by Father Peter Bowes

Having a spiritual community accelerates your personal growth in ways you cannot imagine. The idea of being with spiritually-minded people who care about the same things and are dedicated to deepening their relationship to God is exciting for some and possibly scary for others. It can be exhilarating and inspiring because it increases the chances that you will see reflected in the eyes of others the real impact of your feelings, motives and intentions. It is almost impossible to not be noticed when people are dedicated to being real and honest in relationship. Your actions and feelings are registered by others and known in ways you may not be used to in other group situations. People dedicated to grow and learn spiritually are intent on awareness, consciousness and responsible interactions so they are not inclined to be fake or phony. Fakeness is typical in most non-spiritual communities since easy cordialities are the norm while deep, meaningful interchanges are rare and may be even feared. Some people can be frightened when anyone probes deeply into what they are feeling or thinking. Most people live in such isolated recesses that friendly interest is seen as an unwelcome intrusion into the substantially imagined privacy of their inner world.

In spiritual community, individuals are welcomed to share their true feelings in an atmosphere of mutual respect and understanding. Patience is the overriding norm where people are given the freedom to grow and change without feeling pressured or forced to conform to other people’s concepts of how they are to be. The focus of spiritual community is centeredness on God, the Divine Source, and peaceful relationship with sisters and brothers. The most important feature of spiritual community is honesty. Honesty about one’s feelings and motives is essential to the health of the community. Honesty means you tell it like it is without being mean to yourself or others. Honesty with oneself involves speaking openly about your feelings and having the courage to accept the feedback from members of the community in return. Honesty means you are saying how it is for you at the moment and not glossing things over to make them look better or tearing things down to get sympathy from other people. Since everyone is dedicated to being genuine and honest, there is no backstabbing or power trips displayed for or against members of the community. Only in an atmosphere of honesty and mutual respect can real spiritual community thrive. The spiritual communities that seem most successful are those where there is a central, defining leadership with clear expectations of boundaries and spiritual aspirations. Spiritual community is not for the weak or unstable as they will make other members into their parents or demonize those who are confident. People who have not worked through the basics of how to take care of themselves and be responsible are actually not ready for a real spiritual community. For those who are ready, it can be tremendously life-changing and transformative.

For information about Father Peter Bowes, visit 

www.fatherpeter.centersoflight.org

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