Have you ever thought about your family as a spiritual community? I’ve always thought of our family in terms of “connection” while at the same time realizing that we are all “spiritual” people, but that is sort of where it stopped until this year during our Thanksgiving celebration. What happened to change my awareness?
To explain why, I’m going to borrow from an article entitled, Three Ways to Build a Spiritual Community, by Kay Hutchinson McNeill, because I believe it’s the same for families. If you’d like to read her entire article, go to: (College of Tao Community Newsletter, Autumn Edition, November 23, 2016, p.4) She outlines several beautiful ways to show how a sense of community develops. The numbered lines below show her three main points:
Create a Safe and Loving Space
This is done by offering loving acceptance in a non-judgmental space in which each of us can share our thoughts and feelings authentically. There have been times, admittedly, when our individual family “roles” have gotten in the way, and I’m sure that will continue to happen to some degree in the future. But even though we are all at different levels conceptually, developmentally, and sometimes spiritually; we still endeavor to offer one another mutual respect and support and succeed in doing so most of the time.
Encourage Activities that Facilitate Deep Practices and Connection
Here is the activity that touched each of us to the core this Thanksgiving. We were all sitting out around the fire pit, when someone suggested that we share with another person/persons what we most appreciated about them. It’s not an unusual exercise, but I don’t remember ever partaking of it as a family before. The end result was lovely, though. Each of us came away feeling and believing that we were a part of a supportive spiritual community. We all knew, without a doubt, that this circle was a circle of safety for each of us—which I think most people would agree, is a pretty delicious feeling!
Be Patient and Cultivate Longevity with Community Efforts
We are fortunate that family relationships tend to have longevity built into them and that patience often tends to surface as well because of our deep commitments. We have observed our relationships with each other changing and developing over the years as we, ourselves, grow and change. This is just the nature of “Doing Life” together.
We’ve also found that remaining in touch with one another can sometimes be tricky with everyone’s busy lives, but staying connected is crucial. Luckily with cell phones, texting, email, and even social media—we can maintain some form of contact. Even these so-called “superficial” methods can help keep a family member from feeling lost in translation. Though there will be moments of intensity as when we participated in the Gratitude Activity, there will be many more moments claimed by “busy-ness” and ones that are just flat-out mundane. However, staying connected with each other is totally worth the effort. Awakening to the idea that we are indeed a viable and vibrant spiritual community that needs tending—just as a beautiful garden does—is such a tremendous blessing! Hopefully this will continue to be the motive that keeps us working to maintain our bonds.
Spiritual community can happen anywhere and isn’t bound by genetic similarity or even family relationships. Whether it happens at your workplace, at school, in a class that you are taking, or in another type of supportive group—take time to recognize the preciousness of what this means to your soul and give thanks!