During these last three weeks my life has been quite unusual.
A few years ago a Buddhist community in Melbourne that I have been connected to for a long time purchased a 40-acre block of farmland in central Victoria near a small rural town called Alexandra, with the intention of building a community-focused center that would grow into a place that offered education on sustainable living, health and spirituality. For some time I could feel in every fiber of my being a pull to spend time in this place, which is called Land of Shambhala - after the mythical utopian kingdom where peace, harmony and spiritual values reigned supreme.
So here I am, in a roomy tent pitched just outside the farm shed headquarters with my laptop and printer by my side on a beautiful working holiday, where I would see clients by day and then participate in all manner of community activities - building a rock wall for a Medicine Buddha herb garden, erecting a yurt, sharing meals, brainstorming ideas for the future vision of this very unique place, and sharing deeply with the folks living or visiting here... including heartwarming tales of personal transformation in the face of trauma and personal struggle.
True, real oommunity. United in common spiritual values and a shared vision of service for the betterment of humanity. Something, I feel, we all desperately crave. Yet also something so many of us have been tragically cut off from due to being brought up in a culture of isolation, fragmentation, materialism, nihilism and disconnection from true spiritual values. And also a culture where the imprint of collective trauma is so strong that it is actually really difficult, practically speaking, to find the right people, the right vision and the right conditions to make the ideal of true community actually work. To illustrate how big this problem actually is, I once watched a revealing presentation claiming that loneliness - which of course is intertwined with trauma - is the number one public health problem the world is currently facing and foremost risk factor for just about any health condition.
The vision of community here on this land came through Tibetan Lama Khentrul Rinpoche, who it is said experiences direct and deep meditation experiences of the mythical realm of Shambhala as his inspiration and guiding light. He once told me that the trauma and attachment wounding that we experience so prolifically in our modern culture is pretty much unheard of in Tibet. Even when - and this really shocked me - babies are left to cry or kids are disciplined harshly, for example. It is as though people here live embedded in a 'unified field' where a deep sense of community and spiritual values are known, permeating and embedded within the very fabric of society much like what they speak of in the realm of Shambhala. The tyrannies of individualism and disconnection are simply not known, and collectively there is no sense of holding onto victim narratives such as blaming parents or others who have inflicted trauma upon us.
What do we mean, then, by real community?
I believe it is all about creating such a 'field' where each person naturally identifies with the whole - surrendering to a greater purpose than their own individual interests, with a common vision of service, glued together by authentic spiritual values. Yet although we are all part of this whole, everyone is also differentiated, respected and honored for their unique gifts, capacities, quirks and innate natural brilliance. Although admittedly it's not always plain sailing, when people come together and are held in such a field, they often lose fixation on their trauma narratives and come to a powerfully resourced place of connection with something that is greater than themselves, where trauma healing can just naturally happen. And then if we combine being in this field with powerful healing modalities such as CRM together with certain spiritual practices, the potential for transformation can be nothing short of extraordinary.
I also believe that real community is open community. This is very different from a religious cult or highly structured sect that closes itself off from the outside world. Yet in that openness people who are drawn here are united in the common vision of embodying and bringing spiritual principles, values and practices into the modern world. So it is not unstructured either, as one might expect from something cobbled together by freedom-loving hippies or environmentalists... or people sharing general interests yet with no commitment to shared spiritual values.
In my last three weeks on this property, I have seen this openness manifest in the strong local community links which have been forged. A local guy called Ben had the generosity to leave expensive earth moving equipment at the property for whenever we need it. A local tree lopper drops off bark chips for the garden beds we are creating in return for a few small hours of help with his tree lopping business. And a tribe of eager volunteers coming and going, especially on weekend working bees, to build rock walls, maintain garden beds, expand accommodation facilities and make gradual progress on the plethora of projects which are part of this vision. Now even the local council are on board, on the cusp of offering financial support for some of the projects which are in the wind.
What projects am I speaking of?
