I didn’t know what I was getting into when I joined the intentional spiritual community of Global Community Communications Alliance. Yes, I was a spiritual seeker. I always had been since my early childhood when my concept of heaven was a superb flower garden where God (in a dark blue Robin Hood outfit) and Jesus (in a light blue one) went around endlessly watering the plants from little tin watering cans. Later, I realized that I was one of the plants that needed watering, and I sought sustenance from many spiritual avenues.
Shunning orthodoxy, I made my way through teachings of the Theosophical Society, a wonderful Indian Sikh Guru who taught me the Yoga of Inner Sound and Light, Rudolph Steiner, Krishnamurti, and certain angles of the New Age. I gleaned from everywhere, but in the end I was satisfied with nowhere. At 60 years old and seeking still, my leading wish was to one day “become enlightened.” But I didn’t know that I still had a long way to go to understand the underpinnings of true spirituality.
It was at this point that I encountered community — a style of life I had never sought or wanted, but nevertheless was drawn into — and fairly soon I committed myself to becoming a member of Global Community Communications Alliance. It was not a rational decision. It was just that deep down I knew the doors of spiritual destiny were opening for me and I was “meant” to go through them in this way. Shakespeare said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.” In this case “fortune” for me meant rare spiritual opportunity — so that was that!
What was being taught in this spiritually based community deeply resonated with me, and it further expanded my spiritual horizons. And the people were very special. They had a good sense of humor and seemed honorable and kind. They, too, were seekers but more grounded than many seekers I had encountered. And they somehow seemed to thrive in the hierarchical system that with grace and direction held the community together. To be under authority in this manner, however, was not initially appealing to me. I had to shelve my prejudice until I realized that those who held the helm were exceptional souls who were totally worthy.
While I was letting time solve this dilemma, I explored my new way of life. Now, here’s the wild card! While I was still seeking spirituality in my “somewhere over the rainbow, way up high” frame of mind, an entirely new aspect of spirituality crept up on me, and it was one that provided a nucleus for all my previous aspirations. It slowly dawned on me that solitary pursuit of enlightenment is like trying to bake a loaf of bread without the yeast. The factor I had been missing was relationship, not just with God, not just with special friends or biological family, but with many other diverse human beings of all ages in close day-to-day contact.
How could I have been so blind! One simply cannot be virtuous in a vacuum. When challenged with the need to be increasingly real and transparent from moment to moment with a hundred other people in pursuit of the common good, one has to face one’s lower self that constantly has its own agenda.
Oh yes, it means facing down one’s own limitations and imperfections, which often is referred to as our “darkness,” in order to come closer to the light — the darkness that can be so neatly hidden from oneself most of the time, and only significantly erupts in the occasional volcano! In the attempt to integrate my life more with that of others and work a common plan, I’ve discovered many obtuse angles in myself that I hadn’t previously been aware of. Yes, I’ve definitely been opinionated, impatient, and too self-absorbed.
Catalysts for growth
My discovery of these shortcomings is due to the fact that in this community we all act as catalysts for one another to grow spiritually in a way we simply couldn’t do it alone. Our shared goal to genuinely overcome our hidden faults isn’t easy to implement, but it’s infinitely worthwhile. We come to see that there’s nothing we do, think, or feel that can’t be raised to growing levels of spirituality. We learn how to give and receive honest (but loving) admonishment more affectively. We see that what holds us back is almost always pride in one guise or another. We make progress, fall down, and pick ourselves up again. We benefit from the wise counsel of our Elders. And we laugh a lot!
So, I’ve found myself in the “Spiritual Olympics” for the past 17 years. And this has meant constant training sessions in spiritual house-cleaning and sore spiritual muscles! But it’s also given me the opportunity to try to “live” all those noble ideals that I’d been giving lip-service to. And through the alchemy of community I’ve started to convert my dross into small nuggets of gold! Having moved from the world of “me” to the world of “us,” the web of life is no longer a theory but a living loom — a loom on which I’m weaving my individual God-given pattern in a dance of colored threads with many others. From this place, perspective has shifted from “get off the wheel of karma” to “seek to serve others.”
Through community living, I’m learning better how to walk my talk while embracing a cosmic perspective that includes the fundamentals of all world religions. It’s a relief to be able to laugh, weep, grow, and serve together — and to aspire to work towards “enlightenment” for the WHOLE WORLD in whatever ways we can bring our gifts to bear. And so we find ourselves daily committed to outreach to the general public as well as to inreach to the God within us.
It’s still that inreach, that personal relationship with God, that is the leading factor in my life, but how much more challenging and rich it’s become! I believe that this is one of the great potential benefits of belonging to a community, so long as that community is effectively and benevolently run, and is committed to spiritual growth.
“As above, so below,” has become much clearer to me. God isn’t just wandering around up there in His garden watering the flowers in a blue outfit, after all. For if we look deeply enough, He’s there behind the eyes of our fellow travelers, looking out at us. As the great Persian poet Hafiz has said: “Everyone is God speaking. Why not be polite and listen to Him?”