foundational principles and Commitments
Sound principles, or the absence of sound principles, define a culture and go a long way toward determining our life experience, including the trajectory of the planet. They determine how we relate with the rest of creation: people we see as "different" from ourselves, other living beings, the earth, the rivers and oceans. To put it simply, principles reflect respect, or disrespect, and should be decided consciously, collectively, and in our worldview, in collaboration with Spirit.
Our collective commitments:
reverence for the earth and social justice
We see our spiritual orientation, reverence for the earth, as inseparable from the social justice work that is necessary in order to remake the culture. We'll talk about these two common commitments together as they are so intertwined it feels unrealistic to try and separate them from each other.
Agreed upon principles and common commitments give every member of a community, or culture, a road map to live by: the roadmap we choose is one that honors, as Robin Wall Kimmerer says, "a democracy of species". Our first tenet is Renewed Reverence for the Earth, and because the only species consistently inflicting harm on the earth is humanity, our next tenet is about dismantling systems of oppression through social justice work in order for people to be able to heal. This healing work is essential if human beings are to take our rightful place in the Family of Creation. We acknowledge that indigenous peoples the world over have been setting this example forever and we believe it is imperative for modern Western civilization to heed this guidance, without appropriating traditions or cultures that do not belong to us.
All of this, mending our relationship with the earth and dismantling violent systems, involves activism. For us that activism is deeply spiritual. And while we regularly engage in making and supporting change "out in the world", one of our primary forms of activism begins within our own community and our own individual hearts. Activism, real and lasting change, is not just "out there", and many movements falter when they forget this.
As members of any community, or culture, we are each steeped in and deeply affected by the context it creates: the one in which we were raised and in which we continue to live our lives. For example, children are not born hating, either other people or the earth. They are taught this directly, or indirectly, by the underlying values of the culture in which they live. Unless those underlying "values" are intentionally examined they will continue to decide the nature of the culture and what everyone who lives in it experiences. Alice Walker talks about this beautifully in the forward to the awesome book about Sweet Honey in the Rock, We Who Believe in Freedom-Still on the Journey. She says that because her mother was a gardener and her father a farmer when they talked about "culture", they were talking about the soil. What a powerful and necessary concept to consider; culture as the very ground from which we, and everything around us grows. For us this concept rings very true. Unless we are consciously deciding the road map by which our culture lives, it is inadvertently deciding many things about us: our choices, priorities, and actions.
We are committed to remaking our culture to reflect reverence for the earth and respect for, appreciation of, our diverse human family.
In order to have any hope of achieving and/or embodying these profound intentions, we also have foundational principles that help to guide our conduct. In life, and certainly in the process of mending the world, things get rocky sometimes and it is essential to have a foundation, a guiding light, to return to. Without sound and agreed upon foundational principles, the culture and each member within it is expected to play, to learn, to grow, and to risk change without clear and collectively agreed upon "rules of engagement". No one feels or is, safe in such a context.
Very important conversations need to happen in our times as they are key to facilitating the bridges we need to build across the many chasms of life experience. We have to come together from all places in the human family in order to redirect the collective human course and pull this beautiful planet back from the brink of disaster. We can't do this by skipping over, or ignoring the fact that sadly, as citizens of the modern West, we have literally been trained to hurt, fear, and disregard each other. We are born into a system that values some human beings over others, and pretty much entirely disregards the value, the sanctity, of our beautiful earth. How can we enter into these necessary, tender, vulnerable, and sometimes scary conversations without agreed upon ground rules? In our In Sacred Balance communities, we don't believe we can. So we work very hard to not only honor our collective commitments, but to learn to live by our guiding principles so that we can actually hear each other and change our behavior accordingly. Sound common principles keep us on track and hold us accountable for what we each contribute to these necessary conversations and to the world.
Now that we have touched on our two collective commitments to the world, we will share our five guiding principles. Our long term core community makes a firm promise to live by these collective commitments and foundational principles regardless of where we each arrive from with our life experience. This allows each of us the rare ability to experience and develop a spiritual practice and cosmology that is unique to us within the context of a community that makes every effort to play by fair, and transparent, rules. We are practicing, earnestly, remaking the culture from the inside out.
Trust is the place to start; it is a necessary foundation of a truly viable spiritual practice and it is a huge component of what ultimately makes real evolution and real community possible. An interesting irony of spiritual development is that in order to evolve, in order to come to know that trust is in fact warranted; we must lay down our defenses, and risk trusting first.
Part of the spiritual work and community offered by In Sacred Balance is the safe opportunity to repair trust that has been compromised during our lives in a culture founded on violence. We have the chance to practice spiritual tools that have the capacity to restore our trust; in our own inner knowing, in a power greater than us, in the possibility of intimate, authentic, human community, and ultimately, in the possibility of global healing.
