The Power of Community: How a Birthday Party Inspired the First 30Seconds Summit by Elisa A. Schmitz 30Seconds
Milestone birthdays are extra special, and I believe they should be treated as such. That’s why when I realized that my friend and colleague Donna and I were celebrating our birthdays within a few weeks of each other, I decided we needed to mark the occasion with an epic birthday weekend together, surrounded by our 30Seconds community.
Once Donna said “yes,” (or it may have been, “game on!”) to flying to Chicago for a weekend, I invited our team members Ann Marie and Renee to fly in as well. The next step was to invite Chicago-area members to join us for a day of yoga, meditation, reflection and fun.
Photo: Elisa All Schmitz and Donna Lynn John toasting her arrival in Chicago.
Photo: Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead and Renee Herren at the airport on their way to Chicago.
To me, birthdays are similar to New Years. You get an opportunity to review the positive and negatives from the previous year and set intentions for what you want from your next year of life. So I put together a plan that would enable us to do that together, as colleagues and friends – as a community. It involved Chapter 1 (yoga, meditation and fire circle outside) and Chapter 2 (dinner party and cake inside).
For Chapter 1, I invited my yoga instructor Mary to lead us in a lakeside gentle yoga class followed by a guided meditation. The wind and waves were so loud, yet Mary’s voice carried over the gusts and she led us to a place of calm and strength. I will never forget lying on my yoga mat on the damp grass, looking up at the breeze in the trees; or standing for balance poses, stabilizing my core as the wind tried to blow me over. To me, this felt a lot like the strength needed to face the challenges in our lives. Mary said, “Root down to rise up,” which is the perfect analogy. That’s why doing yoga with my community, overlooking a roaring Lake Michigan on a windy Chicago day, was an incredibly empowering and emotional experience.
Photo: Yoga guru Mary Aulbach leading her gentle yoga class.
We then moved to the fire pit where, seated in a semi-circle around a fire (that my Eagle Scout husband managed to ignite despite the crazy winds), Mary led us through a guided meditation. Huddled in blankets, we closed our eyes and went on a journey.
The first idea to wrap our minds around was: “Some people find it easy to make things hard, and so hard to make things easy.” Many of us could relate to this. As women, why do we insist on doing everything ourselves, controlling every situation and managing tasks that others could easily do? Which led to the next theme: self-care. The message was clear: Self-care is not selfish. Without taking care of you, how can you care for others? And finally, a reminder to pay attention to the ordinary in life, not just the extraordinary. How many magical moments have we missed because they don’t appear to be ones to which we should pay attention? Let’s pause, take a breath from all the “busy” and notice more of what’s going on around us.
Photo: Meditation circle with Donna Lynn John, Beth Aldrich, Belinda Clarke, Mary Aulbach, Renee Herren, Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead, Sheryl Gould, Brannan Kenny and Elisa All Schmitz.
In every guest’s “goody bag” were a journal and pen, among other treats (including our new 30Seconds caps). After we opened our eyes and came back to each other in the circle, the next step was for everyone to take out their journals and pens and start writing. We reflected on the messages in the meditation and what they meant to us.
Photo: Elisa All Schmitz, Renee Herren, Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead and Donna Lynn John sporting the new 30Seconds caps.
We then took some time to write in our journals. I wanted to focus on the negatives and positives – that which is holding us back, and that which we want more of. Once we had written down the negatives, I asked each person to tear out that sheet of paper from their journals and, if they wanted to, they could share with us what they were getting rid of before they tossed it into the fire.
I noticed that as I shared what I was releasing, I was slowly but deliberately tearing that paper into smaller pieces. After I was done talking, I tossed the pile into the fire and watched it burn. It was cathartic and deeply emotional for me. Many similar themes were shared and by the time everyone had taken her turn, a quiet understanding blanketed the group.
We then focused on what we wanted more of in our lives. While several things were top of mind, the one that vibrated most strongly for me was to keep the empowerment I had gained from this experience. With that feeling, there is nothing one cannot do.
Photo: Stainless steel wine glass created by 30Seconds tribe member Kimberly Johnson.
Speaking of which: Ann Marie and Renee brought lovely gifts for Donna and me, including matching stainless steel wine glasses – designed by Ann Marie and Renee and made by tribe member Kimberly Johnson – with the quote, “She believed she could, so she did.” That just about says it all. (We received several other gifts and cards from our tribe members, which was unnecessary but sincerely appreciated. Thank you all for your kindness and generosity!)
After our powerful fire circle ceremony, we transitioned back inside for Chapter 2. Some guests left after Chapter 1 and new ones joined us for Chapter 2, and some stayed for both Chapters. It was a beautiful flow of positive people and good vibes only. Over champagne and wine, dinner conversation was lively. Many connections were made and/or reinforced, ideas were considered and new opportunities were created.
Photo: (back row) Renee Herren, Elisa All Schmitz, Kandice Cole, Donna Lynn John, (front row) Brannan Kenny, Belinda Clarke, Pamela Swenson, Lisa Faremouth Weber and Ann Marie Gardiner Halstead.
While the 30Seconds community was created digitally, we have always felt that in-person meet-ups are an important part of what we do. Since nearly the beginning, we have been meeting in real life (IRL), both in Chicago, where we are based, as well as all over the United States and even globally. Every time I meet a community member IRL, it feels like I already know her. And, I have “known” her, from her writing or presence at our online events. The face-to-face meeting just makes that connection stronger.
Photo: A spread of appetizers for the tribe to enjoy before dinner.
Photo: A delicious dinner from Maggiano's Little Italy in Chicago.
This birthday party evolved into so much more than a celebration of two people who are turning a year older. It became a retreat, a time to reflect and energize, for all those who attended. And though we have had many real-life meet-ups with many community members, I’m considering this our first 30Seconds Summit. Going forward, you can expect to see more engaging experiences and opportunities, and I hope you will be able to join us sometime.
Photo: Elisa All Schmitz, Donna Lynn John, Renee Herren and Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead sporting their fun socks.
Thank you all for making the first 30Seconds Summit an incredible experience. I am forever changed because of the gift of you in my life. Please keep celebrating the gift of each other in your own lives. That is what 30Seconds is all about. Let’s keep growing and evolving – together.
Thanks to all the community members who participated in the first 30Seconds Summit: Donna Lynn John, Renee Herren, Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead, Mary Aulbach, Belinda Clarke, Beth Aldrich, Brannan Kenny, Sheryl Gould, Lisa Faremouth Weber, Pam Swenson and Kandice Cole.