Why does it take a disaster to bring us together? Recent tragedies like 911, Hurricane Katrina, and the Tsunami remind us of who we are deep inside – a spiritually connected part of a large extended family, a web of living beings, sharing a tiny biosphere, on a small planet. As Albert Einstein reminded us, “our separation from each other is an optical illusion of consciousness.” Disasters jolt us out of the sleepwalking that can happen as we focus on the daily business of life and survival with our self focused agendas, even our higher spiritual ones. Disasters also can open our hearts, as spiritual energy comes through us and is released in the form of compassion to others. Collectively, a chain reaction of goodness can come as a flood, but then, after the crisis, a “spiritual dam” may form once again within us and we go back to the sleep of our busy lives.
What Keeps Us From Sustaining This Level of Heart Opening Every Day?
First, we are immersed in a materialistic culture that encourages us to focus on our own narrow agendas, including our spiritual ones, and “going it alone.” Over many years we divide into “sub communities”: by religious beliefs; political ideologies; economics; and special interests – a new Tower of Babel, where we all speak different languages. As a result, we have seen an increase in spiritual and social isolation; and a loss of connection and caring among neighbors, family, friends, and community.
No matter how “evolved” we think we are, we may still internalize the idea that “my group” (spiritual, religious, political, etc.) or my beliefs are better than others. It is natural that we tend to hang out with like-minded believers because it makes us feel secure in an insecure world. But, this just magnifies our separation and creates a narrow container for consciousness.
Beliefs seem to serve as a way to “amp” down the limitless spiritual power of love that could flow through us. Infinite love flowing through us is scary because illumination would cause us to see all of the hidden, unexposed, and unhealed parts of ourselves. We would have to change – something the ego fights desperately against. We would have to do something very difficult – to see others, not through the lens of belief and group identity but through an available heart.
The other reason it is difficult to sustain heart opening is that too often we sit back and expect that a community based on love and compassion – what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called the Beloved Community will come from something outside of us. We may have faith in our political system, the UN, or a social movement.
Or, we may think that if enough individuals separately attain peace within themselves, that eventually there will be peace in the world.
Both methods are necessary but not sufficient to turn things around. Instead of looking outside for what ails us, or internally finding our own private nirvana, let’s work together right where we live to find the cure.
Like hearted people who want to uplift humanity are found within every local community and in all social groupings. By connecting the dots between these diverse individuals and organizations we build a bigger container so that a critical mass of consciousness can fill it and a shift can take place in our total community life. As this happens globally we can achieve what Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ariyaratne refer to as a “commonwealth of village republics.” An awakened world comes from awakened communities.
A good way to start is to find shared concerns and action that most people can get behind. To do this, we need a conscious commitment to go beyond the comfort of our particular groups and bring others together, especially those who are different.
The most practical way to do this is to get to know the person right across the street – your neighbor. You might think of your neighbor as only a barking dog. It’s sad, but while we may travel around the world, we may never take a few steps across the street to get to know our neighbor.
What started as a regional effort, “Get To Know Your Neighbor Day” Saturday, June 23rd, 2007 has turned into an ongoing worldwide effort to spiritually uplift where we live. You can participate by hosting a pot-luck, block party, or gathering. The simplest thing to do is to go out and meet your neighbors by knocking on their door and saying hello – something you could do anytime of the year.
Neighbor Day is more than just a one time party. Last year, we heard many stories of people’s lives improved and some that were turned around by Neighbor Day. Neighbors found common ground and common needs they had, such as watching each others homes, children, and animals, and also found ways to be of service to each other. On any street, maybe next door, there are “invisible” people who could be on the margins – last year, people were able to offer a hand to seniors who were alone; the sick and hurting; youth in need of a mentor; single mothers; widows; folks one paycheck away from homelessness.
By bringing people together to help one another with common needs and making a difference, we put a face on the person next door and help people reconnect with the larger community they participate in. All of sudden, the invisible becomes seen and we all benefit.
These uplifting experiences happened, not as a result of a formal government or social service program or because of money, but because average people like you and me stepped forward and reached out to make a difference. And, even though it is a wonderful thing to go to Africa on a mission, donate money to charity, or volunteer locally, you can also be of service to humanity right next door.
By connecting neighbors and others through shared virtues – love, integrity, courage, service and respect – we can begin to build a solid foundation to solve the communities’ (and the world’s) problems from the bottom up. Imagine if we each took responsibility to be a beacon of hope and light right on our own street.
A ripple effect of love will be generated, releasing a chain reaction that can create a shift in each of our communities’ and eventually the world. Truly, peace in the world will not be given to us by governments, the UN, or others. With God’s help, we are the ones that we have been waiting for.
Find out more about the Conscious Community Network and Neighbor Day 2008 at: http://www.itstimereno.org/neighbor.asp
It will look like this: World Peace Begins With Your Neighbor