Is it possible to uncover the unconscious, deeply ingrained mental and emotional patterns that have become hard-wired in us? Is it possible to bridge the divides that keep us separate, isolated, in conflict with, and harming each other? Can we begin with small steps to dismantle the ways that people are routinely violated and oppressed? Can people learn how to disarm themselves and rediscover the glory of being human?
The short answer to these questions is yes. The rest of the book outlines the long-answer with an extensive explanation of how to tap into a force that is omni-present, yet rarely experienced by people. The aim of Building True Community is to make the principles and practices that can create community accessible to everyone who chooses to do the personal, inner work, and external changes in our society and culture. By stepping onto the path to true community, through learning and unlearning, you will discover how to deepen and restore relationships, resolve conflicts, and experience the freedom to be your authentic, best self. By building community and experiencing a sense of community, the process can serve both as a resource and a responsibility. You will learn that it is possible to rewire your brain by developing what neuroscientist and psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegel calls "Mindsight," the ability to dissolve fixed mental perceptions that reinforce the "optical delusion" of our separateness.
Like gravity or any other force in the universe, community has been around forever. Sir Isaac Newton is credited with the discovery of gravity by offering proof of its existence. Once named as a force with laws, gravity could be harnessed rather than being a mystery. Similarly, the laws of community can enable people to experience and benefit from this powerful and life-giving force accessible to everyone.
In many ways, the journey to discovering a sense of community is an arduous one because it demands that individuals change deeply ingrained habits and ways of thinking. To tap into the power of community, people must directly confront what keeps the protections and divides in place that separate people and lead to conflict. Violence would not exist without fear of the unknown and fear of the "other." If being truthful, authentic, and open becomes more the norm than being righteous, blaming, judging, and exercising power over others, the walls between and within people, communities, organizations, and nations would be porous and able to be dismantled. But as a human being, it seems extremely difficult to give up making oneself right and others wrong. It is uncomfortable, even painful, to admit to being fearful and vulnerable. Perhaps the most difficult of all is to own up to the consequences of abusing power. Like the golden rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, it is easier said than done. Community building is hard work.
Paradoxically—and community is full of paradoxes—the experience of community is easy in that the most critical ingredient is the capacity to empty oneself. Learning to be an active community builder involves learning how to unlearn and let go of barriers. For a moment, imagine what your life, your family, your workplace, and the groups you interact would be like if people consistently were able to:
-- Communicate with authenticity (be real with each other)
-- Deal with difficult issues (instead of avoiding them)
--Relate with love and respect (rather than hurting each other)
--Seek, welcome and affirm diversity (of all kinds)
--Bridge differences with integrity (so that all are satisfied with decisions and the process)
--Acknowledge our human frailties (as a source for compassion)
--Take responsibility for our actions and make amends where possible (Reconciliation is always possible)
--Practice forgiveness for ourselves and others (Forgiveness is a choice).
It all starts with you. As Gandhi so wisely stated, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”