I've been reading around the "communities of practice" space for the past few years, and ran across this bit on John's blog that resonated with me (emphasis mine):

"In 1997 I decided to leave what seemed like a privileged and secure job in the administration at the University of Colorado to seek my fortune in corporate America and later as a solo consultant. I would never have thought of making such an audacious decision without 5 years of involvement in a dialog group that in hindsight was a community of practice about workplace communication and identity. That dialog enlarged the set of conceivable decisions, because the intimacy of the group gave me access to other people’s decision space.  Communities thrive and are most relevant around practices that are difficult, for practitioners that make difficult decisions."

--John David Smith

It's important, especially when the aspect in yourself you want to nurture is still young and fragile, to have a world where it is safe. A space you don't need to protect, a space where you trust others to make and keep it safe for far, far longer than you need it. A little world where you can put your energy and focus into watching and coaxing yourself to gently unfold. And enough buffer time on both sides to both relax into the safety of that world in the beginning, and to steel yourself to go back out again after it's done.

As I write that last bit, I have a mental image of heavily armored fighters trudging into a room, drifting with snow. They unstrap their helmets, their breastplates, pull off their boots, pile all those things on the side until we see the shapes of human beings in light clothing, soft and slim and vulnerable, in lamplight on an empty mat, breathing. And then they stretch, slowly - and dance, silently, with quiet smiles and the occasional gentle open mouth of soundless laughter, swarming and lifting and touching each other, holding. Then, drenched in sweat, they lie stretched out in the floor in the flickering lamplight, chests expanding up and down, up and down, inhaling and exhaling. And then a ritual of reversal. Toweling off, methodically pulling on the boots, the shinguards, gloves, the plating that protects but also restricts. Door opens, howling of the wind, and then it clangs behind.

They are vital, those regular few moments that remind you that you're not alone.