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The Power Of Shared Experience

The Power of Shared Experience

Recently I traveled to Spain with my husband. We decided to see several cities in our first 5 days then rest for 5 at the beach. I focused 3 days on experiencing the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. We drove down the coast from Barcelona to get a feel for the country, landscape and environment of the west coast.Walking the city and taking in the smells, cobblestone streets, ancient alleys and interesting portals satisfied my curiosity of how the people here lived and continue to thrive in this historic town. We were guided by a passionate historian Eduardo throughout the ancient Muslim palace of the Alhambra. He spoke to us in English and perfect enunciation of Arabic words used to describe the different architectural elements and symbolism in the walls, ceilings, doorways, gardens and grounds of the Alhambra. Built in 1401, The Alhambra has varied intricate carvings, beautiful fountains and thoughtfully cultivated gardens.

As we roamed through the vaulted rooms, hearing the stories of the ceremonies, I observed the awe from all of the tourists. We were amazed by the finesse of the builders, carvers and architects from over 600 years ago. At the end of the day we found St Nicholas Square, a vista where many people gathered a few miles away facing the palace buildings to watch the sunset glow on the face of the Alhambra. I heard many languages spoken. Artisans sold handmade jewelry. Men broke out into song and played flamenco guitar. A woman from the crowd spontaneously danced with the music. Then a hushed silence came over the crowd as we saw the Alhambra reflect the sunset colors from its many walls. A community shared moment of held breath.  

After I returned home and I shared my appreciation with friends who also toured the Alhambra. We had an instant bond over our shared marvel of the beauty there. We would point out different perspectives of vistas from each building or the sounds of the fountains in background or the colorful blooms of the Summer House gardens. Even though we did not experience it at the same time, we shared our admiration of the visual masterpiece it is.

I felt drawn to write about this because I was reminded about how humans have a distinct need to connect to one another. That when we are isolated, we wither. That despite all the polarization that exists in our world, despite speaking different languages and coming from different cultures, there are experiences that connect us. Love of beauty is one possible shared experience, I witnessed at the Alhambra. Laughter is another. When we speak about something that troubles us and we share our frustration of that, laughter relieves the tension of realizing we are not the only one who experiences that challenge.

What makes shared events ever more powerful is when people communicate about it. Talking lends to the acknowledgement and validation of the experience, underscoring the commonalities. Speaking about it also allows us to hear our own voice and words describing the feelings we shared during that experience.

Recently I got the opportunity to witness two friends launch the debut of their film, a dream project that took four years to complete. It was a documentary they wrote and directed about several accomplished Silicon Valley engineers who experienced failure in launching their first rendition of the smart phone in the early 90’s. After watching General Magic, they called the engineers who were in the film up to the stage for Q and A. All of them were in different countries and careers now. After they watched the film they recalled different moments shared that brought them together. How their communal still-pointed focus near the end still didn’t create the success they were pining for. Some openly revealed their pain. Some revealed their process in accepting the failure and eventual closure of their start up. One man spoke of how he allowed himself to shut down…allow the dream to die, then rebirthe himself into something better now. The audience took that moment in. We could all relate to that. You could feel a palpable intake of breath at that moment. I was aware of how we hold moments in our life. How powerful it can be to engage with people in transparent conversation about being deflated, compromised, uninspired, disappointed. How that revelation can help you to realize you are not alone in that feeling. It takes the pressure of self judgment out of the picture and perhaps opens us up to forgiveness. It opens up the possibility that failure, death, change,  birth awe are shared states of BEING. These moments can bring us together and cultivate community, fulfilling our need to be nourished by deep connections with others. Those connections invite us to grow in unison with our purpose.

When you find yourself in a moment of shared experience with another or a group, heighten your awareness of what draws you together; how it deepens your connection with each other and your purpose. Set your intention to be grateful for that shared moment and all the ‘general magic’ it offers.

The film: General Magic directed by Sarah Kerruish and Matt Maude

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