This post is a brief chronicle of a wonderful community-in-the-making.
Deep, feeling people.
A year ago I created a MeetUp Group for Highly Sensitive People in Chicago. I did this for purely selfish reasons. Basically, I wanted to be able to hang-out with people who also experience life with ultra-sensitivity, and who are interested in celebrating that aspect of themselves. (No more self-repudiation!) A local group like that didn’t exist, so I figured I’d try to build the thing I wanted to experience.
And I’m so glad I did.
2009 + HSPs + Chicago = soft place in my heart.
In our first year we met monthly and talked our way through Dr. Elaine Aron‘s landmark book, The Highly Sensitive Person. We did this chapter-by-chapter, and always created conversations that were soulful, warm, funny, enlightening and only occasionally a lil’ heavy. Tears, humor, tea, confessions, and big sighs of relief (“That happens to you, too?”) were all enthusiastically shared. Even though we HSPs make up roughly 20% of the population, at our MeetUp Group we make up 100% of the gathering. A statistic never felt so good.
We got to skip the small-talk-chit-chat that so many of us struggle with, and just dive into the matters of heart, spirit and meaning. Sublime.
Fresh breezes for 2010.
I playfully call one of our members “Fresh Breeze” because her energy is like that. Sparkly and effervescent. I’d like the framework of our group to have those qualities, too. How can a framework be sparkly, vibrant and totally alive? Read on. The answer to that is coming in two paragraphs.
Last year worked. It worked well, in my opinion. But that was because of the quality of the members. We could have given consideration to Dixie cups, and something valuable would still have bubbled up because that’s just how we’re wired. And while a book-club format is sensible for a group of people who tend to be voracious readers anyway, I still always got the sense that there was something more we could be pulling through collectively. Here’s how I envision that more-ness…
A pulsing, breathing mosaic. And each piece has its own unique thing to talk about.
Yes, let’s still get-together the last Saturday of each month at our Special Place from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. But rather than an orchestrated book-club format, let’s use our time together like this:
(Please Note: You can always pass on any of the steps below, and just show up to bask in the feel-good vibes our Group generates. There are no requirements or expectations other than kindness. But if you want to…) you are invited to:
1. Share some significant text. This significant text could be a fortune from a cookie, a greeting card, a paragraph from your thesis or journal, a passage from a book you’re currently reading, the lyrics of a song, a portion of a newspaper or magazine article, a wedding invitation, a blog post, you get the point. The text can be from any source, but it should be relevant to your sensitivity;
2. Share why/how that significant text impacts you as a Sensitive; and
3. Allow others to engage with your significant text, too… or maybe ask you a question about it.
Those are the general guidelines, and here’s why I’m so fond of them:
1. Always the right topic. Because the significant text is something you pre-selected, there’s obviously something about it that draws you to it. That’s a charge — a sign of life — and it’s transformational and energizing to speak from this place.
2. Always the right timing. By bringing a significant text that feels current and timely for you, you honor your own season. And you get the caring attention of your fellow group-members while you do so.
3. Always a great variety. By using many different sources of material, we add multiple perspectives to each meeting that we wouldn’t get if we limited ourselves to a single title.
This format allows for a lot of space, spontaneity and evolution, while also being softly structured. Our scheduled time of 90 minutes will be equally divided among us all.
2010 is going to be magical.