The frenzied early days of the Covid-19 pandemic put life on lockdown, leaving many feeling isolated, alone, and craving connections with others. Yet it also resulted in a forced retrospect, triggering some folks to take a personal inventory. Lives were reevaluated, priorities shifted — and three friends found a way to help others navigate through this massive joint reflection process, filling a niche that continues to gain steam as the pandemic marches on.

MEANT TO BE: Karen Caton was a personal trainer, but her friends always thought her positive outlook and drive would make her a perfect life and wellness coach. She is now certified as such and is a co-founder of Kaanect.

Party With A Purpose started when a friend of Karen Caton, April Cole, and Andrea Ross sought to have a party with a deeper meaning, something more than wine and cheese. As life and wellness coaches, the trio already had a gift for empowering others on a journey to self-awareness. Recognizing people’s resulting desire for personal connection not only with others but also with their inner selves, they joined together to form Kaanect (pronounced connect but spelled with the K-A-A of Karen, Andrea, and April), a coaching company with the goal of helping individuals and companies find “perspective, purpose, and passion.”

“We all experienced a crisis at the exact same time … that’s very, very unusual. It’s usually somebody’s having a divorce, somebody’s moving, somebody lost a job, but it was this massive crisis at the same time,” Kaanect co-founder and life/wellness coach Karen Caton said of the pandemic in an interview with Moonshine Ink.  “It created this space for people to reflect on themselves, and it’s the combination of self-reflection with coming back together as a group and looking at the hard stuff. It’s the hard things, having the tougher conversations and talking about crisis and trauma and the beauty and the challenge of those things.”

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What comes to mind when the concept of wellness is mentioned is often things like yoga, meditation, or crystals, but it really extends far beyond those types of things. Sure, these things can be incorporated into a daily routine, but true wellness goes much deeper. It’s asking yourself not Who am I supposed to be? but Who am I, really? What brings me joy? What am I afraid of?

“I thought a life-coaching party was a great idea … what a fun way to enrich our lives and perspective in a comfortable environment with our support circle of friendship,” said Truckee resident Sara Dube, who recently hosted a Party With A Purpose. “I thought it would be a way to not only to connect with friends, but also take it a little deeper than just everyday life and surface conversation. I thought it would be a great way learn a little more about myself and listen more intently to my friends in order to support them better.”

Dube wasn’t sure what to expect going in, but she was open to the idea. In the end, she said, the experience was life-altering. Circled around a fire pit, beneath the warm glow of bistro lights, she and a group of friends spent two hours delving deep within their inner selves.

“Listening to a life coach’s story and then hearing my friends share what has been going on with them really lifted a veil that we realized we hadn’t been under,” Dube added. “I think we all get so caught up in our routine, that we rarely take the time to intently listen, reflect, share, and therefore connect with each other in a meaningful way. The party provided that space and intention. There was laughter, tears, and healing in the end.”

Party guest Veronica Watson told Moonshine Ink she had anticipated the party would be a time for reflection and sharing.

“I was prepared to be vulnerable, and perhaps talk about my goals and struggles. I was not expecting to go through exercises that guided us to reflect and share on how the pandemic affected each and every one of us (and still does). That really it home for me,” she said. “A personal moment of enlightenment for me was how each of us can put up walls so easily. We all do this for many reasons and in different ways. It was refreshing to hear that we are more similar than different, but yet disappointing to hear that we all feel we need to hide from fear of judgement.”

A guest at the same party, Lisa Beck, said that in order to truly reap the benefits of a Party With A Purpose, one must be willing to “pull off the emotional armor and be okay with being vulnerable.” She recalled moments of belly-aching laughter, awe, and tears — and lots of hugs throughout the evening.

The theme of the party that evening, Beck added, was Better Broken. “Real life is not the perfect picture we post. Life is messy and beautiful and inspiring and broken,” she said. “I had not really seen my life that way. I have endured tragedy in my life. It handicapped me. I am just beginning to see that the pain has actually made me a more compassionate, understanding, and nonjudgmental human, especially when in self-reflection.”

While there may be some therapeutic effects of putting it all out there, the service Kaanect provides is absolutely not therapy, and it’s a question she and her counterparts are often asked.

“It’s 100% the opposite. We are not going back as life coaches. We’re not going back and healing old wounds,” Ross explained. “This is about creating vision forward. It’s looking at what’s happened in your life and who you are now, but allowing you to step through who you really are and want to be and put that out there … It’s like having a hand on your back.”

That’s not to say that some heavy revelations don’t come out during these sessions. If a guest reveals some trauma or past experience which would necessitate a walk back in time, the coaches will refer that individual to a therapist. Indeed, therapy and wellness coaching can work concurrently, reexamining the past while working toward a more fulfilling future.

BRAVEHEART: Kristin Cooksey was also a guest at Sara Dube’s Party With A Purpose. “The word ‘brave’ to me is a sense of self that I have been trying to acquire my whole life,” she shared with Moonshine Ink. “As a mother, daughter, friend, and wife I have been ‘brave’ for all those in my life and fearless to help them all to no end, but it has only been recently that I have found the ability to ‘brave’ for myself. For this, I am truly grateful.”

“I took away a greater sense of friendship, community, support, and empathy for each person’s individual journey — whether it be with new motherhood, health, divorce, new careers, and just life in general,” Dube said. “I felt a greater sense that we are all in this together, and it’s okay to not have all your shit together.”

According to Ross, one of the main takeaways from Parties With A Purpose is the sense of permission guests learn to give themselves to ask some of these questions or to really think about it and give themselves the space to think about it.

“It’s not anything more than creating the space for real authentic conversations about the human experience. We don’t give anybody the answers. No, there’s no answers at all. We just give them a space to find their own answers,” Ross said. “Everybody walks away with their own answers because you have it in you. I have clients who actually frequently will just say, tell me what to do. Please. Just tell me what to do. And that’s not the job. The job is to let them continue to go deeper and deeper and deeper until you find your own truth, your own knowing, your own answer. And it’s such a gift. I love it so much.”  

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