Living Close to the Earth: 1 — Stretching Toward Radiant Health

This series of articles, the Light Morning Renewal Pages, is an attempt to clarify and communicate the vision and core values which anchor us here. “Living Close to the Earth” (which includes Stretching Toward Radiant Health; Working Close to Home; and Embracing the Earth) is followed by “A New Kind of Family” (which includes The Underlying Assumptions; Five Core Social Skills; and A Social Covenant) and “A Transformational Journey” (which includes The Soul Is Not Human; The Four Cairns; A Prayer Bead Necklace; and The Gift of Beauty). The series concludes (at least for now) with the account of a harrowing mid-winter pilgrimage, called “The Three-Legged Stool.”

Stretching Toward Radiant Health

Pink radiance
Pink radiance

Transformational journey, a new kind of family, living close to the Earth–simple phrases, subtle connotations. Living close to the Earth, for example, implies more than mere physical proximity. It suggests emotional intimacy. An intimate relationship with the Earth, therefore, would be one marked by, “a warm friendship developing through long association.”

What are the personal and global consequences of not having developed such a friendship with this planet, and how might we nurture one? A good place to start is close to home. For those who live at Light Morning, home is the wooded hills and valleys of the Blue Ridge mountains in southwest Virginia. We learn to love the Earth by learning to treasure this one, small, precious portion of it.

Even closer to home, we cherish the Earth by loving our bodies. For our body is the closest, most intimate connection that any of us will ever have with the living Earth. No one will truly care for the planet, or for the special place they call home, any more than they care for their own body.

We demonstrate our caring and affection for our bodies by stretching toward higher octaves of health. If we’re in poor health, we strive to get better. If we’re blessed with what passes for good health, we aim for radiant health.

Can you recall a time when you were really sick? How hard it was to remember, while lying in bed, what good health felt like? How far away it seemed? There’s a comparably vast distance between normal health and radiant health.

Perhaps the greatest obstacle to optimal wellness is that we have so few models for it, and that we have experienced it so rarely ourselves. It’s hard to stretch toward something if you don’t even know it exists.

In a recent dream, a future Hall of Fame cornerback for the Washington Redskins named Darrell Green was talking about the field of work he was planning to enter after his retirement from professional football. “It’s a field for which I am well-suited,” he said, “and the demand for it is growing exponentially.” He called it motivation training.

Motivation involves cultivating an evocative image of who and what we want to be. The image has to be personal and visceral, and it must be purged, gradually, of all hidden doubts and fears. Our motivation is, literally, what moves us to act. It is the want-to that precedes and energizes the how-to’s and makes them sustainable.

So what might motivate a person to craft such an evocative image and stretch toward radiant health? One compelling reason for doing so is that higher octaves of health yield higher octanes of energy. And since energy determines mood, and mood determines perception, and perception determines reality, then enhancing our health is one direct way of changing the world.

The how-to’s of optimal wellness are self-evident and hardly need elaboration. A healthy body requires sunlight, pure water, fresh air, and wholesome food, as well as sufficient rest and exercise. Living close to the Earth gifts us with direct access to these essential nutrients. If we are not fully utilizing them, we are likely suffering from a case of inadequate incentive and could probably use another round or two of “motivation training.”

Finally, there’s a direct correlation between a healthy body and a healthy mind. We can’t have one without the other. Excellent health, therefore, necessitates clarifying the mind. At a still deeper level, the duality of mind and matter is nothing more than an entrancing illusion. For energy is iridescent, the body/mind continuum is seamless, and the universe is playful. We experience radiant health by allowing this one, playful energy to move through us freely.

Living Close to the Earth: 2 — Working Close to Home

Working Close to Home

Blackberries
Blackberries

We live in a highly segregated society. Parents go to work, children go to school, and old folks end up in retirement villages and nursing homes. Food comes from the grocery store, houses from real estate agents. Healing is supposed to happen in hospitals. Likewise childbirth and death. And all the while, canned entertainment beams in through the TV.

Is it really any wonder families become dysfunctional? With the home so fragmented, how can a family be healthy? And if home and family become anemic, how can they serve as sacraments, as metaphors for That which they represent? When home, in other words, loses its meaning, how shall we find our way Home?

Living close to the Earth, and working close to home, helps one follow a path of re-integration. Physical proximity to our ancestral planetary home allows us to slowly deepen a relationship with what’s just below our feet.

