A Magical Equilibrium

Summer fruit
Summer fruit

Every community, I believe, weaves an intricate web of forces that strive to maintain an equilibrium of magic. Over time, a community develops a sense of identity and purpose. Much like an ecosystem’s complex, self-regulating system of checks and balances, it will preserve its core focus, sometimes even in the face of drastic interference.

Though I suspect this is true for other intentional communities as well, my observations grow out of my experiences here at Light Morning. In particular, it has been fascinating to watch how my community has adapted and preserved its unique qualities through a tumultuous influx and exodus of new members over the past couple of years. My hope is that by better understanding the patterns and purposes that flow through this place, we will realize our individual and collective potential more clearly, thereby enhancing the magical environment that sustains us.

It is quite challenging to describe the magic at Light Morning. It sometimes feels as though one is living out the life of a character from a great novel, in which the imagery, symbols, plot, setting, themes, and other literary elements all support and complement the protagonist as he or she grows, changes, and develops, often in the face of personal crises. I used to feel that such novels, though aesthetically pleasing, were ultimately too contrived, since the synchronistic events of the stories seemed too perfect to represent the reality of our chaotic, insignificant lives. Light Morning has shown me otherwise.

Through years of careful effort and attention, an emerging consensual reality has constructed a spiritual oasis here, where the boundaries between the inner and outer worlds, between who we are and what we see, begin to dissolve. It’s not that we use mysterious psychic powers to create lives more steeped with meaning. Rather, I have discovered that we naturally live in a world that is so imbued with interconnectedness that, with but a modest investment of interest and observation, we suddenly realize just how special our lives truly are.

Surrounded by a culture, however, that appears bent upon distracting us from the deep significance of daily life, it takes a concerted effort to stay awake to this subtle, indigenous magic. Indeed, I am still shocked to find how quickly I am swept into the old, sleepy currents and routines whenever I leave Light Morning for any extended period of time. It is always with great relief that I find myself once again entering the beautiful cathedral of trees along our driveway as I return to this haven of awakening.

The beauty is seductive, often overcoming strangers as they round the last bend of the driveway, past the old pear tree, and see our new community shelter, overlooking the blue-green hills on the other side of Free State Creek. The well-kept buildings, lawns, and gardens are a subliminal, reassuring message that visitors, too, will be treated with special care here and that their own beauty, their own sense of purpose and belonging, will likewise emerge at Light Morning.

The more I dwell within this vortex, the more I appreciate how essential visitor flow is to maintaining the magic of my community. Which brings me to the hypothesis that visitors are such an essential component to our purpose here that the universe will contrive to maintain this flow even when external circumstances seem to resist. This phenomenon was strikingly demonstrated several years ago, during the dramatic arrival and subsequent departure of so many new residents.

Over the winter and spring of 1999 Light Morning tripled in size! It went from a community of six adults and one child to, at its peak, a community of fifteen adults and six children. (For a more complete account of what precipitated this sudden transition, see my article, “Adapting to Overnight Change,” in the Winter 1999 issue of “Communities Magazine”.) In short, it was a bold experiment, an attempt to break through a threshold that has historically kept Light Morning’s population at a low level.

Now that we are back down to five adults (our eldest member having passed on and our youngest having flown the nest), one might conclude that the experiment was a failure. While we did not achieve our intended objectives, the learning process was invaluable, revealing more of the mystery that keeps this place alive and humming.

In retrospect, I see that a pivotal point was reached when the community decided to close its doors to any more visitors, once its population had tripled. The founding members, overwhelmed by the sudden influx, had neither the time, the energy, nor the willingness to orient or coach anyone else. Most of the recently arrived residents, meanwhile, had their hands full trying to adapt to their new communal environment and had little or no interest in visitors.

One of them, however, was disturbed by this decision. Alan had been a friend of the community for several years. Significantly, both he and I had visited Light Morning prior to moving in, unlike the other new members who had never spent time here as visitors. Closing the door furthered Alan’s disenchantment, which culminated in his departure the following spring. By then, the rest of the recently arrived residents had either already moved on to other projects and places or were just about to do so.

Having lived in semi-intentional communal situations for the previous eight years I was familiar with such patterns of departure. Almost like a revolving door, one spins out and others follow. So with a painful sense of deja vu I watched as, one by one, all my potential partners left me behind.

How, you might wonder, did I manage to keep my spirits up and continue to stay anchored at Light Morning during this difficult time? Why didn’t I simply follow the rest of them out that revolving door?

What kept me connected was a transformative insight that came when one of the new families started to look elsewhere. I suddenly (and quite gracefully) realized that it was inappropriate for me to view all the new residents as future lifetime members of the community. Regardless of my original hopes and intentions, these people were truly needing to experience Light Morning as visitors, and, as such, they were behaving quite naturally.

They were, moreover, helping Light Morning to fulfill one of its basic missions–assisting people through transitional times by providing a supportive environment in which they can find their “path with heart.” This is precisely what I had signed up for when I chose to live at Light Morning. Once I was able to let go of my expectations and attachments that these particular people would be my long-term communal partners, I was ready and willing to help them find their best next steps.

Naturally, I had more than a few moments of sadness, despair, and regret. But to remain attached only fed my misery, while letting go and honoring these peoples’ emerging dreams and volitions allowed me to play a meaningful role as they envisioned their future. Indeed, I am always pleased and proud to hear of the positive steps my former fellow residents have taken since departing Light Morning, and I choose to believe that in some mysterious way their experiences here have helped inform the current direction of their lives.

In looking back, then, at our decision to cut off the stream of visitors during the flood-tide summer of 1999, it’s as though the intangible inner workings of Light Morning found a way to create visitors out of those already present during that tumultuous season. Perhaps this is a farfetched hypothesis, but of one thing I feel certain–a valuable service was rendered to each of the folks who graced our land, if only for a short while

It took some time for Light Morning to assimilate and recuperate from those two trying years and to clarify and renew its willingness to share the cocoon-like environment we’re spinning here with others. So the visitor door is once again open and is getting steady use. The flow seems just about right, neither too many visitors nor too few.

Ultimately, it’s only by patiently nurturing such a healthy, sustainable visitor flow that the next generation of this community’s core group members will be called to its vision. Those who respond to the calling, moreover, will need their invaluable visitor experiences to refer to as they negotiate the difficult transition to a long-term commitment. Visiting Light Morning, then, is not a stage which can simply be skipped over on the way to residency.

This was certainly true for me. My desire to create a warm, nurturing environment for our guests is a natural and direct outgrowth of the unconditional gift of love, concern, and attention that I received when I first showed up here as a visitor five years ago, with my marriage and life in disarray. The visceral appreciation I have for that gift, and for the magical equilibrium that’s at the heart of Light Morning, moves me to share it with others.