Before I started traveling in Yoga and Buddhist circles, community used to be a very loaded word for me. It used to bring up images of small towns in the bible belt, where ignorance ran rampant, mob mentality ruled and anyone who didn’t fit in was ostracized or maybe even stoned to death in the town square. Of course, junior & senior high school didn’t help this misconception either. As a self-professed lone wolf, I really didn’t get the whole clique thing; this needs to fit in. I was raised fiercely independent, to question everything and stick up for myself (and the underdogs too).
In truth, this idea stuck with me until I started my Yoga teacher training. In my first Yoga teacher training course, we had huge diversity, ages, sizes, abilities, ethnic backgrounds and income levels (we even had one token guy). Slowly my carbon copy idea of community began to change. Here we were this rag tag bunch of Yogis all united together to study this thing called Yoga that we had fallen in love with. We had become a Kula or community.
A few years later when I came out the “Buddhist closet” and committed to practice, I set out (with much resistance) to find the third of the three jewels, Sangha. Again I found big diversity. So I started to rethink my previous borg-like view of community. I started to realize that I didn’t need to be assimilated to be part of a spiritual community.
Of course now with the internet being what it is, it is even easier to find your tribe. If you don’t find your community locally, it’s got to be out out there on the web (perfect for introverts).
When I started teaching Yoga, I set out to bring a sense of community to my classes. I consciously chose to teach small, more intimate, community-based classes, instead of teaching in trendy, over-packed, impersonal feeling studios. My students see each other week to week, know each other’s names and make connections.
A few years ago my fella and I took this embracing community one step further when we moved into the community of Inglewood (which is known for its community vibe) from Downtown. Inglewood is rich in diversity, none of the houses are the same, we have various ages from seniors to young couples, and many different income levels as well. For the first time ever neighbors said hello as I walked by on the street. I lived somewhere where we had more volunteers than needed for the annual river clean up. Where local shopping is so encouraged that merchants give a discount just for being a member of the community association!
In the video below, I talk a bit more about my journey to embracing community.
As an introvert, I still need plenty of time to myself to recharge my batteries so I don’t attend all the community events in my hood, but now I can’t imagine living somewhere without this vibe.
In the comments below let me know What Does Community Mean To You? Where do you find community?