Take a moment and think about a time when you were in a community that felt safe. It could be a community of any size 3, 15 or 100. Simply call to mind an experience that allowed you to fully contribute your gifts and talents as you held others in the community in full support. As you sit with the memory, feel the bold sensations of belonging and of safety.
And, now, reflect on what made the sense of safety and belonging possible. What is it that allows protection, accountability, vulnerability, assurance and shelter to exist in the same space at the same time?
There are a myriad of things that contribute to an atmosphere of safety in the context of a community. Many of them have to do with values, intentions and agreements (spoken or unspoken) that dictate or direct the way that a group of people come together and interact with one another. Shared values, clear expectations, explicit agreements, common language, collective histories, and communal goals are all among the things that shape how we feel in a community.
That said, it is very also important to remember that human relationships are fluid. No matter how solid it might appear, a community that cultivates safety by assuming the needs of its members is a ‘house of cards’. It’s only through honest inquiry, exploration and agreement on the fundamental aspects of how we relate that a community is able to create a container big enough for freedom and growth.
These agreements help define boundaries that empower its members – old and new – with clarity and focus around what the community is and is not. They provide the rich ground for organic learning, collaboration and growth.
This year, at the Yoga Service Conference, we are dedicating a whole conference session to talking about and setting forth our agreements for the weekend. As a gathering of professionals and practitioners dedicated to being of service by sharing yoga, it is a powerful action to practice using community agreements when we come together.
Community agreements are the foundation of safe, sacred space. In the Yoga Sutras Patanjali speaks of asanas (postures) as having two qualities – sthira (steadiness or solidness) and sukha (comfort or ease). When we come together knowing that our community and its members are grounded in agreements that foster deep connection, understanding and respect, we are each able to find the comfort and ease to stretch and grow.
* Traci Childress and Nikki Myers are Advisors to the Yoga Service Council. Click here to learn more about more about Traci and Nikki and membership in the Yoga Service Council.