Learning that I can’t be a community of one

Can you believe that people don’t always do what I want them to do?

Living in or being part of a spiritual, or awakening community means there are many chances to relate to others, which can be really, really good…

Uh huh. Yes, it can be really, really challenging, too.

The truth is, of course, that people rarely do what I want them to do. Yet, it’s also true that amazing things happen when I’m not alone. As one of the Clear Sky principles says, “It’s easier with others”.

For it to actually be easier with others, I’ve learned that I need to trust in my community and apply effort over time.

For me, part of the effort is that I live in the US, and Clear Sky is in British Columbia. Its members live all over the continent, and the world. My community, then, is largely online. I have regular meetings with members of Clear Sky because, among other things, I’m on the Board of Directors.

And I’ve found several wonderful, if obvious, things about being in a strong spiritual community.

Communing is a skill!

It dawned on me, at some point, that I can’t just do whatever I want and then expect to be considered a part of a community. I thought about this more and came to this obvious conclusion: If I want the benefits of community, of which there are many, then perhaps I need to adapt some of my behavior.

Well, I said it was obvious. Naturally, it speaks to some of what hasn’t worked for me in the past.

So often in my life, I’ve wanted to feel included, engaged, and to be relating with others, but I’ve found that there’s a true connection lacking. I’m talking about my whole life, here, and not just my spiritual community.

I aim to be authentic, good, and kind, and I’m also a perfectionist. When we genuinely think we’re doing our best and then some, it can be hard to think we’re doing something “wrong,” that our best intentions and generosity aren’t enough.

We can blame things or people for whatever isn’t working, sure. Like the faults or issues of other people involved, our background, our innate tendencies. But that doesn’t really get us anywhere. We can only see what we can do better and work on ourselves.

With this learning in mind, then, I want to share this.

Part of my sense of disconnection is because, at times, I don’t take the time to listen to others

Dan O'Brien
Dan O’Brien

I’ve always contributed whatever I can. Yet, for us to thrive together, I need to recognize the needs of others. I need to engage and listen to them, to get to know what they actually need from me. It’s part of the practice of generosity, which might otherwise default to giving what we want to give, or what we’d like to receive.

It isn’t one way, of course. I need to be proactive in communicating what I need, for them to help me thrive. After all, isn’t that the purpose of being in community, of relating to more than just ourselves, in the first place?

I wondered further, if this causes my disconnect, or perhaps discomfort, what can be done about it?

Being part of the Clear Sky community has helped me gain insight into this area of struggle

The other day, I was in a session with some Clear Sky teachers, Duncan and Karen, on their small-group coaching course, the follow up to our Ignite Your Spiritual Life course. After the session, I had a deep realization of how I am often “in my head” and thinking about how things are going for me, rather than hearing what others are saying.

Noticing – I noticed this because I saw the deep listening in our group, and especially from the teachers. And it hit me that it really works for me, when I do listen to others! I feel related – in commune. So it hit me that this wasn’t just an exercise, it could be a new way of being with others entirely.

Intentional Action – To bring the exercise into my day more, I took it as a challenge to repeat back either silently or aloud to myself what others were saying in conversation. This was especially helpful when I wanted to remember things that were actions I needed to do, such as in meetings.

Insight – Listening more carefully helps teach me once again how much of a give and take there is involved in relationship. This give and take, far from being a pain in the neck, manifests for me as a joyful experience. It is a skill I am building through retreats at Clear Sky and in our online collaboration, making use of our systems and community.

There may be many reasons for why people do not listen to each other, but when they do, the world moves together, it is relating, and it thrives through community. To truly relate to others, I’m going to give up acting as though I am a community of one.

Edited by Andrew Rogers

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