August 24, 2015

Beyond this Soloist & the Choir: Reflections from Elephant’s Summer 2015 Academy.


While reading elephant journal articles—at the time probably about healing—I noticed a paragraph about Elephant’s Summer 2015 Academy.

The program describing experience in social media, writing and editing was enticing because I needed a class or forum to get myself back into a writing practice.

I applied and soon afterwards received a welcoming message informing me that I was accepted. In our first meeting, the discussion of the mission to spread the message of mindfulness “beyond the choir,” and to be of benefit to society, resonated with me.

And at the end my first week of acclimating to my assigned Enlightened Society page and immersing myself in elephant journal articles, I received affirmation of my acceptance to the apprenticeship. While I was taking out the garbage and walking back to my apartment, I saw something glistening on the ground.

I picked it up and took a close look since I didn’t have my contacts in. It was a miniature bronze statue of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity known as the remover of obstacles.

What I encountered on this summertime journey was a team of wholehearted writers; Caroline, Renee, Khara, Carlene, Keeley and Waylon, who fostered a wonderful writing community with a mission to expand the message of mindfulness.

I received building blocks that helped to heal and ground me—to go beyond myself in a quest to be of benefit:

1. Being responsible for the Enlightened Society Facebook presence this summer, I learned ways to draw attention to the page.

Before the apprenticeship, my Facebook experience involved posting photos capturing nature, and sharing inspirational quotes and articles. Managing the Enlightened Society page, I was given the opportunity to share what I usually do with a group 80 times the size of my current circle!

2. The virtual meeting format, composed of Facebook Messenger, YouTube videos and Skype chat allowed for rich connections with mentors, editors and other apprentices around the world.

Each apprentice chatted from his or her corner of the world and learned a new skill each week from the elephant team located in the Boulder base. The method of meeting encouraged us to communicate in the way we love: by writing. And although grasping a new skill through chatting was challenging, we had fun and learned volumes: scheduling on Facebook, tweeting on Twitter and editing in WordPress are only a few.

3. I found that the writing exercises during our meetings were very beneficial.

My tendency is to take my time while learning something new, so I appreciated the challenge. During a meeting when Waylon prompted us to write about a mindful moment, emphasizing specificity, I learned that I could write without being prepared in advance. I aspired to describe in detail—to bring the reader into—the moving yet still savasana moment I recalled. It was also enlightening when Waylon explained his recommended approach and demonstrated his own editing skills by working on pieces during our meetings.

4. Through the experience of editing articles and having my own work edited, my perspective in writing evolved.

Prior to the apprenticeship, I wrote for myself and took writing classes. I’ve felt the most free in writing from the heart, and the editing practice helped me to write with an intention to communicate a meaningful message to readers. While I was writing my first article that was published, “When Love No Longer Requires a Price Tag,” I wasn’t sure if my story about my relationship with my mother was self-serving and too personal. My editing partner, Nicole, reviewed my article and gave me helpful advice on modifying it so that readers could relate. Similarly, in editing Nicole’s piece, “Feminism as a Weapon: What 2 Pop Stars and a Twitter Message Taught me about Sisterhood,” I experienced a shift in how I read an article. I enjoyed her article as a reader; and while editing it, I reviewed it with an eye to assess how others could relate to the message.

The Summer Apprenticeship with elephant journal, through the guidance of a phenomenal team, and the wonderful editing community, was healing through written word. I was empowered to write however I’m inspired, and I feel called to to spread a mindful message in a way that helps others.




What I learned this Summer: Depression may Lead to Accomplishment.


Author: Rachel Alarcon

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Swaminathan/Flickr

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