The Wellbeing Symposium

Monday, April 01, 2019

We want to see every member of our community involved in conversations on living and being well. But one event isn't enough for so broad a topic and such busy, modern people.

A new addition to our Programme, The Wellbeing Symposium is a series of interactive exchanges curated to include open house panel talks with well-informed guest speakers, expert-led workshops, roundtable discussions, showings, feasts, and more. | #theFiveEsOFFLINE

Our aim is to ensure that there is something and some date for everyone in our community. So look out and be vocal. 

Opening Feast

Saturday 30th March
Guest Speaker: Abiola Babarinde, Writer, Author of Take What You Need
We opened The Wellbeing Symposium on Saturday 30th March over an intimate feast in the heart of Covent Garden. We were joined by 20 guests to discuss what wellbeing means to each of us, how it is achieved and measured in our lives, and why wellbeing matters at all. With insights from our community and guest speaker Abiola Babarinde, here are five things we found:

Defining wellbeing is personal

As conversations began there was naturally a pattern of thinking about wellbeing in terms of what most of us spend most of our time doing, - working - as workplace stress management or as a chart of our development at work. Our Guest Speaker Abiola shared how for her this was relatable but she had felt a need to deepen and personalise her understanding of wellbeing: "No one has ever lived my life or had my exact experiences. How can it be that this job that was created by someone else who does not know me, 200 years ago, is what will define things for me?" 

Expanding with the all-too-popular example of being overworked but underpaid yet being coached to view this draining reality as an opportunity to demonstrate readiness for challenge and promotion, Abiola spoke to the sense of emptiness we are often left with, probing: "these things are well and good but if you don't know who you are outside of it you feel empty. Is this [wellbeing as what goes on at work] model what we should really be following?"

Creating wellbeing is communal 

Mostly agreeing that the definition of wellbeing should be personal, the discussion was complicated with the idea that creating wellbeing has a lot to do with other people. When belonging to a societal culture that is traditionally individualistic, this idea may seem counterintuitive at first. But for us at the Five Es it is self-evident, and the reason for Community being one of our core values. As social beings, our interactions with other people are sure to have a bearing on how we feel about, understand, and react to situations. 

One guest aptly expressed: "just because defining wellbeing is personal it doesn't mean experiencing it has to also be personal. For me wellbeing is linked to a sense of peace, security, awareness, confidence, optimism and these are all things I feel most strongly after spending time with my close friends or [coming to] events like this. I think on my own I am good. But with other people I am better."

Abiola, Guest Speaker and Krisztina, Community Manager at the Five Es

Food has a lot to do with wellbeing

Obviously. And not so obviously. 

When most people think about wellbeing they will think of food at some point, particularly certain types of food. The popular wisdom that "you are what you eat" is compelling. Sometimes people will think the only way to practice or achieve wellbeing in terms of food is to stick to a particular diet over the other. Sharing her thoughts on being vegan-ish, our Guest Speaker explained how it is not always necessarily a diet in itself that promotes wellbeing but rather the senses of intentionality and presence it can facilitate: "whilst learning vegan recipes I found that my wellbeing was being replenished by the process of not always being served. I used to love dining out all of the time. But now having to think 'what am I going to eat?' Going to the grocery shop. Cutting things up. It sounds so basic but I've found it quite healing."

Sharing that she had been inspired to think about the relation of food to wellbeing in two ways, there is firstly "the healing value of slow eating; having to actually think about what you're going to eat, not always being served, doing the shopping, chopping, juicing, dicing things up. That's all a form of personal healing."

Secondly, not so obviously, and building on the earlier finding that creating wellbeing is communal, food has a social function; there is an interpersonal healing that we experience when we break bread together. We have many names for it here at the Five Es: soulbaring, soul-stretching, or the spiritual dimension to sharing food.

Abiola put it beautifully: "there is the gathering we do at the table. There's something about a hot meal that makes people get vulnerable. It's comforting. Especially when strangers are asking challenging questions, good food just puts down your barriers and it's not about exposing yourself; what tends to happen is people say 'oh yeah I've been through that!' or 'I'm going through that, I need help.' There's an exchange."

Wellbeing comes naturally

As a community on a faith-inspired mission, hearing from Abiola who is currently gaining formal training at Theology College, was a great opportunity to interrogate the link between wellbeing and spirituality if there is one. In our discussion we found that whether you practice a faith or not, the human spirit is a real thing. We all have an inner drive towards not just survival but flourishing. Trusting that inner pull or voice - your spirituality - is worthwhile for your wellbeing. 

Abiola used the example of how polarising zodiacs can be to people across the spectrum of belief, but to the possible surprise of most Abrahamic believers the idea that we can learn from the stars is in the religious texts. More broadly she spoke about how "manifestations of your spirituality are at work in nature" and the value of trusting what our bodies and minds tell us, from cravings and awkwardly timed tiredness to how we instinctively feel about other people, opportunities, and events in the world. 

Living well every day is about priorities and boundaries 

To wrap up, we asked Abiola what one practical tip she would recommend for living well and being well every day. Her response: "My biggest two things are priorities and boundaries. What are your priorities in life? Not what you need to do today. But who are you and where are you trying to go? And therefore what boundaries do you need to set?"

With a guest probing for an illustration of what this might look like she shared: "if my priority at the moment is to have more fulfilling relationships then perhaps practicing boundaries is simple acts like not spending time with those friends that are nice people but whenever you go out someone disappears or there's an awkward dynamic. Perhaps it's saying no and being firm with family who are just a bit much."

Wellbeing is never-ending

There is so much more about wellbeing to discuss, share, and learn. The Wellbeing Symposium resumes in June for an open house talk. To be our guest next time at #theFiveEsOFFLINE, join us. For collaborations and partnerships contact us. We look forward to connecting with you.

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