A new year is a time of reflection: what will we leave behind, and what will we carry forward as we focus on what we want to manifest in the coming year? 2020 has been a year of monumental challenges for everyone. Yet, while so many seem eager to leave the year behind, at Imaginal Network we are excited to carry most of 2020 into the New Year with us.
Possibilities we could have never imagined
At the start of 2020, all our programs were running with strong momentum. The Seattle yoga program has been consistently full for several years and there had been long-standing demand to make it available in other parts of the metro area. After a multi-year effort to find and train instructors, and find an accessible location, we finally launched our second yoga program in Shoreline. Meanwhile, attendance at the support group and craft programs was growing, providing members with vibrant community engagement every week. There were also plans in motion to start a support group for caregivers. The energy was palpable and drawing everyone in.
Soon after the start of March 2020 and the governor’s shutdown it became clear it was more critical than ever to keep our programs going. The logistics and technology associated with going virtual was new territory for us, and it was a steep learning curve. On top of that, the State of Washington pulled its brain injury funding, which took away nearly all our resources (we lost $12,000).
We are astounded as we look back and see what we were able to accomplish and how we managed not only to keep the momentum going, but also continued to grow:
- The yoga programs migrated online in March. With the support of our Seattle yoga partner Aditi Yoga, we only missed one class after the shutdown (with the first few classes run on our iPad)! The staff at Aditi did an amazing job updating their technology for running virtual classes each week. As they learned, we learned along with them. Our wonderful co-teacher Laura volunteered her time to help ensure the classes could continue throughout the year. We also launched an 8-part series online: Introduction to Brain Injury Yoga. The sessions were recorded and there are plans to release them in 2021.
- The Wallingford Brain Injury Support Group grew. We were forced to cancel support group in March, but by April had figured out how to run the support group on Zoom. It became apparent during the first online session that people needed more support, so the group agreed to start meeting more frequently in May, and that has continued ever since. Leaders emerged as support group members stepped forward as co-facilitators. We also launched a private Facebook group so people could be more connected between meetings. Through our partner Brain Energy Support Team, we leveraged our experience to assist other support groups across Washington state, that were struggling with the impact of the pandemic, and needed help making the transition to running their support groups online.
- We invented virtual craft projects! Creative application of motor skills is so important for brain rehabilitation and vitality, so it was really disappointing to have our Creative Expressions program paused for so long. It is very challenging to figure out how to virtually facilitate a hands-on craft project that is both independently accessible and enjoyable. Fortunately, in September we piloted our first virtual project: creating photo journals. Imaginal Network members were invited to capture digital photos of “a day in their life.” We provided them an easy way to submit the photos so they could published in an online gallery for others to get an artistic glimpse into what it looks like to live with brain change. In mid-December, we hosted a Zoom holiday party, complete with crafts and treats kits which we mailed or delivered to each member so that we could delight in making origami wreaths online together.
- We spoke at TedX! We applied and were accepted to present at Sno-Isle Libraries TedX. This was a remarkable experience with an incredible group of organizers, coaches, and presenters – we could not have done it without all of them, and so grateful for the new friends we’ve made along the way. What was supposed to be a live audience presentation in May became an online presentation in September about “Getting to Know a Changed Brain” which has already reached over 500 viewers. We continue to be inspired when we hear how people’s perspectives have opened after watching this presentation.
- Moving Forward Personal Futures completed a full program. This 16-part peer-accountability program allows our members to engage in self-assessment and create a personal development plan with the support of a team of their peers. This year five members completed the program together on Zoom.
- We awarded our first yoga scholarship! The yoga scholarship has been a vision in the making for many years. Vocation/career after brain change is one of the most challenging aspects of life to navigate. Not only is yoga a great source of healing, but it can also eventually become a vocation/career path that is well suited to those living with a changed brain. Through our partner, Phinney Ridge Yoga, the scholarship provides funds to complete their teacher training program so that a person living with brain change can become a yoga teacher specializing in adaptive yoga. Recipients of the scholarship have the option to continue on as instructors in our yoga program which allows us to expand our offering to more people in the community and around the world.
- We (soft) launched Imaginal Network as our new brand. The vision to hold all our growing programs in a central way that was accessible to our broader community has been many years in the making, and has taken many different shapes along the way. Though the support group has been going for almost 20 years, and the yoga program is more than 10 years old, it is only in the past five years that we started holding a vision for something bigger. In 2018, we selected the name Imaginal Network, stood up a website and some basic infrastructure, and started moving toward launching our new name in the world. Who would have thought that the year of global pandemic would be the year we would make this transition?!
Imaginal Network couldn’t have done any of this without our community of partners, members and supporters! It also can’t go without saying that all of these accomplishments hinge on the work of our founder, Janet Novinger. Janet started each of these programs from the ground up and she remains the primary coordinator and facilitator for any program that runs today. Her dedication to providing these programs week over week, and year over year is a testament to the unceasing effort she puts behind reaching everyone in the community.
We have so much gratitude to all of you for making this an incredible year – thank you!
What we will carry forward
While we look forward to the day when we can conduct our programs in person again, we are equally thrilled to carry forward everything we have created in 2020, with a focus in specific areas for the new year:
- Establishing 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. This was a key goal for 2020 that was put on hold due to lack of resources and funding amidst the pandemic. We will be carrying this goal forward as a top priority for 2021.
- Continuing online programs. We have learned our programs translate well in the virtual world. Therefore, we will continue to invest in offering virtual access to our programs, even as the schedules for in-person programs resume. We envision virtual access in the forms of live-streaming access of in-person events, continuing to run virtual-based programs, and offering self-paced access to recorded sessions.
- Serving the broader community. We have come to understand that we are not limited by our physical location in the heart of Seattle and can reach out to people across the country. This includes former members who no longer live in the area, in addition to people all over the country who are discovering the work we do and want to partake. Our move to online has demonstrated the scope of the need and the potential of our reach, and we are not yet able to meet that need. This is one of the main areas we will be exploring in 2021.
We look forward to carrying forward the great work from 2020 and manifesting our future in powerful ways in 2021, and we invite you to be part of what we are doing.
Imaginal Network believes in creating a world that is open to all brains. The world we envision invites us all to slow down, hone our senses, evolve our understanding, and expand our love and compassion for others. And, if we have learned anything from 2020, this is also what is needed for almost every social challenge that confronts us today. We are excited to be part of leading the way toward this world that we strongly believe benefits all of us.
We have already raised $3,000 toward our $15,000 goal. Reaching this goal will allow us to continue running all our programs in 2021. We are so grateful to everyone that has already contributed, and invite anyone who can to consider making a donation.
We are only limited by our imaginations to discover new possibilities for ourselves.Imaginal Network
If you had asked us to imagine the possibilities for our lives after brain change, or our lives during a global pandemic while being isolated from each other, we could never have imagined all this. And yet, this is what brain change teaches us every day: we are only limited by our imaginations to discover new possibilities for ourselves.
From all of us at Imaginal Network, we wish you a 2021 filled with more possibility than you could have ever imagined.