top of page

Healing Community

Jenn Shepherd

12 min read

Jul 3




A Healing Community starts with one wanting to be in it. It begins with the individual waking up to the notion that they are not only an individual but part of the whole. We speak of this in spiritual terms often: We are ONE. We are all part of the infinite and the divinity of creation. We are all aspects of the Universe. 

That is both wonderful and true. 

We are also human beings in physical form, and it is not just a beautiful thought that we are all in this together. 

We are all humans in this life together. 

How we take care of ourselves, what we are willing to learn, and how we are eager to show up for each other emotionally and in visible deeds matter. We don’t live without a community. I have talents that someone else does not have, and they have skills I do not possess. 

There are all kinds of communities. Families are related through ancestry, chosen families, camps, villages, towns, townships, cities, states, countries, continents, and the world. There are clubs, places of business and career, spiritual and religious communities, and those that form when there is a need or a talent to be expressed through craft clubs, non-profit and service organizations, places of learning, and places that take care of the community infrastructure and managing policy and laws. 

We may belong to various communities and rely on some more than others. We even have online communities now, where people may share interests, find support in many categories, and exchange with people all over the planet. 

We get into trouble with the community when we start to feel and act as if our community is somehow more important or correct than another community. In all communities, except the communities of our youth that our adult caregivers chose, we see ourselves or a part of ourselves in the group. 

We need to ask ourselves whether we fit into the group or if we belong to the group. Brené Brown, a well-known researcher and author, has spoken extensively about fitting in versus belonging. According to her insights, Fitting in is about trying to adapt ourselves to be accepted by others. It’s a form of self-betrayal where we change who we are to make others like us. Conversely, belonging is being part of something bigger but having the courage to stand alone and belong to yourself above all else. It doesn’t require us to change who we are but to be who we are.

Brown emphasizes that fitting in can be the most significant barrier to belonging. When we fit in, we ask, “What do I need to be for you to accept me?” Conversely, belonging asks, "This is who I am; can I be accepted for that?". She believes belonging is a more authentic experience because it gives us a sense of security, knowing we are valued for our true selves.

Her work encourages us to embrace our individuality and find connections based on our authentic selves rather than conforming to others' expectations. This distinction between fitting in and belonging is crucial for personal growth and forming genuine relationships.

Are we willing to allow people to be themselves as part of our community? Do people BELONG? Or are they being asked to do certain things and be a certain way, dress a certain way, talk a certain way, etc? 

That doesn't mean that communities do not need standards and expression of their purpose or a line in the sand regarding choices. For example, We may understand that a person has notions of carrying out murder. Perhaps they are fascinated by the process, hear voices, or believe in an entity requiring sacrifices. The community may recognize their right to have such fantasies, thoughts, or worship. Still, for the good and safety of other’s well-being, the community has a standard of ‘no murder’ without severe consequence. 

This seems like a straightforward and perhaps even ‘common sense’ illustration. Yet, it is one that we, as communities, revisit frequently. At one time, and in some places now, murdering someone because of a perceived slight, or even murdering one’s kin because of life choices, is still seen as acceptable behavior by a part of the population. 

As we learn more and experience more as a community, we grow, adapt, and level up, as it were, to what is best for all seven billion humans on the planet: their well-being, their hopes, wishes, dreams, and expression of talents. We get closer and closer to the realization in the physical that cooperation is necessary in the Oneness of Design as much as we understand and feel it as a spiritual reality. 

One solid way to move forward in healing and belonging is through introspection and self-healing. In trying to have others fit into our paradigm, we are saying we are not comfortable enough in our own skin to allow you to be comfortable with how you live your life. If we do not address what we find uncomfortable about ourselves, in not doing the introspection and shadow work, we make everything outside ourselves responsible for feeling comfortable. This is the work we need to do to shift “from seeing life as happening to us to a life that is happening for us – and then the more we work and heal, we see things as life happening through us.” (The Art of Quantum Living Coaching Manual) 

One method that I have used and am a proud coach of to move into this awareness for ourselves is the Art of Quantum Living, researched and developed by Drs. Revs. Gary and Jane Simmons.

