by Fiona Trembath
We all want to belong; it’s the yearning of the spirit to connect, to be seen, to matter. So, when I made the decision back in 2014 to accept my place in the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) program at the University of Melbourne, at the cost of not attending the first Wholebeing Institute’s Certificate in Positive Psychology (CiPP) alumni reunion, I felt a great loss. I wanted my cake and I wanted to eat it, too. I tried to negotiate absence from my first MAPP intensive but was denied; I had to choose.
For many, this would seem like a no-brainer: “You’re kidding, right? You’ve just been accepted into a prestigious university to further your studies in positive psychology, but you’re thinking of knocking back the offer just so you can go to a CiPP reunion?”
You see, my fellow CiPPsters were my tribe. I belonged to this incredible 200-strong international community who had taken this Aussie under their wings and been my wind. I’d made wonderful friends, been uplifted and inspired by so many, and stood in awe at the wisdom and generous teachings of the faculty: Tal Ben-Shahar, Maria Sirios, Megan McDonough, Megha Nancy Buttenheim, and the inimitable Rouben Madikians.
But first, MAPP.
And so it took another two years to get back to see my tribe, when I attended the Embodied Positive Psychology Summit in 2016. After the long-haul flights from Melbourne to LA to New York City, followed by a train trek and a shuttle to Massachusetts, I was once again at the entrance to Kripalu. It was ironic: although I was thousands of miles away from home, as soon as I walked in the doors of Kripalu, I was home once again.
I’ve attended many positive psychology conferences over the years, but none have left me feeling so empowered, inspired, connected, and—most importantly—feeling like I belonged, than the Wholebeing Institute’s Embodied Positive Psychology Summit.
Perhaps the answer lies in the distinctions between the words “conference” and “summit.” A conference is a) a meeting for consultation or discussion; and b) the act of conferring or consulting together: consultation, especially on an important or serious matter.
Conversely, a summit is a) the highest point or part, as of a hill, a line of travel, or any object; top; apex; and b) the highest point of attainment or aspiration: the summit of one’s ambition.
I don’t know about you, but the words “aspiration,” “attainment,” and “highest point” compel me more than “discussion,” “consultation,” and “serious matter.”
The word “embodied” is also a giveaway. To simply espouse the theories of positive psychology as a learned individual of the science is not enough; we must embody—and practice—these principles if we are to be more whole, well, and effective in the world.
However, we cannot do so blindly. We must continue to question and validate the science through rigorous study and research, plus share and expand on the findings. Coming together as a group of passionate positive psychology practitioners and researchers is crucial to the continued growth and validation of the field. To me, this is what the 2016 Summit was about. It wasn’t just the gold standard of experts, it also included the trailblazers, the rubber-to-the-road practitioners.
It was a sensational summit, from the pre-conference workshop on leadership with master trainers Phoebe Atkinson and Nancy Kirsner, to being engrossed in new theories and ideas and great discussions with world leaders in the field Neal Mayerson, James Pawelski, Barbara Fredrickson, and Sharon Salzberg, to name a few.
I think the beauty of the 2016 Summit was, for me, that feeling of belonging. This was my expanded tribe, and not only were we learning from great teachers, we were also having fun. When we set our serious, note-taking selves aside, there was time to embody through dance, song, and laughter.
This, to me, is home: A place of belonging, of safety, of love, of learning, and of celebration.
There’s no place like it.
See you at the Summit!
Fiona Trembath, BA (Hons), MAPP, a strengths educator and facilitator, teaches and presents to schools, parent groups, and individuals. She offers a comprehensive range of resources for teachers and children to encourage strength-spotting and strength development within the classroom. She is passionate about looking for “what’s right” (rather than “what’s wrong”) as a first step toward optimum health and well-being. Author of the junior fiction novel, Crackpot, Fiona is also a writer, editor, teacher, presenter, and regular guest on ABC (Australia) Radio Overnights program. fromstrengthtostrength.com