One of the things I love so much about our Dancing Mindfulness community is our inclusiveness. We celebrate members of all shapes, sizes, colors, belief systems, spiritualities, genders, sexual orientations, and career paths. I think this is one of the things that makes us strong and creates the safe container that we value so much within the community.
And yet. Sometimes I see things that feel exclusionary happening in our community, that seem clique-ish. Others have mentioned similar experiences of feeling excluded, feeling like outsiders. I don’t believe that members of our community deliberately set out to exclude others, but sometimes it happens, regardless, and I strongly believe we need to guard against such behaviors.
I get it. When I get around my safe people, my close friends, I want to be greedy and get as much connection with them as possible in the time we have. Some of them I don’t get to see nearly as often as I’d like. Sometimes I feel extra needy, because safe, healthy connections like I experience with these people were few and far between before I found this community. I want to make the most of it when we are together.
The reality is that even within our community, there is a hierarchy. Some of us have been in the community longer than others. Some of us are closer to the “inner circle” by virtue of geographical proximity or affiliate status or working directly with Jamie. Maybe the inner circle people, or the people who are close friends, need to find ways to spend time together, just us, more often than we have been. When we come together with others who are further outside the inner circle, or others who are only just coming into contact with our community for the first time, each of us is in a position of power over those newer or more distantly connected members. We need to behave accordingly.
Which means things like, we can’t all collect at one table that doesn’t offer enough seats for everyone. We can’t all cluster in small groups all the time we are together. We may feel that, of course we welcome anyone who wants to join us, so what’s the problem? The problem is that not everyone will feel welcome to sit there, not everyone will feel brave enough to approach what feels like a clique or a closed group and ask to join. It doesn’t matter how open you believe you are to letting anyone join you if they don’t feel able to approach you. If you console yourself by saying, “I welcome anyone and if they don’t have the courage to ask to join, that’s their issue,” then you are misunderstanding or misusing your power within the community. Because when you’re an affiliate and they’re not, you have more power than they do at our gatherings. When you’re a personal friend of Jamie’s and they’re only an acquaintance or trainee of Jamie’s, you have more power than they do at any event where they are present. When you’re a Dancing Mindfulness facilitator and they aren’t, you have more power than they do when they’re in the same room with a group of community members.
That may sound harsh and it is not my intention to shame, blame, or guilt anyone. It is my intention to bring awareness to the fact that even within our open, welcoming, inclusive community, there are power differentials. When we ignore them, we are excluding people. We are making people feel like outsiders. We look like cliques. And that is not what this community is about. We all bear the responsibility for exemplifying the messages of our community. Please be mindful of the messages you’re sending, even with an action as seemingly innocent or mindless as choosing a seat at a table. Please choose instead to reach out with invitations of connection to everyone who comes to our community events. Let’s keep our web of connection growing and expanding and make everyone welcome. Not all will choose to accept your invitation, but those who need us, those we need, will find us.
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity