When you look across a sea of women in pink hats carrying handmade signs, you can’t help but wonder,What is going on here?

Events like the Women’s March on Washington (and other marches around the world) don’t happen every day, so they speak to something broader, something bigger astir in humanity. They tell us something about our innate human need to unite and help one another. And they remind us of our connection in a world that sometimes seems to focus on our separateness.

A Moment in Ourselves

This march—this moment in our cultural awakening—may have had political overtones, but it was also about something more.

If you marched, spoke with people who did, or witnessed any of the media coverage, chances are you noticed strangers becoming friends, dissent ringing out as hope, and packed crowds feeling like welcome gatherings.

What was this unspoken element?  Why did it cause such a pervasive afterglow in the hearts, minds, and stories of so many participants?

The Magic of We

Perhaps what juiced so many marchers is the very thing that sits at the heart of all worthwhile relationships—the potency of genuine human connection.

Tara Brach, PhD, writes: “Our most fundamental sense of well-being is derived from the conscious experience of belonging. Relatedness is essential to survival. When we feel part of the whole, connected to our bodies, each other, and the living Earth, there is a sense of inherent rightness, of being wakeful and in love.”

When we creatively collaborate with our workmates, we’re connecting. When we play soccer with our kids, we’re connecting. When we laugh out loud with a dinner table of peers, we’re connecting. And yes, when we crowd our city streets and join in on rallying cries for rights and policies we believe in, we’re connecting.

In obvious ways, our most intimate connections are the ones we grow most accustomed to—a fact that carries with it equal parts beauty and risk, as sometimes, without awareness or intention, we stop noticing the value of those everyday connections. We can often take our beloveds and peers for granted, not because we want or intend to, but because of the ease with which we can so easily shift from ‘we’ to ‘I’ in our daily goings-on.

Awakening as We

But what of our relationship to a crowd of thousands? That is by no means a familiar daily ‘we’ experience but rather a giant and powerfully resonant ‘we’ opportunity.

To feel as though we belong to a compelled group ignited by passion and shared values taps directly into what it means to be human. It wakes us up, and boy are we grateful, as Tara Brach notes, to have eyes wide and hearts full.

This experience doesn’t fade from view quickly. We suspect the collective lingering energy from the march is what caused so many Americans to float with glee into school, work, train stations, grocery stores, and online conversations on the days that followed. These profound experiences tend to stick with us; the magic has layers that continue unfolding.

After all, to feel the deeply resonant magic of ‘we’ is what we’re each looking for. Those are the moments that remind us of what it is to be alive.