How do we create it? (Comments)
How do we sustain it?
WHAT IS REAL COMMUNITY ?
A couple of comments to begin with. First, community.... well the truth of it is that we all live in "community". It's simply a question of 'What type?' and of 'What quality?!' . In its simplest form "community" might be defined as some relationship (traditionally, although not exclusively, geographical in some form) that exists between people. So a farming community a 100 years ago was defined by the grouping of all the families that lived in some immediate geographical area in the country and who probably had some degree of contact with each other through their shared enterprise of farming. Similarly a religious community would be the grouping of those people with a shared religious perspective / belief system who also lived close enough to have regular contact with each other.
In this sense we all live within community. Even in the primitive usage of geography as the defining reference, since something like 95% of the people in the United States now live in the large urban areas; we can fairly safely say "we live in community". Yet why the dissatisfaction? Why the often call for "more community"? What's missing? The obvious answer is one of some quality lacking in the interactions we share (or not) with others in our "community".
A short pointed departure (for just a moment): Long ago psychologists and other therapists came across an interesting insight. They would have "problem" children referred to them for therapy by the police, teachers, or parents. The child in "acting out" some problem would be brought in to the therapist to be "fixed". In working with the psychologist (particularly if the child was removed from his/her home environment during this time), very often there would be rapid improvement. Now of course the ''fixed" child would be returned home with high praise and expectation, only to find that often in short order he or she would be brought back in with problems again.
The psychologists discovered the problem most often was not with the kid, but with the kid's family and the environment the family created. It was part of the birth source of Family Therapy.
This analogy is being carried out now on and to another level; the level of the culture in which we live. It's hard to live a "normal" community-ish life (our natural social way of being for thousands of years) when the larger system in which we live (our culture) promotes so much separation, isolation and dysfunctional aspects such as financial anxiety over paying the mortgage or "getting ahead" [as if simply making enough money would guarantee our happiness] or maintains a dysfunctional approach to "relationships".
Many people from therapists to TV talk show hosts, to teachers, and even to some politicians; now talk about essentially negative or wanting aspects of our culture and call forth for more "community". In spite of the many calls for it, there have been pitifully few real or accurate suggestions on how to create the community that is needed.
The need is there. The hunger for it is real. The damage done by not having it is becoming more and more obvious. Yet the question remains; "What is real community?"
We in times of crisis, natural disaster and emergency often see people acting in certain ways that someone will call out as being "more community". The essence of these actions seems to often involve "helping each other" in one way or another. And often this 'helping' occurs in creative, innovative ways which the crisis forces upon us, requires of us. Yet after the crisis fades, we all know what happens. The situation settles down into the "normal" (translate that non community) way of being. Still the hint of what "real community" is lies there before us via the crisis created situation and the element of innovative and creative "helping each other".
Our experience is that "real community" involves manifesting this element of creatively "helping each other" beyond the circumstances of any immediate physical crisis. In a real sense it involves helping each other move forward in all of our individual lives. The "win -win" label is perhaps descriptive of the basic starting premise of real community. It also recognizes the underlying reality of "synergy" in that you or I can get more out of life when there is reciprocal helping of each other. This synergy is easily recognized in the crisis situation of, for example; when a fallen, heavy board can not be lifted off an injured child by any one person, but can easily be lifted off when three people work together. Caring this forward beyond the physical domain is not always readily recognized by some folks. Yet it exists there too and the recognition of it gives rise to understandings like: "Enlightened self interest requires at times helping the other guy succeed."
Ultimately this understanding of "helping each other move forward in our individual lives" as being a cornerstone of community, becomes "spiritual" in that we recognize that for any person to truly be free to move forward in their life, requires them to truly be themselves. (Of course there are some religious belief systems which run counter to this; namely those that claim that the deepest part of any person is still locked in "sin" or imprisoned by "karma". The clearest thing we can say in response to this is that the path through life of those belief systems is not our path.) Our experience is that the greatest joy, the greatest success in life, and the greatest love comes about from a person honoring their entire being.
So we define "Real Community" as a place, an environment where we can drop our "masks", truly be ourselves and be accepted and loved as ourselves. We find that it is this environment which promotes the greatest and fastest healing of problems, the easiest resolution of difficulties, differences and misunderstanding between people, and easily the greatest love between people. In this type of environment life truly becomes more and more a celebration.
HOW DO WE CREATE REAL COMMUNITY ?