There is a sustainable food forest and medicine garden, which may one day morph into community gardens. Then there is a healing and wellness center as well as a retreat and teaching hall, and the construction of stupas and other objects of great beauty and spiritual significance. All of this is designed to birth programs aimed at educating folks about holistic health blending ancient healing wisdom with modern science, and to share a new wave of spiritual teachings linked to Shambhala and sourced from the Kalachakra Tantra - aimed at collective awakening and birthing an enlightened society.
Hmmm, one may respond, so this is really about converting people to a new spiritual tradition linked to Buddhism? In our culture there is much resentment and antagonism towards anything that can be considered mainstream religion, and such people are often perceived to rigidly and blindly hold onto dogma, rules and rituals without being able to think for themselves. There is also much bad press about religious communities which turn out to be exclusive, putting themselves on a pedestal as custodians of the 'truth', while others need to be saved, converted or simply dismissed. There is thus a massive ground swell of turning away, at least in Western culture, from anything traditional towards the notion of being 'spiritual, not religious'.
Yet this is not at all what Land of Shambhala is about. The values of Shambhala are to see the value and brilliance embedded in all approaches to spirituality - in all their diverse manifestations - whether we are Christian, Buddhist, atheist, non-dual or even spiritual not-religious. Although there may be an overlay of distortion, greed or corruption which certainly needs to be acknowledged, the Shambhala way means coming to a deep place of genuine acceptance, awe and reverence for utterly everything, which is seen to be pure at its core. Not only do the Kalachakra teachings of Shambhala point us towards the natural brilliance embedded in all religions and belief systems, but also to the natural brilliance or enlightened nature of every single phenomena in our living, breathing reality - including the seasons, the days of the year, the stars and planets, and even the subtle nature of our human body and our experience of strong emotional states - which we often label as negative and unwholesome.
Then to unveil this enlightened reality, we need three basic elements. First there is courageous compassion. We are guided towards finding support or refuge in whatever aspect of this enlightened nature we can most relate to, which then inspires us to cultivate pure love and compassion in our hearts along with the courage to channel this energy towards serving our own and other's highest good. This is coupled with deep exploration of the true nature of reality, as a means of developing profound wisdom that clearly sees the brilliance of who we really are.
Finally, there is the need for purification or healing trauma, which is sadly bypassed by many religious or spiritual traditions in the world today. This means feeling strong, safe, grounded and connected enough in our inner place of refuge that we are willing to fully enter the painful re-membering of what it felt like to be a victim of trauma and also a perpetrator, across this timeline and potentially many other lifetimes or ancestral memories. When we step into feeling this fully in our bodies, if only for a few brief moments, these trauma imprints dissolve and release from our nervous system... so we no longer fall prey to the triggers which have haunted us in the past and can integrate those soul fragments affected by trauma back into wholeness.
Kalachakra teaches that the ground of our being is our ever-present enlightened or God-nature, which unites all of our humanity as one family. Just as the wind blows away clouds to reveal the brilliance of the sun, so too do these three elements of compassion, wisdom and purification blow away the clouds of distortion and trauma to unveil our true and unique brilliance.
And so in a place like this Land of Shambhala property where I have been blessed to reside these past few weeks, we can see what true community really means and how spiritual values can be a guiding light to create something truly extraordinary. My hope is that this can be a mirror - or fractal - for what is truly possible in the world at large. This possibility is what we call a Golden Age, an utter transformation of our timeline to embrace global peace and harmony in a truly profound way - real community in a universal sense.
Meanwhile, I have come to a big decision to honor the pull of this sacred place and relocate here (in August this year), knowing the spark of my longing to serve and commit to this grand collective vision which I know I am an integral part of. I will still be doing medical consulting and trauma therapy work, only there will be a transition to seeing most people online and integrating this work into the co-creation of the many projects happening down here.
My deepest gratitude extends to all I have been privileged to connect with in the Coffs region over these past ten years, especially those nearest and dearest to me, whose presence will always be with me. Although everything here is at a pretty basic stage right now, volunteers are always needed and I extend an open invitation for anyone willing to lend a hand to visit and perhaps pitch a tent next to the shed somewhere in the vicinity of this magical, mystical and deeply transformative place. Everyone is welcome, especially if you too feel the Calling of Community.