what more is possible when we lean in as a group?
Many of my yoga students say they their home practice isn't as powerful as when they attend a class. When I work with people in my health coaching business, I hear the same thing.. It is way easier to do certain hard things with others than completely on our own. Our environment, and the people we spend the most time with, can either encourage our great habits or kind of bring us down. In sanskrit, to be around like-minded people is called satsang. While this is literally translated as being around truth seekers, you can think of it as, if you hang out with people who want the same things in life as you, you are more likely to get it and keep it.
The World Health Organization has studied the effect of peer support on a range of health issues from diabetes to heart disease to mental health, concluding that, “people seeking to prevent or manage health conditions can be a powerful source of support to each other to manage complex behaviors.” This is the rationale underlying the Weight Watchers model for weight loss and what made Alcoholics Anonymous so popular and effective that it moved from being a small group in a basement in Akron, Ohio into a world-wide movement, spanning into Narcotics Anonymous, Overeaters Anonymous, and the like.
This same idea applies to upleveling your health - in body, mind, and spirit. Imagine for a moment that you lived in a place where everyone meditated.. If you walked into the grocery store, the office, the coffee shop, the post office, and one or a group of people were meditating? Would that have any effect on the maintenance of your own practice? Would you exercise more if everyone around you was biking, running, walking or rollerskating to get around town? Would you eat a healthier diet if your work cantine offered lots of yummy plants and veggie juices and your coworkers ate these things by default? How could it not, right? It would actually be kind of work to not meditate, not exercise or not eat well.
The people you hang out with influence your level of consciousness, where and on what you spend your time and precious faculty of attention and your daily habits, which reflect both. So your thoughts and actions are affected by who you are around. That's a pretty fucking big deal. This is who you think of yourself now and who you will become. Even if you are very conscious, positive, inspired and have a strong sense of self, if you are around negative people, those with a low level of consciousness or daily habits that bring you down, this will impact who you become, what is possible, and your progression forward in your life. I have been hearing a quote from self help guru Jim Rohn a lot over the last month, "You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with."
Take out a pen and paper and make this list for yourself... Who are your 5 people and what qualities do they have?
If you hang out with positive, healthy, growth-minded people who take responsibility for their lives and happiness, you will be proactive in creating a happy, full, and healthy life. This is especially important if you want to really thrive in your body/mind system. If you want to lose weight or get more fit, you need to think of yourself as a person who makes nourishing diet choices and makes exercise part of a daily routine. If you hang out with people who live on steak, pizza and beer and scoff at the gym, that will be a lot harder. Think of how much easier it would be if you were around similar health-minded people with similar visions of the future or, better yet, had already been there before and could show you the way? Would't that look different? The world I asked you to imagine above.
Of course I'm not suggesting we sever all current relationships or cut off every person in our life who doesn't contribute to our life goals, but I am suggesting we look at the amount of contact we have with these folks and look to expand our tribe into people who move us closer to who we want to be. One of my goals of 2017 is to identify and hang out with people that are cooler than I am - people doing the interesting shit they say they are going to do that I can learn from or be inspired by. My Mexico retreat was in furtherance of that goal. Being in satsang helped me to build my own reservior of power and inspiration to lead my own groups back home.
Sooo.. do something now, while your motivation is high (high enough to read this to the end)! Sign up for that retreat you wanted, subscribe to podcasts of leaders in your interest, take a yoga class and get to know your teacher and your fellow students more!