Updated: Apr 27, 2022
We live in a hurry up world, with pressurized schedules, idealized expectations, and polarized worldviews. Within this muck and muddle, we show up – or not.
Blog # 1 affirmed our connectedness as well as described the greatness that resides within each of us. I wrote that we all come from the same source, share numerous traits, and operate according to certain universal principles and laws. So, it seems quite logical to ask why and how is it that we have created so many inequities on our planet? How is it that wars rage, violence escalates, diseases of stress affect every family?
We may not always have an answer as to the why or even to the “hows” that got us here. But, through the ages, our human family has identified principles and practices to counter these negative influences.
Even better, practices have emerged that show us how to transform pain and suffering into learning that transforms our lives. One such principle and practice is “respect.” When we respect one another, we create new visions of possibility that entail grace, kindness, and initiatives toward creativity and compassion.
Blog # 2 continued with the message that deep listening is the skill that enables us to shift from fear and judgment to acceptance, love, and understanding.
Now, in Blog # 3, let’s explore the importance of committing to create relationships of “true community.” We have a great foundation upon which to build. Historians and anthropologists have shared with us stories of ancient civilizations wherein partnership was the norm instead of hierarchical decision making. With the advent of psych-social-spiritual approaches to behavior through the work of Sigmund Freud, Carl Rogers, and others, entire professional disciplines committed to helping people learn more about living together with purpose and community have evolved. In the 1970’s, M. Scott Peck wrote The Road Less Traveled, a book that detailed a map for personal transformation, that stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for several years. Later, Peck followed up with two books that specifically laid out a model for being in true community with one another. It was the good fortune for my colleague Linda Carlson and me to study personally with Peck, to have been present in community building workshops that he and associates led, and then to offer community building groups ourselves.
The word “community” has a number of meanings. As we use it in the workshops that we lead and in the mentoring, coaching groups that we co-facilitate, Linda Carlson and I adhere to the definition of true community that Peck gave in his first book on community, The Different Drum, 1987.
According to Peck, true community is far more than a mere assembly of people who share purpose or convene for an extended period of time. True Community, according to Peck, exists when a group of people commit to communicate with each other according to principles of honesty, transparency, kindness, respect, and willingness to show up for each other in good and bad times. The culture of the group is inclusive, contemplative, creative, compassionate, and transformative. But, a community is also something more. Peck compares it to electricity, suggesting that we can describe multiple characteristics of electricity, even identify certain laws by which it seems to operate. But, there is something more about electricity that we have to accept as beyond our complete comprehension or certainly beyond our complete control. Witness any thunderstorm or listen to weather forecasters attempt to predict the exact trajectory that impending storms, tornadoes or hurricanes may follow. Community is greater than the sum of its parts.
I would be remiss if I did not mention one additional characteristic of true community. It is exquisitely interconnected. Having experienced true community many times, I can say that true community produces a synergy between that which is seen and that which is invisible, yet completely apparent. It energizes and sustains when nothing else can. I am not always fully aware of being in community. But I am aware that true community is my “home base.” I am always invited and welcome to live from my true community. It is within me and yet transcendent to me.
I have a picture of true community as the proverbial “Garden of Eden,” our true home. As in the ancient Hebrew story, the gates of this garden are guarded by two figures. I wonder are not these our doubts, our fears, our prideful egos that keep us out of the garden where true intimacy or Oneness, interconnectedness abides in blissful joy? The force that literally opens and steps through the portal to this garden is LOVE. And, as Peck has said, we cannot define that which is larger than we are. We can observe it. We can participate in it. We can receive it. But, we cannot fully comprehend it. Love is the force that transcends us and yet that, like a impassioned lover, courts and pursues us without abandon.
There is much about true community that takes time to fully appreciate. This is one main reason that we see so little of it. Time! On the other hand, taking the time to understand true community and to learn how to practice the art of being in true community adds tremendous value to our lives. This is why my dear friend and long-term community member, Linda Carlson, and I are offering through “The Living Classroom” our own virtual learning community, beginning soon and announced here on my website and soon on Linda’s as well.
A future blog and The Living Classroom section of this website offer more hints as to the enormous benefits of true community—things like peace, joy, creativity, encouragement, wisdom. But, to give you a quick picture of what to expect, here are a few thoughts.
In community, leadership flows. Conflicts are resolved. Communications have replaced a command and control style decision making. The implications for decision making are profound.
As a rule, individual differences within the group are respected and diversity is celebrated.
The group is a Leader-Full group, meaning that all members are valued as having a voice to be heard.
The process is considered an adventure and decisions are made by consensus.
The environment within the community is one that encourages individuals to speak and actively seeks to avoid any “mob psychology” that commits harm toward anyone in or out of the group.
As the group grows as a community, so does the humility of its members grow.
The group becomes aware of its “isness” being quite realistic as opposed to either limiting or grandiose.
Because the group is contemplative in nature, it grows in self-awareness which leads to wisdom.
Vulnerability, safety, reclamation of one’s full range of emotions occurs in community.
As masks drop and authenticity flourishes in community, individuals realize their inherent yearning and propensity toward wellness. The group does not heal or change the individuals. Yet in the full acceptance of the group, the individuals begin to freely experience their own wholeness.
There is risk, vulnerability, and conflict within true community. The group approaches these things with conscious compassion, what Peck named as “soft” eyes instead of “hard” eyes. He shared that it was in the experience of true community that he relearned the “lost art of crying.” Given that having been wounded is universal, this gift of tears stands out as one of the tremendously freeing things that occurs in true community.
As members of true community exhibit tremendous courage they are eventually rewarded with a peace that passes ordinary understanding. Members develop wisdom, become empowered, and learn to choose love over fear, doubt, guilt, or otherwise compromising choices.
Watch this space for dates and times for the first True Community to be announced.