The group Kula Soul is reprioritizing community in Hamilton Ontario. I recently had the pleasure of meeting Kula Soul co-creators Richard Filc and Matthew William to chat with them about how they are creating a movement of like-minded people in Hamilton ON, Canada, to reprioritise community.
“Kula Soul is a movement to reprioritise community in our lives…” says Matt. “Its about reprioritizing community in a way that is wholesome and beneficial.”
The movement was born in July 2019, a time when Matt states he was searching for something but wasn’t quite sure what it was. “I was at a point in my life where I felt lonely and lost and had just quit a previous career. I didn’t know I was searching for a community. I didn’t know community was the answer to my problems.” he tells me.
The idea for Kula Soul came partly from a visit to India. “There, people in their late twenties and early thirties are still hanging out with their best friends. They’re in business with their best friends,” says Matt. “The idea that you need to be successful on your own isn’t as big there. That was a big click in my head. I thought, ‘Why am I trying so hard to make my life alone? Why is that such a thing in our society? You can make your life with the help of the people around you.”
The movement started small with a group of around ten people. “We started running a men’s circle,” says Matt. “We didn’t really know what we were doing but we created a men’s group to share our feelings. It was incredibly healing and incredibly hard. Seeing the difficulty that my best friends had in telling me that they were lonely or depressed… seeing that difficulty of sharing what it is to be human. That was the moment when I realised that [a different kind of community] was what we needed in our lives. From that men’s circle we started doing more. We then invited women. It was equally powerful and just as beautiful. And through this we created community and recognised everyone as human beings with [problems] they are dealing with. Then we started to brainstorm about how we can create community. We did public speaking events, expression through movement… We gradually started creating bigger events around co-creating community.”
It was at one of these casual meetings that Richard Filc, yoga teacher and co-creator at Kula Soul, came onboard. Richard tells me that the meeting was a very casual, informal event where people were invited to chat about themselves and share anything they would like to share with the group. “We had the idea of just going around each person in a circle and giving a compliment,” says Richard. “It was amazing.”
At the heart of Kula Soul is a freedom of creation and willingness to try new ideas and new ways of connecting. This philosophy is the catalyst behind everything Kula Soul has achieved thus far. The group now offers various types of events. “We have Soul Talks,” says Richard. “This is one of the more accessible events. You can show up and hang out with people. We’ve had people come in off a post on Facebook who didn’t know anyone and simply weren’t doing anything that night. At [Soul Talks] you can just sit and hangout in the crowd and listen to the speakers share a part of themselves.
“The second style is about movement and ecstatic dance, usually at a yoga studio,” Richard continues. “You have the opportunity to dance and move and explore a connection in that way. The third [type of event] is the artistic showcase, which has the greatest amount of involvement. You’re [travelling to the event] and possibly staying overnight. There’s live music and live arts. A lot of people show up at that one.
“At the core of each of these events there’s an opening, a ceremony, where a co-founder shares the reason and the intention behind [the movement]. It’s different to other types of social events because at [most events] people are going for their own intention and there can be conflict. We’ve found that everyone who comes [to a Kula Soul event] wants to come and meet each other in a non-judgmental way.”
Through Kula Soul, Matt and Richard have been able to explore ideas for a healthier community. “What makes a community healthy is truth and honesty,” says Matt. “If we are all truthful and honest we can find out what works and what doesn’t.” A healthy community, Matt says, is one that allows for freedom of expression and individualism. This freedom is etched into the very fabric of the movement. Everyone is welcome not just to come to an event but even to create their own events.
“Anyone can run an event,” says Matt. “It is a co-creative thing where anyone can have an idea and create an event as long as it follows our recipe. The recipe is that there has to be an intention setting. People need to be in the space and know why they are there for the same reason: To be authentically themselves. All our events are centred around reinforcing the idea that you can be seen and heard and be whoever you are.”
The movement aims to give people the personal liberation to share sides of themselves they might not feel comfortable to share elsewhere. “We put all our effort into creating a safe and non-judgmental space for people to share parts of themselves and to show whatever they need to show,” says Richard.
The freedom and non-judgmental nature of Kula Soul is in many ways the opposite of modern society, where the focus is on the individual and many people lack a genuine connection to their community. Although Matt does state that for many, religious or spiritual communities can help fill that void. “Your spiritual community is the people who are going to be around you in your most human moments,” says Matt. “How do you develop that if you’re not going to some church every Sunday? [In the West] we have forgotten community as a priority. Based on the way our society is set-up it is easy to prioritise money and success over community.”
This lack of community has a very real effect on our mental health. “Half of people are lonely,” says Matt. “There is a loneliness epidemic. [Researchers] are starting to say that loneliness can almost be thought of as a disease. I’ve seen it shown it studies that loneliness can take years off your life [this is backed by research published on ScientificAmerican]. There are real health consequences to loneliness.”
Matt and Richard both state that the movement has helped transform their lives, as it has many other people in the movement. “It was my first moment of being totally loved for who I am,” says Richard. “[I’d long wondered] why I was afraid of saying something or afraid of approaching someone, what was restricting me from opening up to someone and hugging them or sharing something with them. [Kula Soul] was healing to me from the very start.” The movement has helped Richard to overcome a challenge in his personal life. “I came into this movement having left another group—alcoholics anonymous, which was instrumental to saving my life when I was addicted to heroine. I was going through a lot of my own deeply repressed guilt around whether I was an alcoholic or wasn’t or whether I could or could not use substances. “
Matt states that Kula Soul has helped him too, in different ways. “I’ve had issues with self worth and family issues,” he tells me. “[Thanks to Kula Soul] every one of my relationships has improved. It’s taught me that it’s okay to be myself. It’s given me that self worth back. It’s given me that fundamental stability that I’m okay and that who I am is okay and that has allowed me to be successful in other areas of my life because I have that love from people who care about me..”
Kula Soul fills a painful gap in many people’s lives: the lack of community. In a society where the focus is on the individual and where any personal problems are often frowned upon and kept in secret, Kula Soul invites people to come as they are and to share their personal truths. It is in many ways a simple notion: a group based on openness and compassion. But in the 21st Century it breathes a much-needed breath of fresh air, one that could rejuvenate the spirit of anyone who is willing to simply show up.
If you would like to get invovled with Kula Soul, you can find them via Insta.