Creating Your Community

Author // Lisa Reagan

Pathways Connect continues to take off, as Gathering Groups are forming in practitioner offices around the country! I have been fortunate enough to attend and speak at a few of these new and established groups, and am consistently amazed by the passion, commitment and creativity parents and practitioners—and many times parents who are practitioners—are bringing to their local “conscious choice communities.”

What most of these parents know is what Robin Grille, the author of Parenting for a Peaceful World and Heart to Heart Parenting, so eloquently expresses in his books: “We were never meant to do it alone.”

Grille writes that he is constantly surprised at the amount of parenting advice he hears that is only about the child and the parent, when no culture in human history, until now, has ever raised children without extended family and community present for support. Throw into the mix a desire by a family to make conscious choices in this same fragmented, industrialized culture that views wellness as competition for its products and busyness lifestyle, and you can have a recipe for exhaustion, as well as isolation and confusion.

Appearing in Issue #32. Order A Copy Today

As Grille writes in Heart to Heart Parenting, “When it comes to our perceptions of what parenting is all about, we virtually need to start from scratch because of this remarkable phenomenon: The way we perceive our children changes altogether when we feel emotionally supported.... Our choices and responses are entirely different according to how well supported we are and how fulfilled we are in ourselves. Parenting is a pleasure and our children are more settled and happy when we parents have enough support.”

Pathways Connect is all about providing parents with the support they need to navigate their individual pathway to family wellness. This turnkey program provides groups with the practical tools of trustworthy information, a networked community and a Gathering Guide to help make the process of creating your own local group as simple as possible.

In my visits to groups in Virginia last fall, I had the honor of meeting practitioners who are teaming up to bring empowering visions of wellness and support for conscious choice into their communities with the Pathways Connect program. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, the Pathways Connect group is sponsored by three holistic practitioners: Christine Thompson, D.C.; Cassandra Mannhardt, N.D., R.N.; and Bernadette Wells, M.D., an integrative pediatrician whose door is being “knocked down” by parents grateful to find her! Suzi Croes, of the Weston A. Price Foundation and a board member of the Virginia Independent Consumers and Farmers Association, demonstrated how to make a variety of kefir from raw cow and goat’s milk, nut milks and even water. You can see what Suzi had to say on page 56.

In Chantilly, Virginia, Andrea Marconi, D.C., started a Pathways Connect group with the help of two midwives—Peggy Franklin, C.P.M., R.N., N.D., and Kim Pekin, C.P.M.—at the Northern Virginia Natural Birth Center. Marconi, a new mother herself, has great compassion for parents who are taking on the challenge of discovering wellness and making conscious choices. “Some of these questions just raise the hair on the back of my neck,” she says. “And especially now that I am a mother! Being on this side of the questions, I have a different awareness. It has been really cool to fine-tune my senses. It is so different than what I thought.”

At the NOVA Natural Birth Center meeting, I got to hang with the parents for hours, long after the group meeting time was over, and hear their concerns and excitement over creating their community, having a place to meet, finding holistic practitioners and sharing reliable information and resources.

In a very precious moment I will never forget, one of the midwives excused herself as someone else confidentially whispered to me that she was headed for the back door to meet a laboring mother and show her to one of the birthing rooms—where warm water was already running in her exquisite birthing tub. (You can see pictures of the meeting and their swanky birthing center online at our Pathways Connect Central page on Facebook.)

Dr. Andrea Marconi, D.C., a new mother and Pathways Connect group sponsor.

There was a quiet moment in the room as this secret was shared and we all sent our thoughts back to the mother and soon-to-be-newborn. The significance of this moment wasn’t lost on any of us. While a new mother and child gave birth to one another a few dozen feet away, a group of committed and adventurous parents were birthing a new conscious choice community. Life was just doing what life does, carrying on its mission to create and connect us as family.

Our world might be complex and our culture at odds with helping us create wellness, but things are shifting, changing, moving and birthing every day. Some of us know this more than others, which is why we should make a place for those who are questioning and seeking to feel welcome to come on in and join the family.

While you can find the information below online, I think it is important for you to find it here and now. I want you to know how simple and rewarding it can be to find or create your own conscious choice community with the turnkey tools of Pathways Connect. Take a look online to see if a local group already exists. In big cities, “local” has a different meaning than in rural parts of the country where a five-mile road trip is five minutes. No worries. If you want to start your own group, here’s how:

First, Pathways to Family Wellness works with the practitioner members of the Holistic Pediatric Alliance and the International Chiropractic Pediatric Association to provide them with bulk, wholesale orders of the print magazine for distribution in their offices when they sign up for the Pathways Connect program. (Pathways is also available in a digital version for individual subscriptions.) Pathways Connect’s Gathering Guide is an online resource that gives step-by-step instructions and hyperlinked resources for starting and maintaining a group. These resources include practical flyers as well as fun icebreaker games developed by play professional Howard Moody.

Second, a few weeks before the quarterly issue of the magazine is published, a Dialogue Questions and Resource Guide is e-mailed to all Pathways Connect group facilitators. Group facilitators can be either the practitioner or a participating parent. Because groups are self-organizing and self-directed, each group decides what sort of meetings they would like to have: weekly or monthly, morning or night, with speakers, group discussions, field trips, group meals or more.

The groups do not have to use the Dialogue Questions and Resource Guide, but it, and the Gathering Guide materials, are what make the program “turnkey.” Here’s the real, practical function of the guide: Facilitators can send it out to their groups to review before the meeting, or hand out parts of it during a meeting. The Dialogue and Resource Guide is designed to facilitate discussion because it has a Talking Points section for each article. This way, in case you don’t remember the article or didn’t read that particular article, you have a cheat sheet to outline the major points. Remember, you’re in a Pathways Connect group to meet other parents and find support for your wellness choices, so remembering something you read in Pathways isn’t necessary. This is not a test!

The second part of the Dialogue Questions and Resource Guide, after the Talking Points cheat sheet, is the questions themselves. These questions are carefully crafted to help us think differently about wellness issues and to feel empowered as individuals to make informed choices. The discussion questions are thoughtfully designed to promote respect for individual choices and to steer clear of polarizing the group on sensitive topics.

Thomas Perry and Noah, Dr. Marconi’s son.

The third part of the Dialogue Questions and Resource Guide is (you guessed it) the resources, which include hyperlinks to books, organizations or supportive material mentioned in the article or supporting the article’s information. In every issue, we try to include hyperlinks to our exclusive Trail Marker Moment series of YouTube videos. These short videos on conscious living issues run from A to Z and feature interviews with leaders in their fields, such as Bruce Lipton, Ph.D., Gabor Maté, M.D., Ina May Gaskin and others. Trail Marker Moments videos are great for groups to view and discuss together in and of themselves.

The Dialogue and Resource Guide for each issue, as well as the Gathering Guide, are always posted online where group facilitators can refer back to them and plan future meetings around different topics. The Trail Marker Moments are always up on Pathways Connect’s YouTube channel at

Your questions about groups can be posted and discussed with other members on the Pathways Connect Central Facebook page. Please post photos of your group there, as well! Monthly orientation meetings are held for all groups through a teleconference, and a dedicated Pathways Connect e-newsletter will let you know dates for calls and links to materials!

Remember, as the staff of a nonprofit magazine who understands the Big Picture that Robin Grille describes above, every day we at Pathways wake up and embrace our mission: to support your conscious choices on your pathway to family wellness!

Pathways Issue 32 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #32.

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