This article is written in partnership with Cloud Sangha. They believe authentic human connection is the answer to our collective crisis of loneliness. Their online groups exist to reconnect us to each other as we navigate the ups and downs of everyday life together while learning mindful skill building. We’re honored to work with them. ~ ed.
Human connection is the missing link in this modern world.
But with participation in things like church, civic organizations, PTAs, unions, and even neighborly interactions having dwindled to an all-time low, we’re more alone than perhaps ever before. Two important questions arise: First, how do we find and create authentic relationships in which we feel free to share openly?
Secondly, where do we find the support we need to keep our current relationships healthy and mindful?
To paraphrase author, psychologist, and leading Western teacher of Buddhist meditation Tara Brach, one of the bigger blocks keeping us from community and connecting on deep and meaningful levels is the ever-increasing societal focus placed on the individual—the “atomization of society.”
Watch: Walk the Talk Show | Waylon with Buddhist Tara Brach on Loneliness & Relationships.
Or listen to the podcast here:
If we’re honest with ourselves, we all long to feel intimate and connected. We might think we fear those two things, but really what we fear is rejection—that if we reveal our true selves, we’ll be judged or, worse, shunned.
Culturally, we’ve placed an emphasis on alone time and personal space versus finding ourselves within relationship to other people. We’ve been taught to think alone time and solitary self-care are a precursor to healthy relationships with others. There’s a time for that, but in general, we’re built for connection. We’re mirrored into existence by our parents with a primal need to belong among other people.
What we need is conscious friendship and relating.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, loneliness and isolation increase our risk of experiencing mental health challenges, and a lack of connection can increase our risk for premature death to the point that it’s comparable to smoking daily (2). Loneliness in particular, is an even worse threat to our health than diabetes and obesity (1).
Put plainly, humans are creatures of connection. Our deepest longing is to belong. Healthy, close relationships with peers, friends, colleagues, and partners are the answer both to this yearning and to navigating an increasingly uncertain world.
It’s time to reestablish ourselves within groups of people where we feel safe and can help each other navigate daily life with conscious intention.
These are the sentiments of Cloud Sangha, a connection-focused online space co-founded by co-founded by Tara Brach and Jack Kornfield, two leading teachers of mindfulness in the West, and conscious entrepreneur Willem Bult.
The way we reestablish that connection is through sharing our experiences and practicing better ways of navigating everyday life together.
If you don’t have access to regular in-person or local gatherings of people you feel kinship with, a free online Cloud Sangha session offers a new way of establishing connection.
However you choose to do it, connecting with other people is necessary for healing our wounds and transforming the suffering of loneliness into connection and belonging. This is a central tenet of meditation and mindfulness practice, but the West’s emphasis on individuation means over half of US adults say they regularly experience loneliness (1).
The fact is, disconnection fundamentally affects our mental, physical, and societal health.
So, what are we to do when it seems we’re, quite literally, sick and tired of feeling so alone? We relate.
“Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight—one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives,” ~ US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Rates of anxiety, depression, and mental illness may be skyrocketing, yes. But as Bult puts it, “To find our way to clarity, ease, and wellness, we need to bring the teachings of mindfulness and meditation back into community. On our own they are helpful, yet they are only part of the medicine, and without community, we’re left disconnected from a big part of our humanity.”
In other words, to overcome the suffering of loneliness, which Murthy describes as “a subjective feeling where the connections we need are greater than the connections we have,”(4) we need one more component added to our mindfulness and meditation: sangha, the Sanskrit word for community.
A call to transform loneliness—together.
There’s a need for more communal spaces where there is an intention to share, support, and grow together. Cloud Sangha’s weekly topic-based groups are designed to facilitate exactly this. Because as Brach says, the longing for connection is conscious and there’s an intention to support each other in reminding us of our goodness when we, ourselves, forget it.
The key here is communicating and practicing with each other.
And if we’re real about it—really real about it—it’s the times when we need people the most that we’re least likely to want to surround ourselves with them. So often, our monkey minds can entrench us in all sorts of shame about our less-than-sunny emotions.
Cloud Sangha places our humanness front and center by acknowledging, embracing and welcoming the vulnerability and courage it can take to show up as we are—in all our perceived awkwardness, our overwhelm, unhappiness, and hopelessness. You’re welcome in your joy and in your struggle. It’s all okay, and it’s received with compassion because we’ve all been there (or are there) with you.
We are all one another’s teachers, after all, and while practicing mindfulness can reduce suffering, when we’re not mindful of ourselves in relation to others, we can cause suffering.
Fostering greater levels of awareness and attunement in our relationships is not learned in isolation. It’s practiced with other people when we’re all showing up with the intention to bring more awareness to how we connect, communicate, and love.
Because, as Cloud Sangha says, “When I show you my vulnerabilities, fears, and struggles, and you meet them with compassion, understanding, and acceptance, I learn that I am enough as I am. My relationship with you helps me heal my relationship with me,” (5)
Yes, individual practice and mindfulness established on our own is important, but doing this work together is how we integrate it into our daily life in sustainable ways. (4).
In Cloud Sangha’s Relationship groups, that looks like the option to share your insights and experiences after exploring self-inquiry prompts along the lines of:
>> Seeing clearly into what ways you may be contributing to a feeling of disconnection
>> Gaining deeper insights into a relationship where you experience a high amount of reactivity
>> Practicing holding others in compassion so you can gain deeper insight into their experience or perspective
>> Exploring the difference between aloneness and loneliness in relationships
>> Integrating grounding relational practices for when shared anxiety or fear arises
>> Gaining insight into triggers, self-compassion and the concept of accepting the other fully, as they are.
Everything’s designed for connection.
We’re talking about you and Cloud Sangha now.
If the quality of your relationships determines the quality of your life, as renowned relationship psychologist Esther Perel claims, it’s worth getting honest about your connections to other people.
Perhaps it’s time to make authentic connection a priority. After all, we’re meant to go through life together. It’s really that simple.
If you’re interested in exploring Cloud Sangha as a way to do that, attend a free open house to get a sense of their weekly groups. If you choose to join Cloud Sangha, you’ll have the option of attending as many groups as you wish, all on different topics from relationships and parenting to unhealthy habits and support for business professionals.
What you’ll discover is a group of people navigating the ups and downs of everyday life together and learning how to apply practices like meditation and self-inquiry to improve how that’s done.
We can survive alone, yes. But the evidence shows that thriving happens as a result of connection. Thriving is what happens when we do things together.
Find belonging in the right Cloud Sangha group for you.
Navigating teething, tantrums, teens, and beyond.
2. Grief & Sorrow
Meeting grief and loss with tender support.
3. Stress & Anxiety
Chronic stress and anxiety in daily life.
4. Everyday Mindfulness
Integrating your practice in daily life.