Monday, September 26, 2011

Slowing Down

This past week my community brought me an experience that's beginning to restore my faith in community.

First, some background... When I discovered the spiritual community that I have called mine for the last eighteen years, there was one feature that caused me to recognize it as the one I wanted. It is a primary tenet which states that each person has a unique life experience and a unique perspective as a result. Nobody can speak for another. Instead, we need to communicate directly, listen to the experiences of others and work together to create a situation that works for all. And far from being just an idea, this was the foundation of the community's structure and everything that happened within it.

The application of this tenet has shifted over the years, apparently without the older members of the community noticing. Sure, lip service is still paid to the concept, but it is not being practiced in everyday life any more.

Instead, the group has succumbed to the same processes that rule the ordinary corporate world. Deceit and political alliances hold the majority of the power. Honesty and openness are punished with one-sided scrutiny, crushing those who jeopardize the power structure and threaten to flatten it.

By failing to recognize that the organization had lost its soul, I continued to operate from a place of trust and openness, rapidly becoming the primary focus of the new kids on a quest for power. I still haven't heard most of the horrible things attributed to me in a two-year secret campaign, but the few that I have heard are unfathomable to anyone who knows me. (Not surprisingly, these stories quite closely predict the actions of the storytellers.) The whole situation has caused me deep pain, ultimately resulting in my decision to leave that community and start over with a few trusted friends and create a new community.

But the pain and distrust have crept far into my soul. It's difficult to see a community that had earned so much of my trust and informed so much of my world view transformed into something so completely the opposite of its foundation.

Still, I have held faith that this new community could embrace the "old" ways and apply them to building a healthy, functional organization. This week, my faith began to be restored.

If you read my blog regularly, you will have no doubt noticed that I work HARD. This ethic is backed up by a sense of responsibility to my community. We are starting over from scratch without the event-based income stream of our previous organization. We also live in the poorest town in one of the poorest counties west of the Mississippi. Work is scarce. Winter is coming. My weaving business has seemed like the best option that we have for an income to sustain us this Winter.

And so, for the good of the group more than myself, I work long hours to crack the puzzle of earning a consistent income from weaving.

The amount of work that I do and the level of responsibility that I take for the success of our new community has been taking a toll on the group. Others are spending time together and strengthening their relationships while I work and work and work. And when I'm not working, my mind is churning on the next days' work. My todo list always has at least fifty "past due" items that won't be done that day.

And this week, the group reached a breaking point. It has become too much.

So they called a meeting to discuss it. It was difficult to hear how my behavior has been affecting them. It was difficult to accept that I need to shift my priorities and change my behavior. And it was difficult to dig into the depths of my life experience and find out why I react this way to an unstable situation. But we did it, together.

I got to hear exactly what behaviors were causing difficulties for others. I got to hear what the group wanted from me. I got to integrate this new information and tell them what I was willing to give. And we got to craft some agreements together that will help us to resolve the situation and move forward.

This is all I've been asking for. I have a lot of personal growth to do. Everyone does. After a few years of painful experience, this new community has come together to support each other with the openness and honesty that will help us to each become the best person that we can be.

And what is the solution to the difficulties? I need to prioritize my relationships as highly as my work. I have set a goal to work four hours a day and spend more time with my friends. We'll be getting to know each other better by hanging out and sharing our hearts to find the common ground that will become the foundation of our new community.

And, in return, others will spend some time traveling to earn an income to help us make it through our first Winter together. We'll be making concessions together to ensure the success of the group instead of letting anyone take the lion's share of work and income-earning potential.

By working together, we've found a solution that meets the needs of all.
This is exactly the type of honest interaction that I've craved over the last few years. I'm sorry that my behavior has caused difficulties for others, but ecstatic that the trust I place in my community is proving to be a wise investment. I can't wait for easier times when we're less focused on survival and more focused on creativity.

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