By Sherri L. McLendon
Asheville Area Wholistic & Integrative Professionals Create Dynamic, Spirit-Rich Community with Collaboration, Connection, and Laughter
Had the Rolling Stones met Asheville’s Michelle Payton, they may have arrived at a completely different understanding about satisfaction.
To me, spending time with Michelle is one part hoot and holler, one part sisterly chatter, one part business mentor, and one part dream weaver.It’s her propensity to help others make their dreams a reality which has prompted me to explore how one woman could make such a huge difference for so many individuals, helping them to meet their challenges and follow their hearts.
When coming to know Michelle, one finds satisfaction is not so much something you get or are denied. Rather, satisfaction is an idea about the meaningful life you create for yourself and help create for others. Not surprisingly, I decided I need to know more about this singular idea of satisfaction in action.
A wholistic practitioner, facilitator and founder of Asheville Area Wholistic & Integrative Professionals, now solidly in its third year, Michelle describes herself simply as a co-creator when asked about what is now arguably one of Western North Carolina’s largest – and some would say most influential – Meet-up groups.
“At the end of the day, I pressed the button, I didn’t create the community,” she says. “I wanted to know people more than just artificially: who they are, what’s important for them.
That push of the button continues to create community one click at the time. Today, AAWIP professionals are known for wholistic work throughout the geographic region, drawing clients and practitioners from a 100-150 mile radius of consumers from Georgia, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Its original 12-15 members have grown exponentially to more than 400 members, with new faces appearing monthly.
I’ve been honored to have a seat in that room on numerous occasions.
“While we might all have different paths that get us to the place of well-being, we all want to see community come together and support one another, not only for the clients, but also out of respect for the individual,” she explains. “Referrals are possible because we hang out with each other. We have coffee, tea, lunch. We truly want to get to know each other, and it’s genuine.”
One can definitely feel the love.
Each AAWIP member “is a bona fide leader, facilitator, or educator in our community. And somehow, this smart, strong minded community has come together to create this oneness from a wonderful, eclectic, clever population here,” explains Michelle.
Over time, a “bunch of those professionals said we should really have a fair so we can get together and hang out and network for the day,” she recalls. Then, “wouldn’t it be a bonus if consumers showed up as well, so we could refer each other’s work? We could ‘know, like, and trust’ each other.” Finally, “wouldn’t it be an extra bonus if we had sponsors who could attract consumers as well?”
So the community gave the idea a test run. Using the conference room at Crystal Visions, Hendersonville, they set up 14 tables and offered 10 minute teachings. The event was an undisputed success, with standing room only.
That treasure trove of knowledge and talent motivated the creation of Michelle’s next co-creative endeavor, the Asheville Wholistic and Integrative Fair. In 2012, its first year in existence, the event featured the work of 60 professionals, attracted 350 consumers, and respected regional sponsors, including WNC Woman. This year’s event, expected to be even larger, is slated for March 2013.
My booth has been reserved for months. Clearly not “in it” for the profits, Michelle works with a steering committee on which I gratefully serve to maximize the exposure for participants and create a quality experience for attendees.
“We want to make sure our professionals in Asheville can continue to live, work, and play here,” she explains. “It’s rare I don’t hear people tell a story about how they got here. My heart would sink when I heard about professionals who had to leave if they couldn’t support themselves.”
Practitioners meet potential new clients and network at the event. If there are any proceeds after expenses, a donation is made to qualifying 501 categorized nonprofits, but that’s definitely not the focus.
The focus is the idea of satisfaction.
“The idea of satisfaction, of knowing each person, is pretty terrific. The satisfaction of being able to let go of a client, or not feel we have to solve every problem for a client who walks through our doors. The satisfaction of knowing we’re doing the best job possible, and that we can do it as a team and as individuals. The satisfaction of knowing we go beyond ourselves to create the idea of wellbeing … a feeling of being satisfied we can respect the human condition and have a spiritual approach – it doesn’t matter which spiritual approach it is.”
Michelle won’t take credit for AAWIP’s success, nor that of AAWIF, the fair. Monthly meetings are punctuated by “holistic humor,” delivered by any number of comedians in the room, resulting in joyful laughter, a sense of inclusivity, respect, comfort and encouragement.
“We have serious matters for sure, and we all take our work very seriously, but that element of laughter certainly creates a welcome space,” says Michelle.
Yes, it most certainly does.
Interested individuals who would like to learn more about membership in Asheville Area Wholistic and Integrated Professionals or participate in the Asheville Area Wholistic and Integrative Fair, should visit the Meet-up site.
Sherri L. McLendon, MA, OM is a conscious business strategist, coach, and writer in Asheville, NC. She owns and operates Professional Moneta International, www.professionalmoneta.com, specializing in helping exceptional entrepreneurs with a higher calling accelerate their money-making communication strategies and deepen their mindfulness practices in business.
Join Sherri for Turn, Turn, Turn! Plan Your Business to the Wheel of the Year 2013, on Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., at Sol’s Reprieve, West Asheville. Limited seating, and advantageous pricing for early decision. Register online or request more information at professionalmoneta.com/2013-wheel/.