“We must consistently open our awareness to the countless ways in which we already belong to each other, the ways that we are already reliant, supported, and interdependent.” ~Kristi Nelson, Wake Up Grateful
When we first learn that the stars shine during the day but we simply can’t see them, it’s a revelation, a kind of threshold understanding that shifts the way we look at the sky. This invisible constellation of daytime stars is a beautiful metaphor for the web of connections that sustains us even when we don’t take notice – even when we’re unable to see. On this first day of the practice, we begin by attuning ourselves to this constellation of relationships, whether it’s shining brightly in our lives or feeling hidden from view. Today’s practice brings our attention to our interconnectedness and interdependence.
Sketch the constellation of your belonging. Please peruse the following steps before you begin; it will help clarify the activity. If sketching the suggested spiral doesn’t resonate, simply note your responses in list form. There is no right or wrong way to do this.
- Gather the materials of your choice to map a constellation of your relationships. A plain sheet of paper and pen are perfectly fine – or a page in a journal, colored pencils, markers. Consider putting on some music you love.
- Place a mark of some sort in the center of the page; this is you. From there, draw a spiral outward with at least 5 or 6 rings. Make it large enough that you can add names and words along the spiral. Remember: if this is daunting, you can adapt the following prompts to a list form.
- Starting at the outermost ring, allow yourself to mentally travel back in time and name some of the people who paved the way for your being alive today. These might be familial ancestors or historical figures who made your existence a possibility. Write their names or represent them symbolically, taking time to consider the sacrifices, choices, and love they made in order for you to exist. Use the outer ring or two of your spiral for these names, leaving space for the next steps.
- Following the spiral inward, bring to mind some of the people whose work in the world allows you simply to be kept alive and connected – people who grow food, develop medicine, make clothing, build roads, deliver your mail. Add some of these people or roles to your spiral. Attune yourself to them in grateful appreciation, naming the ways they make your life possible.
- As you continue tracing the spiral toward the center, appreciatively acknowledge and write in the names of some of the colleagues, friends, and family to whom your life is tethered. Include those who may be very close to you now as well as some who have been in your immediate orbit at a different time in your life. Don’t try to name everyone; allow yourself to make note of whoever arises.
Once you have sketched your constellation, use this “map” for guided reflection or meditation. Following the spiral in or out, hold these relationships with your most humble and generous regard. As you tune in to this constellation, consider how you are held in the world’s wide and gracious embrace. What does it feel like to notice and name these connections? What brings you comfort, and what evokes longing? Where is the constellation shimmering, where has it dimmed? What arises in your heart? Add other names/roles if they come to mind. Close your reflection by giving thanks for being part of this constellation, for all its complexities, sustenance, and beauty.
As you continue this week’s practice, please keep your image or list accessible for reflection and reference.
Cherishing Our Connections, a short essay by Kristi Nelson, author of Wake Up Grateful
Please share your reflections below if you feel moved. We’d love to hear what emerges for you from today’s practice.
Enjoy the full seven-day Cherishing Connection practice.
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Drawing my constellation of connections reminds me of my life as a labyrinth. At the center of the inner circle are my immediate family members, They are dear and near even if many do not live near. The next ring includes friends from the neighborhood, parish, or online. They are important to me, needing continual interaction to keep up relationships.
Going further out I see those helpers who serve me in my daily needs. Each employee at the bank, post office, store, and all the online servers who chat to prcess my orders. Next circle contains those unseen servants who grow, cultivate, harvest, bring to market, sell to me the food for my meals.
The unseen factory workers who pick and pack items I order.
Our letter carrier, our service workers who provide tree care, house rennovations, internet, etc.
Farthest out are those whom I’ve forgotten or lost touch with or passed on. Even my ancestors who lived and died before me influence my life now.
In the last ring I see every other person in the world, created in the image of God whom I include in my prayers even though I’ve never met them.
The Spirit of God hovers over, abides in every area, each person and all of creation in my constellation.
I appreciate what you’re sharing here. It doesn’t necessarily come easily….I had been thinking about this spiral for many days before actually trying it out. What if you started from the inside of the spiral instead, naming those closest to you, including roles rather than specific individuals. i.e. grocery store clerk, mail deliverer, etc.? I also found that my list expanded greatly when I thought of groups of people who came before me who made my current life possible…not just family ancestors but activists for certain causes, spiritual leaders, writers I love, caretakers of the land where I now live. I’ll be eager to hear how things unfold…
Your tips are helpful. This practice helpd me to focus more deeply on the lives of others who have and continue to influence my life.
This was a beautiful practice in letting go and allowing things to flow. My thoughts were questioning whether I was doing this ‘right’. When I just let the words flow – even if it didn’t look ‘right’ – I could feel that I had moved into a meditative space and what was going on inside was more important than what was outside – and that was beautiful too anyway. I returned to it again today. Thank you.
Poignant and uncomfortable process revealing lost, forgotten or under appreciated relationships, and unable to access or imagine many others. Will leave it for now and visit it again another time.
See my reply below…
I’m deeply appreciating the reflections shared here; thank you. Some of the words from your posts that are especially resonating with me this morning: infinite, belonging, word artist, shared constellation, memories, cry. I’m revisiting my own sketched constellation/spiral and looking at it anew through the lens of each of your reflections. Thank you.
Sheryl, I so appreciate your and Kristi’s warm and vivid presences here. You are you among the best exemplars of authentic, heart centred leadership I have experienced. Thank you.
Thank you so much Elaine. The practice is meant to help you touch the places where your appreciation of connection lives and may want to be acknowledged and/or nurtured. Be gentle with yourself, please, and go at your own pace.
Be gentle with yourself! Good advice since I could chide myself for nelgecting some of the connections.!
Thanks Kristi. Your comment reminds me to soften and let go of linearity as I wait, ponder, open.
What’s becoming beautifully clear is that my own spiral, and this beautiful constellation of connection, is infinite. An infinite space of love, of belonging, of connection.
This is a comforting and heart warming practice. I look forward to watching it grow with each session as our connectedness is infinite
As Kristi said on Zoom “practice takes practice.” I just took a few minutes to draw a spiral and start writing. I am more a word artist than a visual artist, so the visual practice brought a different sense of connection. Wonderful activity. Thank you!
A beautiful exercise that reminded me of all the connections I take for granted. Will use my imperfect spiral to pay more attention and be more aware of our interconnectedness. Thank you.
What a beautiful way to practice and remember the many facets that support us and build our unique and shared constellation of relationships!
Wonderful live call with a thoughtful meditation. Grateful to all who are making this week possible. Barb
Practicing this exercise helps me bring many beautiful memories to many people who have helped me in the past, and I am grateful.
Practicing it – this activity, made me cry.
I felt a deep sense of gratitude.