Let Your Light Shine

We all need community.

Light Watkins has been a presenter at the Wanderlust Hollywood Center and is leading the Wanderlust 21-Day Meditation Challenge.


After living in L.A. for over 12 years, I realized how Los Angelenos are starved for community, or at least the kind of community that leaves you feeling uplifted. So in 2014, I came up with an idea: To create a space where people could make meaningful connections and be inspired—with soulful music, great food, inspirational storytelling, and philanthropy.

As a meditation teacher with a wide array of interests from music to stand-up comedy, I envisioned that the audience would encompass more than just meditators, yogis, and the spiritually inclined. I imagined this to be the kind of event that would attract entrepreneurs, creatives, and anyone else looking to tap into their passion and purpose. The Shine Movement was born.

Starting Small

I knew that in order to stand out and garner support, the event would have to start small and build slowly. As a yoga teacher, I had learned some important lessons about what resonates with people. I knew that scheduling consistency was important, that people notice details, and they appreciate when the value of experience exceeds expectations. Ensuring that people feel like a part of the community is crucial—as are ice-breaker-type games to break down social walls and good music. Really good music.

By teaching yoga I had inadvertently, but perhaps unsurprisingly, learned the natural ebbs and flows of building a movement.

One of my yoga mentors used to say, “Keep being you until you is what they want.” I believe one reason that The Shine has gained traction so quickly is because—from hearing that one bit of advice years ago—I learned to always stay true to my vision.

It wasn’t easy. Only about 10 people showed for the first Shine event, but it didn’t matter. The group meditation and discussion of inner happiness (based on the book I was writing at the time, The Inner Gym) inspired enough people that word began to spread. We began inviting other speakers to share their passions. Singer/songwriter Chris Assaad spoke about the healing power of music. Fashion designer Domenica Peterson shared her passion for and expertise in sustainable fashion.

It just reaffirmed what we had expected: There are people from all walks of life craving sincere community and healthy, positive exchange.

I’ve heard so many stories from participants who were initially reluctant to attend, assuming the event was nothing more than an airy-fairy hippie gathering, with people standing around singing kumbaya. They instead left beaming brightly, deeply impacted by the inspirational storytelling, the soulful music, and the inclusive vibe of the night.

The Game-Changing Challenge

The crazy thing about positivity is that it only engenders more positivity. It turns out that being generous of spirit leads to more tangible examples of generosity as well.

When we started, the budget for each weekly event was about $50. “Suggested donations” to The Shine weren’t fruitful.

Then one night we decided to try giving the donation away—to spread The Shine even further than our event space. It wasn’t much, $85, but we decided to allow a participant to decide how best to spend it. When someone’s name was drawn, he/she would be tasked with using our donations to help others in any way she saw fit.

The donations that night doubled and began increasing exponentially at each event, a discovery that led to another lesson learned: People likepassing it on.” This act of charity became known as The Shine On Challenge. And as word got out about the Challenge, our numbers began to grow.

Growth Spurts

With the growth, of course, came bigger-name performers and speakers. In the early days we worked with indie band Magic Giant and comedian Kyle Cease. The watershed moment perhaps came in early 2015 when The Shine was held at the flagship TOMS Shoes store in Venice—we had 200 RSVPs and space for only 130! We knew we’d have to start charging admission for events to cover our own costs … but that this would only make The Shine On Challenge bigger and brighter. We now consistently have $400 for the Challenge after every event.

We’ve had the amazing opportunity to welcome to our stage talented people from former MTV personality Quddus Philippe to Robert Egger, the founder of DC Kitchen and LA Kitchen. It just goes to show that everyone can relate to the hero’s journey. We’ve all had bumps and bruises along our path, and when we share how we overcame them, it leaves others feeling more inspired to face their own challenges head-on.

This was one of the reasons behind making The Shine an alcohol-free experience. We want to encourage people to make meaningful connections and to be fully present for the speakers, for maximum impact.

You Don’t Need a Lot to Make an Impact

The Shine has become a living example of how we can all do a lot more with what we already have. We all have a deep desire to be great—whether it’s being a great parent, a great inventor, or a great athlete. And, as Dr. King said, “Every man can be great, because every man can serve.” The Shine has become an impetus for finding ways to serve—and to give back—that are in alignment with your values. It’s about facilitating micro-philanthropy, where inspiration allows for need to find opportunity on the grassroots level.

Having the opportunity to make a meaningful impact with a hundred bucks, or with a little time, is addictive, and has a ripple effect that will continue on long after we are all gone.

We celebrated our one-year anniversary in June. And we’ve given over $6,000 through our Shine On Challenge since we started. The rest goes to production costs and charity, and our all-volunteer team helps to make each event more amazing than the last.

You don’t need a lot to start following your passion. If you begin with small steps, stay true to your heart, and accept the help that comes your way, everything will work out in the way it should.

Light Watkins 2

Light Watkins is a meditation teacher, the author of The Inner Gym book series, a regular contributor to MindBodyGreen, a TEDx speaker, and founder of The Shine.