podSto-rynoun: an account of incidents or events

We can nurture ourselves through story—both by sharing our story and listening to other people’s stories.

Find Your Pod, Tell Your Story

The captain of the whale-watching tour ship called out over the loudspeakers, “Look to nine o’clock and you’ll see a bottlenose dolphin!” The passengers rushed to the port side and crowded eagerly around the railing.

“Do you see it?” I asked one of my students.

“Over dere,” he said, with a head motion indicating an area much closer than I had anticipated.

podAt that moment, the dolphin launched itself out of the water in a graceful arc and shallow dive. We watched in awe as another one appeared, and then another. Soon, an entire pod of 60 offshore bottlenose dolphins surrounded the ship. I rushed from side to side, and from bow to aft, enchanted by the nursery pod and the expressions on my students’ faces. Most of my kids had never seen the ocean, much less a dolphin.

I gazed at a small group of bow-riding dolphins, amazed that they would turn on their sides as they swam to get a look at the passengers leaning over the rail. One mischievous dolphin chose to body-slam the clear water right next to the boat—soaking everyone who watched (including me).

From my vantage point, I could see the myriad battle scars on the backs of the dolphins. Each carried a unique pattern of grazes along their sleek backs. Some even had small chunks of fin missing from encounters with sharks. Oh, the stories they could tell!

The Benefits of the Pod

We even saw Patches, a partially leucistic dolphin. Leucisim in animals occurs as a result of partial loss of pigmentation of multiple types of pigment, not just melanin. Despite Patches’ obvious difference from the other dolphins, she remained part of the group. No one ostracized her because of her unusual coloring. With her black and white skin patches another animal might initially mistake her for a killer whale from a distance.pod

Female dolphins and their offspring travel together in large pods. They babysit each other’s kids. They fish together and play together. In short, they do community—skin problems, scars and all.

We could learn a lot about self-care from dolphins. They know the benefits of doing life together. Despite their differences and scars, they accept each other. They have fun together.

So far, all of the paths to mental wholeness that I’ve written about include solitary activities. But finding community plays an important role in our mental health. In community, you can find others whose lives contain elements of your story. In sharing and listening to each other’s story, we learn ways to cope with the ugly parts. We learn how to celebrate the victories and most of all, we discover that we are not alone.

Sharing and listening to each other's story helps us learn ways to cope with the ugly parts.… Click To Tweet

Tips for Picking Your Pod

1. Be the kind of pod member you expect others to be—confidential, friendly, open to a variety of others.

2. Avoid data dumping. For people, pod-forming takes time as we share bits of our lives and story and begin to feel safe. Spend time forming relationships with fellow pod members.

3. Look for pod members (aka kindred spirits) in a variety of places. You might find your pod at church, in a support group, a knitting club, book club, bunko group, or even online. I live in a remote area, and I’ve discovered a huge support pod of friends I’ve never met (well, most of them) in the Five-Minute Friday community.

4. Learn to listen well. Pod members usually don’t want advice. They simply want someone to come alongside to listen to their story. Use your non-verbal means of comforting—hugs, held hands, sympathetic murmurs, and internal prayers.

5. Never share someone else’s story without their permission.

6. Learn to confess to each other and pray for each other.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. James 5:16 MSG

Nurture Yourself Takeaway #6—Find a pod of people that you trust and learn to share your story. A burden shared is a burden lessened.

If your pod can’t provide all the healing you need, you may want to consider seeing a counselor or a therapist. Achieving mental wholeness takes work!