Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Finding Community Across the Pacific

This has been an intense week. A week ago, I was in themiddle of nowhere, without internet, without a phone, even without showers (though strangely the huts had electricity during certain hours of the day). This week, I have been in Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city at around 1.3 million people. The contrast was stark and not altogether easy for me to handle. To be totally honest, the thought of going back to the huge United States is a little overwhelming right now, but I am excited to be heading “home” soon. Just 2.5 more weeks in New Zealand. I cannot believe it.

I could not have asked for the New Zealand Family Law Society to have its conference. I was lucky to be able to attend, and it was incredible. I hold a special place in my heart for conferences, and it was at afamily law conference in Denver where I first taught yoga outside of teacher training. Conferences are about learning, but more importantly, they are about networking. Actually, I do not particularly like that word. Conferences are about coming together. They are about community.

And conferences on the other side of the world are about realizing (or perhaps realising) how similar we all are. In some ways, especially in a major stretch of metaphors, conferences embody everything I think yoga has to teach us as professionals. On the surface, conferences seem almost the antithesis of good yoga. They are intense, people rarely sleep, and at least at the conferences I have attended, people eat and drink far more than they should. I am, of course, the exception . . . or not.

But deeper down, conferences allow people to step outside their daily lives and take some time to reflect rather than live in a world of constant reaction. For a few days, the “other” lawyers become your friends again. Debates that sometimes devolve into zero-sum arguments in practice become opportunities to ask questions of each other, engage together, and discuss all the possible issues. No final decision has to be made. Everyone gets to be confused together. Hopefully, we can also be inspired and reinvigorated together as well. And this happens because we get away from the downward spiral of email and see each other’s faces, and talk, laugh, and debate together. We get to step away from daily life, and in doing so, we can put daily life into perspective.

But the best part is about building new community and reminding ourselves of the community in which we already exist. In that vein, I saw some friendly faces, both people I first met here in New Zealand, and people I have met in the US from both New Zealand and Australia. I also met many new people. Yoga is not just about asana and meditating and learning stress management techniques. It helps us step outside our lives long enough to realize how much we all have in common, how connected we really are. Conferences give us the same opportunity. This week, I am grateful for having had that amazing opportunity on the other side of the world. What an incredible beginning of the end of my time here. Now I just might need some more “traditional” yoga to recover from the conference.

What do you do to step outside your daily routine and find community?


© Rebecca Stahl 2011, all rights reserved.


  1. I think it's been years since the last day I attended a conference. I miss the fun and learning I get from attending such gatherings.

    From time to time I go out and meet some friends with their other friends. That is how I usually find community and eventually new friends. :)

    - online yoga community