Saturday, March 26, 2011

Spiritual Community

Spiritual community is a cauldron where we get to be with each other in a very deep and real sense. Many of us can do things alone – but doing them in community really calls us to a higher level of commitment and intention. Community acts as a catalyst where change is possible – more than change - transformation happens. Because there is something we are creating together that cannot be brought into manifestation alone.

Doing things together requires us to develop qualities which may be outside our natural preferences.

For example, we may not be the kind of person who needs a lot of time to make decisions. And working in a group may push us to our limits while we develop patience and understanding for those who need more time to think things through and feel comfortable.

And we as a sacred community – what holds us together, what is our commitment to each other when we bump up against our differences? What holds us together as a spiritual community is different than what holds other relationships together.

Spiritual community calls the relationship to an entirely different level because it is not based on needs or common experiences or convenience. It is based on spiritual principles. Not in our human-ness, not in our individualities, but in the principle that each one of us shares our spiritual nature – the nature of God. And when we are willing to be together in that way – incredible things happen. People who seem to have nothing in common can form a very powerful spiritual community. Because holding the principles as a guiding light is more powerful than any interest or experience. And when we see each other in that Light, and support each other in that Truth, miracles happen.

What are the benefits of being in a spiritual community? Acceptance, love, non-judgment, forgiveness. Who would not want to experience these?

Non-judgment is knowing that you are safe with this person, that you do not need to place distance or armour around yourself when you are around them.
Acceptance gives you the freedom to feel your feelings, say what’s on your mind without being judged or criticized. With a relationship based on acceptance we don’t have to pretend to be who we are not. There are no masks. A friend will listen and be with us, never forgetting that we are really so much more than what is showing at this moment. And unconditional love – who wouldn’t want to know that someone recognizes the inner beauty and joy and wisdom and will love you and appreciate you even when you are not feeling worthy of it.

What I have just described is what we RECEIVE from being part of a spiritual community.

How do we get some of that? BY GIVING IT. Oh-oh - can I be unconditionally loving all the time? Do I really accept everyone just the way they are?

I will speak for myself – and the answer is no. I am not a perfect expression of the divine all the time. But I am willing to learn and I am learning. That’s why it is called a spiritual practice. Perhaps in some areas we have had a lot of experience and we can act out of our spiritual principles most of the time. And there may be other areas, where we have not yet even tried.

But first we must be willing to do it imperfectly. Am I the only one who feels like they need to do it right – the first time – every time? Can you see what an unrealistic burden that places on us? We would not expect a child to jump on a bicycle and ride perfectly the first time. Of course – they are going to practice and probably have a few spills. And so will we.

Spiritual community is where we get to practice these – because it is a place of love – acceptance – growth. What better place?

A minister friend of mine said - ministry is full of growth opportunities. When I mess up - I get to practice humility and the congregation gets to practice forgiveness.

One of the greatest gifts of your life is finding a place where people are going to support you in your spiritual practice. Find one now!