… in an imperfect community
Joining and co-creating community is a lot like developing an intimate relationship, whether family, friend or significant other.
It can be joyful to repeatedly be in the presence of those who share your values. As we get to know others in our community, we feel more comfortable. We feel a sense of belonging. We feel “seen” and acknowledged and safe. We experience emotional intimacy.
Experiencing emotional intimacy with others is one of the most satisfying experiences of life. Emotional intimacy, or a sense of deep connection with another person or a group of people, occurs when each person is completely open hearted and devoted to taking 100% responsibility for their own feelings and needs. It occurs when each person is deeply connected with his or her own true Self. This is what we mean when we say “in perfect love and perfect trust”.
It is only through emotional intimacy – or in perfect love and perfect trust – that people can connect heart to heart and co-create. There is no other way around it.
A community is a social group of any size whose members often share the same values, beliefs and goals; are intergenerational; participate in ongoing shared activities, have frequent interactions; and often have a common cultural or historical heritage. In a healthy community, all members contribute equally in terms of time and resources and they mobilize in times of crisis and need.
The ironic part is that many people don’t really know how to co-create an intimate community.
When we first join, we may approach the experience with rose colored glasses, thinking that by finding this relationship, all of our problems will be magically resolved.
Or we come to the community expecting people to be perfect according to our definition of perfect. We fall into the “perfection trap” where we expect everyone in our tribe to behave exactly as we would want them to.
Or perhaps we fall into the trap of guru worship, focusing mostly on the “master” of the tradition rather than the teachings or spiritual practices.
And then, just like any intimate relationship, as we get to know members in the community, we begin to see each other’s personalities, characteristics, strengths and limitations.
Because we are human, we may start to fall into the trap of criticism, judgment and/or blaming. We begin to see that these people are not perfect. We begin to put people in boxes. Who has a big ego, who can’t stop talking, who is too shy, the group has too many rules that impinge on freedom of expression … etc.
Then we get frustrated or angry or annoyed.
The thing is, we don’t need a perfect tribe—a family or a community doesn’t have to be perfect to be helpful or to be powerful.
Every tribe member has limitations, fears, doubts and insecurities. Every community has its ground rules. By recognizing that, and having compassion, we can help each other transform.
The shadow in the other person is very important, and shadow within yourself is also very important. Anger is in us, jealousy is in us, arrogance is in us. These kinds of things are very human.
It is thanks to the presence of shadow in you and in a brother or a sister that you learn how to practice experiencing the divine within ourselves and others. To practice is to have an opportunity to transform. So it is through our shadow that we learn to practice.
There are some people who seek to bad-mouth the leaders of a community … or think of leaving the community altogether … when they encounter difficulties with other members. They cannot bear what they perceive to be injustices inflicted on them. When we are quick to judge and dismiss people, our hearts grow small.
The trick to develop perfect love and perfect trust
To help your heart grow bigger, understanding and love are necessary. Your heart can grow as big as the cosmos; the growth of your heart is infinite. We don’t practice to suppress or ignore or bypass these types of moments; we practice so that our hearts expand.
In the community there will always be people who challenge us. These so-called difficult people are a good thing for you—they will test your capacity of community-building and practicing.
After a while, when you engage in your spiritual practices continually, your compassion will have been born. You will be capable of embracing others with your compassion and your understanding. Then you will know that your practice of looking deeply has grown.
You will be delighted that other people’s actions do not make you angry or sad anymore, that you have enough compassion and understanding to embrace them. That is why you should not be tempted to eliminate the elements that you think are difficult in community.
Breathing in, I see that I am part of my community. Breathing out, I feel joy.
…. Coming Up Next: dealing with personal insecurities…