The Deep Space is a community that holds space for meaningful conversations. The money they collect from ticket sales are donated to local charities in Montreal. Maison d’Étude has been sponsoring The Deep Space — supporting the beautiful initiative that brings people together and teaches us how to communicate more meaningfully and mindfully.
Mira Katz, Co-Founder of Maison d’Étude had a chat with Chantal Stafford-Abbott, Founder of The Deep Space, after their first virtual event on April 15th. What inspired the deep space? When I moved to Montreal I lost the community that I built living in New York for eight years. As a 20-something-year-old moving to a new city there was a sense of “where are my people?” My family was here (siblings & cousins) and a few friends from school and from other places in my life. I had individual connections but I didn’t have that group of people and was having a hard time connecting to many people and feel like I was part of something bigger than myself. I rounded up all the individual people that I knew and tried to create something like that. I wanted to have people gather for a purpose, not just “meet up and hang out”. The first Deep Space was at my home; I invited a bunch of friends and family members and the topic was death. We prepared some questions and I knew it was a difficult subject so it would force connection and vulnerability that was deeper than just a dinner party. Everyone kept asking when the next one was and here we are. When did you start? 2017. I was so anxious to do it again that it took me 8 months before hosting the second one. What about The Deep Space keeps people coming back? I think there’s a feeling of inclusiveness that people feel when they come. It’s not like they necessarily know each other or would see each other again outside the event. Yet, there’s this feeling of belonging and connectedness. Everyone agrees to play by that rule of inclusion, respect, and listening, and that’s what people appreciate. The general feeling that isn’t from one thing, but altogether it feels good. It’s a combination of the design of the event, the type of people that are there, and talking about deeper topics in the framework. And funny enough, I thought people would feel relief from expressing themselves. But they actually love hearing other peoples stories and intimate thoughts and listening to people’s experiences. They love being able to listen to other people’s points of view, truths, and realities. How does physical space play into the experience? HUGE. Physical space plays such a bigger role than we give it credit for. For myself, right away when I walk into a room, I immediately scan to get a feel for what kind of space it is. Is it relaxing? Is it safe? Do I have to be more professional? Setting the tone of having conversations that feel welcoming, creative, safe, and cozy, really contributes to people feeling safe opening up. If we pair off into groups, it’s so important that people sit in a circle, that we can all see each other when we’re in a big circle so that everyone feels included. The physical space where we have these intimate conversations can help or hinder. Maison d’Étude was the perfect space to have that conversation because we not only feel safe and comfortable, but also there’s a sense that we’re not going into a therapy session. The modernity makes people feel like they’re coming to a relevant space where we’re going to have conversations with other people that we relate to. Why is it important to be part of a community? It’s something I’ve thought about for many hours. I can’t make up something and tell you a reason why, and I don’t fully understand the need for community as human beings. Obviously you can find a biological or physiological answer to feeling safe when we belong. But my own perspective is that there’s a deeper sense of feeling like we’re part of something that’s bigger than us. It can be spiritual, or even intellectual or emotional. You don’t have to subscribe to any beliefs to be part of a meaningful community. It’s an itch that people will need to scratch no matter how successful they are or where they live. It’s a fundamental need to connect with others. What advice do you have for students that are just starting to discover what community means for them? It’s such an interesting time for students especially when they’re transitioning. It’s an opportunity to reflect on whether your community is circumstantial or if you chose it. You can take a step back and ask who are my friends? What do we do together? And what’s the point? It doesn’t have to be serious. It can be fun and silly! Some friendships are more playful and that’s great. But, as you’re a student and going through different transitions it’s an opportunity to discover who you are and have that mirrored back at you. We are who we hang with. We don’t decide on what family we’re brought into and where we grow up. But as we move through life and gain independence, there’s a choice that we have about how we spend our time and who we spend it with. It was really hard for me to find that, and I’m still on the search, but I think it's a worthwhile part of our lives to pay attention to. You can follow The Deep Space here. You can learn more about Chantal here. You can book Maison d’Étude for your next community event here.