While meditating on the beach, Fitchburg-resident Joanne Adducci had a revelation.
Processing the death of her mother, she sat facing the ocean and balancing stones into stacks, called cairns. She built three cairns: one for her past, one for her present and another for her future. Then suddenly a wave came in, but it only knocked over the “past” cairn.
It’s the perfect metaphor, Adducci told the Star last month, reminding her to let go of the past.
For the last three years, Adducci has been helping others to free themselves from past traumas and embrace the moment. Her Facebook group called #now, which has been active since October 2019, has grown into a supportive community, a safe space for hard conversations and where people can “bare their souls,” she said.
The online group, with the full name of “#now-a movement toward conscious living,” since has grown to more than 500 members. The posts vary from light-hearted content like memes, inspiring quotes or sunrise photos, to heavy personal accounts of things like sexual assault, death or divorce.
The only requirement to join the group is to be respectful and supportive of other members.
“It’s all about sharing our stories and building community and living a conscious life,” Adducci said.
A “conscious life,” as she describes it, is being able to recognize and let go of emotions, fears, stresses and worries – to not drift through life holding onto negativity and painful experiences.
But Adducci wasn’t always living a conscious life, she said. It took time to unravel her traumas.
About five years ago, after losing her mother, Adducci said she felt like a piece of herself was gone. She went to therapy to work through her mother’s death, as well as other traumas she had never properly addressed: being sexually assaulted as a child, being raped in college, having an eating disorder and always being the person who would help others – but never herself.
It took recognizing and putting these experiences out in the open for her to truly start healing, Adducci said.
“I just felt like my life was falling apart and it took me a little while, but I realized that actually the falling apart feeling was the crack in the door that really made me realize my life was actually falling together.“
Adducci knew being open about these experiences could help others who went through the same things. So she created #now in April 2018 and started writing posts about the experiences. But for 18 months, she was the only member.
It was scary to be open and vulnerable, she said, so she didn’t invite anyone.
But when her father got sick and her marriage ended, she again felt as though her life was falling apart. And at that moment Adducci said, “Screw it, I need this community.”
She began by inviting “safe people,” such as family and friends, to the group. Eventually, she worked up the courage to tell coworkers and encourage members to invite people from their own social circles.
As more people joined, shared their stories and offered advice, Adducci said it blossomed into a supportive network. She said she hopes members are able to relate to one another and realize that no matter how bad things seem, in the moment, there is an opportunity to grow.
“There truly is a way out,” Adducci said.
As #now grew, so did Adducci’s commitment to helping others attain peace with their past. She worked in technology for 25 years, but now manages various projects – including a consciousness consulting firm, a podcast with local Fitchburg musician Kelsey Miles and various book clubs.
All of her work circles back to that idea of letting go of the past through open conversations.
“I am the embodiment of the collective, meaning that the things I’ve been through, so many other people have been through, and they can relate,” Adducci said “It’s my job to open up the door for conversation.”