‘Kula’ is a Sanskrit word that can be translated as “community,” “clan” or “tribe. It is the place where we hang our hearts. This word encapsulates the sense of belonging that humans need to survive and thrive. Without it, it can become very difficult to make-sense of the world and find meaning in our lives.
Why do we suffer? What are the roots of our suffering? What keeps us in a state of fear, anger, doubt, and confusion? How can we navigate through suffering so we can return to our natural — equanimous, loving, kind, and joyful — states?
Unlike pain — an uncomfortable physical, mental, or emotional experience — suffering is the state of being caught up in your painful situation and identifying with it as an aspect of your being. In other words, pain is what happens to you; suffering is your interpretation and reaction to that pain. Therefore, pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional.
In my own research into the neuroscience of belonging, I have found that isolation, or feeling left out, directly has a negative impact on our brains, and subsequently, our central nervous system, which is connected to our vital organs. I suggest the work of Dan Siegel and Richard Davidson on the topics of interpersonal relationships, neuroplasticity, and meditation.
The same areas of our brains that are impacted from feeling left out, also fire when we experience physical pain. Physiologically speaking, social isolation is the same to the brain as being punched in the gut or cut deeply.
While working through my own doubts, anger and confusion regarding the state of affairs (specific to lockdowns that are being enforced due to COVID and the inability to gather) I found that I needed to do a lot of forgiveness and loving kindness meditation. It gave me time to locate my relationship to what I was experiencing, and reminded me that the isolation and the pain that I am experiencing is not me.
In Africa, when someone is asked “How are you?” The answer is always in the plural. That person may be fine but perhaps their Grandmother is not well so they will answer “We are not well”. The idea that they are separate from their community is a misnomer.
Take extra care with the most vulnerable parts of yourself and if you feel hurt, sad or lonely, reach out. There is no need to isolate yourself. Be part of the collective. Be present. Show up for yourself, show up for others in any way you can. Especially, during these periods of increased isolation.
Be creative. These are times to think outside the box. In a call that I was on the other day with the contemporary mythologist Martin Shaw, he shared that the times we are in are not times for Heroes, rather they are times for Tricksters. We are in times where what we have is not working, and in many cases is proving to be counterproductive. We need new ways of being. We need new ways of interacting. We need new ways of coming together.
Many of our communities — whether on-line, on TV, or in-person — have become echo chambers where our thoughts and opinions are bounced back, and reinforced. We are rarely welcomed to challenge and transform ourselves in a healthy manner. In many communities there are few public spaces for healthy, creative gathering that are accessible to a wide range of people. It seems, along with the proliferation of modernity, we have lost the beauty of community, both in our way of perceiving and acting in the world.
What spaces would make your community more healthy? Can you imagine having a community space to share your struggles and grief, and be listened to and supported by others? Can you imagine a community where each person’s unique gifts and talents are acknowledged and given space? Can you imagine a community that builds enables self-resilience instead of dependency? What might this look like?
Lead Author: Man Hue Duong (first 8 paragraphs)
Man’s journey informs her being, and actions in the present moment. She was a toddler when her family escaped from the Fall of Saigon in 1978. After crossing the South China Sea to Malaysia, she nearly died of a fever in a refugee camp; two years later, her family immigrated to the U.S. and began a new life in Utica, NY.
The immediate need to hold space for the Kula (community) was vitally important to Man, and led her, in the middle of a pandemic, to open Yoga Shala, a space for healing located in Upstate New York. Yoga Shala is a sacred space where everyone, and everything, is invited. The pain, suffering, joys and curiosity. It is a place where we are reminded that we are not alone in this journey.
Prior to opening Yoga Shala, Man graduated with her AS in Fine Arts at Munson Williams Proctor Institute and continued to work her way through the University of New York at New Paltz, earning a BFA in ceramics and BS in art education and later, a Masters in art education from Queen’s College.
Man has been sharing the gift of yoga for over a decade and is E-200 RYT. She is also certified in children’s yoga, aerial yoga, SPRY (Strength, Power, Resistance, Yoga) and received her 200 hour yoga training at the acclaimed White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara, CA. She has also trained at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA., Yoga Sanctuary in Las Vega, NV, and Advanced Yoga Training with Noah Maze in Bali, Indonesia. She is currently completing her 500 hour yoga teacher training at the renowned Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health. She has also trained as a Labor and Postpartum Doula and has offered pre and post natal yoga, family yoga, and individual private yoga to support humans on the journey of life.
She has spent the last decade in Las Vegas, producing unique ceramic art and teaching art and yoga to children and adults of all ages. She has relocated back to central New York and is excited to continue sharing her passions in art, yoga, childbirth/family care, and the exploration of the human potential.
Anchor Author: Daniel Rudolph
Daniel Rudolph is interested in exploring alternative, experiential learning opportunities for people of all ages. He is passionate about forming community, and building public spaces for meaningful, transformational gathering. Currently he is spending a lot of his time learning juggling and facilitating gatherings. He also enjoys writing and sharing poetry. Daniel is a very curious and playful person and is always open for creative collaborations.