Choosing to work close to home, however, means struggling against the rip-tide current of a cash-intensive economy. Since the Industrial Revolution, we have become increasingly dependent upon goods and services that can only be obtained indirectly. And now, with corporate ad agencies artificially inflating desires, and transforming luxuries into necessities, the average American’s need for income has escalated dramatically.

Over the years, Light Morning has attempted to disengage from this tractor beam by simplifying its needs, by adopting a do-it-yourself, pay-as-you-go philosophy, and by moving toward a more labor-intensive (as opposed to cash-intensive) economy. Some of what we are learning is shared below.

For starters, we still have expenses, of course, both individually and as a community. Yet the amount we contribute toward communal expenses is kept intentionally low. A much higher proportion of the energy we offer Light Morning is in the form of labor. With the community, then, receiving a strong influx of labor energy from its crew members, the responsibility arises for managing this flow wisely.

Most people face the same basic accounting questions–How shall I allocate my precious, limited resources of time and money? What is important to me? What are my priorities? When we share our lives with others, these visceral issues are raised within the context of a relationship and help to define it, whether it be a marriage, a family, or a community.

Almost inevitably there is a give-and-take, an uneasy dance between the needs of the individual and the needs of the relationship. Through trial and error, Light Morning has fashioned a creative balance between personal autonomy and group consensus. Part of each person’s financial contribution to the community, for example, goes toward agreed-upon expenses such as food and land taxes. The rest is for discretionary expenditures, where each individual, freed from the constraints of consensus, decides what he or she feels the community most needs.

Our labor system parallels the financial system. Each of us devotes at least half a week to the basic labor needs of the community, including time spent earning what we contribute financially. The rest of the work week goes to community projects that we’re drawn to discretionarily, as well as to our personal household and income needs.

Listed below is one articulation of the core labor needs of Light Morning:

  • Construction
  • Finances
  • Firewood & Forests
  • Food Preservation
  • Fruits & Nuts
  • Garden
  • Homemaking
  • Kitchen
  • Landscaping
  • Maintenance
  • Paths & Roadways
  • Visitors

Hiding behind this rather mundane list is an exceedingly odd creature–the “living close to the Earth in a new kind of family” lifestyle that is gradually emerging here. Drawing on patterns from the past and the future, it is both deeply familiar and disturbingly alien And we are so thoroughly immersed in the lifestyle that we can hardly see it.

The list, however, does not address two critical questions. First, from among these broad categories, how do we arrive at a shared understanding of what specific projects are truly essential–day by day and season by season? And then, having reached such an understanding, how do we manage our pooled labor resources wisely and effectively? Our ability to do so will help determine the success of this multi-generational experiment called Light Morning.

Different groups use different names for their managerial roles, such as honcho, straw boss, or coordinator. We settled on focalizer because the person serving in this capacity brings into focus the image of the project, as well as the community’s enthusiasm for it. Good focalizers see the forest through the trees. They develop bifocal vision–the cultivated ability to switch back and forth between the maze-like details of a project and the bigger picture. They put the particulars into perspective.

Good focalizers also learn to hold themselves and others accountable not only for a project’s completion, but for the spirit with which it is undertaken. Many of our deeply ingrained beliefs about work need healing. This becomes evident whenever we compare our culturally inherited attitudes with those that we’re stretching to embody, such as:

  • Work is love made visible.
  • Do what you love.
  • Do what is needful.
  • Leave few loose ends.
  • Set high standards.
  • Be accountable.
  • Encourage synergy.
  • See the work as service.
  • Move into the moment.
  • Be open to coaching.
  • View the work as a dream.
  • Integrate work and play.

The earlier list of core labor needs is the what of this living-close-to-home lifestyle; the “target attitudes” listed above represent the how. Needless to say, we have a ways to go yet before we fully embody them.

When focalization is weak or non-existent, a project falters. Enthusiasm wanes. People lose sight of what’s important and turn instead to what’s urgent or extraneous. Standards are compromised, accountability avoided, community resources are poorly utilized, and community morale suffers. Effective focalization is essential, then, if Light Morning’s labor-intensive lifestyle is going to thrive.

