Like many of you, I was a child raised in the United States in the era of John Wayne and James Dean, when the rugged individualist was prized as the pinnacle of American success. If you relied on no one, proved yourself to be self-sufficient, autonomous, and independent, you won the brass ring of life’s merry-go-round. I was conditioned to believe that in order to be a valued member of society, especially as a woman raised during the feminist movement, I must avoid being “needy” or, even worse, “clingy,” and Lord knows I’d better not lean on a man or take more than I give to anyone.
I come from a family of doctors and missionaries, so if you add to this conditioning the Savior Complex I inherited from both sides of my family, you wind up believing that a good worthy human being going to heaven will give until she’s depleted, depend on nobody, take care of herself financially and emotionally, and prove her worth and her right to belong by doing good deeds of sacred service. Of course, someone with this kind of upbringing is likely to attract into her sphere those who are looking for someone to “save” them—the ones who have been abandoned by a parent in childhood, suffered sexual abuse, grown up in abject poverty, or been stricken with a chronic illness. In an effort to feel worthy, the “savior” rescues the “victim,” and voila! An unhealthy co-dependent pattern is born.
Not everyone grows up thinking it is his or her personal responsibility to save the world. Others grow up with a sort of entitlement that leads them to believe the world owes them something. This kind of “It’s all about me” thinking breeds narcissism and leads people to take advantage of the generosity of others. Regretfully, this kind of conditioning, which is common among many Westerners, is the exact opposite of what is needed to attract your Soul Tribe. As long as the reference point lies centrally, focusing solely on the Separate Self, it harms our ability to connect and look out for one another. Either way, a chronic loneliness results as we feel separate from the world around us. Our sense of belonging suffers. This affects not only our happiness; it also affects our health and our ability to provide our sacred service to a world that needs all of us to fully express our soul’s mission on earth.
What Is a Soul Tribe?
A Soul Tribe is a group of heart-centered individuals who are walking the spiritual path together, at various stages in our journeys, coming together with the intention of marrying Practice and Purpose. Many communities gather together to engage in spiritual practice—through meditation, prayer, yoga, dance, singing, and praise. Other communities organize around an activist cause, like saving the rainforests or civil rights. Our intention as a Soul Tribe is to bring the two impulses together, since Practice without Purpose can lead to a kind of “spiritual narcissism.” (“It’s all about me and my meditation practice.”) On the other hand, Purpose without Practice can damage the very causes we’re passionate about, as activists polarize, demonize and divide the oppressor and the oppressed. (Think the “angry activist” who spews hatred at the very people whose help we need in order to effect lasting change.) When we stop polarizing Being (Practice) and Doing (Purpose), bringing the two together in nondual awareness and surrendering our separate minds to Divine mind, personal and global transformation becomes not only possible; it activates a kind of white magic that can make real life miracles accessible to anyone.
How Would It Feel to Be Part of a Soul Tribe?
Imagine meeting someone you’ve never known before in this life, and you feel a strange, instantaneous sensation—“I know you. We belong together.” Imagine being in a community of spiritual seekers where you feel safe to be truly yourself, even if you disagree with the dominant narratives of the tribe. Imagine a community where you feel free to play, laugh, sing, dance, meditate, pray, celebrate, engage in ritual, and share meals together. Imagine a safe haven where you can seek support when you’re in crisis, and you can offer support when your tribe members are experiencing life challenges, and your boundless, generous, service-oriented love is looking for a place to land.
Imagine a place where spiritual principles can be safely shared, explored, and challenged from a place of compassionate curiosity, where open, respectful, safe dialogue and free but kind expression is welcomed and valued by all, where those who are unable to tolerate diversity of beliefs and opinions are held accountable by the group, and where unity is encouraged and polarization is gently but firmly brought together in the open heart space. Imagine a community committed to helping each other grow, gently but fiercely illuminating blind spots and exploring shadows, where we acknowledge, accept and are gentle with each other’s wounds, but we don’t coddle them in co-dependent ways.
Imagine a community with healthy boundaries and shared values but without rigid dogma, where you can feel safe to keep your heart open, and you’re not at risk of getting shamed for being different or questioning the spiritual leadership or the group’s teachings. Imagine a spiritual community where you are not asked to follow the compass of someone else who has caused you to believe that your spiritual compass is broken, where you retain your free will, your intuition, your right to speak up, and your sovereignty.
Finding Your Soul Tribe Improves Your Health
According to an AARP study, approximately 43 million adults over age 45 in the United States are estimated to be suffering from chronic loneliness. This kind of loneliness not only inhibits spiritual development; it causes disease. One meta-analysis involving 148 studies representing more than 300,000 participants found that greater social connection is associated with a 50% reduced risk of early death. Another meta-analysis involving 70 studies representing more than 3.4 million individuals found that social isolation increased the risk of premature death as much as obesity. Another study found that air pollution increased the risk of death by 6%, obesity by 23%, alcohol abuse by 37%, and loneliness by 45%. Loneliness is as dangerous for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes/day. (I go into the science—and the solution—about loneliness as the #1 public health issue in my latest TEDx talk here.)
