Community Matters: Lessons from John Friend
On the first night of the Estes Park Yoga Jounral Conference, John Friend read aloud from the mission statement that he wrote eleven years ago when he first articulated the intention of Anusara Yoga. The most striking piece of the statement was its emphasis on the community. As he introduced each Anusara teacher who would be presenting this week, they each spoke with gratitude about their practice and the community that supported them. He then introduced his staff. He knew each and every name.
And here is where Anusara blooms. The first precept of Anusara yoga is shakti: seeing the good, the divine, in each and every person. Opening to grace. Many teachers expressed deep gratitude that they had found a community that, as Christina Sell said, “testifies for her.” Her community has her back, she has their, and around and around it goes.
Now, this shouldn’t be such a rare occurrence, but I will venture that too many of us to not feel connected to an authentic sense of community. To take a salient detour, my partner recently attended a Korean birthday party. He was struck by the warmth and support that the Korean community showed for the birthday of one seven-year-old girl. He noted that these were working class people who did not have a lot of extra money, but who seemed happy and glad to be with each other. There was a sense they trusted and supported each other. And within their community, each person had a place of importance. What is most shocking about this experience isn’t that the Korean community was supportive, but that my partner – a man who makes friendship a priority – feels the absence of such a community in his own life.
Many of us share this feeling of isolation. Because community isn’t only about friendship. Community mean having a civic voice and value. The American dream determines our importance by our success. We idolize individualism. Proud and independent, we compete, rather than cooperate. Despite our friendships, we feel a lack of belonging.
As John Friend has so beautifully demonstrated, yoga offers us the opportunity to reclaim a this needed community. A community of like-minded, spiritually curious people who desire greater well-being. Rather than go to class and remain isolated on our mat, why don’t we seize the opportunity to create community through our practice? To recognize the people to either side of us as members of our tribe, or as John Friend says, members of the “merry band”. We don’t need to be Anusara yogis to tap into this potential. We can recognize our community wherever we are, and begin to weave the threads between us a little tighter. It is no coincidence that tantra means “weave” or “loom.” Through the practice, we create a tapestry of human connection in which to explore our deeper wisdom and brightest potential. Testify!