ALIA Summer Institute is all of these things:

* It’s a place where you dive deeply into conversations within minutes of meeting new friends because you know that the longings in your heart are shared and your common passions build bridges with these people long before you arrived in the same space.
* When you are there, you walk around feeling always a bit raw, with your heart bravely exposed. You dare to live this way there (though you might not anywhere else) because you have an intuitive sense that the people in this community can be trusted to hold you gently, both body and heart.

* It’s a place where you are reminded daily to be mindful, to make meditation a priority, to be a witness to all that is present in the world, and to recognize that the molecules that make you who you are are also the molecules that make the world the beautiful place it is.

* The very first speaker you hear is almost certain to remind you to bring your vulnerability, your curiosity, and your broken heart to this space, because these will be valuable assets in the work we will do together.

* It is a place of incubation, where the tender shoots of your good ideas are fed by other people’s good ideas, and what emerges is exciting and beautiful and is owned not by anyone but by the collective whole.

* In this space, “leaders” come in the form of dancers, artists, students, writers, teachers, dentists, architects, small business owners, and anyone else willing to step forward to catalyze change.

* When you gather in a large sacred circle and hear the stories of your new Japanese friends, who survived the pain of a triple tragedy, you know that nobody’s job is to fix it, but everybody’s job is to listen deeply and hold them tenderly in a gentle space. And then after you depart, everyone’s job is to carry these stories in their hearts and let it change the way we interact with the world.

* Unlike a conference, you don’t spend the week sampling ideas like candy. Instead you dive deeply into a full, nourishing meal of ideas in an intensive workshop with a small community within the larger community.

* Holistic learning is part of your daily experience, whether that means dancing, singing, playing, painting, or doing aikido or big brush strokes. You won’t be at all surprised if one day you’re cavorting around the auditorium with other people, holding wooden sticks tenderly between your index fingers. It will all make sense when you’re there.

* You will have meaningful conversations with amazing people of different generations, different races, and different nationalities. Your world will be stretched, your belief system modified, and your perspective changed.

* The heirarchy you experience in other learning events will be flattened, and nobody will be too conscious of who the “experts” or “teachers” are. You have all come to learn and co-create, and your good ideas and passions are as valuable as anyone else’s.

* Though heirarchy is of no importance, the elders in the room have arrived knowing that they have responsibility to share their wisdom, and the youth have arrived with an intuitive sense that they have responsibility to share their vitality. And the sharing of these and other gifts makes this a vibrant and energetic place to be.

* You’ll hear things like “open space” and “world cafe” and you will learn that those are simply words that mean that you will be invited to dive into meaningful and intimate conversations in a large room with hundreds of other people doing the same.
* In some of those conversations, you will have the opportunity to play host and other people will offer gentle support and ideas to help you grow the seeds of your ideas.

* When you show up willing to play a role in the community, you may be asked to do your doodling on a large piece of paper at the front of the auditorium, or to host an intimate story-telling session.

* At the end of the week you will dance with wild abandon because you have new faith in your own body and new trust that your community will honour your fierce and feral movements across the floor.

* When it’s all done, an artist will make a mark on a large piece of paper, and without words, you will know that your experience has been honoured by the ink on that page.

In the weeks to come, I will most certainly be writing more about what ALIA was for me personally. Some of those thoughts are still emerging and so I will give them time to grow. Suffice it to say that my heart has been deeply shifted.


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