Life in Community

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.

Contact us for more information about spiritual coaching.

What is a Spiritual Lifestyle?

Spirituality is inclusive of all parts of a person’s life. A spiritual lifestyle is about cultivating the inner dimensions of deep meaning in everything we do. Physical health, career and livelihood, family and relationships, are all part of wellbeing and fulfillment. There must be a sense of connected wholeness between who we believe we are, who we aspire to become, and what we actually do in our daily life. A spiritual lifestyle is situated in the cosmos, amongst beings seen and unseen, gods and demons, forces we can control and forces beyond conception—and our life at the center of it all. Spiritual coaching is the process of discussing and deepening understanding of our beliefs about this vast and meaningful world, making sense of our place in it, setting our intentions, and reaching our goals.

In the tradition of the Ancient Greeks—the origin of western thought and civilization—philosophy and spirituality were synonymous. Philosophy is to think well and, more importantly, to live well. Philosophy is concerned primarily about death: at that moment, we know whether we have lived a life of meaning and purpose. Our daily lives and choices are about striving for true happiness—not merely sensual gratification, but eudaimonia: the satisfaction of trusting in our own ability to face hardships with moral character and resilience. Thus, all of our choices are significant and meaningful: we are either working toward, or away, from a life of value which, at death, will allow us to look back on our life with satisfaction and contentment. At it’s core, then, the philosophical and spiritual life is about cultivating moral character and virtue: the ability to respond to life’s many challenges with compassion and grace.

The spiritual lifestyle is about cultivating deep meaning and purpose. There are many sources of meaning that can come from great books, traditions and lineages, teachers and mentors, or our own inner insights. Purpose can be as vast as a hero’s mission granted to us by the Creator, or as personal as wanting to leave the world (or a room, or a relationship) a bit better than you found it. Meaning and purpose are inherently subjective: each person has a slightly (or very) different perspective on what is most important in life. An aspect of the spiritual life is accepting that what is meaningful to us may not be meaningful to other people. Not all parts of our inner life are subject to public scrutiny and approval, and we must nurture and protect our sense of meaning.

The spiritual lifestyle is deeply personal, yet also expressed in everything we do, say, and think. What we choose to study, what we do for our livelihood, the kinds of relationships we have (and don’t have), our hobbies and fun—all are expressions of our spiritual life. Nothing is not spiritual; it’s not as if we’re spiritual while we’re meditating or praying, and somehow not spiritual the rest of the time. Spiritual life can look like going to church, meditating, or going on retreat; but it can also look like watching the sunset, preparing a meal, or snuggling with family on the couch watching a movie.

How we earn money is an important part of our spiritual lifestyle. The modern world has become performance-oriented, with an attitude that we should be perpetually striving for material gains, spending our free time on a “side hustle,” and going viral on the internet. Whether we’re pursuing peak performance as an entrepreneur or CEO, or voluntarily living a simpler life on a homestead, our work is connected to our sustenance, shelter, and security. We can’t just check our virtue at the door when we clock in, but we don’t always have the option to work in an environment that aligns with our values. Navigating a career that supports our spiritual life is crucial.

The spiritual lifestyle can be at odds with the messages of mainstream culture: with unlimited objects to acquire and always a better version of the things we already have, there’s a perpetual sense of lack, and a subtle (or not-so-subtle) message that we’re incomplete. Cultivating a spiritual life is an antidote to this perpetual striving: we are finding what makes us whole, being satisfied with what we have, cultivating contentment as a way of life, and relying on our own virtue and resilience as markers for success. Ideally, we can find a balance, where we can be both fully in and of the world, while simultaneously nurturing a life of deep meaning and purpose.

Contact us for more information about spiritual coaching.