In 2020, Priya Parker released her book, The Art of Gathering, in the midst of a global lockdown. As we were all canceling all the gatherings, she was releasing her work on how our gatherings make up collective meaning and connections over time.
As someone who hosts gatherings regularly, I was curious about her thoughts and discoveries on why it still matters that we gather together. I listened to an interview she gave with Krista Tippett on the podcast, On Being. Not surprisingly, both Krista and Priya started by acknowledging how sobering it has been to cancel, reschedule, and cancel again the events in our lives. Weddings, Funerals, Graduations, School, and visits to family are all connection points that encourage us to see each other’s humanity. When we are separated for long periods, we tend to lose flexibility in finding the funny, or the longevity of grace in a prickly conversation. Like a wounded dog hiding in its den, we fold in on ourselves to protect what we can.
Gathering together is what helps us heal. It stretches, soothes, and strengthens. But, if we are unaware of what a gathering will include, we are much more likely to refrain from joining. Parker says, “Knowing the category of a gathering is not the same as the purpose. We often assume that the purpose is shared.” We have all been surprised by a gathering that we assumed was offering one thing, but failed to hit the mark. These dings to our pride add up and affect our future behavior.
When you are planning your next gathering, or rescheduling that canceled event, be kind to yourself. Take a few deep breaths and ask,
What is it at the core of what I truly want?
Clearing up misconceptions, and sticking to our values helps us try again. Gatherings have evolved, and so have we. We can show gratitude to this evolution when we ask questions about expectations. Who will be there? What kind of Covid protocol is expected? What is expected of me during this event? How long does it last? Is there a trap door I can escape out of if needed? Or, how do I leave graciously?
Many blessings on your gatherings, friends. I hope that you find deep joy and healing in your gathering places. Keep asking those questions. May you be filled with laughter, flexibility, and creative exit strategies on your journey. Keep showing up.