04/14/2015 11:08 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Stronger Together: 6 Ways to Build Community


Late NFL star running back Walter "Sweetness" Payton said, "We are stronger together than we are alone."

This weekend I experienced this through building true community.

I went to speak at a conference on Yoga at UC Berkeley.

What I experienced there was more than just sharing and gaining information. I experienced inter-generational, diverse-in-so-many-ways and more than anything supportive community.

Beyond just sharing interests we formed networks of support.

When one sister spoke of wanting to go back to school without breaking her body or spirit the community rallied around her supporting her and offering words of wisdom.

Lauren Quan-Madrid, Co-founder of People's Yoga, the first yoga studio serving East LA, spoke of this phenomenon of community building being the most profound part of her experience running the studio. It's changed the lives of the people who practice there.


When I and other South Asian voices spoke as part of the South Asian Perspectives on Yoga in America SAAPYA panel. At the conference about being at the table in this yoga conversation folks spoke about wanting to support that.

I saw the resilience and confidence of people grow. I saw connection form and inspiration seed. I saw how each of us formed a beautiful web of interconnection that contributed to one another's wellness.

So here are a few ways to build community:

1. Listen.

I saw people in the audience nodding their heads, smiling and even saying "speak" when I and other speakers were talking. I felt heard, seen and acknowledged. After the talk, people came up to me and connected. I then got a chance to really listen deeply to the other presenters. No matter what we do, we have so many opportunities during the day to really listen to someone. Practice listening and connections deepen.

2. Reach out.

With many of the conversations, we ranged from our shared interest, yoga, to our personal lives. Our connection and community deepened as we were able to connect across shared interests and go beyond.

3. Follow up.

I live in LA. Following up is something we West Coasters are notoriously bad at. But following up makes a huge difference. The only way to build trust is to show up for someone. So whether its an email, a Facebook message, a call or a text make sure to follow up to deepen community connection. It really makes a difference.

4. Attend.

In my hectic life as a mother and full-time teacher, I couldn't imagine how I was going to make it to speak on this panel across the state. But I got myself there. And attending made the magic happen. Getting out, organizing, attending events, meditation circles, book clubs circles, concerts celebrations etc. is a powerful way to build community.

The people who show up in my life when things are rough are often people who I spend two hours meditating with each week. The shared practice over the years has build community bonds that are incredibly strong.

5. Expect conflict and speak courageously.

There were some radically different perspectives shared at this conference. I was questioned in ways that felt challenging to me. Just because we all share a common interest doesn't mean we will all agree. In fact, our differences are part of what makes the community more rich and beautiful. So if we can speak our truths, accept differences and embrace conflict through sharing courageous conversation we can deepen our community even further than if we never disagree at all. We know, as Walter Payton says, we have to support one another because we are stronger together.

6. Act like our liberation and joy is bound up together.

Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson and the Aboriginal activists group of Queensland say "If you've come to help me you are wasting your time. But if you've come because your liberation is bound up in mine than let us work together."

We all want to be happy, peaceful, free and fulfilled. Sometimes we act like this is possible to achieve all on our own. Well, guess what! Everyone else wants the same thing. By working together, collaborating and connecting, we give ourselves and our partners a greater chance of achieving the freedom, peace and joy we are all striving for.

Community is key to wellness.

Connect and be well.

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