Expanding the circle of “us”

You don’t know how it feels to be me.” Tom Petty

Community is a wonderful thing, a place where we feel a deep sense of belonging, a place where we feel seen.  The special needs parenting community has been particularly healing for me. Connecting with people who understand my challenges, my fears and my anger releases or lightens those very same emotions simply through the act of having them observed and acknowledged by someone who I believe understands them. Realizing that instead of just a “me” there is an “us” is a true blessing.

The trouble is that with every “us” there comes a “them.” By finding comfort and community with those who understand what it’s like to be me, I’ve been drawing a ring around the “us.” While I’m not exactly banishing folks who haven’t shared my experience to the space outside of the circle, I’m unconsciously not including them.

This weekend I was on a meditation retreat with the Buddhist nun and wonderful teacher Pema Chödrön. At certain points throughout the weekend, she invited questions from the audience. An audience that I realize now I saw as “them.” People approached the mic, shared their stories, sought advice. People who had no idea about my particular flavor of pain, but who clearly had their own: addictions, abuse, trauma, violence, isolation. It was impossible to not expand my circle to include them in “us.” Our pain is all the same, Pema pointed out. Only the storylines differ.

When I am in pain, I feel isolated, cut off and invisible. Why would I want to inflict that pain on someone else? It struck me that placing someone outside my circle was an act of aggression, of causing that very same pain. It’s a little embarrassing and ironic for a person who declares she wants everyone to be included.

“How did I get so lucky to have my heart awakened to others and their suffering?”

–Pema Chödrön

Published by Cristin Lind

Facilitator, consultant, speaker for better health and care through patient-professional partnership. Passionate about helping change agents build courage and agency. She/her.

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  1. Beautiful Friend,

    What a blessing that we shared the weekend with Pema and Meg, and with each other. Despite the fact that our individual pain comes from different sources and depths, both psychic and experiential, our JOY stems from the collective “knowing” that we’re all in this together. We’re all in the middle of the river together and “celebrating” (or sharing a cabin, grateful for heat and good company…even in the dark!). And, though we will each move back to that rocky shore and grab on for dear life every once in awhile (we are human, after all), I hope we can help each other to swim toward the middle before we’re “torn apart”.

    Blessings to you and your family. I look forward to sharing many more times together in the middle of the river. I’ll meet you there…


  2. “How did I get so lucky to have my heart awakened to others and their suffering?”


    I often say that one of the best gifts we got/continue to get from my daughter is, the knowledge that at her birth, we were baptized into a world we otherwise would have never known.
    A world that evokes broader thinking and invites different considerations. A world that gives pause to otherwise, “conventional thinking.” A whole other life actually.
    A life that inspires me to create, forgive, understand and that blesses me every day with an abundance of compassion.
    So yes yes yes,
    “How did I get so lucky to have my heart awakened to others and their suffering?”
    Again… Amen!

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