The Importance of Community: An Interview with A
What are the benefits of participating in the Awakening Community Circles?
Past participants have reported a deeper sense of connectedness and well-being, and share that they leave leave feeling inspired and renewed.
What do you love about facilitating Awakening Community Circles?
We all want to know that we are seen and heard by other people on a deep level. Awakening Community Circles have a way of organically evoking the innate interconnectedness we all share, the unity within diversity, which erases the lines of separation and dissolves feelings of isolation. It is amazing to us how much we all (even “strangers”) have in common, and how it is possible for people who have never met before are able to share so authentically with each other in these Circles.
Awakening Community Circles offer the opportunity to hear perspectives of many members of our community. We all embody diversity in our life experiences, and Circles tend to attract people with diverse backgrounds (ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, professional backgrounds, countries of origin, etc.), creating an opportunity for rich sharing. Because the Circles so openly welcome diversity, they also seem to have a knack for dissolving the differences.
Everyone has a profound innate wisdom, and Circles have a way of facilitating that wisdom emerging from everyone in the Circle. As facilitators, we love bearing witness to the diversity in people and perspectives, and what transpires with each group. We also love that each Circle is unique – we never know what will emerge.
Why is this important to you?
We feel that serving as volunteers for these Circles is important because it is a portal for people to begin to contemplate health & consciousness (physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual and communal), and what we have found is that the sense of well-being that emerges from within helps to awaken health in all those forms.
Can you describe your connection with Bade Baba (Vedika’s lineage fountainhead and the inspiration for Awakening Community Circle) and the work he did in his time?
In today’s culture, many people have role models whom they have never met in person, such as athletes, musicians and entertainers, and yet often they are role models only for their area of specialty and not necessarily how they live the rest of their lives. For us, Bade Baba is a role model because of the way he devoted his life day in and day out to tirelessly serving his community in a humble and down-to-earth yet inspirational and empowering way.
Radiant health and well-being is for everyone, not just certain people. There are certain individuals within every country who have devoted their lives to this equality of vision, and Bade Baba was one of those people.
The more we have learned about the history of India and the immense suffering of people, and the near decimation of culture, the more we have appreciated Bade Baba’s vision to recognize the suffering of all people as a key element of ill health regardless of what class they are in. In this modern time of true struggle with such divisiveness in this country, it is our hope that we can stand in the truth that we are all connected, and offer space to deepen those connections.
Can you share about the creative component of the Awakening Community Circles?
As children, we were all naturally creative and could express ourselves freely and effortlessly with no sense of being self-conscious. Children are spontaneous and heart-centered and don’t worry about what other people might think. One of our intentions for the Circles is to facilitate moving out of the intellect -- from our heads to our hearts. In Awakening Community Circles, we find that in addition to sacred sharing via the spoken word, creative projects have also allowed participants to tap into the wellspring of spontaneity and creativity inside themselves.
In the past we have made visual art in the form of collages, soul cards and hand-painted luminous moons. We have also done some kinesthetic activities, listened to poems and practiced a few very gentle yoga poses in past Circles. Though art isn’t incorporated into all of the Circles, the spirit of creativity always seems to emerge through the group as we connect with each other and with our own hearts.
How do you believe Community is linked with overall health and wellbeing in our modern society? What role does creating deeper Community connections play in enhancing our lives today?
Inherent in the word community is the word unity. Yet despite technology that allows us to talk with anyone around the planet nearly instantaneously, it can also hold us back from finding the innate interconnectedness which we all share.
There have been studies done that show that people who have meaningful social connections as they age actually live longer than those who do not. Isolation is a dis-ease of sorts, and in our highly technological society where liking on Facebook is more common than having meaningful conversations in person, it is easy to feel isolated. And one need not be alone to feel isolated -there are many people who feel trapped in relationships with their partner or relatives, who also feel isolated. The power of social health is often underestimated in our society compared to physical, mental, emotional health, yet all are related and interdependent.
Acharya Shunya mentions in her book Ayurveda Lifestyle Wisdom that the World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” She notes that “WHO has yet to include the spiritual dimension, so Ayurveda’s definition (of health) is more expansive.”
We as a species are interdependent for our survival. We need to form relational trust for a healthy society and a healthy self. We cannot build a strong community or society in the absence of trust.
The author Lawrence Hinman puts it this way: “There is a term from ancient Greece ‘Eudaimonia,’ which can be translated to ‘flourishing’ or ‘well-being.’ Aristotle speaks about this in terms of practical wisdom, and how that is related to happiness. According to this conception of flourishing, human beings are profoundly social by nature, and participation in the common life of the city-state, the polis, is an essential part of any happy life. Happiness or flourishing would be impossible without community.”
And “global health” starts with the individual. Global healing is only possible if we bring individual healing. Without the health of one there is the health of none. Self-awareness is the root of global healing. Or as a Native American proverb states, “True peace between nations will only happen when there is true peace within people’s souls.”
What has moved you the most in facilitating Circles?
The “a-ha” moments-- when participants experience and/or articulate something and it connects directly within them. We also love that people are willing to take risks by sharing incredibly authentically in these circles; we rarely see the same level of risk and openness when we facilitate in our “day jobs.”
Any particular story you can share about growth you've witnessed in others?
There are many stories but one which we fondly remember. A young Thai woman who was visiting the US came to the Circle and was surprised to find that through the experience of the Circle, she reconnected with her birth name. There was a moment of “wait, I am this, how could I have forgotten” – an awakening in the moment. She exuded such joy and gratitude, and we marveled that she made that connection after traveling halfway around the world and “randomly” finding the Circle. We have also loved having children and young adults attend some circles. How they engage with adults and what they say is so awesome and so authentic; they are honored for their own wisdom.
How has serving in the role of Program Co-Directors contributed to your own growth and personal transformation?
We feel truly blessed to be able to volunteer our time together with our team members, and we are continually inspired by each member of our team. We had all been through Ayurveda training at the same time at Vedika approximately five years ago, so we know each other well from that. And since then, it feels as if we have co-created a beautiful tapestry of teamwork and creative collaboration. We all bring unique, complimentary gifts to the Circles themselves as well as all that happens behind the scenes to make the Circles possible. It is also fun to apply organizational development and group facilitation skills in a context that is much sweeter than in other environments -- and the return on investment is also much higher in terms of transformation.
Join us for the next Awakening Community Circle at Vedika Global, details here.