The power of community is both humbling and inspiring. Each of us has our own special individual gifts to offer the world. But when we join those gifts together an energy is created by the group that can be much greater than the capacity of the individual parts.
This past weekend I had the great pleasure of participating in the inaugural edition of the South Dakota Yoga Conference. We live in a rural state with a low population scattered over a large geographic area. Yet the human resources available here are world class. Presenters with expertise in a wide variety of mind-body disciplines came from all over the state to gather with a group of enthusiastic attendees from multiple states. There were an amazing 33 sessions available over two full days. The variety of topics and expertise of the presenters made it difficult to chose among them. In the end all choices were good. A total win-win for everyone! In the past I’ve attended national conferences with “name-brand” yoga teachers. This quality event was every bit as impressive as any of those – maybe even better since it was right in my own back yard. No planes or passports required. Dates for next year’s conference have already been set (last weekend in July 2017) so mark your calendars!
If you are reading this blog from outside South Dakota, take heart. Of course, you are welcome to come here and attend also. But if that is not possible for you, my point about community is that it can be found anywhere. Sometimes where you least expect it. This conference was conceived by three friends who saw the need and took the chance that others would recognize that need. They are 3 fabulous and energetic ladies (Scottie Bruch, Jillian Anawaty and Cheri Isaacson) but I’m sure they won’t mind me saying that they have no particular special powers. What they do have is a passion for spreading yoga and all related health promoting and life enhancing practices. My point is that any of us is capable to putting together a community. It requires a passion for learning and sharing and a willingness to take that first dangerous step into the unknown. When these women began this quest, they did not know what the outcome would be. But they believed in the concept and in the power of community. Wonder or wonders the community responded! A call for presenters was put out and the rest is history.
There was a preliminary session at the conference which was open to all current or aspiring yoga teachers and anyone else interested in participating in this gathering. This became an opportunity for us to share challenges, successes and ideas with others engaged in both similar and different pursuits. Here in the Black Hills we are fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive and close-knit yoga community yet we have never had an opportunity like this before. The seed has now been planted so the possibility exists for something else of value to grow from this experience.
Even though many of us are in different work and/or life situations, it was interesting to see how much we could each benefit from the experience of others. This is actually not such a surprising result. In fact, it is yet another benefit of community. We learn that others are going through or have gone through similar situations to our own. It’s easy to feel isolated in today’s world where so many of the institutions we used to rely on are no longer working. Our society often places a value on being independent. We perpetuate the myth that we should all be capable of solving our own problems. Yet human beings are by nature social creatures who are drawn to groups. As the song says, “no man is an island”. The fact is we all rely on others in many ways whether or not we realize it. When you become isolated, you might feel like your thoughts or problems are unique and insurmountable. It can be so comforting to learn that you are not alone. By becoming part of a group you may be surprised to find that there are others who are or have been where you are and can show you by example that change is possible.
There are opportunities for community everywhere. Anyone feeling lost or alone can look for them. Or create one yourself based on your own passions and interests. It may surprise you to find that there are others out there who share your interests. Whatever you have learned will be different from what they have learned so the sharing can begin. All that’s required is an open mind and a willingness to take a chance. If you’re afraid to join an existing group, give it a try. If it doesn’t work out the first time, try again. Maybe try a different group. When you start a group or become a member of an existing group you will derive many benefits. But it is helpful to remember that the goals of the group are not just about you. A group provides a larger vision of what can be accomplished when people join together. Although what each individual contributes is valuable, what can be achieved as a whole is what’s important. So offer your expertise and be willing to give freely but let others provide theirs as well. We all gain when we all contribute. No matter what your intention, though, don’t give up. Keep trying. You never know when the right circumstances will arise.
Time for yourself has its value and everyone needs to be alone sometimes. But community can be a magical and powerful force capable of transforming lives. Keep your mind and heart open and release your expectations. Just let it unfold organically without trying to force it. The result may be totally different from what you thought might happen but you may just get what you need.