How do we develope "real" friendships?! What has been your experience in life on this? If you are like most of us, you have at least one or two real friends with whom you can really just be yourself. How does this develope? Usually it comes about as a result of many years of knowing each other and probably going through a number of "up's and down's". If you are like most people, you've probably enjoyed good times and laughed together. At other times you've been bored. Then you argued, fought and had differences come up which resulted in distancing from each other and somehow, in spite of the differences, you managed to come back into contact with each other again. There usually comes about a certain stage where you have come to accept the other person as they. "Oh I really would prefer that he (or she) would not be that way; but I know now that's just part of him.... and I can live with it."
Often it is exactly this experience over time that creates at least some of the comfort we have with the family and relatives we grew up with. Yet we didn't choose our family! It just "happened" to us. So what happens now with friends, people who we do choose to one degree or another? Usually its the same lengthy process over time that creates the deep friendship. Yet often these friends can end up living across the state or across the country and as much as we might desire more regular contact, there isn't much or it is too infrequent. Part of the outcome of our modern civilization ends up being this hunger for more "real" in-depth relationship, for more "real" community.
There is an answer to this quest. There is a process which essentially allows and promotes us to safely and naturally go through the same friendship building experiences as described above, yet it does so in a more compressed fashion so it doesn't take years. It does it with a group of people so you develope real friendship not just with one other person, but with a number of folks. And because it is with a group, this "real" community often is much more powerful than it would be with just one other person. It is often exquisitely touching. Many people have never experienced the degree of love and acceptance which developes here. Some will call it "spiritual" without that word ever being introduced during the process.
Other than to say that the process compresses what would ordinarily take place over years, into a few months; it is hard to describe. The process itself is highly experiential and not readily given to intellectual analysis or introduction at the beginning. But after the process is complete there is an intellectual learning that can be achieved. There is an integration of heart and mind which is possible and this integration even further enhances and sustains the deepening relationships and connection.
If you insist that you need an intellectual understanding, let me give you this as a starting point. Real community is that which starts to happen when you and others encounter your dicofferences and don't get seduced into the old, primitive "fight or flight" response. Real community is that which can start to happen when in the midst of experiencing our differences we stay present with each other without fighting each other or avoiding (fleeing) each other.
Again intellectually knowing this and actually manifesting this in your life, are two different things. With the experience of manifesting it, the intellectual understanding itself deepens and become clearer. Indeed in manifesting 'real' community among us, you and I enter into a repeating cycle of indepth experience, pausing and reflection, indepth experience again, followed too by another period of reflection. With each cycle typically there is an increase in the depth of community achieved between/among us.
One brief synopsis of what
it takes to create real community might well be:
"Tell the truth and support each others dreams!"
the truth we invariably encounter our differences. And
supporting each other's dreams requires that we don't fight or flee.)
COMMENTS : Here are a few comments by some who have gone through the experience of building real community.
a place to express the truth of who you are and where you're coming from,
and a place to discover more clearly who you are and how you affect others."
Robin Young, Oregon
living in an intentional community for 5 years, it took this workshop,
and a willingness to commit to this process, to finally experience community
within myself and then the experience of true intimate community with others."
Susan Dowell, Oregon
"I would recommend it to friends who talk about building or doing 'community' as though it were easy and the first thing to do is buy enough land. I'd suggest that perhaps they experience community first."
Margo Young, Oregon
went to the conference to learn about soft technology, organic gardening
and financing. I learned that if there is communion between the hearts,
all else will fall into place."
Rhea Monro, Cambridge, England
"I have experienced many workshops and many modes of striving to build relationships. I found this one to be extraordinarily powerful and effective - in the speed and subtlety with which it worked its magic, without lots of tears or pain and with a sprinkling of laughter."
Bruce Goeller, Los Angeles
"I can't imagine a more enabling experience for groups in almost any stage of forming a Co-Housing community than a Relationship / Community workshop such as this.
Pat Denslow, Pasadena
HOW DO WE SUSTAIN REAL COMMUNITY ?
As we said, the process of building real community is experiential and compresses what would ordinarily take place over years into a much shorter time period. There is a learning which takes places for us while immersed in this process. An integration of heart and mind starts to take place and out of this there grows an environment in which Love & Truth become more and more the prevalent values. This doesn't occur out of any moralistic system which preaches that they "should" be our values. It comes about simply from an increasing sense of safety, acceptance of each other, and especially from a growing experience that life is fuller and richer this way.
Real community promotes more love and more truth. In a simplistic and yet an accurate way, it can be said that more love and truth promote more real community. It is an awakening and a positive cycle which truly turns life into a celebration! Here again a quick, practical summary might well be:
"Tell the truth and support each other's dreams!"
2nd Tier Community .