Last year I attended a retreat by writer and dream-worker, Toko-pa Turner. It was my gift to myself before our second baby was to join our family, and it was exactly what I needed. Much of her retreat shared snippets of wisdom from her book, Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home. (There are so many pearls of insight infused in this read! I highly recommend).
Now, as I venture out more fully into the world with this wellness studio, deepening my work in community stewardship, I continue to find solace in her words. Growing up as an adoptee in a town with little diversity by way of ethnicity, a big part of my life's work has been around answering questions like, "Where do I belong?" "How do I belong?" "Who is my community?"
Throughout my teens and early twenties I spent a lot of time in what Toko-pa calls communities of "false belonging"--places where I gave up parts of myself in exchange for membership of the group. And sometimes STILL to this day I find myself drawn to those places, people and programs, that dangle shiny promises of belonging. I find myself drawn to a program of study, not just for the learning but for the "family" that comes along with it. There is something of comfort for me there. Student life whether formally or informally is a place where I am comfortable--being guided by a teacher, immersed in study surrounded by other lifelong learners and enthusiasts.
As I read Toko-pa's book, I am reminded of the delicate process of what it means to build community. She mentions, "It may seem obvious, but two things are absolutely necessary to creating community over the long term: someone willing to take the lead and invite others to gather, and someone willing to answer that call."
She goes on to say, "answering the call is also a kind of generosity. Beyond receiving what the other is offering, it is also a way of giving relevance to their [the leader's] efforts. It says that no matter how busy or tired I might be, community with you is important to me..." and "with enough calls made, and enough answers to those calls, the fabric of community is eventually woven."
Thank you for answering that call. Thank you for showing up when you are busy and tired, even at those times your teacher couldn't make it to the studio ;) We are so lucky to have you.
I am so grateful for the people who have stepped forward to make this studio a possibility, generously offering your gifts and presence to help lift us up. Thank YOU. I also want to thank our building owner Dave, whose vision for this space is less wrapped into money and more heart-centered and community driven. We could not do this work without your support and trust in our process. While I'm here, I also want to thank our teachers, both regular teachers and visiting teachers, for taking the time out of your lives to answer the call to share what teachings are alive in you with others. And of course, I want to thank our students (who are also our teachers, friends and family). We are now into our third month open and it has been great to meet you and spend time with you in this way.
A new student found our 30 for $39 deal online and on a whim decided to sign up. She mentioned to another student, "I feel like I belong here." This feeling of belonging she shared is not something that I could create alone. It comes directly from our community. We are all in this together and this is what will sustain our model. There is still plenty of work ahead of us to keep this good thing going, but on dreary days it seems more manageable when I know I am not going at it alone.
The people who are showing up, answering the call with their generosity and with their hearts remind me of why I do the work I do, which leaves me with another quote from Toko-pa, "Leadership is essential to community, but in the reciprocal model, this role can rotate between members depending on the needs of the group. Unlike the way we normally think of leadership, as one person telling others what to do, reciprocal leadership is about engaging everyone to find the way forward. It is spherical in nature rather than hierarchical. In this way of seeing things, a great leader is an expression of their collective, not the star...Reciprocal leadership ultimately recognizes the circle itself as the teacher."
Thank you, for being on this journey with me and our Moon River community. Thank you for being part of the circle!