As a doctor who runs a business that relies on the internet, I realize it’s a strong statement to suggest that the internet may be literally killing us, but I’ll give you my reasons for saying something so provocative. When you look at the scientific data, I think it’s safe to say that the greatest risk to your health is not a poor diet, a bad habit, or lack of exercise; it’s loneliness. If you don’t believe me, there’s a whole chapter loaded with scientific data from reputable medical journals in my book Mind Over Medicine. When scientists study “Blue Zones,” those places on earth where a greater than usual number of people live healthy, happy lives until over 100 years old, they all share one thing. They live in close knit, multi-generational tribes that take care of each other. None of them spend all day glued to computers or cell phones, chatting virtually with people they have probably never met in real life.
The internet is burning us out. With so many emails to check, so many social media sites to keep updating, so many teleclasses to listen to and webinars to watch and Skype calls to log onto, our schedules are so busy that we don’t have time to gather with those we might really get to know, to go for a hike, to have a cup of tea, to sing together, to dance, to share our pain, to celebrate our triumphs. Even when we do gather in person, we aren’t present with each other. Last Christmas, I saw a whole family of people—10 of them—sitting at a restaurant, every single one of them on their mobile phone, not one of them connecting at a soul level with anyone at the table.
For three weeks, I have been spending a lot of time in nature in Australia and gathering with part of my own soul tribe, singing and dancing and making meals with each other, all far away from the internet. While I’ve been here, I have been deeply marinating on a paradox that seems in need of attention.
THE PARADOX OF CONNECTION/DISCONNECTION:
- On one hand, we are more connected than ever through social media, email, Skype, mobile phones, etc.
- On the other, I can’t recall any time in human history when so many people have felt SO disconnected, so lonely for soul community, so craving a sense of belonging, so in need of snuggles and comfort and support, so longing for TRIBE.
We have thousands of friends on Facebook but so many don’t even feel like they have three people—or even one—that they can be genuinely authentic with, stripping off all masks, being fully vulnerable, and feeling safe enough to be held and celebrated in all our triumphs and all our weaknesses. Life is hard, but also miraculous. To quote Glennon Doyle Melton, “Life is brutiful.” But how do we navigate a brutiful life when so many feel so disconnected?
The Internet Is Disabling Our Self-Healing Mechanisms
The body is beautifully equipped with natural self-healing mechanisms, but in order for the body to be optimally healthy, our nervous systems must be in the parasympathetic state—or what Herbert Benson at Harvard called the “relaxation response.” When we gather together in person to connect and uplift one another, our nervous systems relax and our bodies are filled with healing hormones, like oxytocin, dopamine, nitric oxide, and endorphins.
But the internet is activating our “fight or flight” stress responses all the time! Not only do we get barraged with scary news on the internet and social media, but we feel so much pressure to keep up with all the input that gets thrown at us in our attempt to meet our need for connection virtually! Every time the body is in what Walter Cannon at Harvard called the “stress response,” the body’s natural self-healing mechanisms get disabled.
My sense is that we’re growing weary of all things virtual. Again, it’s a paradox. We appreciate how easy it is to stay in touch virtually. It connects us globally in ways we’ve never been connected before. But our globalization is happening at the cost of our localization.
Localization = Health
I just had tea in Byron Bay, Australia with localization guru Helena Norberg-Hodge, who created the documentary The Economics of Happiness (watch the trailer here). Researching tribes and communities around the world, Helena found that the happiest people were those who lived not so much globally, but with a focus on the local.
I think this applies to the internet as well. As much as I’m grateful for the internet—I couldn’t be a full time writer in today’s publishing world if the internet didn’t exist—I also sense that we’re tired of social media, email newsletters, teleclasses, webinars, and Skype. As musician Passenger sings in “Scare Away the Dark:”
We want something more not just nasty and bitter
We want something real not just hash tags and Twitter
It’s the meaning of life and it’s streamed live on YouTube
But I bet Gangnam Style will still get more views
We’re scared of drowning, flying and shooters
But we’re all slowly dying in front of fucking computers.
The Core Wound of Modern Culture
When it comes to the core cultural wound of disconnection that is a plague on modern society, I sense that we could learn a thing or two (or 100) from the indigenous people. When I tune in to the collective, I feel that we crave sitting in circle, singing and dancing together, doing ceremony and engaging in meaningful rituals together, feeling true intimacy with those we can trust, making and sharing meals together, experiencing pleasure and joy in our soul connections, and tuning into nature and expressing our gratitude for Mother Earth’s blessings together. Some people still find this in mainstream religious gatherings, but so many have left the church or the temple or the mosque because of intolerance, judgment, and a story of separation that divides rather than unites us. Many are seeking a place to celebrate unity, rather than religious separatism.
Many of have found people we resonate with from the heart on the internet, but where do we find this locally? I’m lucky to have found a tribe I adore in my own local community, but when I talk to so many others—and especially when I speak on stages or teach workshops and discuss this publicly—I’m coming to realize that I’m touching upon a deep wound that many people don’t even realize they have until they wind up in tears when I talk about what soul tribe feels like and how it enriches the soul and heals the body.
