- Published: Sunday, 06 November 2016 10:51
- Written by Martha Overby
Imagine a space where you can be totally unguarded, feel deeply understood and connected, and gather the tools you need to be your most centered, compassionate and powerful self.
These may have been among the early promises of the digital age—unprecedented connectivity, access to unlimited information and the ability to share, see and be seen like never before. But the reality is a bit more bleak.
In this age of crazy connectivity, why do so many of us feel so isolated and disconnected?
As more of our lives seep into the digital world, where three-dimensional people become two-dimensional avatars, and the community spaces where people used to gather look more and more like ghost towns, you can feel the collective sense of anxiety ratcheting up, seemingly by the day.
This increase in anxiety is supported by the data—Americans have been getting progressively more anxious. Dr. Sherry Turkle, author of Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, says, “These days, insecure in our relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time.” And while technology has definitely enabled unprecedented levels of connection, it’s not of the same quality as face-to-face interaction.
“Human relationships are rich and they're messy and they're demanding,” says Turkle. “And we clean them up with technology. Texting, email, posting, all of these things let us present the self as we want to be. We get to edit, and that means we get to delete, and that means we get to retouch, the face, the voice, the flesh, the body—not too little, not too much, just right.”
In short, we feel increasingly alone and burdened by the need to cultivate our image, even as our internal realities grow more fragmented, fearful and fragile.
The solution couldn’t be simpler. It’s wired into our DNA and firmly embedded in our history as a species. The research shows that our health—how long we live, our vulnerability to illness and rate of recovery—is strongly influenced by the positive social connections we have in our lives. We need to create physical and spiritual spaces where we can see and hear each other, and share, connect with and support each other. We need to gather to laugh, cry, and tell stories together. We need a modern version of the tribal campfire; a secular and communal safe haven that nurtures the human spirit.
We need to feel that we belong to a community that embraces us for exactly who we are—not who we feel we need to pretend to be.
But how? Where? What if the handful of social experiences we do have on a regular basis—work, happy hour with our group of girlfriends, dinner with the in-laws—are drenched in that same feeling of competition, envy and image-grooming that permeates social media?
Where can we go to feel safe, seen and truly, deeply, authentically connected?
When I was growing up in South Minneapolis, my family regularly sponsored refugee families and exchange students. From an early age I was exposed to different worldviews, religions and ideologies. I learned about Apartheid and Vietnam from people who lived them. My sense of the world came from direct reference points. Instead of learning about global events on TV and in movies, we had firsthand stories and narratives.
That early experience embedded in me a deep desire to be of service, to make the world a better place for everyone. It led me to join the Peace Corps after college, and to law school to study international human rights for children after that. I studied and worked with street kids in Nairobi, with Tibetan asylum seekers in Nepal, and with the World Health Organization in Geneva.
In every sector I’ve worked in since, whether private, public or nonprofit, I’ve seen the same pervasive anger and frustration, people feeling dissatisfied and nurturing the same sense of longing. I saw well-intentioned people introduce programs, workshops and initiatives geared toward solving these issues. Yet the solutions were oftentimes inherently isolative and peppered with an underlying sense of judgment.
So I decided to work at the human level. And I set out to create a new kind of space that can provide the sustenance our spirits are craving.
I started looking to the experts—people like Dr. Brené Brown, Dr. James Doty, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and Dr. Sherry Turkle, among many others—to understand what they’re saying about neuroplasticity, positive psychology, sociology, and living a meaningful life. I took everything I learned—all the research, science and wisdom from the experts—and synthesized it into a program that’s part guided course, part communal gathering space and part facilitated connection. A place for women to open themselves up and find the self-actualized power that comes from vulnerability, compassion, and positive social connection.
HMS is a confidential space where women can take a break from marketing ourselves and practice radical authenticity. More fun and irreverent than group counseling, more soulful than your standard book club, and more holistic than a career-focused “lean in” circle, HMS combines the best elements of all those things into one journey designed to help you tap into your spirit’s deepest potential, in the company of other wise women seeking to do the same.
We’ve all probably spent our fair share of time hunched over self-help books or working with a life coach or therapist. Those are all worthy activities, but there’s something unique that happens in a community. Ideas are brought to life in new ways, and we have the opportunity to learn from each other’s gifts and experiences.
Here’s what you’ll find at HMS:
- A yearlong course, in which a group of 8-12 women meet monthly for two hours
- Monthly themes (such as courageous vulnerability and finding sanctuary in the digital age) with structured exercises, reading, homework, and group discussions that bring the concept to life in the context of each woman's life, work and relationships.
- A confidential, positive, authentic, playful space where women can be vulnerable and give and get support, perspective and connection.
- Unlike your existing group of girlfriends or more career-oriented groups, HMS is a space that's free of competition, striving, envy, judgment, negativity, and the need to project or protect a certain image. No facet of yourself or your life is off-limits, and celebrating success is as integral as empathizing with struggles.
- A joyful and supportive community outside the structure of your life, family, work and friendships, designed to enhance all those areas by helping you create habits and perspectives that support and nourish you. (An opportunity to “put your own oxygen mask on first.”)
I will guide and facilitate the course, but each group will organically and collaboratively create their own unique experience, with each member bringing her own rich history, deep wisdom and areas of need or uncertainty. Together we’ll build a fertile soil that will provide the nourishment and support to facilitate each woman’s growth.
That space I asked you to imagine? The one where you can be totally unguarded, feel deeply understood and connected, and gather the tools you need to be your most centered, compassionate and powerful self? It’s right here, at HMS.
I can’t wait to welcome you.