Cultivating Community in Our New Reality: Staying Connected, Inside and Out

One of the fundamental teachings of iRest reminds us that we are all inherently connected—both to ourselves and to others. Previously on the blog, we've reflected on this concept and offered related meditations here. At a time when many of us have been ordered to “shelter in place” and are physically disconnected from the wider world, we long to manifest that connectivity. In one recent sangha session the question arose: How do we foster community while living in isolation?

In response, we at iRest Institute would like to share a few favorite ways to stay connected to the world around us. These ideas are meant to complement a practice of connecting with yourself—through an iRest meditation or another path. Do you have other ideas to add? Feel free to drop them in the comments!


  • Reach Out. Every day, make a call or send a text. Let someone know you care. 


  • Get Neighborly. Download the NextDoor app, which connects you to your neighbors. You’ll find moral support, goods for swap or sale, safety information, and more. 


  • Volunteer. Many nonprofits are now seeking helping hands to safely deliver groceries and supplies to seniors and other populations in need. It’s an ideal time to offer your services. Not in a position to venture out on the town? It’s still possible to lend support through at-home programs like Love for the Elderly, which invites you to write letters to seniors. 


  • Adopt a Pet. We don’t need to explain why pets can be great company! Faced with the prospect of an isolating quarantine, reports USA Today, “Americans are rushing” to adopt furry friends. 


  • Take a class. Learn a new skill—whether cooking or language or technology. While some classes are held as one-way webcasts, others are interactive and allow for the expansion of your social network. Interested in academic pursuits? Check out this list of 450 free online Ivy League classes. Want to learn more practical skills? Browse this lively list of how-to crash-courses.


  • Dance!  Any type of movement is bound to ward off depression in these times. Join a class from this aggregated list of live-streamed dance classes. Don’t be shy!


  • Wine & Dine. Set up your own virtual dinner party via Zoom. Swap recipes, share wines, and raise a glass to the day that we can all share a feast in person again!


  • Try Something Completely Different. Quarantine Chat is an app made just for these strange times. It will pair you by phone with other quarantined strangers around the world in a range of scenarios. Read more about it.


  • Get Your Culture On. Art has the power to reveal what is universal, ephemeral, making us feel profoundly connected. This vast compendium of free online arts opportunities includes performances of Broadway plays; a nightly opera stream from The Met; online tours of international art museums; and The Social Distancing Festival, a directory of arts and community in the pandemic era.



  • Join Us at iRest. We now offer free, twice-weekly sangha sessions hosted by Richard Miller and Stephanie Lopez. As well, we're producing a series of six webinars to guide you and your meditation practice during these times. Sign up for the sangha here and the webinars here .


Together, connected, we will navigate through this challenging time in our world.

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