Who would’ve thought you could learn so much about yourself and your thoughts? All you had to do was sit with them.
It’s common for there to be a gap between who we think we are and who we actually are. Closing that gap can be scary, especially as the stories we tell ourselves grow cemented over time.
how to be in good company with myself
We may find hope, however, in consciousness. Even if we don’t know ourselves, we have the capacity to be aware of it. In a sense, we have two minds: one that determines how we operate in any given moment and a second that has the capacity to notice what the first one is doing.
Getting to know yourself is effectively a conversation between these two minds. Seeing yourself outside of yourself.
It’s awkward and redundant, but it’s necessary. You have to talk about something while everyone is warming into their seats and feeling each other out.
After a few minutes, I put my “host hat” on and call out the elephant in the room.
Hey guys, I know we could talk about TV shows and current events for hours, but if you’re up for it, I’d love to try and actually get to know you.
So I’ll pose a question that’s open ended. Personal. Maybe a bit uncomfortable.
Asking one seemingly uncomfortable question raises the bar for what’s awkward. It’s not long before everyone at the table is asking follow up questions, paying attention to what each person has to say. Making eye contact! Even listening enough to not constantly think about what you’re going to say next while someone else is talking.
You don’t know everything about them, but you know that you don’t know everything about them. You find yourself simultaneously aware of how much you have in common with these people and the fact that, as strangers, these people could have just as well been anybody else in the world.
The distinctive quality that makes a Tea With Strangers conversation so amenable to observing Shared Humanity is the space it affords the group to actually take a good look at one another—to see what they didn’t notice on first glance, to notice their own assumptions.
In this space, curiosities can flourish and be met with stories, reflections and context inspire awe. A recipe for Shared Humanity.
Spaciousness + Curiosity = Awe
You could be doing something more social, more productive, more interesting! But over time, you start to let go of your sense of control, your rush to get somewhere “good.”
You choose to be alone, and you’re creating space for what could happen
People are so much more interesting when we give them space and curiosity to bloom before us.
For me, practice is going on long walks in nature—long enough to forget what I was thinking about before I started—and instead marvel at how many shades of green there are.