These numbers are not meant to scare you. They’re meant to change the conversation about what predisposes you to illness and what true wellness requires. A healthy lifestyle requires more than a nourishing diet, regular exercise, and toxin-free habits. We must also have healthy, nourishing, growth-filled, spiritually mature relationships in community as medicine for the soul.
“She was a collector of reflections looking for souls that could see deeply inside her soul.” — Shannon L. Alder
Finding Your Soul Tribe Helps You Find & Fulfill Your Calling
By nature, we are tribal beings. We need each other like oxygen. We need to know that we belong to a Soul Tribe in order to feel safe enough to fully self-actualize. As Abraham Maslow expressed in his “hierarchy of needs,” we must first have our most basic needs met before we can feel free and spacious enough to express our greatest gifts. First, we must have our basic physiological needs met — food, shelter, clean water, clean air, medical care. Next, we must feel safe, free of war zones, abuse, and emotional trauma. Once these two sets of needs are met, we yearn for love and belonging, then esteem. Finally, at the top of Maslow’s pyramid lies self-actualization.
Toward the end of his life, Maslow expressed that he missed one facet of the Hierarchy of Needs. He came to believe that another pinnacle is possible, beyond self-actualization. After the impulse toward self-actualization, there is an impulse of service — to find and fulfill one’s calling in the world.
Global change is afoot, and many of us feel the call to participate in what’s happening. How can we tell what we’re being called to do? For many of us, this requires a sincere shift in how we orient our lives—from ego-driven to soul-led. Many of us are surrendering our lives to Divine Will, asking to be shown our life purpose and committing to finding and fulfilling our calling. To learn to open to, receive, and discern spiritual guidance is a practice, and we need our tribe to help us learn to listen deeply to the quiet (and not-so-quiet) whisperings of the soul. Together, in community, we can help each other make decisions in a new way, one that is less analytical and more intuitive. Such spiritually-guided decision-making can feel uncomfortable when you’re the only one you know operating that way. Having a community of practice committed to living in alignment with Divine Will, even when it requires letting go of what your ego wants, helps facilitate this vital shift.
Finding your Soul Tribe can also help you find and fulfill your calling by putting you in touch with those in your “karass,” who are here to help you complete your spiritual mission.
An excerpt from my book, The Anatomy of a Calling:
“In Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut writes about how God organizes the world into units which he calls a “karass.” A karass is a unit of incarnated beings whose job it is to bring into being one of God’s holy ideas. Members of a karass all further the collective purpose seamlessly, though many never even know they are part of this karass. Even if they never meet, they work together in harmony, in impeccable service to God’s holy idea. Everything about their lives furthers the purpose perfectly, even though they may be furthering the purpose unconsciously. When you meet someone who is a member of your karass, even though it may make no sense to you on a human level, you will recognize them as a family member instantly. Your souls will resonate, even if you appear to have nothing in common on the human level. This is how the Divine gets important things done in the world. Your karass is like a peaceful army that activates to bring light into the world.
“Vonnegut compares the karass to its polar opposite, which he calls “The Granfalloon.” The Granfalloon is a group of people who think they are connected to each other in some way, but they have no spiritual connection whatsoever. For example, the Harvard class of 1986—or the Republican party—or Mets fans. They are completely unrelated to each other when it comes to their soul purpose. They may think they belong to the same tribe, but the bond is shallow, whereas the bond between members of a karass runs deep and pure. Members of the same karass are held to their purpose like electrons around a nucleus. Some live very close to the purpose. Some are further out. But all are held to the purpose by a spiritual magnetism. They may have never met each other, or they may be married to each other. They may work in the same field or they may have very different careers. But their lives fit together in service to this shared spiritual purpose.
“We are all here for an unknown purpose. Serving this purpose makes us feel fulfilled and enriched. But if we get seduced off purpose—by ambition, fame, money, or the ego’s grasping at comfort—our vitality gets stolen from us. When we commit to this purpose we’re here to serve, when we give ourselves to serving it with great impeccability, everything begins to fall into place.”
From Communi-ME to Communi-WE
A Soul Tribe depends on Unity Consciousness, the spiritual and psychological shift from me-centered to we-centered. As one Australian physician said to me, “The problem with community is that people want ‘Communi-ME.” They want all the benefits of Soul Tribe but they don’t want to or know how to make the shift to Unity Consciousness, so that every person in the tribe’s needs matter equally. Soul Tribe doesn’t work as long as any one person is martyring themselves for the tribe or any other person is taking advantage of the tribe’s generosity without reciprocity. In order for Soul Tribe to function, we need Communi-WE. A healthy Soul Tribe is like a healthy family, and most of us did not have this modeled for us in our families of origin.