Just as a garden or wood lot, moreover, need the motivation and continuity that a good focalizer provides, so do the community’s overall labor efforts need someone to play a similar role. We call this person the bread labor coordinator, borrowing Scott and Helen Nearing’s use of bread labor to mean that portion of one’s daily life that is devoted to meeting one’s physical needs. As the focalizers’ focalizer, the bread labor coordinator has three main tasks:

1) To help the community, at the beginning of each season and each year, to clarify its priorities. Just as individuals must decide how many days a week they can contribute to community work projects, and into which specific areas they would prefer to channel their energy, so the community as a whole must look at the resulting labor pool for the coming season and determine its priorities. There’s an intricate dance here between the focalizers’ boundless enthusiasm and the compelling illusion of limited resources. The bread labor coordinator choreographs the complexity of this dance.

2) To be responsible for the community’s labor goals, and to encourage each crew member and focalizer to do the same for their individual goals. It’s one thing to establish strong goals, and another to carry them through the thirteen weeks of a season and see them realized. During this interval, the bread labor coordinator serves as coach, role model, cheering section, and alarm clock.

3) To nurture an environment in which high standards and peer coaching become the norm. This lifestyle can be challenging! The financial and labor benchmarks, as low as they are, are often a stretch. The attitude benchmark is always a stretch. As crew members, we try to be available to one another; to offer each other support, encouragement, and accountability. Cultivating and stabilizing such an awareness is one of the bread labor coordinator’s primary goals.

Developing a labor-intensive economy, therefore, in which many of our primal needs for food, shelter, and fuel can be met more directly, and within the context of a tightly-bonded family, allows us to work close to home. And close not only to the home that Light Morning has become for us. Close to our home planet as well.

Yet, as the dictionary reminds us, closeness goes beyond physical proximity. What is being called for in these deeply troubled times is not merely an approach, but an embrace.

Living Close to the Earth: 3 — Embracing the Earth

Embracing the Earth

Tiger Swallowtail
Tiger Swallowtail

How do I re-discover my love for the Earth? We experience human love in various ways–as children, parents, lovers, and friends. Love is a binding spell. It softens hard edges, blurring the sharp distinction between self and other. It induces a paradoxical feeling of both ecstasy (standing outside myself) and intimacy (going deeply within). How might I learn to experience such feelings for the Being which nurtures and sustains me?

It was, curiously, humanity’s desire to leave the planet–a bold, high-tech journey involving space ships, moon walks, and global TV–that offered us a moment of true ecstasy. Unexpectedly, as though by grace, we found ourselves gazing at the televised image of a small, blue-green sphere, set like an emerald against the luminous darkness of interstellar space. For one shining moment, the species literally stood outside itself. The haunting beauty of that image is so profound that even now, thirty years later, we are only just beginning to assimilate it.

But what about intimacy? If technology has given us a priceless glimpse of our home planet from a distance, perhaps fantasy can suggest ways of knowing it close up, from within. Albert Einstein once observed that, “The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing knowledge.” Fantasy, like dreams, gives shape to our vague intuitions and secret longings, luring us beyond the hypnotically safe confines of the known.

During the same years that humans were first going to the moon, Patricia McKillip, inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, was writing a fantasy trilogy called Riddle Master. The story revolves around Morgon, the young land-ruler of a small island kingdom. Land-rule confers upon a land-ruler the ability, “to become one with his rural homeland, his heart and senses bound to its every living creature.”

As the story opens, Morgon seems content to be ministering to his land, with its sheep farmers, ship builders, and brewers. Ancient forces, however, that had once destroyed the realm, are re-awakening. Soon Morgon is compelled to relinquish his comfortable responsibilities and to open himself, ultimately, to the land-law of all the other kingdoms of the realm. He does so through a highly refined, almost magical use of empathy.

Like Morgon, we live in perilous times, drawn by desires and driven by dangers that are difficult to name. Heightened empathy–for one another, for other cultures and species, and for the Earth–is essential. Perhaps a dream-like fantasy, such as Patricia McKillip’s artistically crafted story, can provide both inspiration and instruction.

In the following passage, for example, Morgon lets his awareness wander into the heart of a mountain.

He let his brain become stone, rich, worn, ponderous. He drew all knowledge of it into himself, its great strength, its inmost colors, its most fragile point where he might have shattered it with a thought. The knowledge became a binding, a part of himself, deep in his own mind. Then, searching within the stone, he found once more the wordless awareness, the law that bound king to stone, land-ruler to every portion of his kingdom.

