How to feel like a part of a virtual community

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I had the opportunity to spend last weekend at a spectacular retreat in Sedona, hosted by the amazing Naam Arizona and Nicole Coyle, Tina Blankenship, and Roxie Phillips. 20 women, all ages and all walks of life came together as sisters. Some of us had never met, some had planned to come for months and some at the very end were drawn in.

(Don’t worry, we were Covid-safe, quarantined beforehand, and spent most of our time outdoors in the open air.)

Hiking in the amazing red rocks of Arizona…

We laughed, we cried, we did yoga, we hiked, we plunged into the hot tub and cold water, we sang, we danced, we ate, we drank wine, we shared our stories, we encouraged and loved on each other.

I came home overwhelmed and overflowing with gratitude for this experience and was once again reminded of how important community is – having a group of people where I feel like I belong and can gain support and encouragement.

The one thought that stood out to me in reflecting on this weekend is,

“The biggest impact that the pandemic has had on my life is loss of interaction with my physical community.”

Before the pandemic, we took everything for granted, but now, looking back, my pre-covid life stands in stark contrast to my current life, and the main difference is the presence of physical community.

When I was growing up, I was an only child. Being an only child, I always wanted others around me. I was always self conscious of the fact that I was “alone” and was awkward around brothers and sisters of my friends.

I remember on the holidays, my mother and a group of her friends would always plan big get togethers for anyone they knew that didn’t have family. Our celebrations were open to anyone that needed a community or tribe. This was always so special to me and stands out as some of my favorite childhood memories.

When I started Alive, Fit & Free, my vision was so much more than classes and helping others learn how to live life with vigor – It was and is about COMMUNITY – a place for all to belong, to be encouraged and accepted.

While self-acceptance is so important, what makes us connected as humans is our ability to love, support, and encourage each other. Sometimes we need a shoulder to cry on, sometimes a friend to cheer us on, sometimes a kind word to tell us of what a good job we have done. We need to surround ourselves with others who are inspiring themselves to reach higher and climb further.

Community helps us rejoice in who we are and where we are on our journey.

I have had the most amazing experience watching the Alive, Fit & Free community grow through COVID.

We used to teach onsite live classes until COVID hit and then we switched to live virtual classes and events. We began with 1 senior living community and a handful of ladies that had been with me for about 4 years. We have gradually grown to multiple facilities and individuals from all walks of life. We meet daily with people from across the US and even internationally: Brazil, Italy, Puerto Rico, Indonesia and Mongolia.

Full turn out in our Halloween hangout in October!

However, the virtual aspect of connecting online can be challenging to get used to. You might worry about: What do I say? How do I interact? There are no social clues to follow…

What worked best for me starting with a virtual community was just diving in. The good part about Alive, Fit & Free is that you can connect over classes & events, so it takes the pressure off of finding a topic to talk about. That leaves connections to happen naturally before or after the event, or during as we encourage each other throughout the class.

The most valuable part of this community is that we check in with each other. Lois from southern California, (99 yrs old) has been welcomed by Shirley in Arizona, and individuals from all over the US have formed friendships. We all chat before the class and when someone is missing, we are concerned and we check in on that person.

Chatting with some of my favorite ladies after our Thursday Energy Up Class!

This community has supported, encouraged, and been a life line throughout this past year of isolation and quarantine.

While I didn’t have the physical community that I was used to, we learned to celebrate, support, and encourage each other through our virtual community.

As the Alive, Fit & Free Community grows and evolves, I would love to hear from you.

What do you need out of a community?

What would make you feel more a part of the Alive, Fit & Free community?

How can we truly make this a place where each community member feels encouraged, important, and supported?

Please leave me your thoughts and suggestions in the comments…

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