“Community. Everybody talks about it, yet few of us do anything about it.”
—Dan Pink

As I read that quote, written for Christine Porath’s new book Community, I immediately thought about Wholebeing Institute and the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan. Both organizations have been “doing something about it” for years—continuously stepping up in support of building and bolstering thriving communities.

In her research on flourishing in organizations and thriving in community, Porath identifies vitality and learning as the two components of thriving, and notes that each of these work in concert with each other. Highly energized community members spark energy in others, while those who seek new knowledge and skills open the door to the community’s potential for further growth.

Both vitality and learning were in evidence last month at the Wholebeing Weekend, celebrating the “collective sparkle” arising from the WBI/JCC collaboration to birth and grow the online Positive Psychology Hour. After two and a half years of virtual programming, including more than 220 free webinars that reached an audience of over 20,000, we came together in person at the JCC for a program designed to ignite inspiration, further connection, and broaden resources.

A highlight for me was the awarding of the WBI Community Connector award to Caroline Kohles, Director of Wellness at the JCC and the host for the webinar series. Caroline is an exemplar of both learning and vitality! Here are a few additional highlights and themes from the weekend.

Social Capital & Interconnection

WBI founder Megan McDonough opened the event with an introduction to the concept of social capital, which describes the power of giving and receiving in connection. This concept, with its related phenomenon of reciprocity, was the original spark for the Positive Psychology Hour. Megan returned to this theme later in the weekend with a powerful talk on Positive Psychology in Connection, illustrating how our individual happiness is interconnected with others.

Within interconnection, however, boundaries also serve a purpose. WBI’s expert on resilience, Maria Sirois, guided participants through an exploration of boundary setting, and explained how this competency connects to personal expansion and contribution. (Maria’s new WBI course, Mastering Resilience, starts November 14.)


Keynote speaker Dan Tomasulo was one of the first guests in the webinar series. His 2020 talk coincided with the publication of his book Learned Hopefulness, which laid out his transtheoretical model of hope and offered a light at the end of the tunnel in the early stages of the pandemic. In his keynote, Dan presented the science and application of collective hope and included recent thinking on post-traumatic growth, a topic that has special relevance and resonance at this time.

InSPIREd Connections

As the curator of the Positive Psychology Hour and as WBI’s resident sociometrist, it was my role to facilitate group and individual encounters and help people make connections. Sociometry was developed by Jacob Moreno, a Romanian-born psychotherapist, as a way to understand how our social structures impact our well-being, and to make visible the invisible connective forces that play out every day in our surroundings.

At the JCC, WBI’s SPIRE model served as a tool for forging and illuminating those connections, as we shared what has supported us over the past few years in each of the SPIRE areas: Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Relational, and Emotional. We also did a series of “Who’s in the room?” step-in circles that provided a quick snapshot of our shared interests. It was wonderful to see so many of our series’ past presenters in attendance and to observe how their work was appreciated by those who had benefited from their teaching.

Embodying Positivity

Throughout the weekend, we were invited into the embodied experience of positive psychology by WBI faculty member and Let Your Yoga Dance founder Megha Nancy Buttenheim, culminating in a group enactment of her signature work, the Grace Garden of Hearts and Minds. This ritual brought the weekend’s themes of giving and receiving in community into embodied action. Don’t miss Megha’s upcoming Positive Psychology Hour webinar on discovering joy during challenging times, Tuesday, November 15, at 12:00 pm ET. Register here.

The weekend closed with NIA instructors Caroline Kohles and Winnalee Zeeb offering movement as they distributed individual lights to all. The sudden burst of radiant energy magnified the theme of “the collective sparkle,” and as we all stood in a circle, we were reminded of the “me,” the “we,” and the power of both!

Phoebe Atkinson

Phoebe Atkinson

Phoebe Atkinson is a core faculty member of WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching Certification program. She is a licensed clinical social worker, certified coach, and board-certified trainer, educator, and practitioner in psychodrama, sociometry, and group psychotherapy. She serves on the faculty for WBI’s Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology, and is also a graduate of the program.

Along with Jennifer Hanawald, Phoebe teaches the online Positive Psychology: Skill-Building Intensive course and leads the Positive Psychology Coaching Mentorship.

She also curated the JCC/WBI Positive Psychology Hour beginning in 2020.

Find out about Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology

Learn more about WBI’s Positive Psychology Coaching Certification.