This post is sponsored by the letter C and the number 3!
Today I will tackle a third spiritual quality/practice, COMMUNITY. Common-Unity. It’s hard to say enough about how important this is to me. I grew up a lonely girl, then I was a depressed adult. In high school I had just returned from years in the Netherlands – I wore short skirts and knee socks and was a 14 year old serious student (as were all the Dutch girls I knew) and on the rowing team – and in my California high school the other girls were all 16, wore poodle skirts and crinolines, were crazy about football players – couldn’t care less about learning. I had lost my tribe and I never did fully “fit in” again anywhere until much later. That experience was just the first of many that showed me how important membership in a community is, and that membership involves shared values and norms… and as adults, shared responsibility shared purpose.
When I was in my mid-twenties I was drawn to live in an intentional community that provided me all the company I wanted 24 hours a day, shared values and norms different from the mainstream and I really treasured that aspect of it. And we had purpose – we were going to change the world – well, it WAS the 1960’s! The community had other deep problems and I later left, but afterwards I was once again very lonely – this time with 2 small children. I adored them, but I needed a Pack. About 5 years later I found a 12-step program, Al-Anon, where once again there were people to share deeply with, to laugh with because we shared unique values and norms. The circumstances that brought me there were not happy, but having a community again satisfied something deep inside of me that hungers for and responds to a sense of BELONGING, a sense of shared mission, shared activities, a sense that together we were doing something wonderful and difficult, a sense of responsibility to be sure it survived for the new member to find it – and I stayed for 13 years, WAY past when my then (very dear actively alcoholic) husband and I had gone our separate ways.
During the years before then years I was an atheist, but after a time in Al-Anon trying to work all the steps that didn’t involve a Higher Power (lol), I found my spirituality. I now consider myself a mystic – that is, I sense the Presence within me most of the time. After a while I found a metaphysical church – eventually going to school and becoming an ordained minister. As I write this, I realize that could have been predicted just based on what I’ve written here. I had found a much larger COMMUNITY to belong to, the metaphysical community, and I finally truly found a home “pack.” People like me. I was almost 50 years old by then.
I think we are pack animals, we humans – and beyond that, we are tribal. Think about the emotional frenzy over what sports teams people identify with – our sports tribalism creates multi-billion dollar businesses – and a lot of fun. And the sometimes mob scenes after games because of the resulting adrenaline rushing through people’s bodies… I think though that the base impulse is to belong to a tribe: “Go Cats/Bears/Cowboys,” etc. It is tragic to deprive someone of their pack – that’s why the practice of “shunning” used by some religions to control the behavior of their members is so powerful and so feared. Our clans/packs/tribes become part of our IDENTITY. I know that because we use words to describe that quality that follow the words. “I AM.” Maybe if we were less tribal we would have fewer wars! People kill and die to defend their tribe or extend its influence, as we sadly see every day we turn on the news.
How is all this related to Spirituality and not just Sociology? Well, in my view, I am One with, connected to, all of life, all of creation – all of YOU. My sense of community is not abandoned, rather it is expanded to include the whole human race, and infinitely more. I have a sense of Oneness even with people who have done terrible things, knowing that there is a seed of Love even in them, which can be nurtured and developed. I worked with incarcerated violent felons as a therapist and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt it is true. That seed is in every one of us, and it makes us one tribe.
So I believe that it’s important to acknowledge that our need for community is a basic human need and to know that we are all spiritually and materially responsible to and for the health and prosperity of the communities we are member of – and for the wellbeing of the other members of those communities. And it is important to acknowledge that we are in fact parts of those tribes, not individuals somehow fending for ourselves in the jungle.
We are responsible TO and FOR our clubs, our towns and cities and states and countries, our planet. We are one tribe, living on a big blue ball, and I dream of the day when we as a human race acknowledge our responsibilities and adopt a “leave no one behind” attitude as regards every community member.
Today on my Seasons for Peace and Nonviolence Facebook page, we end our celebration of practices to nurture peace in the heart, in the family, in our local and global community. Each day for 64 days I have highlighted one specific peace practice. I’d love it if you came over and took a peek – click on the heading “Photos” to see the work I’ve done myself (the art I spoke of yesterday). Tomorrow we begin celebrating the Season for the Earth, where we will consider how we might put our Love and our talents to work to heal and protect that aforementioned Big Blue Ball, our Mother Earth. I hope some of you will join me on that journey. I do blog some about it, but I have a larger stage on Facebook, especially since joining my newest COMMUNITY, The Wellness Universe, which just today has featured a quote of mine (above) with a brief commentary!
Namaste, I love you.