Recently a group of meditators gathered for a day at the Blue Labyrinth Bush Retreat in The Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, Australia. The day included meditation and a labyrinth walk. The day was organised as an offering by the younger meditators of the Australian Christian Meditation Community in Sydney. Also included were a couple of sessions exploring the theme ‘meditation creates community’. Below is part one of the notes that I prepared for those sessions.
The seeds of community lay in our commitments. When people are committed to something together, perhaps to a common cause or a relationship, community could happen.
Community cannot happen if we are by ourselves in our commitments.
The husband and wife who spend little or no time together; or people house sharing, eating separately, and with a TV in each bedroom; or people working for social justice by themselves.
Community requires a certain amount of time spent together and being present to each other.
So we can say that community can begin to stir when we make the decision to be conscious of and present to each other in our commitments, seeking mutuality and support from one another.
Co-workers who start taking lunch together; or the friendship group that meets for drinks; or the social justice group.
As this turning to each other starts to happen, something else happens: our personalities and temperaments begin to interact. Likes and dislikes begin to emerge. Talking with one person is easier than talking with another person. Given enough time together, some of the judgements, the hurts, the longings, the joys, the annoyances (and more) that live in us will stir and surface.
Within us there is who we truly are and there is what stops us from expressing who we truly are. What stops this expression started as a defence and a protection of who we are in the midst of an overwhelming and primal experience of the world. For most of us, defence and protection has (to some extent) taken over and assumed the role of who we are.
Whatever the case, as we turn to each other, and relating begins to happen, it is then that our egos become involved.
When egos rub there is a choice: we can practice staying present to this experience or we can opt out. Community starts to happen when we remain present to the tension of egos rubbing. We may go through periods of disassociating from the others we are committed to. We may repress the inner tension that is happening as we relate, or we may project it onto others calling them what we dislike or hate in ourselves. In community, we stay present to the patterns and ploys of the ego.
Maybe at this point we might ask ourselves: what is happening, why do I do this? With these questions honesty begins and self-knowledge can grow. For there to be community, there needs to be honesty.
So if community stirs when we are conscious of and present to each other, it begins to be nurtured when we commit to honesty, with ourselves and (when appropriate) with each other.
Many have discovered that, for them, it is too hard to do this without the divine life. This life provides context. And divinity heals us for each other in ways that we cannot do ourselves.
A common prayer life grows in the midst of this. We prayer together so that we might be able to love: ourselves, each other, the world, and God.
It is important that community prayer does not replace individual prayer. Both become a part of each other.
So if community stirs when we are conscious of and present to each other, and it begins to be nurtured when we commit to honesty, for many of us community matures as we pray, both together and alone.
The Chartres Labyrinth at The Blue Labyrinth Bush Retreat