Journey to the Gathering
When I left NYC after 10 years, I had no idea where I would end up; I just knew that I never wanted to wear a puffy jacket again.
Through the magic of search I landed at Kalani, a yoga center on the Big Island of Hawai‘i, where I could buy enough time to figure out what to do next. I signed up for a 3-month volunteer program and stayed a lot longer, working my way from the kitchen to marketing, and, eventually, management. Kalani provided a place for me to grow, while a new big picture emerged for my life.
During this time, I became passionate about Holistic Centers: unique places dedicated to wellness and personal growth. When I began pursuing my dream of being an independent consultant, the Centers Gathering – an annual conference of holistic center professionals – seemed like a perfect next step to network and explore new possibilities.
I felt the excitement of the Centers Gathering from the moment I arrived at Omega Institute’s upstate NY campus. I checked into a comfortable dorm accommodation and made my way along winding, tree-lined pathways to the Omega Cafe, where friends from 30 years of Gatherings were reuniting and new participants were connecting for the first time.
I felt an instant sense of familiarity with my fellow Center’s people, who one presenter described as “cousins meeting for the first time.” For the next five days, we got to know each other by sharing stories, strategies, and philosophies over walks, presentations, and meals.
At each session, I practiced the art of listening, serving as a record keeper and scribe for the group. My assignment was to help capture and share wisdom from the Gathering, while being receptive to strategic directions for its new parent organization, the Holistic Centers Network. It was exciting to be part of something that was both 30 years in the making and brand new all at once.
There’s Something About Centers
Centers mirror fundamental truths of our reality: that we are here to learn, serve each other’s growth, and fulfil our unique missions. As such, I think thriving Centers can contribute greatly to a thriving humanity. The Gathering helps bolster this potential by providing a forum for paying forward years of wisdom and experience through collaboration.
Like people, each Center has a unique history, personality, and culture. The Gathering continues to reflect this diversity, attracting 60 participants from 35 centers in 9 countries. However, underlying surface-level differences between centers and their representatives is a unity of spirit: one of sharing and mutual benefit.
This year’s Gathering underscored the importance of cultivating even more diversity, highlighting that for humanity to be whole, it must integrate its parts. We explored the idea that Centers can facilitate positive social change by being radically inclusive and welcoming to people from all walks of life. By modeling inclusivity on a micro-level at our Centers, we can create a powerful impression on the collective consciousness.
Some Centers are in the middle of bustling cities, while others are in more secluded natural destinations. At the Gathering, we were able to experience this contrast, with the majority of our time on the rural campus of Omega, juxtaposed with a day-trip to the New York Open Center in the heart of Manhattan.
There Are No Coincidences
I think of the Gathering as a kind of energy vortex and ‘Meta-Center,’ where destiny brings individuals together with a shared mission to serve humanity. Our kuleana – a Hawaiian Word meaning responsibility – is to provide a container for human evolution, one person at a time.
Within days of arriving at the Gathering, a volcanic eruption and subsequent 6.9 earthquake hit the Big Island, just a few miles from home. Along with the excitement of the Gathering, I felt the anxiety of worrying about family and friends, along with the imminent closure of Kalani due to hazardous air quality and road closures.
Despite the flurry of activity back in Hawai‘i, I committed to being present with my experience at the Gathering. While we were together at Omega, re-writing code for the future expressions of our Centers, we were also bearing witness to the power of our earth to destroy itself in favor of new creation.
The Gathering held space for all of this. In addition to our scheduled programs, participants from Breitenbush Hot Springs, Harbin Hot Springs, and Esalen Institute – who endured wildfires, floods and mudslides – shared learnings and encouragement.
One Door Closes
Like many other Gathering participants, I am naturally inclined toward service. To that end, I returned to Hawai‘i thinking I would support the relief efforts.
However, within two weeks of my return, our home, along with hundreds of others, was taken by a half-mile wide wall of lava that destroyed everything in its path. I barely had time to unpack my physical belongings, let alone my experience at the Gathering, before I was jolted on to a new adventure.
In the wake of this event, I am spending time in my center, strengthening foundations like health and relationships, and focusing on what is truly important. I am watching what falls away and what remains.
I am also reminded how lucky I am that I got to be at Kalani and attend such a transformative event such as the Centers Gathering at Omega. Since not everyone can physically get to a Center, it will become even more important to share our wisdom in the digital space and provide tools for individuals to create the center experience at home and within him or herself.
In addition, as leaders, we must model balance and equanimity in the face of the unknown. This begins with taking responsibility for oneself.
When the outside world seems filled with conflict and uncertainty, the only place we have is the center within ourselves. No matter where we are, we can always go within to find peace and safety.
Holistic Centers must continue to provide a safe and welcoming container for individuals to find this place within themselves toward the end of a happier, healthier and more whole humanity.