Feeling like you are a part of a group, especially one with a spiritual or otherwise important purpose, is one of the best feelings there is. To move as one with people who agree with you on something — you evolved to like it. If you’re sneering right now, it’s because you’ve never felt it. If you’re socially isolated and you think you can never be part of a group, read on.
Why You Need a Group
Maybe it’s your church, and you can feel the oneness in the room when everyone is singing together. Maybe it’s your workplace, when everyone has their head bent to a project in your open-concept space. For me, it’s being at concerts, especially small, local ones, where everyone knows all the words to the songs; and marching with protesters.
It’s harder to deliberately find a group like this than I might make it sound. I happened to marry into the local music scene, and concerts like that where everyone is engaged are actually not that common. You might have to try several churches (maybe even several religions!) before you find one where everyone is truly engaged and they’re teaching something you feel is true.
But something special happens when everyone in a room is working at something, feeling in flow, and pointed toward the same goal. Things like singing or chanting together, or a group listening to a story together, literally causes your brain waves to sync up and that’s beside the effects of chanting itself.
Yes, you can change your brain on your own. Yes, you can feel oneness with all things, in a room with no one present but you. But the experience of doing so with other people is something you should feel at least once.
How to Find Them
- Be aware that the first group you try probably will not be perfect for you.
- Figure out what work you want to do with your group. Do you want to listen to music? Meditate? Exercise? Work for the good of your community? Do art or STEM activities?
- Google your work and your town. If you are more comfortable staying online and not meeting with your group face to face, it’s still useful to find something local, as they will be aware of issues that need work — if you’re volunteering — and they can be smaller and more engaged.
- Vet your group. Search for information on their history, where their money actually goes and what it does, whom they support behind the scenes, what the leaders do. This gets more and more difficult as groups get smaller, but if it’s small enough, you can probably just ask people those questions. If the group is leaderless, like the music scene, don’t worry about this step; just stay safe and stay out of drama.
- Go. To. Where. The. Group. Is. Ask, with your words, how to get involved. If you’re volunteering, ask how you can help. If it’s an activity or art group, ask where to sign up. If it’s the local music scene, I am very sorry but you will have to make actual friends with people. Aim for drummers and bassists. If it’s not a group but a one-time thing, like a demonstration or a concert, find the people who organized it and ask when the next thing is.
- Have fun! And if you’re not having fun, disengage. Politely. Tell them you don’t want to be involved anymore. You may or may not have to give a reason. Don’t ghost the friends you’ve made, and if you were given a job, make sure it still gets done, either before you leave or by someone else.
How to Work with Your Group
I’m sorry but literally just don’t be a dick.
Don’t start drama. If there is drama, don’t get involved. In the drama or in the group. Use your head. Be nice.
If someone outside the group tries to turn you against someone else inside it, tell the group. (That really applies to activist groups more than casual or activity-based ones.) Don’t work against the group’s goal while you’re still in it. Go make your own thing if you don’t agree with what they’re doing.
Go to the in-person events as much as you can. Be present. Pay attention. Do the work you’re given; if you’re not given work and you’d like some, ask for it. Right now, a lot of “in-person” things may be Discord or face chats on other platforms, so they’re even easier to attend.
If you really don’t have time to be involved with a lot of the activities, that’s okay too! Just be honest about what and how much you can commit. Say no when you need to.
And, again, if you don’t want to be part of the group anymore, don’t be rude about it. It’s that easy.
Specific Places to Look for Them
Your library. If you do nothing else, you could volunteer as a librarian. But libraries are often used as meeting places for activity-based groups, and you could attend or even help run one of them. Some towns will also have makerspaces, public movie nights, farmer’s markets, etc. You can even volunteer at your local park, especially if it’s a National Park, if you’d like to do something for the environment.
Other activist groups: large groups like the NAACP, BLM, the Sierra Club, and indivisible.org have many local chapters; your favorite other organization might, too. Check their website. If there’s no local info, email them and ask if you can help from where you are. You don’t have to start a whole chapter or anything; just ask what you can do.
You can go to the local office or Facebook page for your chosen political party and just say “I’m here, put me to work.” There are also organizations for more specific causes, like JRDF, who organize events like marathons, which you can get involved with. Or, don’t even “get involved” if that sounds scary. Just go to the marathon and have fun helping and adding your voice.
For LGBT activism, Twitter is the place to search. Again, “[your town] lgbt” should work fine; or, again, find a big organization that does the work you agree with (I’m saying check step 4 above) and find a local chapter or find out what you can do from where you are.
Local music: try BandsInTown; ask your friends if they know anyone who is in a band, then find them on Facebook. There should be a page for their band, which will lead you to local venues, whose pages you should follow. You can also search “local music [town]” — although “town” may have to be “nearby larger city.”
Churches are, well, everywhere. Pretty easy to see. Ask people you trust whether they like their church. If you’re not super into Christianity, you can search “[religion]” and google should bring up places based on your location; if nothing else, you’ll find online forums.
If all else fails, if you hear (or see on FB) that your friend went to an event that sounds interesting, ask them when the next one is.
To Sum Up
In short: Find your people. (By the way, we’re not saying “find your tribe” because that’s appropriative and dismissive of a culture.) Don’t be a jerk. Do the work.
See, the catch is that you need to go into these groups with their goal, their work, in mind. Don’t just go looking for “that feeling of togetherness.” You can’t fake it. It happens when you’re all pointed at one thing, and that means to feel it you have to be pointed that way too.
You will have anxiety! And that’s okay! Every single person in your group was once new there, too, and most of them — especially volunteer groups — will be so happy to have a new member at all that you don’t have to worry about them disliking you right away. (Unless you’re a jerk. Don’t.)
You (plural) can do it! You (singular) can help!
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