After “Social Distancing” Comes “Social Wellness.”

March 16, 2020

After “Social Distancing” Comes “Social Wellness.”

May 29, 2023

Nowadays, you hear stories of Italians singing from their apartments to deserted streets, or kids writing lists about how their parents can be kinder to each other. This makes me hopeful, and wonder if it’s possible that this global timeout could create an opportunity for a global reset?

David Brooks, in his book, “The Social Animal,” argues that we are wired with an “urge to merge.” However, his recent New York Times article cautioned that pandemics could create the opposite instinct—fear, anger, aloofness, selfishness, and the like. I think his dueling messages are clear: it could go either way, depending on the courage of character we will summon in the days and months ahead.

When most of us think of wellness, we often think of it as a personal effort, and not something we experience together (and, no, I don’t count Peloton classes as a form of social wellness). Similarly, when we consider how we measure our lives, it’s also from a personal perspective how much money, fame, power, or respect did we earn, instead of how we are growing and evolving as a collective society.

But what if we replace the “I” with “We” and illness becomes wellness? What if we began to look at our wellness as a shared responsibility? A shared experience? Maybe it’s time to count how many sunsets we experienced with our spouse this month, how many times we felt goosebumps with our best friend during a deep conversation, or how many times we smile at strangers in a day? Or how many times we can come together in small ways (even without touch). Today, I’m going to count the magnificent waves of Pescadero. Not the towering ones in the ocean, but the hand waves I receive from my neighbors when I drive down our dusty roads. It’s standard practice here—one that builds community and heals.

We’ve just graduated our fiftieth MEA cohort, and, sadly, our campus is now empty as we take a five-week hiatus due to the pandemic. It’s eerily quiet, but I can still hear the giggles and feel the tears of my past compadres. I can feel their courage and vulnerability. I breathe in their love. As I sit here writing this post, I have our famous stick by my side. This carcass of a cactus is quill-less and has a soulful, hole-y patina based upon the nearly 800 students who’ve spent a week communing with it during our morning practice of the Wisdom Circle.

Maybe it’s time we became more quill-less and more careful in how we curate social wellness in our lives? I believe it’s our challenge. Our responsibility. And our gift to one another.

We’ll be back in a few weeks, and we hope you’ll join us as we once again pick up the stick in our pursuit of a more meaningful second half of life.

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