If you know me well, you know that I’ve moved around a lot in the past 20 years (25 times, actually. 25 entrances and exits, 25 hello’s paired with 25 goodbye’s). If you know me ~really~ well, you know that something I’ve longed for all my life is community, as elusive as it’s always seemed.
Now, I’m outing myself: I have a community. And I’m in love with it.
Today, as I prepare to lead another Game Night at the Integral Center (my home-away-from-home here in Boulder), I feel called to express how enveloped I feel by community. As I’m typing this, there’s a love-gratitude-warmthness that surrounds my whole being. It’s almost overwhelming, in the best possible way.
I moved to Boulder two and a half years ago and spent my first weekend here at the Integral Center, participating in Aletheia. Aletheia is our weekend deep-dive into community, into the present moment, and into our mainstay practice of Circling. I didn’t know that I was looking for anything in particular when I signed up for the course. My reason for doing it, honestly, was that, “it looked cool,” based on the event description, and I knew a handful of the other people participating. At first it was awkward. I felt like a kid being invited into adult play, and I was embarrassed to even hold eye contact for more than a few seconds, needing to look away. I’m not going to recount my entire Aletheia experience. What I will say, though, is that by Sunday night my perception of my life and of what’s possible out of life had been totally blown open.
I want to share with you my main “aha” moment from the weekend, because it was huge for me. At Aletheia, I realized that every time I walked into a new social situation—be it a party, a class, a job, Aletheia—I would look around to see if there was a man there who seemed strongly attracted to me, so much so that, if I wanted him to, he’d gladly hop into bed with me. If there was, I could feel safe to express myself, could feel that I belonged there, could be outgoing and flirty and overall have fun. If there wasn’t, then I would retreat into my awkwardness and stick to being a wallflower. At Aletheia, I then realized, amidst tears and amazement, that not only was this something that I did, but that I could stop. I could be self-expressed and excited to enter a new social situation regardless of a man being there who is strongly attracted to me. And since then, this pattern has faded dramatically. It still comes up occasionally, but these days if I find myself scanning the room for a man, I’m usually doing it because I’m excited to feel attraction, not because I’m looking for permission to exist.
The most unexpected thing about Aletheia is that it was the doorway into a net of community that is still holding me now, more than two years after I set foot in that building. This net is strong and intricately woven together. It’s not some inconsequential string loosely knotted here-and-there. After Aletheia, I surprised myself by leaping to sign up for T3 (our 6-month Circling Training) to learn how to facilitate circles and give people “aha” moments like the one that had been facilitated for me. Going into my Aletheia weekend, I hadn’t dreamed I would become a T3 participant. By Sunday night, I was possibly the easiest sell they’ve ever had. I now spend about 40% of my weekends helping facilitate courses at the Integral Center, structuring my other jobs and travel plans around them out of sheer love for the work we do there and for the other people on the staff team.
And let me reiterate: I’ve moved 25 times. 25! I didn’t think having a community like this would be possible for me. I assumed I didn’t have what it takes to put in the work—like staying, like really getting to know the individuals—to be eligible for such a gift. And now here I am, years later, looking back and getting to say that it hasn’t been work. It’s been expansive, and sometimes, of course, there are growing pains. But these growing pains—these stretches—are totally worth it. I get to give and receive love here. I get to ask for help when I’m sick—and receive it. Soup has been brought to me, even. I’ve gotten to experience sunrise at Burning Man with friends I made here, sharing in moments that can never be replicated nor would I ever want them to be. They were perfect. I’ve gotten to listen, really listen, to how it was for a friend from my T3 when he found out his favourite aunt was dying, who told me later that the listening was the greatest gift he could have been given in that moment.
It all started with signing up. None of this would have been possible without the communication skills that I learned as a T3 participant. We have another training starting in May, and I want you there. If we’ve ever spoken, I want you there. If I’ve ever touched you, even for a moment, I want you there. This work is important. I believe it has the power to transform the world. I want you to become a part of my community, and I want this work to inspire you enough to take it back to your own communities. Message me to start the conversation.
Melody Markel is a coach, artist, and poet based in Boulder, CO. She grew up all over the world, calling home places like New England, the South, France, and England, but is thrilled to now be putting down roots. She studied musicology and lighting design at Smith College in Northampton, MA, and Naropa University in Boulder, CO, earning her Bachelor of Arts degree in Music. Melody serves on faculty at the Integral Center as an authentic relating facilitator. Her favourite song is Where Is My Mind? by The Pixies.