Table for one, please

Come tomorrow, millions are going to be indulging in the feast of the year, filling their stomachs to the brim, and savoring that uncomfortable yet somehow pleasant sensation of pants fitting too tightly after eating miles and miles of food (oh, I couldn’t stop!).  Others will grin ear to ear as they watch you suffer your food coma and motion to an oversized waistline of their pants, “I came prepared- I’m wearing my Thanksgiving pants!”

photo credit: Ana Johnson

Some will bow their heads, while some will simply sit content, their hands folded in their hearts with no God to pray to except for the light that seems to surround them, and still others will just smile and be thankful.

Some will come in the only clothes they own to a feast served from caring hands, enjoying a hot meal in the midst of a community that may have seemed intangible before that point.  Some will truly be alone for one out of many possible reasons and though they may not recognize it, they are part of a community without even trying.

During Thanksgiving we give thanks for the food in front of us and the company we share, which nourishes us as much as, if not more than, the food that we eat.  That nourishment is correlated with increased life span while a sense of loneliness has been shown to decrease longevity.  Findings have suggested that social isolation is roughly equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day or being an alcoholic and is twice as harmful as obesity since it is statistically correlated with increasing cardiovascular mortality.  Conversely, a sense of community has been associated with longevity.

Longevity is a primary focus in the “science of life” and is based off of intuitive understandings of how life becomes wholesome, including living as a part of community.  There are also specific physical practices which are used to set the path towards this lifestyle, though their emotional component cannot be separated.  For instance, an Ayurvedic practice of using oil to nourish the body, as through massage, in order to ensure proper functioning of the tissues of the body, is founded on the principle of “snehana” which in Sanskrit means “oleation”.  However, “snehana” also means “love”, “friend”, and “friendship”.  Consequently, community- the structure through which love and friendship can exist- is an integral component in providing nourishment.  The body and mind are not separate and nourishing one will simultaneously nourish the other, promoting overall health and increasing “ayu” or “longevity”.

Interestingly enough, this possibility for achieving longevity is at our fingertips and in every one of our minute movements at any point in time through the reality of community that seems to be implicit in our existence.  Have you ever taken part in a group sport or activity such as playing in an orchestra and noticed that at some points you and your peers seemed to be in very close, if not perfect, coordination?  The truth is- you most likely were.  Not only can athletes experience coordination but this phenomenon seems to occur between two or more individuals, even if they are strangers, on a very consistent basis.  Studies exploring the science of coordinated movements drew results demonstrating that speakers and listeners in conversation will carry out precise, synchronized patterns of movements relative to each other.  Recordings displaying this phenomenon indicate one dumbfounding conclusion: the listener and speaker are one.

How’s that for community?