Our culture values separatism—the rugged individualist, the self-serving materialist, the accumulating hoarder of worldly goods. We value our privacy. We don’t want to bear the responsibility for caretaking others because we find it so hard to even caretake ourselves and our loved ones. We don’t realize how much easier it would be if we were part of a tribe that caretakes the tribe. We say we want community, but really, we want “communi-ME.” We want the benefits of community, but we want it in a self-serving way. We’re not willing to do what it takes to truly be equal with others in our soul tribes. We don’t want to inconvenience ourselves or compromise or sacrifice any of the comforts of our lives of separation. We don’t want to share our resources or carry the burdens of others or move out of our giant mansions.
We’d prefer to keep to ourselves, but then we’re so lonely that we grasp at the internet, hoping to find our tribe. But online community is not the same as local tribe. What we really crave is people we can touch with our hands and connect to with our hearts, people we can come to when we are hurting and celebrate with when we are joyful. We need one another, not in some co-dependent way, but in an inter-dependent way, just as all the cells in the body need each other. When we have that kind of tribal bond, we don’t need big houses and big cars and fancy vacations to make us feel good.
Last week, I gathered with some of my tribe. We had a potluck dinner. Everyone shared the burden of cooking and bringing something to drink. Those who played instruments played, while the rest of us sang and danced. We watched a lightning storm together in awe of nature’s fireworks and then we sat around and told magic stories. Who needs television or the internet or alcohol when you have that?
Online Communities Are a Boom about to Bust
When I tune in intuitively, I think the whole internet marking/virtual online product thing was a sort of boom—like the tech boom and the housing boom—and we’re heading for the bust. But I predict that those at the cutting edge of learning how to leverage virtual community to create in person, live soul tribe based on a shared vision will thrive. We may not be able to easily reproduce the tribes of indigenous villages. Sure, there are eco-villages popping up around the world, and I fantasize about living in one of them. If the right invitation to join such a community ever knocks on my soul’s door, I would say HELL YEAH in a heartbeat, willingly giving up my single family home to be part of the right intentional community. But that hasn’t happened yet for me or for most of you. So until then, what we can we do to create soul tribe?
Like Martin Luther King, Jr, I have a dream, which I articulated in more detail in my book The Anatomy of a Calling.
Imagine a live gathering of people who meet weekly or monthly in someone’s home in order to support one another—through conversation, song, dance, meditation, yoga, potluck meals, whatever. Imagine a gathering of people held together by a sort of spiritual magnetism because they are all united by their commitment to bringing into being one of God’s holy ideas. Imagine sacred activists committed to visions like healing health care or saving the rainforest or stopping human trafficking. But your sacred activism doesn’t have to be grand. Your sacred activism might be about raising conscious children in the world or taking care of a sick loved one or volunteering at the local soup kitchen. When you choose to let love lead your life, to trust Spirit to guide you to where your love is needed, and when you gather in community with others who share this same commitment happen, you make your life ripe for miracles.
Imagine people simply choosing to BE love in the world, in any big or small way that feels authentic and joyful and spiritually guided. That’s the cutting edge I sense—small groups of soul tribes who meet on the internet but take it to the local level, uplifting one another based on shared spiritual magnetism. What if we all did that? What if those of us with leadership and power in the online space all leverage our connections to help fulfill the deep soul need for community, love, and belonging? It gives me goosebumps . . .
I’m not suggesting we ditch the internet. It’s a valuable resource that helps us get things done in the world. We need to the internet to mobilize those with gifts to give and connect them with those in need of help. At the Uplift Festival in Australia, I met a whole team of conscious tech people who are committed to creating ways that the internet can serve to coalesce people into meaningful collaborations, so that we ‘re not just talking about sacred activism; we’re doing something together. But the whole point would be to get us together locally and to get things done on the ground.
I Need Your Help
I’m curious if you are sensing the same thing. What if we recruited group leaders to facilitate small or large in-person gatherings in local communities? Is there someone you follow on Facebook or someone whose blog or newsletter or books you love who could help you find like-minded people to connect with locally? If that existed, would you be inclined to participate?
I was visioning this with my dear friend Scott Dinsmore of Live Your Legend before he died way too young in September 2015 in a climbing accident. Scott had already done this—creating live community based on his online tribe. He called it Live Your Legend Local. My team is visioning gathering people together based on the idea of finding and fulfilling your calling and tuning into Your Inner Pilot Light so it can guide you to your soul’s true purpose.
Would that resonate with your soul needs and help you feel connected? Or do you already feel fulfilled when it comes to soul tribe? If this would interest you, what would resonate most? If my team hosted a program to train group leaders with a very simple structure to facilitate local gatherings in your neck of the woods, would you be interested in hosting such a gathering? We’d love to hear your feedback and gauge interest from potential group leaders or group attendees. If you’d like to share your thoughts, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and speak to these questions (or share anything else you feel is relevant!):
- If you had the opportunity to gather together with a local tribe of people who read Lissa’s books, blogs, or Daily Flames, would you participate?
- Would you be interested in being trained to be a group leader for such a gathering in your neck of the woods?
- What would turn you off about participating in such a gathering?
- Do you have any visions, insights, or feedback about creating soul tribe that you’d like to share with Lissa and the team?
Please know that I have a deep place in my heart for those of you who haven’t yet found your local soul tribe. It is one of my deepest gratitude’s that I am so blessed with so many amazing souls that give me the opportunity to both serve and be served with love. I am not attached to this idea one bit, but I’m really committed to doing whatever I can to help facilitate soul gatherings if we can make this work together. Stay tuned as we all surrender this whole idea to the Universe and wait to see what, if anything, yearns to be born as a local manifestation of this online tribe.
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