What’s the real world?

Do you ever leave a gathering of close friends feeling practically in awe of each and every one of them? Impromptu feasts with various combinations of my circle of friends tend to occur fairly often at our community house. After an afternoon of quiet connection, the kitchen is turned upside as beans are thrown into a boiling pot over there and broccoli is chopped over there. Others are chatting over cheese and crackers, occasionally wandering in to offer an unneeded hand, promising to take on dish duty later. Finally, the food is finished and we haphazardly pile bowls and spoons and dishes of greens and soup on the table. We usually take a moment to honor the time together with words of gratitude and then we dig in excitedly, as much into the conversation as into the meal.

I am constantly moved by the depth, wit, passion, kindness, openness, inquisitiveness, vulnerability, and so much more that these people show me in every single interaction. These friends are supportive and amplify each other’s strengths and desires with uplifting words and total affirmation of one’s very being. These same friends are also unafraid to hold one’s faults to the light and compassionately challenge faulty stories of ourselves. I am constantly held accountable to my most authentic self by my friends – and I hope to do the same for them.

I’m inspired almost daily by people around me who want to better themselves and the world, tasks of no small feat. I won’t tell you that my friends do this elegantly all of the time because that would be untrue. What’s more impressive to me is that they expose their soul’s deepest fears and desires. They wrestle with the big questions and the little ones and simply observing their bravery coaxes my own courage to rise to the surface.

I don’t know why I’m still surprised at all of this after spending almost all of the last ten years living in various manifestations of community. When I left high school, I joined the Young Americans, an international performing arts troupe. I went on seven 3-month-long tours and lived, worked, and traveled with a unique cast of 45 other young adults – some of the most wildly passionate people I’ve ever encountered. Not too long after, I made my way to the Omega Institute where, for three consecutive years, I shared life and work in a community of souls striving to create a world they know is possible. And, though it’s not a live-in community, One Spirit Interfaith Seminary has provided another network of people opening their hearts in deep love.

What’s interesting is that each of these communities talks about “the outside world” or the “real world” as if that is the only place you’ll ever be able to find such amazing people or “be able to have conversations like this.” I’ve experienced this specialness so many times and have had so many incredible conversations that I simply don’t believe that. First of all, no matter how amazing, every place has its share of difficulties and interpersonal tensions. Second of all, I’ve seen that the amazingness is possible just about everywhere. Light attracts light. All we have to do is hold up our lights and reflect each others’.

“Perhaps community is a constellation. Each one of us is a different light in the emerging collective brightness. A constellation of light has greater power of illumination than any single light would have on its own. Together we increase brightness.”

— John O’Donohue, Eternal Echoes

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