This photo is the welcome mat at the threshold of our studio.  It was one of the very first items I purchased for the space back in September, and of the many, many unfinished things I still have to cross off my to-do list, putting down the welcome mat was one of my main priorities, even if no one saw it but my family and me for a while.

I’ve stepped on this mat probably a hundred times in the past month as I move boxes in and out of the front door.  My kids use it as a sit-upon while they’re playing as we’re working, and last week I figured out heavy boxes glide across the studio floor much more easily with the welcome mat underneath it, so it became a makeshift dolly.  The doormat has become a doormat in every sense of the word–I barely notice it’s there unless I trip over it (and I trip often because I’m a world-class clumsy person), or until, like this morning, it gave me a reason to stop, enjoy the beautiful beams of sunshine playing across the floor, and reflect about my mission at Gather Wellness.

My 9-to-5 job involves having one foot in the corporate world, and because of that I’m conversant in business jargon and efficiency practices that normally make me cringe and wish I had taken up basket weaving in college.  Featuring prominently in those discussions is the importance of having a strong mission and vision statement.  I’ve been in day-long trainings solely devoted to coming up with a great mission, and why it’s important to have a mission, and what words are appropriate in a mission, and what isn’t appropriate and so on.  From what I understand, crafting a business mission and vision requires as much skill as painting the Sistine Chapel (but doesn’t have quite the same enduring legacy).  When I was first forming Banduri Tribal Belly Dance, I wondered if I needed to come up with a mission and vision statement for the troupe, but in the chaos of starting classes and performing and the logistics of running a small organization, I forgot about it.  My unspoken mission was “get people to show up and dance and have fun”.  And it’s worked pretty well for the past few years.  I again considered coming up with a mission/vision for Gather Wellness Studio before we actually started our launch, and then suddenly the opportunity to launch came much more quickly than expected and I was neck deep in subcontractors and broken heaters and invoices and paint samples and permits and the mission/vision idea got pushed to the side again.

This morning, I realized I had been walking across my mission statement for the past several weeks.  Here’s why:

You might have recently read about the horrible shooting at a hot yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida on November 2nd.  Several days later, a pastor in Springfield, MO urged people to stay away from yoga due to its ‘demonic roots’ in Hinduism.  While opening a yoga studio has been mostly a joyous process for me, those two incidents have weighed heavily on my mind over the past few weeks. I’ve also had conversations with yoga students uncertain about continuing their practice as they decide for themselves whether yoga conflicts with their religious beliefs, and with instructors who’ve been asked to change how and what they teach in order to not seem too “out there”.   It makes me wonder if opening a dedicated studio in a predominantly conservative area is a mistake, if I’m opening up potential students to threats and harm, and whether I’m doing a disservice to the community with all of this.  Raymore and Belton are conservative towns in a very conservative county on the edge of in a red state, so it’s something I’ve been seriously considering as we begin to open our doors to the community.

Despite all of my anxiety, my gut says Raymore, Belton, and Cass County need yoga.  We need a space in town where not just tolerance, but acceptance, is practiced on a daily basis.  To paraphrase a quotation from Star Wars: The Last Jedi (once you get to know me, you’ll find out I have the pop culture interests of a 12 year old boy), “We don’t win by fighting what we hate; we save what we love.”  I wholeheartedly believe that’s true, and I also believe that small acts of kindness and small centers of love can grow into great big movements with time and perseverance.

What that means for Gather Wellness Studio is this:

  • If you are young, you are welcome here.
  • If you are old, you are welcome here.
  • If your body is big, you are welcome here.
  • If your body is small, you are welcome here.
  • If you are a person of color, you are welcome here.
  • If you are white, you are welcome here.
  • If you have never done yoga or belly dance in your life, you are welcome here.
  • If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community, you are welcome here.
  • If you are a Christian, you are welcome here.
  • if you are not a Christian, you are welcome here.
  • If you are a conservative, you are welcome here.
  • If you are a liberal, you are welcome here.
  • If you’re somewhere in between, you are welcome here.
  • If you suffer from mental illness or trauma, you are welcome here.
  • If your body is disabled, you are welcome here.
  • If you’re not sure yoga or belly dance is for you, you are welcome here.
  • If you’re not sure you fit in anywhere, you are welcome here.

The only thing that will not be tolerated at Gather Wellness Studio are closed minds and a lack of compassion for others (KU fans and people who let their toilet paper hang down the back of the holder will be admitted on a case-by-case basis.  Kidding.  Maybe).

When you walk through the studio doors this Saturday, next week, or in the months to come, I’m thrilled that the first thing you’ll be able to see is our mission statement right at the front of the studio.

All Are Welcome Here.