I have been part of many spiritual and personal growth communities over the years; church groups, book clubs, Twelve Step Programs, spiritual centers, meet-ups, and masterminds.
I’ve also gone it alone; I’m an introvert, (surprise!) so I tend toward space and quiet.
So it used to be that I had mixed feelings about the power of community; after all, all that we need is available to us, through us, for us, via the indwelling Spirit, right?
A few months ago, at one of our Sundays in the garden, I was struggling with some pre-service tech issues. We’d recently moved, and I was really tired, so my resilience was way low, and the tech issues did me in. I became so frustrated, I even had angry tears (and I may have been yelling at my computer). I did, eventually, get it handled, so by talk time I was good. But I hadn’t done it alone.
Davey Lyons (Aani’s grandson) was in my office with me. I don’t even remember what he said to me, but I remember the look on his face; it was loving, compassionate, and kind. I think he may have been radiating an angel light at me! For real! I was able to breathe, and dive into the issues that needed my attention. Ten minutes later, I felt fine. In fact, I felt better than fine; I felt loved!
There is an African philosophy known as Ubuntu; I am because we are, which means it's being in relationship with others that gives us the opportunity to grow into the brightest version of ourselves. In relationship we remind each other of our light.
At an event not too long ago, we had a candle lighting ceremony outside. We had a single pillar candle that my team and I lit our candles from, and then we went out to the congregation to light their candles. What I hadn't taken into consideration was the breeze that picked up and challenged all our little flames. Soon we were all sheltering our little candles with our hands to keep our own flames lit. And as I'd light someone's candle, mine would go out, and I’d need to get mine re-lit. It took us a little more time than I'd planned, but we did eventually get our candles all lit at the same time. Even though some of us had to relight our candles over and over again.
I love to relive this event in my mind; not only does it bring a smile to my face, but it's the perfect metaphor for why community is invaluable to our own growth; in this world where sometimes our flame goes out, in community there's a very good possibility that someone else in that moment can share the light just when we need it.
Love teacher, Jesus the Christ, said that his greatest commandment was to love each other. And we get to practice that by being in community with each other.
So, can you grow without the support of spiritual communities? Only you can answer that. But for myself, I wouldn't want to. I see no better way to grow than growing together.