Whether in a social, business, ecological, or spiritual sense, we all need authentic community. Authentic community supports us in meeting our authentic needs, is a key to unlocking potential, enhances cooperation and teamwork, nourishes our spirit, opens our heart, builds trust and respect, creates safety, increases our understanding of ourselves and others, and furthers our self-development and personal growth as we are challenged to overcome the limitations of our narrow ego-self. It is necessary for authentic living.
When we embody our authentic self through mindfulness and a commitment to truth and successful living, we honour our essential nature, which is connectedness. Through a lack of mindfulness and clarity, and a fragmented view of life and holistic processes, we have created a narrow, abstracted identity known as the ego. Living as a narrow, separate, and disconnected self inevitably creates inefficiency, conflict, frustration, and suffering in our lives as we lose support and vital energy from the whole, do not live authentically, and struggle with the social, economic, ecological, emotional, and spiritual costs of being a ‘separate’ self.
Living and working in an authentic community, in a mindful way, eventually brings out our essential interconnectedness, and honours our true nature or authentic self, allowing us to thrive with greater health, wellbeing, and success. It is a necessary step in our self-development and self-realisation, as we become more ourselves, and embrace our connections with the rest of life. It allows us to open up and fulfil our potential. Ironically, while those who act selfishly try to benefit themselves at the expense of others, the bigger picture shows that those who live and work in an authentic community, cooperating as a self-organised whole, benefit themselves by benefiting the whole.
In the absence of authentic community, our reliance on institutions to prop us up—whether they be institutions of the State or institutions of management—keeps us in a narrow state of fulfilment and seeming comfort. Like a child depending too much on its parents, we do not progress very far in our self-development, for we abdicate many of our responsibilities onto these institutions that would normally be carried out by us collectively as a community. This is why the challenge of community experience reflects back to us our need for personal growth when we first attempt to be part of an authentic community.
As well as the issue of personal growth, there are also the glaring issues of efficiency and sustainability that exist when we do not live as an authentic community. The lack of cooperation and the energy spent on struggle, conflict, and the duplication of effort and resources—as well as the energy spent on centralised State infrastructures to prop up society—are wasteful, draining, and increase our ecological footprint. Where community is weak, the local economy is also weak—most notably because its wealth can be drained from it in the absence of a local community currency.
Authentic Community Building
Authentic community can exist between friends, contacts, and neighbours, and also within organisations and groups, including businesses and schools. There are some key principles to observe when building an authentic intentional community:
- Establish a community identity that is revealed by and defined by shared needs and values.
- Establish a safe space by agreeing as a whole to some groundrules, such as respect for all.
- Establish an agreement between community members to be present and engaged, to communicate effectively, and to support each other and the community as a whole in the meeting of community needs and the upholding of community values.
- Limit the size of the community to a size that is sustainable and that enables people to interact and know each other as a whole—for example, Dunbar’s Number suggests no more than 150 people, although the exact number will depend on circumstances
- Commit as an individual to authenticity, personal growth, and mindfulness.
- Commit as an individual to the growth of the community through the group process.
- Make all major community decisions by consensus—this becomes possible with personal growth, mindfulness, and a commitment to the group process.
- Review community agreements periodically so that the community can know how it is doing, and whether it needs to transform or has reached a stage of completion.
A circular rather than a linear layout for community meetings maximises the potential for face-to-face interactions and therefore for community engagement and the honouring of the whole. This is why gathering in a circle has been the natural expression of community from the beginning of time. Within the centre of the circle there is the reminder of our own authentic centre, and of our common ground of being.
Authentic community building is not necessarily easy at first—because we are not used to it, and because our skills for authentic living and mindful living need to be developed. However, the rewards to our personal growth and wellbeing, to our community, and to the wider reaches of life far outweigh any challenges. Authentic communities are sustainable communities. When community disappears, our authenticity and health disappear—for our connection with life is no longer honoured. Let’s remember who we really are and rebuild the links that rebuild our wellbeing.
That’s all for now! Let me know what you think and if you have any questions—I would love to hear about your experiences of building community.
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