The Art of Quantum Living was “created with an understanding of adult developmental theory and is primarily geared toward assisting those who desire to move beyond accepted levels of adult functionality within Western culture. The Art of Quantum Living is for those who can see they bear some responsibility for their life circumstances. It is not particularly effective for those who do not yet have a sense of being the “architect” or “author” of their own life. Further, individuals must have cognitively developed enough to reason about abstract concepts before they can enter into a conscious practice of developing themselves in the psycho-spiritual realm.” (The Art of Quantum Living Coaching Manual)

In a nutshell, these people first said, “Ya know, killing a person because one finds it joyful, or because there was a perceived wrong done, or there is a feeling that an external entity wants a sacrifice isn't good. – Why is this a thing in the first place?” In being the first to start offering a way different from what one has done in the past, there is often a backlash, usually a loud one. 

Perhaps human sacrifices have been carried out monthly for the last 150 years. Maybe no one knew how it started, but many individuals voiced their thoughts against such a practice. Slowly, these people could move into positions of power, create sanctions and laws against sacrifices, and show the community other ways to offer gratitude for a good harvest. 

The question then becomes: Are you, as an individual, willing to do the work for yourself? Are you willing to take yourself to the next level of understanding, empathy, and compassion, first for yourself and the people in your immediate life and then for the others in your wider community?

Are you willing to speak out about perpetuating a culture that insists people fit in and does not expand what is possible in cooperation and collaboration when we honor belonging? Are you willing to first move yourself and then help others see that not everything in our mind as nostalgic is good for the One?

I tell my kids and my community quite often that unless they are hurting themselves or someone else (mentally, emotionally, or physically) on purpose, then they cannot go wrong. The addendum to that is that they also must be willing to keep healing themselves and making sure they are not in a judgemental zone or ‘have to’ zone with themselves or others to keep leveling up how they understand hurting themselves and others. 

This means looking beyond the dictionary definition of a particular community or group label. This means moving beyond holding one person or a small group of people up as the most acceptable part of that label to the detriment of all else. We must look beyond meaning, taking a more extensive and comprehensive perspective. Are the rules, laws, and policies (written and unwritten) in place so that change never has to occur? So those holding onto that name or label bring a sense that one is in the right and doesn't have to work at all towards increasing one’s emotional intelligence? 

According to Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More than IQ, we can understand ourselves and how we relate to others, which allows us to develop increasing levels of success. The implications reach far beyond a workplace setting and our immediate relationships. They speak to a potential dramatic shift in our capacity to repeat as a species. If the human race gains greater emotional intelligence, might we fight less and relate more authentically, even globally? (The Art of Quantum Living Coaches Manual)

Unlike IQ, which many believe is set from a very young age, Emotional Intelligence is a learnable skill. 

Emotional Intelligence is a Key Factor aiding us in moving beyond communities in which we are finding ways to fit in and into ways in which we Belong and allow others to both grow into belonging and know that there is nothing for them to do other than embody all they came to this earth with and express it with all the compassion for themselves as they can muster.  

The 10th episode of the 5th series of The New Doctor Who explored the life of Vincent VanGoth. In his lifetime, Vincent VanGoth was not recognized for his artistry. He dealt with a mental illness that no one seemed to understand, and he did not fit in. He only belonged to society after his death through his art and the community, who were willing to shine a light on his talents in a way they were not willing or capable of doing so during his life. In the Dr. Who episode, he was able to travel in the Tardis with the Doctor and Companion Amy to a Museum in which he could hear the curator say these words: 

 “but, to me, Van Gogh is the finest painter of all.

Certainly the most popular great painter of all time, the most beloved.

His command of colour was magnificent. He transformed the pain of his tormented life into ecstatic beauty. Pain is easy to portray, but to use your passion and pain to portray the ecstasy and joy and magnificence of our world – no-one had ever done it before, perhaps no-one ever will again.

To my mind that strange wild man who roamed the fields of Provence was not only the world’s greatest artist, but also one of the greatest men who ever lived.”

This story of Vincent is one moment in history and one moment in an individual's life. He was an individual who would delight and inspire millions after his death through his talents that did not fit into society at the time. If Vincent VanGoth was accepted and allowed to belong, instead of trying the community insist that he fit in and admonish him when he did not, how would that have played out for him? How many may he have been able to heal, share, inspire, and be inspired in his present day and beyond? We will never know.

While contemplating the meaning of community and its expression through caring, compassion, and cooperation, one more thought came to mind: my children. I have four children; two are settled with significant others, and one has a child. 