As Katherine Woodward Thomas writes:
“Functional families allow for the individuality of each member. People are free to express their needs, their wants, and their feelings. Those expressions are met with respect and with love. They are then taken into account in all subsequent decision making. True ‘we-ness’ allows each person to be a fully formed ‘me,’ with likes and dislikes, beliefs, opinions, and attitudes. In true community, there is a spirit of inclusiveness and expansion. There is room for everyone. We don’t have to agree; we can just agree to disagree, thereby making space for all of it, with an underlying foundation of respect and appreciation for differences. If we ever hope to have peace in the world, we will first need to be able to do this in our homes.”
We need each other, and we need to relate to each other in healthy relationships so we can free ourselves from the unhealthy conditioning many of us experienced growing up. As Luciano De Crescenzo said, “We are each of us angels with only one wing, and we can only fly by embracing each other.”
May we find at least one person who can help us fly to our greatest potential.
How Can You Find Your Soul Tribe?
For four years, my team has been noodling this inquiry, and we’re marinating on some projects that will be rolling out over the next few months. Phase One of the Soul Tribe Project happened in May 2016, when Kitchen Table Wisdom author Rachel Naomi Remen, MD, musician Karen Drucker and I joined forces to participate in a social experiment. We wondered . . . what would happen if we gathered people together with the intention of creating a Soul Tribe focused on healing? For one night, 120 of us gathered together to explore this experiment. We sang together. We meditated. We told stories. My 11-year-old daughter sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” One man performed an original song he wrote about soul tribes. We invited everyone in the tribe to contribute their wisdom. We laughed together. We cried together. We joined our hearts in a coherent field of pulsing vibration and performed a group energy healing. It was pure magic.
Now, a year and a half later, we’re preparing to deepen the experiment with Phase Two of the Soul Tribe Project—and you’re invited!
Join Lissa Rankin, MD, musician Karen Drucker, and Native American wisdom holder Del Laverdure as we gather together to heal, awaken, explore, celebrate love, and create the Soul Tribe leaders of the future. A Soul Tribe Gathering will begin as a three-day workshop in Mill Valley, California October 27–29, followed by 6 weeks of virtual exploration via teleclasses, a group forum, and practical instructions on how to lead a Soul Tribe of your own.
We hold the vision that those of you who are part of this virtual community may come together, in person in Mill Valley, CA, to grow, transform, set intentions, surrender to Divine Will, heal, and be inspired to lead a local, in person Soul Tribe gathering in your neck of the woods. For those who are ready to become leaders, we intend to offer you the tools to get started. For those who simply want to be part of the Soul Tribe, you are welcome too.
We are still working on Phase Three of the Soul Tribe Project so stay tuned for more on that. Even if you can’t join us for Phase Two of this exploration, please know that I’ll be writing more about this topic as we learn from our explorations into how to reinvent modern day tribes. As I learn, I will share what I am learning. But please! Help me learn!
Have you found your Soul Tribe already? What’s working? What’s not? Please share what you’ve learned about Soul Tribes in the comments below. And please pose your questions too. Let’s dialogue about this ripe topic together.
We are all in this together, and as we touch each other—heart to heart—we can call upon the wisdom in this community to learn, grow, connect, and belong.
About the author:
Lissa Rankin, MD is a mind-body medicine physician on a grass roots mission to heal healthcare, while empowering you to heal yourself. She is the founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute training program for physicians and healthcare providers, and the New York Times bestselling author of the books Mind Over Medicine: Scientific Proof That You Can Heal Yourself (2013), The Fear Cure (2014), and The Anatomy of a Calling (2015).
Lissa blogs at LissaRankin.com and created the online community HealHealthCareNow.com. She is also the author of several other books, a speaker, a professional artist, an amateur ski bum, and an avid hiker. She lives in the San Francisco Bay area.
Recommended articles by Lissa Rankin:
- The Unmistakable Link Between Unhealed Trauma and Physical Illness
- Satisfying Our Emotional Needs Without Being Codependent
- Relationships on the Spiritual Path
- How to Make Your Body Ripe for Miracles
- Are You “Spiritual But Not Religious?”
- 9 Practical Tips to Help You Find Your Calling
- 10 Fun Ways to Reduce Your Cortisol Levels
- 6 Stories To Make You Believe In The Power Of The Mind To Heal You
- 7 Tips For Finding Your Tribe
- Holding Space When Someone Is In Pain
- 10 Surprising Things That Trigger “Fight-Or-Flight”
- Medical Error is Still the #3 Cause of Death in the U.S. – Are We Really Okay With This?