by Diana Autumn
“Today we are faced with the preeminent fact that, if civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships—the ability of all peoples, of all kinds to live together and work together in the same world, at peace.”
- FDR, Undelivered Speech, 1945
On all fronts, in numerous aspects, all over the world, human beings have taken up this challenge: to live together as one, in a harmonious, peaceful manner. One place where this is occurring in an intense and purposeful way is in the Communities of Cafh. Here, members of Cafh have chosen to live together to develop spiritually as an offering to help humanity. We have given up our personal lives and ambitions to live in a Community to cultivate the science of human relationships as a response to a call from God.
Community life is not a new idea for humanity. Throughout the history of humankind, in many cultures and religious beliefs and spiritual paths, some individuals have chosen some form of Community life as a response to humanity’s need to unfold relationships. The convents and monasteries of the Middle Ages kept alive learning and the development of the intellect. Always on the cutting edge, their rules and method of life regulated real and pressing life circumstances of getting along. One Rule specifically forbade weapons in the bedroom, so each monk had to learn to trust his fellow monks. Monks and nuns who followed Buddha grouped themselves into Communities, where they experimented not only with achieving meditative states, but also with the basics of human relationships, sharing food and resources outside one’s family ties.
The task today is no less daunting. As globalization brings the world closer together, the task of getting along and settling conflicts becomes a task that affects all of us. People have become aware of the challenge and are working on it in whatever way they are called upon to do so: in families, schools, workplaces and neighborhoods, as well as in Communities.
Community life has called us to accept the challenge and to work on our relationships in a continuous and sustained level. There is no escape from it. The members form a Community in which they live, work, play, study and unfold spiritually together—every day, all the time. And besides, we really care about improving our relationships.
Working on human relationships is a process, and the process means that we embrace all aspects of life. This includes the conflicts as well as the times when things are flowing smoothly. We can’t expect that there will be a time without conflicts, but we can see conflicts as a means of growth which helps us to come closer to the other members of the Community. They help us to know ourselves and to know what areas we need to work on. Conflicts and how we learn to settle them help us to evolve as human beings.
Remember the expression, “No pain, no gain.” We don’t come to Community to escape the pain of conflicts, to avoid taking responsibility for learning to get along. We come because Community life provides us with an opportunity to unfold our human possibilities. We don’t expect it to be “trouble free.” That would deprive us of the opportunity to learn, to experiment in the science of human relationships. If we want to avoid the “pain,” we could try to ignore conflicts, convince ourselves that we are right and carry the hurt, but what is the “gain”? Will avoiding or ignoring conflicts help us or the group? Will that lead to a more harmonious world? Is that the basis of peace that we would like to establish?
Conflicts become an opportunity, because they give us a chance to put our understanding to the test. We learn techniques to solve conflicts, and we base this effort on empathy for our companions. The work then becomes to respond with what we understand in a consistent way. When we are not able to live what we understand, we have an opportunity to learn more about ourselves. Each time we are able to respond in the way we understand, we are creating a new habitual response, until it becomes a part of us. The change then comes from within.
Community life does not offer a magic answer to solving conflicts and growing from them. It does, however, offer us constant practice with others who share our method and our way of life. All the members of Cafh share the same method, but we are able to fulfill it with fewer distractions. Our companions are there with us offering, through their actions, examples of their inner work on spiritual unfolding. As we fulfill life’s duties and obligations together, while sharing as well life’s joys, we hold a common priority based on our spiritual work. The support of the group working with this common objective helps keep us on track, so we can take advantage of the circumstances life gives us.
So the challenge is set. We are faced with the question—what is best for the Community, the group in which I live with my spiritual companions? What will help us all? This puts a conflict into a larger perspective. It is no longer me alone trying to survive. It is “us,” we who live together in Community, working together to unfold spiritually through the development of our human relationships.
Community life helps us to recognize that we are part of a whole, and the conflict I am having has an effect on the whole. So I learn to work with the conflict. I am willing to change, to become a more understanding, harmonious human being. This becomes the basis for spiritual friendship, a bond of love on which Community life is based.
This is one way in which we in the Communities of Cafh are meeting the challenge: to cultivate the science of human relationships. By consciously solving conflicts, we are working together on our relationships, learning through our offering of life to live in a harmonious, peaceful manner. Civilization depends on it.
Diana Autumn lives and works in a spiritual community of Cafh in southern California.
To find out more about communities of Cafh, visit www.cafh.org.