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How to Cultivate Community in Modern Culture


Something that often comes up in my workshops, and always catches my attention, is isolation. I witness people feeling so much joy and love at workshops because they are experiencing real, authentic human connection, tribe and community. They are remembering how we are meant to live and relate. They then crave for this connection to continue beyond the workshop because we are so devoid of it in our modern culture.

Modern culture teaches us that it is perfectly normal to care for ourselves and our children without any help, cooped up in the box of our house, possibly away from relatives and friends, with only the box of our car, the box of our iPhones and computers (we don’t even need to leave the house to shop anymore!) and the box of the Facebook or instagram screen to connect us to the outside world. Sadly, boxes and gadgets constitute the reality of ‘civilised society’ as it is commonly perceived in our era.

The meaning of the word Community has been lost in the mire of a fast paced, materialistic and de-spirited 21st Century society. I am sure we would all like to think we live in a place where people help one another and offer physical and emotional support to one another. But when was the last time you cleaned or cooked for a fellow sister who was unwell? Or got together with tribe to sing songs and play music? Or gathered around a fire with sisters and brothers? Or held a friend through the night as they wept? Or celebrated with tribe in dance and ceremony? Such an ideal disappeared when it started to be unsafe to leave the doors unlocked and let the children play around outside. Such an ideal disappeared when iPhones, laptops, televisions, nuclear living and indoor play centers became more commonplace than real human connection.

No person or family is supposed to live on an island and yet metaphorically, most of us do. It is one of the most unnatural human experiences in the history of mankind to live as we do in modern society, in our seperate houses, keeping our skills and resources to ourselves and immediate family only.

This probably explains why we have only been living this way for the last one hundred years. It probably also explains why there is so much depression, suicide and feelings of isolation in modern western culture. The truth is we live in streets where we barely know our next door neighbors, let alone the people three doors down. A typical family has a father at work all day while the mother is either at home with the children or working while the child is in day care. Single parent households are not uncommon either, usually taken on by the mother. Take any of these scenarios and you usually have a mother who is feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and definitely in need of some company and support. And a father who is carrying the responsibility of creating financial and emotional safety.

“One of the marvelous things about community is that it enables us to welcome and help people in a way we couldn’t as individuals. When we pool our strength and share the work and responsibility, we can welcome many people, even those in deep distress, and perhaps help them find self-confidence and inner healing.”
Jean Vanier

Workshops, retreats and gatherings can all certainly be helpful; however I feel that one off events are not sufficient to cater for our need for community belonging. So then, what are some of the solutions? Over the past five years I have found certain insights and practicalities helpful in forming what I now consider to be my formless temple (until I can ground one into physical 3D reality that is coming). But until then, here are some thoughts to start you on the right path:
1. Cultivate Friendships

There are many different levels to friendship. There are the high school friends that you outgrew years ago, work colleagues that you can mostly have pleasant conversation with and the local friends who are just darn well convenient. These friendships are helpful but they are nothing like the real thing. A real friend is the confidante with whom we can share our most splendid joys and most hurtful betrayals. The one that we can tell all about the great sex we had last night or our sadness because we fear our partner no longer desire us. The one that we can share our greatest successes with without feeling like we are boasting and the one we can share the secret we hold of how much we are really bloody struggling! The one who will listen with an open heart and only offer guidance when it is asked for. The one who we can unabashedly bawl our eyes out in front of and jump around with in pure excitement and joy. The one who we can share visions with of creating heaven on earth. These are the friends you want to spend as much time with as possible and these are the friends who will form your tribe.

2. The Sisterhood

What I learnt through running sister circles and Life Tantra is what an amazing vehicle these kinds of groups are for women to move together in sisterhood. Some of my most meaningful and valuable friendships have been formed since starting sister circles, not just for me but for many women around me. There is something about sharing sacred space with women who are willing to bare their soul vulnerably and authentically that is quite extraordinary. There is also something about sharing the struggles of life with sisters who are or have actually experienced those same struggles that cuts through superficiality and goes straight to the core. By being in the space of forming ‘real’ sister connections you will find yourself opening up more and allowing yourself to be seen so that any new women you meet will feel comfortable to do the same. Start making an effort to spend more time with your sisters. They are the wings to embrace you in your most difficult time and give you flight in your most triumphant.

3. Elders

I think that the love and support of elders is absolutely irreplaceable. There is nothing quite like spending time with an elder, including my father, where I can switch from being a nurturer to my children or a guide to my clients and be nurtured or guided myself.  Ahhh, just thinking about a nice big hug from my dad gives me a nice feeling…and then hearing his few simple yet profound words of guidance. I say spend as much time with elders as you can.  They used to be the very foundation of communal living.  For those of you without elders in your life, be it mentors or family, or with families who you would prefer not to see, seek to connect with other people’s families or maybe seek out an older mentor.  There is a thing called wisdom of the ages which is invaluable!  Making connections with older wise people we can go to for spiritual guidance is a very beautiful thing.

4. Reach Out

Take a risk.  Be prepared to consider that counting on your friends and family in times of need is actually something that benefits all concerned. Whenever I am sick or in need of a break, I have learned to ask for support. Three great things happen: (1) your friends and family feel honoured that you trust them enough to open up and let them know you are in need, (2) if you have children, they are able to form a closer bond with others because you are not around and (3) when your friends and family are in need, they will feel better about coming to you.

I remember when I was really sick once, I asked a girlfriend to look after my daughter for a few days and help me out around the house. I felt like a terrible burden and when it came to picking her up, I apologised profusely for the inconvenience. My friend told me that she had the best few days and feels closer to Sydelle than ever. She also expressed feeling honoured that I trusted her enough to look after her for such an extended period and said that she would do it anytime. I absolutely believed her and since becoming aware of this, it has been confirmed to me over and over.  As mothers in particular, we often carry so much unnecessary guilt about leaving our children with someone else but there is no need to. And think about it, now your friend has an IOU up there sleeve when they need a favour. Becoming a modern villager is all about giving and receiving.
Giving of ourselves to friends, family or even organizations (possibly to those who are needier) puts our own lives in perspective and makes us feel stronger. It also sets up a framework of giving and receiving, of people working together to make life easier and more purposeful.

5. The Temple

The Invisible Temple: The fact is, we do live in a community and when we recognise that and open ourselves to connection, our horizons will suddenly deepen and boundaries will broaden. Then a wondrous ‘new world’ will usher us in and within it we will find the otherwise invisible temple, ready to share with us, nurture us and be nurtured!

The Visible Temple: My vision is a modern temple or conscious community where where we live, work (doing what we love), grow food, eat, play, sing, dance, pray and raise children together in a sacred manner. It would be a place where we could share our gifts and dance on the land as lovers, connecting authentically, deeply, with the healing power of touch and the theme of love weaving its magic. I remember seeing villagers for the first time who lived in community together,  They seemed so happy and all I could think was “wouldn’t that be wonderful?  It would make life so much more fun, connected and less isolating”.

Let us live in harmony, together on land, sharing mother earths gifts, our individual gifts and most importantly our hearts.  Living Love.  Living Freedom.  Living Tantra.

I dedicate this post to my dear sister Leah and her brave and loving soul. I vow to create this Temple, to create community, in your honour.

Thank you to my dear friend and brother Bruce Lyon for this powerful transmission on ushering in a new world.

Dakini Chantelle

Embodied Awakening Academy

Embodied Awakening Academy