Having touched this wordless awareness, Morgon reaches deeper. With the permission of Danan, Isig Mountain’s land-ruler, he extends an empathy which has been keenly honed by prolonged inner and outer stillness.

The king left him alone. Morgon dropped the torch to the ground, watched it burn away into darkness. He stood up, not fighting his blindness, but breathing the mountain-blackness into himself until it seeped into his mind and hollowed all his bones. His thoughts groped into the stone around him, slid through stone passages, channels of air, sluices of slow, black water. He carved the mountain out of its endless night, shaped it to his thoughts. His mind pushed into solid rock, expanded outward through stone, hollows of silence, deep lakes, until earth crusted over the rock and he felt the slow, downward groping of tree roots.

His awareness filled the base of the mountain, flowed slowly, relentlessly upward. He touched the minds of blind fish, strange insects living in a changeless world. He became the topaz locked in a stone that a miner was chiseling loose; he hung upside down, staring at nothing in the brain of a bat. His own shape was lost; his bones curved around an ancient silence, rose endlessly upward, heavy with metal and jewels…

Slowly, as hours he never measured passed, he touched every level of the mountain, groping steadily upward through mineshafts, through granite, through caves, like Danan’s secret thoughts, luminous with their own beauty. The hours turned into days he did not count. His mind, rooted to the ground floor of Isig, shaped to all its rifts and channels, broke through finally to peaks buried under the first winter snows.

He felt ponderous with mountain. His awareness spanned the length and bulk of it. In some minute corner of the darkness far beneath him, his body lay like a fragment of rock on the floor of the mountain. He seemed to gaze down at it, not knowing how to draw the immensity of his thoughts back into it. Finally, wearily, something in him like an inner eye simply closed, and his mind melted into darkness.

Part of the richness of the realm is its diversity. After leaving Danan’s mountain, Morgon journeys to the wild northern wastes of Osterland, which is as different from Isig as Isig was from Morgon’s island homeland of hop vines and plow horses. But though the terrain is unfamiliar, the bonding process is the same–fierce intent, inner silence, empathy.

He stood quietly, enfolded in the Osterland night. His mind opened to all its sounds and smells and shapes. He laid his hand against the wet, rough flank of the tree and felt it drowsing. He heard the pad of some night hunter across the soft, damp ground. He smelled the rich, tangled odors of wet pine, of dead bark and loam crumbled under his feet. His thoughts yearned to become part of the land, under the light, silvery touch of the moon. He let his mind drift finally into the vast, tideless night…

Slowly he began to understand the roots of the land-law. The bindings of snow and sun had touched all life. The wild winds set the vesta’s speed; the fierceness of seasons shaped the wolf’s brain; the winter night seeped into the raven’s eye. The more he understood, the deeper he drew himself into it: gazing at the moon out of a horned owl’s eyes, melting with a wild cat through the bracken, twisting his thoughts even into the fragile angles of a spider’s web, and into the endless, sinuous wind of ivy spiraling a tree trunk.

In Patricia McKillip’s poetic, fantasy-woven world, Morgon’s remarkable empathy grows out of his ability to be still.

He had a gift for silence. When he chose, it seemed to ebb out of him, the worn silence of old trees or stones lying motionless for years. It was measured to his breathing, in his motionless, scarred hands. He moved abruptly, soundlessly, and it flowed with him as he turned.

Silence yields knowledge. Knowledge confers power. And power must be tempered, not only by understanding the implications of power, but by love. By land-love. By the wordless awareness that binds land-rulers to the Earth.

Morgon’s lessons, then, as well as his sense of urgency, are not so far removed from our own. For we, too, are wrestling with the implications of power, a power derived more from science than silence. And we, too, are learning that if this power is not to destroy us, it must be tempered with love.

I open myself to love through the use of empathy. To the degree that a strong dream, or a story like Riddle Master, encourages me to develop this faculty, to that same degree will it gradually teach me to respond to the needs of my body and to embrace the Earth–creeks, stones, crows, and trees–in a new way.

The long journey toward such an embrace is, in essence, a homecoming. As one of T.S. Eliot’s poems suggests, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring shall be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.”

Morgon awakens to this same realization. Late one night, having absorbed the land-law of yet another kingdom, he is confronted by the implacable silence of an ancient harpist.

