Vitality 3 Ways for a Nomad to Foster Community IEMANJO, aka Ben Harris, shares his tips for fostering community when living a life on the road. By Ben Harris Photo by Jake Laub Visit more Wanderlust musicians by checking out our 2017 summer festival lineup. As a touring artist I’m constantly in contact with people who crave more of a sense of community in their lives. In my travels I have found that close-knit communities share a sense of purpose, safety, and connection to the land they live on—things that are essential for a connection-hungry nomad. Communities are essential for an artist’s soul, as they foster creativity and well-being. But community building is no easy task, especially for modern city dwellers or nomadic tech wizards. It requires dedication and single-mindedness to bring people together in a conscious way, but the benefits are many and far-reaching. Below are some suggestions of where to begin: Host a jam or skill-share. Wherever people gather for an intimate and/or novel experience, community is created. I have a massage therapist friend in Oakland who hosts a monthly “Healer Jam” at his house—he invites his network of trained healers in various modalities (from Thai massage to Rolfers to Reiki masters and everything in between) and also a bunch of guests who need healing or are just curious about a modality they haven’t tried before. The result is a super yummy evening of healing touch, great networking connections for the therapists, and sharing of skills for all. If music is more up your alley, invite your musician friends and host a jam at your place. Musicians crave intimate, informal opportunities to offer up their creation—I don’t really know of any musician who prefers to play in a noisy, crowded bar. Providing a space helps musicians network, and it also builds a community of dedicated, conscious music lovers. Maybe your new favorite band will be born in your living room. Organize a community clean-up day. People form lasting connections when they work together for a common good—especially when that common good is associated with a sense of stewardship for the land. If you live near the ocean or a river, consider organizing a beach or river clean-up day. Encourage people to come by making it a potluck and inviting some bands to play. If you’re not near a body of water, connect with a local public school and help them create a garden. Giving kids the opportunity to get their hands in the dirt, especially in an urban environment, has been shown to be beneficial in myriad ways. Aside from forming interpersonal bonds through shared purpose, contact with nature provides time and space for reflection and a general sense of well-being. Host a cacao ceremony. Ceremonial space clarifies the purpose of individuals and communities; it’s a space for deep reflection, for leaving behind whatever is getting in the way of an individual’s path of growth and fulfillment. We in the modern western world are rediscovering the value of ritual, and also realizing that it’s a great way to build community. I have been hosting cacao ceremonies since 2015, and I can attest to the power of this subtle medicine to open the heart and make room for people’s authentic expression of self. The way I guide my ceremonial experiences differs every time, but they follow a similar pattern: connection to “source” or “God” or “Mother Earth” through cacao and meditation, connection to self through voice activation and conscious movement, and interpersonal connection through partner exercises and dance. Guiding a meditation grounds people into mindfulness. Devotional music, such as mantra and medicine song, lifts the energy and opens the heart, allowing people to find their source of expression. Closing with dance allows people to celebrate the experience of having a body, feeling safe to express in movement whatever feels authentic in the moment. In sourcing your cacao, look for growers that support sustainability. I buy my cacao from a farm in Guatemala called Finca el Porvenir—it’s completely off-grid and runs its stone grinder and electricity with hydro power. The owners planted the oldest strains of cacao criollo (think “heirloom”) in the country, so in drinking this cacao we are not only contributing towards reforestation and sustainable farming but also helping to propagate nearly extinct strains of cacao. Whether you choose one of these methods, or create your own ideas, finding ways to foster community is a fantastic tool for a nomad to find connection. These relationships help to foster growth and intimacy, allowing you to deepen your life experience and nurture your art. For more information on IEMANJO’s music, massage, and cacao work, visit Ben’s website or listen to IEMANJO on SoundCloud. For more about Guatemalan ceremonial chocolate, visit Dalileo Chocolate. — Ben Harris aka IEMANJO is a musician, DJ, massage therapist and ceremonial spaceholder based on Planet Earth. Harris lived in New York City from 2013-2015, recording his first full-length album “Medicina” and collaborating with various producers and DJs in the tropical bass scene including Thornato, Nickodemus, and Srikala. He was a member of soul singer Allen Stone’s band and the famed Seattle Rock Orchestra and toured internationally with the NYC rock band Outernational, playing trumpet, keyboards and percussion. IEMANJO first began during his travels through Colombia in 2013. The music synthesizes the sonic universe of Latin America to create a life-affirming, energetic acoustic-electronic hybrid.