Embracing Community | Renewal Rundown #5
Unfolding, Shared Places, and Intuitive Fitness
Good morning from New England. This is the Renewal Rundown, where I share a few updates, ideas, and sources of inspiration on applying self-renewal to ourselves and the world around us.
Unfolding in the New Year
It’s become popular to shit on new years resolutions: “why wait?”, “they all fail”, “systems over goals”, etc, etc. I understand the sentiment but think the criticism misses two valuable pieces. There’s a collective energy toward change and a tangible sense of a fresh start in the new year.
Just in the last week, I’ve had numerous friends and family ask me about my intentions for the new year. The new calendar creates a visual cue of a fresh canvas to start from. There’s a seasonal sense of possibility in the air.
Change is hard. It requires breaking the inertia of the status quo and building momentum toward something new. Having a community of others in it with you can provide valuable support. Embracing an end-of-year deadline can create an explicit starting point and an extra nudge to get started.
I don’t think the new year is a silver bullet for behavior change. Yet, it’s here. Why not embrace its unique elements? In today’s world, there are so few moments when people come together to embrace intentional transformation. Instead of attacking new years, perhaps we should create other dedicated times throughout the year for shared self-renewal.
Personally, I like to pick a theme that captures my intention for the year. In 2022, it was cultivate. In every aspect of my life, it felt like a year to focus on creating conditions conducive to growing new things.
For 2023, my theme is unfolding. I sense a ton of stored energy waiting to emerge. The environment is now ripe for production. Yet, I know I need to give things space to develop naturally without forcing them. This quote from Sharon Salzberg is a perfect reminder for when I feel the desire to rush the process:
“Patience doesn't mean making a pact with the devil of denial, ignoring our emotions and aspirations. It means being wholeheartedly engaged in the process that's unfolding, rather than ripping open a budding flower or demanding a caterpillar hurry up and get that chrysalis stage over with” - Sharon Salzberg
Doubling Down on Shared Places
This connects to a broader realization of how much our environment and community shape our lives. We moved to New England so our daughter would grow up in a community of our family and friends. But this meant trading the North Carolina weather we love for cold and dark New England winters. Selecting where to live is an exercise in trade-offs. It forces us to confront the difficult questions about what matters most and what we are willing to give up for it.
In our case, we realized that nothing mattered to us as much as embracing community. Wendell Berry captures it perfectly in his book the Long-Legged House:
“A community is the mental and spiritual condition of knowing that the place is shared, and that the people who share the place define and limit the possibilities of each other's lives. It is the knowledge that people have of each other, their concern for each other, their trust in each other, the freedom with which they come and go among themselves.” - Wendell Berry
Physical proximity helps shape in-person communities, yet it’s the people and relationships that give them meaning.
I believe this same spirit translates into virtual communities. The best ones create a strong sense that the “place is shared” in an intentional way. In the new year, I’m planning to double down on a few communities that feel particularly alive to me. One I’m particularly enjoying is The Frontier, where an amazing collection of people have gathered to support each other’s creative journeys.
Introducing Intuitive Fitness
I’m excited to share a new project that has been simmering for months, The Intuitive Fitness newsletter. This is a dedicated place to go deeper into the ideas introduced in my essay on Embodied Exercise. It’s a container to explore more enjoyable and effective approaches to fitness. If interested, please check out the first post below and subscribe. My intention is for this to evolve into a community of people who share an interest in embracing enjoyable exercise and intuitive fitness:
I am keeping these as separate publications and plan to continue to focus the On Renewal world on broader themes from my life.
As always, I’d love to hear if you have any thoughts on these topics or a theme you’re leaning into for the new year. Please share in the comments or by replying directly to the email.
Thanks for Reading!
To support my work please consider sharing this newsletter with a friend and subscribing to the On Renewal podcast (Spotify | Apple Podcasts). I have some really exciting guests joining in the months ahead. For a hint of one of the guests, check out this article about how East Fork Pottery is on the cusp of a new evolution.
I shared these thoughts on Twitter and got some amazing responses. My favorite was the idea to embrace the summer solstice as another milestone for intentional transformation.
Wendell Berry is one of my favorite authors for his writing on community, place, nature, farming, and life more broadly. The World-Ending Fire is a collection of his most popular essays. My personal favorites are "What are People For?” and “Bringing it to the table”
"Change is hard. It requires breaking the inertia of the status quo and building momentum toward something new." Yup!