Dr. Treyvaud has asked me to write a little bit about our community, how we are organized online, and what cool things we are doing.
As with everything in life, our community is constantly evolving. The shift to meeting online with Zoom has presented us with many opportunities to adjust and learn. One of the coolest things we are doing is learning how to navigate communicating online. A large number of us are learning how to navigate with electronic devices in ways that we didn’t even know were possible last year at this time. There are many opportunities to practice COAL while we untangle whether the glitches that occur while we are communicating are due to malfunctioning equipment, equipment that is not compatible with what we would like it to do, general lack of technological expertise, or a moment of inattention. We are discovering that even when what we intended for our meditation practice does not materialize in the way we intended due to “glitches”; the practice can still be valuable. The insights that arise from the dialogue between community members while we share our experiences and untangle what happened can be very fruitful.
Even though the learning curve with electronic communication has been and continues to be somewhat messy, our options to be in touch with each other have in many ways improved from what they were before we went online.
We currently have 3 means of contact.
1) The weekly email/newsletter that I send out,
2) The Wem4google group – logistics managed by Ron
3) Our weekly WEM Online with Zoom – logistics managed by Mary Rose with offers of support from Joanna and Samantha if needed.
1) The community group newsletter is a reminder to community members that we have a weekly meeting. It is also a way to give community members who have not attended the previous week(s) a taste of what has been unfolding in the community.
Community members will send me links to articles, websites, books, videos, and meditations, etc. that have inspired their practice and that they wish to share with the community through the newsletter. This sharing might inspire the direction of the dialogue at a future meeting.
The direction of the weekly meetings has always been influenced by the community members who attend the meetings.
Often there was no stated intention of focus prior to a meeting and the direction was set at the beginning of the meeting – this was very challenging when we first started on Zoom with a free account which had a 40-minute time limit.
Ron, Ann, Anita, and John were extremely supportive in meeting with me on extra Zoom meetings to navigate and develop strategies for meetings during the first few months of Zooming.
The idea of deliberately setting and announcing a focus of intention before the meetings evolved during this time period and has become part of the information shared in the weekly newsletter.
2) The Wem4google group allows community members who have chosen to be part of the google group to communicate directly with each other. An email sent to our google group goes to everyone who has joined the google group. A response to that email will also go to everyone in the group unless the choice is made to direct the response only to the sender. When community members share information here instead of through the newsletter a dialogue between members may occur that can include members who are not able to attend our Wednesday evening meetings.
Community members have used the google group in order to organize (before Covid), community gatherings such as a group of community members attending a meditation speaking engagement, a day-long community member facilitated meditation group and (during Covid), meeting in a specific location to share a socially distanced mindful walk. For various reasons, not everyone in the community has joined the google group so I will from time to time also copy some of the information that is shared through the google group in the newsletter.
The Google group also holds an archive of meditations and posts to the group – some of us who are members of the group have yet to unlock the process of how to access this data.
3) WEM online with Zoom is an online place where community members meet to share their experiences of practicing and learning about Mindful meditation. There is no formal “teacher” however community members will take the opportunity to experiment with what they have learned/are learning by sharing thoughts and information with the community. The dialogue that ensues usually opens up new ideas and possibilities for exploration. Sharing is often spontaneous and informal. As the community matures, and perhaps with the designating of a weekly focus of attention in the newsletter, the risk to research and present information in a more formal format is happening more often. The opportunity to share information more formally is open to any community member by indicating to the community what and when they would like to share. This has happened during group dialogue when a community member indicates that they are interested in doing more research on the subject of the dialogue and are then willing to share the information that they learn with the community. The interest to share information may also be presented during an exchange of emails in the google group or by sending an email to me in response to a newsletter. We do not at this time have a formal notification process in place.
One of the interesting effects of meeting virtually instead of in-person is that each of us has the opportunity to choose what and how long we will practice during that 50 minute time period.
When we first started with Zoom our practice and dialogue were constricted by 40 minute time frames. Our actual practice time was often reduced to 20 or 30 minutes rather than the 50 minutes we practiced when we met in person. We discovered that many community members found it much more difficult to practice from home – even a 30-minute practice could be challenging from a home environment.
Now that we have a community-funded Zoom account and are no longer restricted by the 40 minute time constraint we have returned to allowing 50 minutes for practice as we did when meeting in person. The challenges that arise with joining the meeting from our home environment have not disappeared.
Having the option to make choices regarding the initial practice seems to make practicing from home less stressful and more fruitful. When the choice is to practice in silence there is the option of running a guided meditation on your own device while your device is muted on zoom. When there is a guided practice on zoom, there is the option of muting the meditation and practicing in silence. There is also the option of shifting to yoga or a walking meditation (an option that was available when we met in person), if your space allows.
The whole idea behind the community group is that it is a place where we are able to develop our own inner wisdom. Community members online have the opportunity to make broader choices regarding their practice. Making choices is a part of developing wisdom.
The weekly stated intention of focus seems to ground the group dialogue even when the initial means of the practice of the individual members is diverse.
A final really cool thing about WEM Online with Zoom – we currently have a community member meeting with us from the Yucatan Peninsula! Physical distance from the meeting site is no longer an issue.
I express my gratitude to all who are connected to our Wednesday Evening Meditation community. My life is much richer for my involvement with the community.