A good friend and mentor recently reminded me of something that I had been glossing over for a while in my work - something vitally important, and yet so obvious that it becomes invisible.
Years ago, our ancestors died from a deficiency of this one essential nutrient - essential meaning necessary for life and a nutrient that we cannot develop on our own as individuals.
Our need for this ancient, misunderstood and forgotten nutrient has been masked by “filling the void” with other seemingly important components, distractions, and pills. Despite evolving as a species with this essential nutrient as a critical part of our development, we’ve seemingly (and with great hubris, as we usually do) tossed it aside as an old relic that we no longer need... because of all the great new things we have developed through technology, of course.
Alas, we are still human. With human bodies. Whom have not changed that much at a biological, physiological, and psycho-social level.
This essential and yet forgotten nutrient is vitamin T. Your Tribe.
“The people of our culture don’t want to acknowledge that the tribe is for humans exactly what the pod is for whales or the troop is for baboons: the gift of millions of years of natural selection, not perfect - but damn hard to improve upon.” - Daniel Quinn
Currently we might say that we’re living life like a bunch of lost souls wandering aimlessly trying to catch up and survive in this modern world that erroneously makes us feel like we’re hyper-connected (i.e. cell phones, FaceTime, social media, etc), when really, we’re not.
If we did not have a tribe thousands of years ago, we would literally die - this is programmed into our DNA. This cannot be forgotten, no matter how hard we try.
Death was excommunication. Death was losing your tribe to war and thereby unable to nourish and provide for yourself or your family. Death was being deserted by your tribe in the middle of the night because you were an asshole. Yes, this happened.
Tribal living can weather any storm, yet modern society has created separation.
The first woman Navajo surgeon, Lori Arviso Alvord wrote in her autobiography: “A tribe provides a feeling of inclusion in something larger, of having a set place in the universe where one always belongs. It provides connectedness and a blueprint for how to live.”
I’m not saying that it’s necessary to rebel modern living, ditch the laptops, cars and electricity to go back to old ways of living (although you might want to try it out once in awhile ;) I’m also not saying that it’s easy to recreate what tribal living is like when we have not been raised with this type of culture or bond.
However, we do need to actively seek out connection and community in the best ways we can - find people who support you and have similar visions, and those who uphold your higher visions.
Loneliness + Social Isolation
There is mounting evidence in scientific research that this lack of tribe inherently leads to loneliness, and this loneliness is linked to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. Loneliness is not only a huge predictor of early death, but loneliness is a public health problem, possibly even surpassing obesity!
Loneliness and social isolation changes the human genome in profound and long-lasting ways. Loneliness and social isolation upregulates the genes for inflammation (thereby promoting it), and suppresses your immune system. Not only does it change your genes, and predisposes you to more illnesses, but it has an intergenerational effect - meaning the genes of your kids’ kids will be impacted by your physical and emotional health.
You can eat healthy all day long, but lack of vitamin T can kill you.
For the past 12 or so years, Dan Buettner and a team of scientists have been studying areas called “blue zones” around the world—places where people live the longest with the lowest rates of chronic disease. Ikaria, Greece is one of those places. So is Sardinia, Italy. Both adhere to a Mediterranean Diet, however there were other areas that had been qualified as Blue Zones but did not adhere to this diet, such as Okinawa, Japan and Costa Rica.
Despite the apparent healing and longevity properties of their diet, researchers concluded that it was not diet alone that led to their long healthy lives.
Community is said to be significantly associated with longevity in Blue Zones. Family, in Sardinia, has been shown to be a key component to their lifestyle and values - there are no retirement homes because the family takes care of their elders. These communities have less “time urgency,” and slowing down is apart of their lifestyle. They commune with one another frequently, have a glass of wine and enjoy each others company.
In one article, researchers point out, “Adopting a healthy lifestyle and preserving cultural elements [i.e. community] should be considered in order to acquire all the benefits from the Mediterranean Diet and preserve this cultural heritage.”
So where do we begin? How do we find our own vitamin T?
The first step is acknowledging this need - and honoring that. Along with the epidemic of loneliness and isolation came the epidemic of “busyness” and denial.
I have found that it’s critical you not only make the decision to seek out your tribe, but you must honor its significance within your own life - what does it mean to you? What will having your tribe do for you and your life?
How many times do we say “oh yea, hanging with my girlfriends is so great for me” or “I would love to see my grandma/mom/sister more often”.... and then don’t do it. If you’re serious about your health and the health of your future generations, if you’re serious about the quality of your life RIGHT NOW instead of “I’ll do it later,” then begin to prioritize finding and connecting with your tribe - just as you would with any other essential nutrient.
What to look for
Tribal living will look differently for each person, especially today. While we can’t recreate true tribal living, we can incorporate elements of a collective that enhances various areas of our life experience. A tribe can generally be seen as a collective of individuals that provides a deep sense of the following:
- Connection - to others, to yourself, to your culture, history, vision and to your environment.
- Development of healthy, meaningful relationships
- Collaboration & cooperation
If you don’t feel the above from a group of people you are already apart of, then they are not your tribe. Keep looking!
Finding my own tribe
One of the most profound practices that has helped usher me deeper into my work and own personal evolution, including enhancing my health, is finding my own tribe in women circles - communing with other women on a regular basis for the purpose of sharing each other’s medicine. Having that container of love held by these circles of women has been the most healing and enlightening experience for me, and helped me step more into my purpose and power.
I do this both in person and online virtually - and find that it’s synergistic to do both in today’s day and age. Nothing can replace being in the physical presence of loved ones and your tribe. We can’t completely opt out or disregard the modern lifestyles we have today, but we can make a choice to craft a life experience that is nourishing, fulfilling and satisfying in new and old ways.
A challenge for you
Find a tribe that you vibe with. Don’t no where to start? Begin by asking your close friends and family - those that you admire or who are doing interesting things that you want to try out! You know who they are (you might already be facebook or instagram stalking them) :)
Still not sure how to get going on building your tribe? I got you covered.
Click below for 4 ways to find your tribe... starting right now.
I’d love to hear from you - let me know how your search goes! In the comments below, tell us how you’re getting your fill of vitamin T...
If you’re in Chicago, I’d love to invite you to join our tribe and come to the Feeding Your Wild Workshops (next one on Dec 17 is all about clearing obstacles + cultivating your holistic mindset)! You’ll connect with other amazing, like-minded wild-hearted women who will be holding space for each other so you can identify what's holding you back, clear the clutter, cultivate healthy habits & plant the seeds for your holistic life!