An essential element of community (surprise!) is Communication. Don’t let feelings not be expressed. Be clear, be concise and speak. Don’t hide your feelings or they will build resentments. When feelings get stuffed down, they gather together and create walls of resentment which are worn down with time. Communication is essential. When you have common goals, commitment to the cause and trust, you can communicate without fear of reprisal. You can reach solutions and agreements, and grow heaps in the process.
Some people need encouragement to speak up and express themselves. For others of us, it is simple and natural. In community, the masks we all wear are removed. When you begin to live with each other, the truth comes out, the insecurities rise to the surface sometimes and it is a real opportunity for developing compassion. Learning to overcome our challenges and rejoice in our differences as well as our similarities is quite freeing.
Some of us are the ones whom people meet more, the ones in the front line, teaching the people, traveling, etc. Yet, the ones in the background are equally important. In propagating Homa Therapy, the ones who are drying and packing the cow dung at home and printing the brochures, compiling the data base of Agnihotris and tending the garden are also vital in the running of the community. They also often are the ones teaching quietly the greatest teaching of humility.
Although in our community there are elders, who tend to be in the forefront, the other, younger community members are learning to take on more responsibility and becoming quite involved. Everyone is growing. We have no real leaders here, though some roles appear more as leader types. The whole works well when all of the parts are in sync.
Our decision-making process is group-oriented. Each person in the community has input in how things operate, from where to build the new bee house to the architectural plan for the Centre of Light building. Decisions are made in meetings with all of us present. Unless it is a particular committee decision, the whole community is generally consulted.
At the end of winter/early Spring when the new garden is planned, all of us are involved. We go out to the garden, invite the Devas to join us and, with map in hand, plan the garden beds.
Sometimes, the division of labor is difficult to balance; as some of us are more busy with outside businesses or projects, others of us are less physically able to do all the farm chores. Somehow it balances out, in the different duties and involvement required. It is always a work in progress. When things feel unbalanced, we meet and address it. We seek solutions and try to come up with agreements which suit the whole.
Laughter is essential! Spiritual development is essential, but it need be undertaken with JOY. There is sometimes the assumption on the spiritual path that it is serious work, requiring intense tapas and serious countenance. What is really required is a sense of humour! The spiritual path is sometimes funny! The need for laughter is strong, as it is truly a Divine therapy!
Community is like a marriage. If you are well-suited for each other and you truly care for the other person, you are ahead of the game! But to maintain a relationship takes conscious and consistent effort. No matter how wonderful it is in the beginning, there are always rough spots which one encounters. Just as in any relationship, a community reflects the efforts that are made to keep the connection alive.
Regular meetings, group decision-making processes, during which all community members are given a say, is one thing. Meetings and group dinners on occasion, special birthday celebrations and holiday sharing are benefits of living in community. However, it is the daily interchange between members which is so important. Checking in with each other, even when one is very busy, shows the other that you care about how they are doing. We are aware when one of us is distant or pulls back from people. We don’t wait till it’s brought up in a meeting or at Satsang, because we care. Efforts are made by others in the community to see if the person needs any support, help with any chores or whatever. Just a simple hello goes a long way.
When one of us seems disconnected from the heart, others gently call him or her back to centre. Without judgment, we can remind the other person that we miss the connection we have with them and make it clear we are there for them.
On any given day, I may answer the door to Luz bearing fresh hot tortillas she just baked or Asia standing there with a bowl full of green beans just collected from the garden, or Katy with fresh baked cookies. If someone is sick in the community, our herbalist Asia appears with amazing mixes of herbal teas she and Rory have Homa grown and prepared.
We have just begun taking in volunteers via the Wwoofer program (Willing Workers on Organic Farms). It has been an interesting experience, for the most part quite positive. There again, one needs to check for compatibility before accepting a volunteer on a Homa farm, ensuring that they are interested in what we have to teach – not just coming to do manual labour. The dynamics on a working Homa farm are such that interaction occurs on many levels and, if the volunteer is not really so interested in Homa Organic Farming, Agnihotra and other fires, it can be problematic. On the other hand, many people acquire a more intense interest after experiencing life on a Homa farm. The fires do a great healing job themselves! Generally, asking clear questions and using your intuition will assist in choosing the right volunteers for your farm. I would not suggest immediately starting with Wwoofers. Better to have your farm more together and your schedule figured out before bringing in new folks who need direction and attention. Anyone wanting to discuss the Wwoofer program at more depth could contact us at Bhrugu Aranya or Lee & Frits Ringma at Om Shree Dham in Australia.