Re: Group Spirituality, Public vs. Private
From: rsk (rskuclink2.berkeley.edu)
Date: Mon, 30 Jan 95 22:39 CST
Rich Lobdill Grell CoHousing Group San Luis Obispo / Oceano CA wrote:

it seems that if one has beliefs which I pigeon-hole as New
Age spiritualism, then that persons' values are more easily fit into the
group mind than say someone who would align themselves with the born-again
Christian community....My concern came out of a situation the year before
when an "invocation" before the meal included asking all the guests to
stand and hold hands as one of our members passed by each guest with a bowl
made by Tibetan monks....The invocation was much more non-denominational
this year. The bowl was not present but hands were still held....I enjoy
the spiritualism within the group as long as the assumption is not made
that this spiritualism represents the group as a whole....I am concerned
that if we provide an atmosphere to prospective members which is beyond
pro-neighborhood or pro-extended family we will end up disenchanting more
potential cohousers than it will attract.  The counter argument is that if
the group doesn't appear to endorse any specific set of values, then it
comes off as milquetoast and appeals to no one as is tries to appeal to
all.


Bob replies:

I like that you've raised this issue. My own biases are that I experience a
dimension of life that transcends the self, and thus I see myself as
"spiritual"; and with such a broad definition of spirituality, I experience
most people I know as having a "sprituality". Perhaps it is the degree to
which we, "make life decisions based on spiritual belief," that registers
each persons level of comfort or discomfort with the concept of
spirituality.
        Two comments on your experience of Thanksgiving. First, it's
interesting to take note of what is experienced as sectarian and what is
benign. Both  "invocations" expressed a sense of spirituality, but one was
more familiar that the other. IMHO it's important to look through our own
cultural biases and see that one activity may not be any less "spiritual"
than the other. Second, your embracing of diversity is its own kind of
spirituality. What would be appealing to me as a prospective community
member would be a true sense that the diverse talents and world views I
bring to the group would be appreciated and embraced. I would not ask that
other members believe, act or think as I do; but that my opinions and
beliefs would be respected. The problem often comes when one person or
group of people asks for respect of their own views and practices, but is
not willing to respect those of others.
        In part, I criticize my own "community" when I affirm your general
perception that some forms of spirituality and their values seem to "more
easily fit into the group mind" than others. I don't want to say that one
is better than the other, but I do think it worth noting that diversity is
not something to celebrate for some expressions of Christianity. Tolerance
and respect for differing points of view are not held as virtue. The thrust
of the spiritual life then focuses away from the richness of diversity, and
becomes an exercise in creating homogenaity (if that's a word) by
converting you to my beliefs. It's important to realize that not all forms
of spirituality operate in this mode, and thus diversity does not have to
be a threat.
        It's easy to represent this as a task that can easily be
accomplished, but you know it's not. Let me be an advocate for tackling
this issue at your coming retreat. I hope that the richness and strength of
differing views and sensibilities can come together for you all.

Bob Kehr


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