Community celebrations are not just good fun - our soul yearns for this healing connection.
On the weekend I was honoured to participate in One Day in Fremantle and Silence Speaks - two very special community events that each created a profound sense of celebration, connection and empowerment like I have never before experienced.
On Saturday 28 January, One Day in Fremantle was the City of Fremantle's alternative to the traditional Australia Day.
Celebrations held on this day meant that Noongar people, the local Aboriginal custodians of the land, could share their culture and celebrate being Australian, just like the rest of us.
In the 15,000 crowd it was tremendous to see a proud cohort of Aboriginal people fully-engaged and abundantly sharing their culture through song, dance, conversation and ceremony - their sincerity was palpable, drawing a tear or a smile from everyone around them. Celebrating alongside each other as Australians there was a natural cameraderie, a sense of understanding, of love and indeed, oneness.
It's times like this when we realise that our human heart yearns to simply connect person-to-person. And when we do, it brings us deep happiness, understanding and healing.
On Sunday 29 January, Silence Speaks was the Save the Beeliar Wetlands silent gathering in Forrest Place, Perth. Over 1000 people came together, standing in silence and stillness for one hour against the destruction of native wetlands. Standing together as a group of passionate, caring citizens, choosing to rise above government adversity, was incredibly powerful. The aftermath of joy was unbelievable, giving us a renewed sense of energy, hope and purpose.
We want a safe world. We want world peace. We want our community to thrive. We want our children to be happy. We want our environment to remain in tact.
Yet when we focus on staying at home, fixated 'in our own world' or behind the safety of a screen without making a real-life community contribution, not only do we increase our risk of mental illness such as anxiety and depression, we rob ourselves and each other of the chance to learn, grow and become better people, in the way that nature intended us to - through human connection.
Numerous studies throughout the world have proven the link between social interaction, well-being and a decreased risk of mental health disease, such as anxiety and depression. (Source: Western Australian Department of Sport and Recreation).
Next time you gather in community - for your yoga or meditation class, for your children's sporting event, at your local community centre, for a volunteer meeting, busy-bee or for a larger-scale community celebration - embrace the chance to learn from and connect with those around you. Celebrate your common-purpose. Trust in the natural healing that can come when our minds and hearts unite.
And if you aren't already actively involved in your community, find out the opportunities in your local area and commit to becoming more involved in 2017.
Immense gratitude goes to the volunteer teams who put both events together - thank you for your tireless work and energy! May we each relish the great healing and joy that comes from making a meaningful contribution to our community - irrespective of outcomes - but simply for the greater good of all.