Community of Practice, Actually
by Benjamin Ross, Director of Media & Storytelling
What does it actually mean to participate in a community of practice dedicated to collective potential?
For me, most of the time it means awkwardly feeling unsure of what to do. Do we pause the meeting for a healing experience? Do I let the incoherence I’m feeling from someone in our morning circle go unmet? What’s mine to do? Should we be doing more? We should definitely be circling. Why aren’t we circling? Am I resisting this? How am I creating this experience?
Those are the thoughts and questions I often sit with as we attempt to create a village culture that grows towards wholeness, integration, and self/collective actualization. We have lofty goals, are incredibly human, and we often fall short. I find beauty in all of it.
We often use the phrase ‘get messy’ to refer to letting down the walls of our ego to discover the authentic, mysterious, multi-dimensional substrate of our experience.
Who would I be right now if I let go of my idea of how I ‘need to/should be’?’
Culturally, messiness is usually seen as something to be avoided, something that can overwhelm, distract, and subvert our dignity, action, and belonging. I remember as a child often being anxiously enrolled by my mother in ‘tidying’ the house before my grandparents came to visit. I’ve grown to appreciate the precision and harmony of a clean space and home, but tidying is different from cleaning. When you tidy, you’re putting magazines in stacks, hiding dirty laundry under your bed, and very literally sweeping the dirt under the rug. I noticed a few years ago that I was acting out this very same pattern in my mental health and in my relationships. It was easier to compartmentalize, hide, and fluff up my fears, insecurities, and anxieties than it was to meet them head on with courage and discipline. When we ‘get messy’ together, we’re putting our full humanness out in the open so we can tend, hold, nurture, and heal at the deepest level.
I realized this week in conversation with a friend how the words tend and tender are connected. I’d somehow never realized that I could tend the fire of my tender heart. I love paradoxes and contradictions. Tending, as a verb, is an action of caring and providing attention. Tender, as an adjective, is a quality of softness, gentleness, and empathy. Maybe they’re not totally paradoxical, but it struck me that the words expressed both active and passive qualities. Tend, more active: reaching out, bringing awareness, providing care. Tender, more passive: open, connected, spacious.
Our community of practice asks us to both tend to ourselves and to one another and to embody a quality of tenderness, continually choosing to open our hearts, to surrender, to be with the fullness of our experience.
I wrote a song about collective potential that communicates what I’m trying to say here better than anything else I can think of:
“Density descending. Gravity in my bones. Humanity ascending, together and alone. The world is ending. Our planet giving birth. Our consciousness descending into the body of the earth. Let it rise. Let it die, my loves.
The next buddha is all of us. The next Jesus is you and I. The next prophet of the goddess won’t descend from the sky. Long ago, time was woven. A golden thread connects us all. The web is the remembrance that lives within us all. I remember where I came from. You are all my family. Our seed is broken open as we awaken our divinity.
It will take all of our majesty to create the world we need.
I honor your shadow. Our shadows are the same. It’s the code we carry as we adapt to the pain. I place my life on the altar of who I choose to be. I remember we are holy, we are sanctified, and it will take all of our majesty to create the world we need.”
If I were giving myself a grade on this piece of writing from the perspective of my high school English class, I’d get a D or C. Chalk it up to meta-modern authenticity, laziness, or the aesthetic of a journal entry, but on one level I feel like this format reflects the essence of what I’m trying to communicate: we’re messy! We don’t think or move in straight lines and hard edges. We’re soft, curvy, tender, complex, multi-dimensional, paradoxical animals doing our best to make sense of a dying civilization as we move through countless inner deaths each day.
I’m learning to love death. I’m learning to love impermanence. And through all that, I’m finding what is eternal.
In another song I put it this way: “When the pain burns clean, it's such a relief to find what was always there.”
Ancient alchemists used fire as a metaphor for awareness. When our inner fire burns through the ‘dross’ (excess, debri, detritus, chaff), we find our eternal soul. I sometimes visualize my ancient ancestors wrapping my DNA in a blanket of trauma coping mechanisms. “Here, this will protect you for some time,” they whisper as they enshroud me in a dark dank cloak. I’ve been learning about my family’s long history of depression, trauma connected to emigrating from Ireland that lives inside of me. Coping mechanisms and dissociation are ways our bodies protect us from dying from the intense stimulus of trauma. Sometimes the trauma response is too intense to unwind and heal over the course of a lifetime. Most of my recent ancestors didn’t have access to any of the healing modalities I have at the tip of my fingers today. Every time I choose to heal a layer of a trauma coping mechanism that I inherited from my ancestors or developed myself in this lifetime, I come closer to the eternal aspect of my soul. It's such a relief.
Together, as a community of practice, we’re doing the work to bring these shadows, patterns, and pains into the light. We’re clearing the path within us and outside of us as the inheritance for our children and grandchildren as they continue the journey into paradise.
Together we rise as we define what it means to be love.
If you’d like to join the fun, there are several ways to participate in Azure Village between now and November. We are inviting:
Full-time Collaborative Residents to fulfill functional roles for multi-month periods of time. Check out our available roles and fill out an Initial Interest Form if you feel moved! Some of the highest priority roles include Social Media, Technical Administrator, Graphic Designer, Publisher. We are also open to remote collaboration.
Guests to visit us for short retreats to experience our Community of Practice, co-work on personal projects, participate in special programming around nature connection and movement, or further integrate and collaborate with the One Nation team.
Donors to help us establish the village through lending physical infrastructure, donating infrastructure, or participating financially to support the development of the village this summer