It can be hard to find a community in Abu Dhabi, let alone a sense of calm or contentment. There are so many different cultures to navigate and as in any other city, everyone is in a rush. That leaves little time – or energy – for healing and personal development, even if people are hungry for it.
Enter the Lightworkers Abu Dhabi, a group of 90 women and men who have joined forces to boost good energy across the community and its individual members. Think of them as a gentle, helpful spiritual supergroup, one that has come together from different backgrounds and countries. Their aim is to help people grow and raise individual and collective consciousness around them as they go.
Christina Awad works in a variety of meditation techniques and is one of the group’s newest organizers. “The most beautiful thing about Lightworkers Abu Dhabi is that they are building a community and that’s so important in such a transient society where everyone is afraid of taking the first step to connect,” says Awad, who is also a founder of community art platform Blank Canvas Community. “What the ladies have created is not only a safe space, but a place to meet people, interact and just be myself.”
The various members of Lightworkers Abu Dhabi are trained in an assortment of healing, self-connection and self-care modalities, from reiki to yoga to meditation. Their events include monthly Lightworkers open houses, weekly sound healing events and pop-ups at local markets and fairs.
And while there have been people doing this kind of work for years in the capital, it was only in March 2018 that they decided to organize and give themselves a name.
“The universe brought us together,” says Elena Stepanova, a core member, who is also a hatha yoga teacher, reiki practitioner and personal and wellness trainer.
“We offer so many different aspects of our own version of light – how we see it and how it has helped with us,” says Tea Vutmej, an original organizer of Lightworkers Abu Dhabi, whose work includes theta healing, reiki and yin yoga. “Most people connect with at least one light and we try to give as many tools, support, encouragement and as much love as they need.”
Since coming together, the Lightworkers have expanded their range of activities and events and have seen attendance at their meetings double from 30 to 60, with even more showing a keen interest. What they offer is varied and for the uninitiated, it could feel a little ‘out there’: think tuning forks, laughter yoga, galactic sound activation and yoga mandala reiki.
Neli Merris is another core member of the Lightworkers team and a yoga teacher, vibrational healer and holistic health specialist. She also helps a group of lightworkers who have learned a new modality, by pairing them up with experienced colleagues to help them build their practice.
One of the most popular Lightworkers events are sound healing sessions run by another core member, Sonia González.
González, an opera singer and reiki master from Venezuela, turned to sound healing as part of her recovery after she was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease, a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid.
When she started holding events in Abu Dhabi in 2017, a dozen people would turn up. These days, her donation-based weekly sessions at Manarat Al Saadiyat are so popular that recently more than 100 people attended.
They come bearing their own pillows and blankets on which to lie on the floor as the therapeutic sounds of an assortment of Tibetan bowls, gongs and other instruments wash over them.
“Abu Dhabi is a model for the whole world,” says González. “We are a number of cultures living in one city and we have to open our hearts and be tolerant of other beliefs.”
Another of the group’s aims is to create a safe space where harried residents can fit in just as they are, without feeling they must adjust their personality. That can be a powerful motivator for change, says González.
“A lot of decisions exist because we are not being authentic to ourselves,” explains González. “Society puts pressure on individuals to do or be a part of things that we don’t want to do. We are not all the same and we need to explore other things and we feel that the city is open to this.”
Group members offer a caveat about their work: it may be relaxing, but enlightenment is not a passive activity. The cumulative impact of regularly slowing down and tuning in, whether through a gong bath or a reiki session, can be a powerful spark for change. It can require self-analysis, introspection and more. And when that happens, members say, the Lightworkers are there to offer tools, support and encouragement along the way.
“When the decision to make a change is realized and they see that the Lightworkers are creating an event, they feel compelled to come along,” says core member Stepanova.
“It all starts with that need of wanting to know yourself better and giving that love to yourself.”
Asha Sherwood owns Abu Dhabi Review, an online and social platform that gives you the scoop on everything happening in the capital.