Seeds of Conscious Community
by Jane Lister Reis
Already, 1998 has entered our awareness with its promise of newness. Within the scope of its energy lie the seeds of our hope for a kinder, more conscious and compassionate world.
As a way of exploring what some of those seeds might be, I asked the same reflective question to several of the keynote speakers of the upcoming Body & Soul Conference (Portland, Oregon, March 20-22): "What is it that is happening in your life that you sense is preparing you for what lies ahead in the next several years?"
As leaders in the areas of new thought, conscious relationship, and spiritual transformation, each is in a unique position to identify, based upon his or her own life experiences, the foundational themes that many of us will be working with over the next several years. As I think youll discover, each response is different; but not surprisingly, there is one thread woven throughout the emerging, multicolored human tapestry: the critical need in our world today for conscious, loving relationships (with ourselves, each other, and the planet) and shared community experiences.
"Personally, Im going through what I would characterize as a midlife cycle of renewal. I work a lot with women, and I see these cycles of renewal happening, especially in mid-life, which becomes a time to move deeply into the heart and ask yourself what it is that really matters. Ive been going through this same process for a few years now, and it has culminated for me personally in a divorce and then a remarriage.
"It has also culminated in a renewal in my genetic religious roots. Although all my life Ive been a student of the worlds religions, in this midlife cycle of return Ive started to long again for a community that I could be with and study with. So right now, Jewish renewal is very much a part of what Im doing, and although my outlook is still very ecumenical, (Id still have to say that Im kind of your basic mystical Christian-Buddhist-Hindu-Jew), Im rooting myself particularly in Jewish community and Jewish practices. At this point in my life, coming back to Judaism, Im finding so much richness that I could never have found when I was younger.
"The third strand of this midlife cycle of renewal for me is that it is a time when more than ever, I cherish friends. Recently I got together with a group of friends, just after the New Year. These are a group of friends who for several years have been making a collage and looking at their lives by cutting out pictures and quotes out of hundreds of magazines and seeing how the conscious and unconscious guide you to paste them on the paper. With this group, I realized that a main thrust for me was the celebration of friends and the widening of the circle. I have always known that this was so important, but now it seems absolutely critical.
"Finally, theres a longing for connectedness that I am experiencing personally, and its the same longing that I see as I go around the country and work with groups of people. This longing is what makes even a weekend retreat so powerful, because people come together with an intention to reach more deeply into themselves so that they can give more deeply in service as well as have more joy in their lives. Theres always a sense of great sadness for all of the people who dont have that sense of community where they live and work. I think its what people are really reaching for."
Joan Borysenko, Ph.D., is an author, scientist and mystic. Co-founder and former director of the Mind/Body Clinic in New England Deaconess Hospital, her books include the bestselling Minding the Body, Mending the Mind and her most recent, A Womans Book of Life: The Biology, Psychology, and Spirituality of the Feminine Life Cycle.
Hal and Sidra Stone
"New directions in our relationship have invariably led to new developments in our theories and our work with others. This time in our lives is not different from our earlier years. We are increasingly aware of the role that our relationship plays in our spiritual life and our spiritual development. Now, more than ever, we see how the harmonious flow of our relationship can put us in more direct contact with the harmonies of the universe. It is almost as though God is a mathematician who uses discomforts in our relationships to teach us about ourselves and to challenge us to grow.
"The latest of these challenges is the challenge of maintaining what we call 'energetic linkage' with one another at all times. This energetic connection is a new way of being together that moves us beyond the words we say to one another and the ways in which we behave with one another. Whatever interferes with this energetic linkage becomes the psychological work for us to do. We see this as the core issue in all interactions among people and expect that we will be working with this underlying system of energetic interactions in relationship for many years to come."
Hal Stone, Ph.D. and Sidra Stone, Ph.D., both clinical psychologists, are the creators of the Voice Dialogue Work, a creative way of getting to know the family of selves within you and how these selves impact relationship. Their teaching stems out of their relationship, which they see as teacher, healer, and guide, and which they believe forms the basis of a very human spiritual path. They are both the authors of many books, including Sidras newest book, The Shadow King: The Invisible Force Which Holds Women Back.
"In Africa, they have a saying that you can tell the character of a village, community, or nation by how they take care of their sick, poor, elderly and youth. What is emerging for me is strengthening my commitment to provide universal tools that enhance character development and community building that begins to bring forward creative solutions to address these current issues involving the sick, poor, elderly and youth."
Angeles Arrien, Ph.D. is an anthropologist, educator, corporate consultant and the author of several books, including The Fourfold Way.
"What is happening for me is a clarity in both my vision and practice around my work. My belief is that the human species has to change its ways in order to create a different way of living on the earth a way more in harmony with the creatures, the soil, water, forests, and the ozone.
"Spirituality is what is needed to bring about this change of heart and lifestyle. Government by itself cannot accomplish this. I think we need an inner transformation that becomes expressed in outer transformation.
"My vision is very practical. Its about transforming education, worship, and work. I feel that if we can transform these three areas of human endeavor, we can bring about the kind of nonviolent revolution that both we as a species and the earth need.
"Two years ago, I started a new university in creation spirituality. Our goal is to teach people about our spiritual roots and traditions. We all have them, whether we are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Native, or Goddess. Our spiritual traditions need to be tapped into. We need to draw wisdom from them and to go deeper than just religion. Religion is more what is on the surface; spirituality has more to do with personal experience. We have to begin to reexperience the divine in our lives. That is what I believe will cut greed and the kind of materialism that ends up destroying matter.
"The second thing were doing concretely in our school is to help bring spirituality into the workplace helping people go back into their profession with spiritual values and shake up their workplace. Our third area of focus has to do with worship. I think it is so important to celebrate. If were going to start building community, then ritual is an antidote to the sickness of greed. Worship is about people celebrating. We need to dance and get back into our bodies. We need to celebrate our sense of joy and wonder as well as do our grief work so that we can get back into our hearts.
"Even science is now supportive of a community-based way of thinking. We now know that atoms link up and make bonds of community that create molecules, cells, organisms, and, finally, societies and communities. We have to unleash the ways to community that are available to our species. Celebration and ritual are profound and fun ways to heal ourselves and to get the creative gifts of society rolling on behalf of the people. I think theres great potential for us there."
Matthew Fox, Ph.D., founder and president of the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland, California, is a theologian and author of several provocative books including Original Blessing, The Reinvention of Work, and Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest.
To register for the Body & Soul Conference, or for more information about the various speaker presentations and workshops, call (800) 937-8728.