To live in truth is to un-encumber our hearts and to develop a sentient experience of Sacred Balance. In our communities we combine a context of truth telling, supportive community with feminist spiritual education, and this combination provides us with the resources we need to come out of holy amnesia. Holy amnesia is an enculturated condition wherein we habitually neglect and abandon our true selves, and learn to live with many cultural norms that, if we were truly listening to our own hearts, would be outrageously unacceptable. As we awaken from holy amnesia, we look honestly at our world and our lives and recognize the need for profound change.
In the context of sustained community we have consistent opportunities to practice being present, speaking/living our truths, being witnessed in our authenticity and supported in living our priorities. We learn to say what we mean and do what we say, and this practice of authenticity un-obstructs the flow of life force through our beings and helps us learn that speaking truth is powerfully healing even when that truth is sometimes difficult or uncomfortable.
The practices and teachings we explore in our communities broaden our perspective and open us to a wide range of hopeful possibilities inherent in the peace keeping wisdom of our ancestors, and this allows us to live a solution-oriented life.
Accountability is about right action. This means following through with promises to ourselves and each other and actually living our intended priorities and values. To us, this way of being is called Sacred Alignment and it is our natural condition on this planet. We work to provide a structure and container for all of us to practice being more consistently in Sacred Alignment and allow each of us the dignity to live our purpose by owning our part, and following through with our intentions.
On a spiritual path there is an often talked about triad that addresses how healing happens, this triad is “our work, Spirit’s work, someone else’s work”. By fine tuning a personal spiritual practice, we learn to discern what is in the hands of another person, what is up to Spirit, (or outside of our control) and what is ours to be accountable for. It is only by owning and tending our own part of the equation that we can truly be a part of the restoration of Sacred Balance.
Humility is about common ground, and approaching all interactions with curiosity and a willingness to learn. On this planet we undeniably live as one interconnected family; the fact is that our choices have an impact on all of creation and that is humbling. As we learn to truly occupy our own personal sacred space, we also learn to recognize and honor the sacred space, and the inherent value, of all life on earth. From this perspective it makes sense to welcome diversity and approach new people and new experiences from a place of curiosity and gratitude for all that they have to offer. It is the insight and power of the collective, born of this diversity, that will help us discover and implement necessary solutions that move us forward in the restoration of Sacred Balance.
Our own personal willingness is an essential part of this humility. On the path of spiritual liberation, our fearful little (or giant) egos like to play tricks on us and prompt resistance to our processes of healing and alignment. Fearful ego can be very convincing, dressed up as inner critic, helpless child, intellectual superior, or whatever, and will fight like hell to distract and dissuade us from our holy intentions, commitments and positive momentum. Personal willingness has the power to entirely dissolve this habituated resistance and its destructive impact on our own well-being. We demonstrate this willingness by continuing to show up for ourselves and our community (especially when we don’t feel like it). This willingness to turn toward that which will truly serve us is key to successful evolution.
In a society that fixates on the illusion of separation and so often prioritizes individual success above communal well-being, gratitude and generosity can be radical acts that foster connection, trust, and resilience. Generosity gives us the opportunity to stretch ourselves for the sake of the whole. It can be easy to believe that when we are generous, we are giving something up, whether that be time, money, or physical possessions. However, it is just as true (perhaps even more true) to say that when we are generous, we are gaining something, we are receiving. We are strengthening the bonds within our community. When we walk through the world in a state of generosity, we are constantly creating opportunities to build connection and trust. The more we experience generosity, the more we find ourselves motivated to extend generosity ourselves, and vice versa. This mutual sharing is a healing practice that helps create space for us to walk through the world with an open heart and a willingness to lift one another up. In this way, we end up becoming more secure than if we held all of our resources close to our chest, afraid to extend our hearts and hands. Investing in our communities and recognizing our own interconnectedness helps us to feel and be more secure and more connected. Generosity fosters trust, and, in a beautiful upward spiral of healing, trust engenders generosity. The more we are generous with one another, the more we build trust with one another. And the more we trust each other, the more we are enthusiastically generous with each other. This helps create a community, and a world, in which will all want to take care of each other.
Like generosity, gratitude consistently gives us the opportunity to engage in a perspective shift. Taking time to be grateful for what we have and recognizing how we have been recipients of generosity can help counter any feelings of scarcity, bitterness, or victimization that we may be holding. Gratitude is a powerful transformative medicine. It helps us see the ways in which other people, beings, and all of creation have all been incredibly generous with us. And, similarly to the positive feedback loop between trust and generosity, practicing gratitude also helps us in the process of both extending and receiving generosity.