Microcosms of Change: Finding Good Community (and a love letter to JoyRide)

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Two things I know. I have a good program. I’m passionate about what I’ve learned and the work I do. I’m lucky to see its impacts reverberate around me on a daily basis.

What I also know that its success is not down to me alone, nor is it the singular product of the information I share. What ultimately shapes it; what injects the magic and the heart; what is the meat in the middle of the sandwich so to speak, is the community of people who are a part of it.

In every context that matters, community is what binds us. As someone who lives in a place of relative isolation, the online communities that I’m a part literally breathe life into my soul.

They inspire me with new ideas and challenge old ones. The lift the top off my head to let the winds move through, making sure that what I lack the ability to access locally or to tangibly hold in my hands I can find through the many constellations of cyberspace, and the various hearts that meet me on the other side of my screen.

My computer and what it allows me to access, is a wild and untamed space. And like all spaces where the boundaries are limited and the rules ambiguous or non-existent, I must navigate what nourishes me and notice what doesn’t; I must become my own gate keeper in an area where the natural checks and balances don’t often exist.

When finding your way through group landscapes, we can be artful in our approaches also. There are ways to intentionally use the container of an online community as the means to challenge your own patterns; to meet the parts of yourself that you would perhaps like to mold and change; to address the things that both socially and otherwise the wider expanse of the world makes difficult.

The dynamics of what we might consider “good communities” have this inherently built in. They are microcosms that change us. When we are placed within a community that feels safe and where expression is encouraged, we sooner rather than later find ourselves amid an alchemical emotional experience, the effects of which manifest often before it hits our conscious awareness.

Good communities allow for this.

Safety is an interesting word to use also and is inherently subjective. I’ve learned that it’s unwise to automatically describe an area as a safe space, no matter how true that may feel personally. Safety is a descriptor that is earned; what feels safe to one person may not to another, a feeling that is informed by familiarity, perceptions, and previous experiences, to name a few.

“Good” groups, programs, teachers, and coaches will always survive and invite robust questioning. If you want to learn about the nature of something or someone you are looking to be involved with, observe how they respond to questions. If it all holds true, and if the desire truly is for learning and adventure in collaboration (after all, any relationship be in teacher, student or otherwise is ultimately a collaboration) those involved will always lean into, rather than away from, genuine enquiry.

If you feel you lack community, are interested in cultivating community for yourself, or being a more active part of those you currently reside in, it is important to consider:

  • What the community can offer you
  • What you can offer the community

If you have just joined an online space, sometimes this isn’t immediate apparent how everything is playing out. If that’s the case, it can pay to be an active observer for a while.

Notice, what is the tone here? How are questions generally received, both by other members and those who are “running” the space?

Good online communities give us the opportunity to use our voice and share our challenges and vulnerabilities in ways in might not be possible “on the outside”. When you can share things you find difficult or even shameful and be met with kindness; when you learn to receive feedback and understand it not as a personal blight or criticism but as an act of love, you can’t help but be changed.

When we are loved well, even in online spaces, we feel both loving and lovable.

Communities really do have that power.

A member of JoyRide posted this in the group after our weekly Q&A session:

“Thank you Jane and team JoyRide for the magic that’s is Stable Hours. A truly safe space to air the weird, wonderful and mundane musings of one’s mind in full confidence of being heard and offered considered response – with interested and supportive witnesses. It struck me as I listened today how very rare that is and how powerful and beautiful.”

One of the comments that followed was:

“I was thinking the same as I listened to Stable Hours today! The community here really is worth just as much as the actual work.”

I couldn’t agree more, and I love the phrase “supportive witnesses”. Having the information is the first step, but bringing it to life occurs in relationship, and having a supportive community in which to share and practice really is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

As a coach and human interested in developing online spaces as portals of connection, friendship and learning, the online space I am a custodian of has helped me expand professionally and personally also. When you manage a group over a sustained period, you get to observe many patterns and behaviours playing out, which we can also assume make similar appearances in their day to day life also.

These observations have given me the opportunity to consider how I can best serve someone with my reply, and in some cases, a lack of reply can be as considered a decision as any.

As I walk the same path, I get to meet my alter egos of wanting to be liked, and of people pleasing. I have to ask myself, what best serves this person, even if it’s not the response they ultimately want to hear?

Group spaces open your work up to questioning, critique and investigation, creating opportunities for deeper understanding, reflection and consolidation of what is useful and what isn’t, what to keep and what to discard.

I credit much of this to healthy group spaces and the transformation they allow.

This blog started as a love letter to the community of JoyRide, but it evolved into a different thoughts around what it means to allow yourself to be changed and how we can best show up in the online spaces that we love.

A loving and gentle challenge to further consider how we can support each other, and allow ourselves to be supported in return.


❤️ Jane

If you want to join our community and JoyRide, we welcome you with open arms! You can do so here.

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