". . .the joy of community is a by-product...Do the work of creating community, and you will obtain it although never exactly according to your schedule. Joy is an uncapturable, yet utterly predictable, side effect of genuine community." --M. Scott Peck, M.D.
Our lives are a spiritual pathway of unfolding awareness. We notice along the way that a mystery is taking place. It is the mystery of the balance of solitude and community. While each of us is individually experiencing our one life and doing our own internal work, we are also participating in a larger community. It is not a coincidence the words unity and commune are part of the word community. Commune is both to make common or to share. Unity is the concept of oneness or wholeness. So community is when humankind begins to share wholeness, and ultimately can experience the mystery of the interconnection of all. This is the manner in which we begin to comprehend Indra's Net (see Jan/Feb issue) not just as a mystical story or myth, but as a spiritual reality.
We are never healed alone, each individual's healing work influences the healing work of all people. When we are consciously in a spiritual community, we can support each other in our growth.
We are involved with each other in a deeper way than we suspect. Perhaps, we think we have been brought together by accident or by chance. However, if we believe in an orderly universe and in the spiritual law of attraction, we come to see there are no accidents and we attract to us people who reflect our beliefs and mental models. Let us also recognize partnership is our channel for the good God brings. We can not live in this world without each other.
At our Sunday Celebration Service, we affirm our church's vision, "We are a vibrant, loving community and an inspirational resource for spiritual awakening and personal growth." This sets our intention for our community. Let us look more closely at the ideas and tools which allow us to live this vision.
Facets of Community
Communities are like diamonds developed under pressure, when cut and polished, the individual facets sparkle and the total effect is dazzling. While the facets of community are profoundly interrelated, we can focus on them individually to learn how to consciously utilize them in our lives together.
There is a unity aspect to our work and to the mutual respect we hold for each other, as well as the willingness to be together in all the "stuff" that happens in life. This "stuff" includes the realms of the individual's life, the community's life and events of the world. How easy it is for any of this "stuff" to push the buttons of our individual issues.
About 600 B.C.E., Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, began to gather students--a community of monks was formed called a "sangha." One day, a conflict arose between two masters, creating a division with students taking sides. Soon the conflict spread to other religious sects in India. The Buddha was asked to intervene. He went to a meeting of the entire sangha, and said, "Please cease your arguing. It is only creating division in the community. Please return to your practice. If we truly follow our practice, we will not become victims of pride and anger."
A monk stood up and said to the Buddha, "Master, please don't involve yourself in this matter. We are adults and capable of resolving this on our own."
The Buddha left the sangha and the village. This small matter, blown up with pride and anger and a very human refusal to do the spiritual work, created an opportunity for the Buddha to deepen his learning and see how to apply it to communities.
On his walk, Buddha found a small sangha of three monks. When he asked about their practice, he was told they were all making progress together.
Anuruddha (one of the monks) replied, "Lord, we care deeply for each other. We live in harmony. I consider living with Nandiya and Kimbila (the other two monks) a great blessing. I treasure their friendship. We are three persons, but are also one."
Kimbila added, "We care deeply for each other." Nandiya continued, "We share all things, from our food, to our insight and experience." The Buddha stayed with them for a while, to see how the three men lived together. He saw if a job needed doing, the one who noticed would take care of it. He observed each would share his food with the others to be sure all had food.
He noticed they set together on a regular basis to share insights and experiences from their spiritual practice, thus teaching and deepening each other.
From this meeting the Buddha taught, "The very nature of a sangha is harmony. I believe harmony can be realized by following these principles:
1. Sharing a common space.
2. Sharing the essentials of daily life together.
3. Observing spiritual teaching and practices together.
4. Using words that contribute to harmony, avoiding words that could cause a break.
5. Sharing insights and understanding.
6. Respecting others' viewpoints and not forcing another to follow yours.
This story illustrates how the individual and the community influence each other. Notice the power of the individual, based on the attitude that person holds, to create harmony or disharmony in the community. When we practice what we teach, we awaken and grow together and become an inspirational resource. Harmony is a facet of true spiritual community and community can be your home, workplace, church or any other friendship or relationship in which you participate.
Community's Inclusive Nature
Spiritual communities are like a river of consciousness. New water is coming in, taking the form of new people visiting and becoming involved. Some members will find their life path calls for a physical move away from the community, perhaps to follow a dream or calling. Since the nature of the community is impermanent--for the community to continue--it must remain open and inclusive.
Inclusive, as defined by the dictionary means "to consider as part of a whole." Each person who enters the doors of our community is seen as an expression of God and therefore part of the whole. Mutual respect for the individual's life journey and viewpoints is part of what keeps the community alive.
M. Scott Peck writes, "There is an 'allness' to community. It is not merely a matter of including different sexes, races, and creeds. It is also inclusive of the full range of human emotions. Tears are as welcome as laughter, fear as well as faith. And different styles: hawks and doves, straights and gays, the talkative and the silent. All human differences are included...How can such differences be absorbed, such different people coexist? Commitment to the willingness to coexist is crucial. Sooner or later, the members of a group in some way must commit themselves to one another if they are to become or stay a community...Community, like marriage, requires we hang in there when the going gets a little rough. It requires a certain degree of commitment...In community, instead of being ignored, denied, hidden, or changed, human differences are celebrated as gifts."
Because of this attitude we, the community, become a safe place for individuals to experiment and learn new types of behaviors. Many people naturally begin to experiment with the concepts of love and trust, and to begin to dream bigger dreams. True community heals us and allows us to feel "at home."
Community's Supportive Nature
"Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak with passion, without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. Some place where we can be free."
To see the community as a place of support and partnership means to participate in meaningful ways within the organization. This is about being a part of something important to us and coming to own it. The interesting part is as we step forward, we find there is something in us we didn't realize before. Passion, power, strength, healing, and love are a natural part of us.
Perhaps this is why we yearn to belong. John O'Donohue writes, "The shelter of belonging empowers you; it confirms in you a stillness and sureness of heart. You are able to endure external pressure and confusion; you are sure of the ground on which you stand. Perhaps your hunger to belong is intense because you belonged so totally before you came here. Something in you knows, perhaps remembers, that eternal belonging liberates longing into its surest and most potent creativity...Your longing desires to take you towards the absolute realization of all the possibilities that sleep in the clay of your heart; it knows your eternal potential, and it will not rest until it is awakened."
Pilgrimage - Community
Gratitude: Give thanks for three people whose eyes light up when they see you, who celebrate with you.
Intentions: Consider Buddha's six principles for harmony in the community and choose one you want to practice this week.
Action: Volunteer in some way to support your community.
"May you be able to journey to that place
in your soul where there is great love,
warmth, feeling and forgiveness.
May this change you."
REV KRIS COLLINS is Minister of Sanctuary of Spiritual Living, A Science of Mind Center
5446 North Citrus Ave -- Covina, CA
626-332-6838 -- www.SOMChurch.org