If I can't do it on my own,
something's wrong with me.

Seeking support is a sign of strength.

"One of the greatest lessons you can learn in the inner art of giving and receiving is that asking for support, when appropriate, is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength. Asking for support is healthy. It means you believe that you are worthy of receiving. Not only that, but it's an act of love. When you seek support in making the best decisions in your life, you are acting out of love — love for yourself and for those who will be impacted by your choices.

Let Us Walk Together

"You may think that the effects of support are rather intangible, a touchy-feely kind of business. Yet researchers have shown that support actually increases our chances for a healthier and longer life. An early study in the 1960s is particularly fascinating. Roseto, a small, close-knit town in Pennsylvania settled by Italian immigrants, drew the attention of researchers because the people there had lower rates of senility and a 40 percent lower rate of heart attacks, even though their diets, cholesterol levels, and other factors (such as smoking and lack of exercise) were no different than others.

"What gave the people of Roseto such an advantage? Researchers pointed to their remarkable cohesiveness, mutual trust, and support. The inhabitants of this small town lived in three-generation households, they had close family and community ties, and they enjoyed their lives. What's just as intriguing is that when those factors changed, the statistics changed too. As the younger generation grew up and became more affluent, some moving away, the traditionally cohesive family and community relationships of Roseto began to erode. Coinciding with those changes, the heart attack rate in Roseto bounced up to the national average.

"The sages tell us that an environment of community support is a key factor in our spiritual health as well. 'Do not separate yourself from the community,' advised the Jewish sage Hillel. The Eastern adept El Morya affirmed the need for a community of friends as we travel along life's way in these poetic words: 'Wayfarer, friend, let us travel together. Night is near, wild beasts are about, and our campfire may go out. But if we agree to share the night watch, we can conserve our forces. Tomorrow our path will be long and we may become exhausted. Let us walk together. We shall have joy and festivity. . . . Traveler, be my friend.'

"In Christianity, the community of friends is called the church, from the Greek word ekklesia, which originally meant 'assembly' or 'group.' In Buddhism, the community is so central that it is one of the 'three jewels' that a Buddhist turns to for refuge, the other two being the Buddha and the Teaching. I like the way the Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh defines the community, which is known as the 'sangha' in that tradition. The community is a group of monks and nuns as well as laymen and laywomen 'who practice together to encourage the best qualities in each other,' says Thich Nhat Hanh. 'To me, to practice with the Sangha means to practice with those who are with you now and with those you love. . . . If it moves in the direction of transformation, it is a real Sangha.'

"On the path of honoring yourself, I encourage you to think of your communities, your support networks, in broad ways. Community creates a space, even if it's in cyberspace, where you can receive support and give support. Your community can be your family, those you work with, those who share your spiritual or personal interests, or those you connect with to pursue creative goals or a service-oriented cause. You can be part of more than one community, because each network plays a different role in helping you honor your inner needs and share your greatest gifts. Whether you are feeling alone, need help, or want to support and serve with others, consider joining a community that shares your interests and warms your heart. If you can't find one that appeals to you, start your own!

"To be clear, by 'support' and 'community' I'm not talking about sympathy that encourages you to wallow in self-pity, indulge in griping, or act the part of a victim. Support is something that holds you up, not keeps you down. Support is loving encouragement as well as honest feedback. Because we can't see ourselves objectively, we need true friends in the setting of community to be a mirror, to reflect back to us what our actions look like. Without interacting with others, how will you know if you are really being loving and generous or close-hearted and selfish? How will you know if you are honoring others and honoring yourself?"