Living In A Spiritual Community

First off, this article is not about cults. Here we'll focus on spiritual communities that promote personal freedom.

The majority of people with an interest in spirituality have jobs and do yoga or meditation retreats a few times a year, which is an excellent way of deepening your practice.

Others give up their careers to spend a few months or even years in spiritual communities. This is a different form of practice.

Spiritual Practice

People live in spiritual communities for a number of reasons. Some are disappointed with life and are basically running away, while others have had enough of modern life and feel more at home in a spiritual setting. There are also individuals who are so drawn to spirituality they choose to live and breathe it.

Most seekers aspire to make progress on their spiritual paths by practicing kindness, concentration and awareness which all lead to happiness and wellbeing.

Most yoga and meditation retreats are 7-14 days long. There are longer retreats, but they mainly cater for people that don't work. At some retreats you're allowed to speak while others promote silence as a means to calm the mind.

While a retreat is very beneficial to one's spiritual practice, it's a different experience to living long-term in a spiritual community.

Many of us go through life with the idea that monks, nuns and other members of spiritual communities are really patient, kind, helpful, loving and advanced spiritual practitioners. Once you've lived in a community for awhile, you'll see that the vast majority of them are quite normal people.

Spiritual communities house personal conflicts and anger just like the real world. So, don't expect paradise on Earth!

Non the less, a spiritual community offers a safe setting for the development of your spiritual practice. I highly recommend it to anyone who's interested in spirituality. It's much easier to practice in a community than on your own. The community is a great source of inspiration and whenever you are in need of support, it's right there.

Meditation Practice

Let's touch on a few things that many seekers don't know before having lived in a spiritual community. This is what makes living in a spiritual community a different experience from doing short meditation retreats, especially silent ones.

At a silent retreat there is hardly any interaction between the participants. This makes for minimal irritation and conflicts between the retreatants, silence is very agreeable. This type of practice is highly beneficial.

Another form of practice is staying long-term in a spiritual community. For as long as you live in the community you'll face personal conflicts from time to time. A beautiful practice is to maintain present-moment awareness throughout the day which benefits everyone by keeping the disagreements friendly.

I strongly recommend the combination of doing retreats and living in spiritual communities long-term.

Letting Go

Let's say someone asks you to clean all the toilets in a building. You're quite likely to react with negative feelings and thoughts to these instructions. Your preference may be to do office work or perhaps you could accept kitchen duties.

While living in a community you're better off letting go of your personal preferences, if not you'll struggle with inner resistance, ''Do you expect me to clean toilets all day? I'm an intellectual!" That attitude won't do you any good.

If you want to make progress, you have to let go of your preferences. This kind of practice leads to inner freedom. Until you're able to let go, try your best to be aware of your negative reactions.

With present-moment awareness it's easy to become aware of our feelings and thoughts. Accepting whatever comes our way makes for mental and emotional ease, by resisting, we create our own unhappiness.

Living in a spiritual community has a lot to do with accepting things the way they are. In worldly life we avoid and resist almost everything we don't like, not unlike crying babies. In the spiritual community you're encouraged to be aware of your negative reactions and let them go.

In the beginning it helps to slow down a little while working, this makes it easier to remain in the present. Don't be hard on yourself for not living up to your expectations, give yourself time to practice and progress will follow.

The spiritual community supports spiritual growth and is a deep source of inspiration.

Best of luck!

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