Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Day of Education and Empowerment

With the growing popularity of all things green and natural, there seem to be expos and conferences popping up each month to support holistic living. The Holistic Moms Network's own 2009 Natural Living Conference is just a few short days away, coming up on Saturday, October 17, 2009 in Basking Ridge, NJ.

Why go to a conference? I have heard from a mom I know that she's "just not a conference person." As a person driven to research, education, and community I find this a bit baffling. What are the reasons you might want to go to a conference? For starters, education is the foundation for change. When you attend a conference, a lecture, or even a Holistic Moms monthly meeting you have the opportunity to learn and raise your awareness. Without awareness, there is no change or desire to improve. But if you are seeking better health, positive ways to parent, or want to live a greener, more sustainable lifestyle the possibilities out there are endless. Interestingly, I have found that even when I think I know the topic at hand whenever I attend a conference or expo, I discover a new piece of information or a new product that alters how I live or what choices I make.

Certainly there are great websites, books, and magazines that we can all learn from. But there is nothing quite like being surrounded by like-minded people, by feeling the energy and enthusiasm of others, or the opportunity for face-to-face conversation to learn, teach, and share. Sometimes the most valuable thing I take away from a public event is a five minute conversation with an exhibitor who helps me find a new service or product, a ten minute exchange with a mom who has similar challenges with their kids, or one tidbit of information that I pick up in a lecture that leads me down an entirely different path. Or, it may be that I am the one doing the giving. Perhaps I can share my own experiences with my holistic journey, help another parent struggling with food allergies or special diets, or recommend a practitioner or product that I have used - enabling a new hope or a reassuring word that can have a significant impact. We cannot anticipate what gift we may receive (or give) by opening ourselves up to such interaction, but should know that there is always something that we can benefit from whenever communication is possible.

Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to be a participant in a conference or event is the sense of empowerment that you can experience as a result. Empowerment, according to Cherly Czuba of the University of Connecticut "is a multi-dimensional social process that helps people gain control over their own lives. It is a process that fosters power (that is, the capacity to implement) in people, for use in their own lives, their communities, and in their society, by acting on issues that they define as important." The inspiration you get from "being there" translates into the confidence to act on your instincts and to produce viable change. That sense of empowerment is worth every minute of having to rearrange schedules, set up travel plans, or negotiate babysitting. There are always excuses not to be there, but what you miss is always more than you can even anticipate.

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