They are all different. All of them. They all have unique talents. They are all at various spaces in their life for their awareness of the world around them. They all have different perspectives on what is good for them and what they would like to see from their broader communities. They also all have my respect. They are willing to ask questions. They allow themselves to be wrong. They don’t all get to make decisions in the same fashion. None of them like being wrong. They also know they may disagree with me, but a conversation is always available. A share of perspectives is welcome. Also, sources are often requested when sharing of facts or examples are given. 

When I was young, my father was straightforward with me, saying that he believed I needed to know my place and that I needed to act like I was expected to behave within the family group. He wanted me to fit in the most comfortable way for him. After this conversation, I shared less and less about what I was thinking and feeling. I remember the day he saw one of my first term papers in college and was unhappy. I was very proud of that paper. This was pre-google, and I had spent many, many hours in the library researching and reading to substantiate my thesis statement claiming that even though it may have been deemed necessary to drop the atomic bomb because of the way society was at the time, the dropping of the second one was completely unnecessary to achieve the results that were both wanted and needed to bring about the end of world hostilities. I don't remember much else from the paper other than I was very proud of my work and the A sitting on top of the paper. Thesis papers are to be supported by facts and research, and I had done that and learned how to gather data, opinions, and others’ research in a manner that could be presented with appropriate citations in 15 pages. My father told me that I did not know what I was talking about and that I had been brainwashed. He only read the first paragraph and none of the rest. (I recount this story not to demonize my father but as an illustration of what we come across every day. I was not equipped then to maneuver or even understand that internal healing and emotional intelligence were at play)

I often feel today that I am living in a society with that exact level of Emotional Intelligence I experienced as a young college student with my father. The kind that won’t accept Vincent’s talent because of his mental illness and the one where my father reads one paragraph that does not align with his sense of Pride within the American Label and refuses to read the rest or even acknowledge the accomplishment of learning that style of research and writing, or even the grade earned. 

I know we are all more capable of more. I know that I am. The striving to reach our full potential continues throughout our lives unless we want to remain stagnant. Unless we move, heal, grow, and accept that there is always more to learn and grow into, we will not speak up and merely fit in with those who sacrifice others to powers they feel are more incredible than themselves so that they may fit in. 

I belong. I belong to the human race, and I belong to the Universe that sprung us into being. I belong to the oneness of all life, both physical and non-physical. Both visible and non-visible. I am Stardust. I am Creation Manifest. 

We belong. We belong to the human race and to the Universe that sprung us into being. We belong to the oneness of all life, physical and non-physical, visible and non-visible. We are star Dust. We are Creation Manifest. 

I and We have an infinite number of perspectives of ways in which to see the world and interact with it. Unless we are harming the I or the we in our decisions and refuse to grow in compassion, healing, and emotional intelligence, we are on the road to belonging. We, all of us, in all our colors, and ways to create family, and ways to feed family, and ways in which we want a place in which our loved ones and chosen communities are safe and thriving and able to express their uniqueness. Each uniqueness creates a space, filling a need that benefits all. 

As a little extra, an article was published in the New York Times about Representative Gluesenkamp Perez and the ‘Blue Dogs,’ who have leveraged their unique talent to speak to her community needs and bridge the gap between college-educated workers and small-town business owners and people who ‘work with their hands’ without a college education. She believes that she is working for people and not ideas. The article is a beautiful example of Belonging – in this case, in the United States Congress. It is also an excellent example because I do not agree with every vote she cast (especially concerning the LGBTQ+ community). I understand the atmosphere of her voting on a chess board with some of her decisions. I also appreciate the tenacity and sense of belonging it takes for her to be in such a place and continue to hold onto her drive to aid her constituents in a way that has not been done before. All this to say, it is possible to understand, admire, and learn something from someone you may not 100% agree with. Following is a gift link to the article you may read or listen to.

Any movement forward and beyond requires a period of disagreement or discomfort. We do that with ourselves in our move towards wholeness and healing (like in the Art of Quantum Living) and with each other to integrate our community in Belonging. 

Each of us creates a space, filling a need that may benefit all.


Sources for this article include:

Emotional intelligence Archives - Philosophy of Leisure.

Clip from Doctor Who Series 5 Episode 10, Vincent and the Doctor.

 The work of Brené Brown:

The work of Drs. Rev. Gary and Jane Simmons

Jenn Shepherd

12 min read

Jul 3




Related Posts