Living in community can be challenging, since we need to balance the demands of many different relationships and personalities. Spiritual community can be attending teachings or church events as part of an urban lifestyle, or as deep as living in a rural residential spiritual center. It’s likely that some conflict will emerge, or we will encounter people who rub us the wrong way. This is particularly stressful in spiritual community, since we are often asked to put our disagreements and preferences aside for the harmony of the group. Spiritual coaching is a safe and confidential place to discuss these relationships—and to vent frustrations—while deciding how best to manage a difficult situation.
Gautama Buddha taught that spiritual friendship is a cornerstone of the spiritual life. Spiritual communities are created by the people we study, practice, socialize, and celebrate with. It’s amazingly rewarding and supportive to know that we’re not going through life alone, and that others are also trying to live a mindful, spiritual life. Spiritual fellowship can be an anchor in our life; that weekly gathering can become part of our feeling of home.
When we think of spiritual community, often we imagine an ashram, monastery, or convent: a secluded hermitage where those few people who have chosen a spiritual vocation can retreat from the world to focus on the religious life. We can imagine the congregation wearing identical robes, growing their own food, and spending the days absorbed in translating ancient tomes. Such places do exist, and it’s possible to orient our life to live in such a community, and without necessarily enrolling as a member of the ordained clergy; we can support and enjoy the community as a lay person. It’s not easy, however, because living in a religious enclave requires conforming to the expectations of the group and sacrificing some comforts of secular lifestyles. Spiritual coaching is an opportunity to explore if this is a good option for you.
More likely we’re part of a spiritual community as part of our daily urban lives. All major cities have a wealth of groups representing the entire spectrum of spiritual traditions, and even most smaller towns have options for both western and eastern traditions. Indeed, there is something of a spiritual marketplace, where different groups—even from the same tradition—may compete for our attention. When we’re just starting out on a spiritual path, or moving to a new area, it’s worth taking some time to explore the options before making a commitment.
Once settled into a spiritual community, we may not always find smooth sailing. Spiritual groups are organizations with their own legal structures and financial needs. Like any organization, there is the potential for internal disagreements and personality conflicts. We may find ourselves in spiritual community that overall feels supportive, but where we don’t get along with every person there; it can be disconcerting to be practicing love and compassion on the one hand, and getting annoyed with someone who rubs us the wrong way on the other. Spiritual groups can also make demands on our time and money with expectations of volunteering or donations; internal conflict arises when we feel like the organization is asking more than we can give.
Finding a spiritual community that we feel connected to is a challenging and rewarding venture. Spiritual community can take many different forms, so explore the possibilities. Spiritual community has its own challenges, so be prepared to face conflict with maturity. Spiritual coaching is a supportive relationship where you can explore your thoughts and feelings in a confidential and non-judgmental space. This can help you gain clarity about your goals, develop the tools to reach them, and get support and resources to help you along your path.