"I want to live in true community - to find or form one - but I don't know how."
A young woman shared this desire with me recently. She wanted to know my thoughts on how to go about finding, or forming, an intentional community. She explained how tired she is of living in a society where she feels alone in a crowd - where everyone's lives are separate and her relationships lack the depth she longs for.
Her words and desires could have been my own a decade or so ago - as I had not only felt the same urge, but actually spent many years living in an intentional community of sorts as a way of fulfilling it. That experience was one of the more profound and humbling that I have had.
My response to the question came as somewhat of a surprise to her, as I fully understand the desire and need for authentic community, but I have learned that such a thing can only be realized from the inside out.
Building Community From The Inside Out
The ideal of building solid, meaningful community sounds wonderful, but we really have to be careful with it, as it can often be an abstract, intellectual goal. And as such, it is actually very disconnected from what one's soul genuinely needs in order to be fed, grow and unfold at this moment. This is an incredibly important distinction to make.
So, when this young woman asked me “How can I find community?”, my impulse was to change the question and instead find out: “What will feed your soul? What do you actually need right now, at your core? What in you wants to shift, so that your entire being can be an expression of your core energy? How can that happen?” Her question was concerned with a fixed outcome – a preconceived, superficial course of action – while my counter-questions were concerned with nurturing a process of natural unfoldment. One is based in an idea, the other is based in aliveness and is dynamic.
No doubt community sounds like a good thing to a lonely person, in the same way that getting a new lover sounds tantalizing to someone lost and unhappy with themselves. But in our conversation, it became clear that in order to actually draw people and opportunities that are in alignment with her, it was first necessary for this woman to go inward – to dig deep and find out “Who am I, at the core? What does my soul need? What is my calling right now?” Until these questions are deeply explored, we are somewhat lost and confused, and the only community we build will have these qualities as its foundation. There are many, many examples of this to look at – intentional communities built by people who have come together in a forced, inorganic, dysfunctional way, blundering toward an abstract goal that was not their soul's calling in the first place.
I lived in one of those, and it was actually an amazing learning experience, but I'd do it a lot differently now.
It is wise to shift the question from “How do I build community?” - or whatever goal it may be - to "How do I listen to and embody my essence? What conditioning and wounding is separating me from this? What are my blockages?” It is only through this process that the goal of a fully conscious, vibrant, healthy community can actually be realized. It must begin at the core. Then, as one undertakes this adventure, and their energy shifts, people who are aligned on that deep level can start to show up.
As this young woman and I spoke, I admitted that there was something paradoxical to all of this: what I am describing is a process of individuation, not community building. It may seem ironic, but until we do this work, our attempts to build conscious community are set on a rotten foundation. And as we engage this process, the goal of building community itself can sometimes dissolve, as we create something that spontaneously and organically unfolds from the inside out.
The most important ingredient in building a community is soul - when we work with it, we are working with a force of nature.
About the Author:
Hello, my name is Miles Olsen - I'm a facilitator that focuses on helping people get into alignment with their soul, through conscious relationship work, emotional work, shadow integration and much more.
I do the work I do because when we align with our souls, pure magic happens. I know of nothing more beautiful or exciting.