“Collective Effervescence.” According to Adam Grant (psychologist; writer for The New York Times; he wrote that great article on ‘languishing’…) According to Grant, collective effervescence is a particular kind of joy; one that most of us haven’t experienced much for quite a while. It’s the kind of joy that erupts when people come together in a group — watching live theatre, at a dinner party, singing in a choir, chatting around the watercooler, building something with others, playing a game, or listening to music together. Different from the joy that we might experience in meditation or on a solo hike in the woods, collective effervescence is about connection, togetherness. For obvious reasons, this kind of joy has been in short supply over these last 16 months.
In the last few weeks, I’ve had the gift of experiencing a few of these precious moments. There was an absolutely magical Fourth of July picnic on the Housatonic with people I (mostly) didn’t know; a delightful evening of potluck, hugs and song with my meditation group whom I’d seen only on Zoom for a year and a half; a night of witty theatre followed by makeshift cocktails in a parking lot with old friends, and more. Grant is right. There was a particular kind of joie de vivre present in all these precious, shared moments. A joy that was all the more precious for its rarity these days.
AND I have to say, I count myself soooo blessed because I actually feel like I’ve had the gift of lots of collective effervescence this year! The yoga and dance classes that I began leading online in March 2020, turned out to be opportunities for togetherness, sharing, bonding. The sangha (community) that developed there has been, for me, without a doubt, the greatest gift of the pandemic. After class, people linger and share. Sometimes it’s profound, heart-breaking, full of tears. At others, lighthearted, chatty, irreverent. During class, the knowledge that we are all practicing together — even though it’s in our own individual spaces, hundreds or thousands of miles apart — the knowing, seeing, feeling that we’re together — is incredibly uplifting. I can’t believe, actually, how powerful the shared dance space is. It’s ridiculous. Little Hollywood Squares of bodies moving in space, music playing, and always — the healing happens. Always, the sense of having danced through something together, with one another.
The Buddhists say, “Take refuge in the sangha.” I agree wholeheartedly. Having inadvertently created a refuge for myself (and I hope others) over these last 16 months — one that I trust will continue to evolve and grow as the world and our needs change — I can attest to the powerful support that sangha provides.
May we each treasure the opportunities we find to connect, to share, to be in community again; perhaps to build stronger community. Collective effervescence. Yes, let’s have more of that, please.
Read Adam Grant’s July 10, 2021 New York Times article, “There’s a Specific Kind of Joy We’ve Been Missing” here