Morgon waited for him to speak. He said nothing; he did not move. Moments wore away; still he sat with the silence of trees or earth or the hard, battered face of granite; and Morgon, listening to it, realized that his silence was not the evasion of an answer, but the answer itself.

He closed his eyes. His heart beat suddenly, painfully, in his throat. He wanted to speak, but he could not. The harpist’s silence circled him with the peace he had found deep in living things all over the realm. It eased through his thoughts, into his heart, so that he could not even think. He only knew that something he had searched for so long and so hopelessly had never, even in his most desperate moments, been far from his side.

* * *

Riddle-Master, by Patricia McKillip, was recently re-printed by Ace in 1999. It was originally published by Del Ray in three volumes–The Riddle-Master of Hed (1976), Heir of Sea and Fire (1977), and Harpist in the Wind (1979). A hardcover edition of the trilogy was also published by Nelson Doubleday under the title Riddle of Stars.

A New Kind of Family: 1 — The Underlying Assumptions

This continues the series of the Light Morning Renewal Pages, an attempt to clarify and communicate the vision and values which anchor us here. “A New Kind of Family” has three sections: The Underlying Assumptions; Five Core Social Skills; and A Social Covenant.

The Underlying Assumptions

Black Lilly
Black Lilly

A healthy community provides not only for the physical needs of its passengers and crew, but for their social needs as well. This is no small challenge! Twenty-five years has taught us that learning to love one another is far from easy.

Traditional families get some significant boosts—from the peculiar chemistry of physical intimacy; from the hormonal bonding magic between parent and child; and from the support and sanctions of society.

But the new kind of family that is emerging here at Light Morning has none of these. Nor were we drawn together by the magnetic lure of friendship, or by the economic incentives that bind employees to their workplace.

So it’s hard to describe the curiously durable glue that holds us together as a social entity. And it’s equally hard to talk about what it’s really like to live here, in this common table, transformational, high-impact style of community. It would be like trying to describe marriage to someone who’s never been in relationship. Or parenthood to a couple with no children. Both the hardships and the joys can hardly be conveyed.

What may be offered, however, are some of the understandings that we have grown into over the years. The following handful of core assumptions speak both to our past and to our pending renewal.

The first assumption is that interpersonal conflicts are unavoidable. This is true for any relationship. Whether you’re my friend, lover, co-worker, child, or spouse, I am sometimes going to say and do things that you don’t like. And you are going to say and do things that I don’t like. When these inescapable conflicts are not responded to creatively, they turn corrosive and/or explosive.

A second core assumption is that our surface problems usually have deep roots. We were raised by less than perfect parents, in a less than perfect world. The child’s remembered fears of powerlessness and abandonment, moreover, are very much alive within us. And are easily activated.

We peer out from behind our well-crafted masks of adulthood. Yet as a recent song title suggests, “the heart remains a child.” So you’re a pushy bread-labor focalizer. Or I’m not putting enough food on the table. And these surface problems will be insoluble, especially if we are unaware that they are being fueled by deeper anxieties.

The third understanding, intimately tied to the first two, is that anything unresolved from the past is re-created in the present. These highly creative “performances” are staged both inwardly and outwardly, in our dream life as well as in the dream-like world of our waking circumstances. And they are staged with varying degrees of conscious awareness. The casting director for these dramas has an unerring eye, we have learned, and is quick to cast us into the appropriate roles in each other’s plays.

This may sound like karma. But isn’t it also grace? For how better to free ourselves from the outmoded, energy-robbing, sleep-inducing patterns from our past than to re-create them in the present, where they may be healed. And especially in an environment like Light Morning, which offers at least a sporting chance for lucidity and transmutation.

A fourth premise is that we have a visceral predisposition toward fight-or-flight. This is the psychological counterpart of a biological survival instinct. It may be overt, such as unleashing a torrent of anger, stalking out of the room, or leaving a marriage or community. Or it may be more subtle, such as fantasizing violence, compartmentalizing, or engaging in denial. But whether subtle or overt, this fight-or-flight syndrome is the default setting whenever we are confronted by emotional situations that are uncomfortable or threatening

A final core assumption is that any significant transformation of these hard-wired patterns requires both willingness and skill. Developing relationship skills is essential. Without sufficient willingness, however, we won’t have the stamina to even learn the skills, let alone practice them. And where does such willingness come from—the willingness to face our interpersonal challenges with a warrior’s spirit and an open heart?

This is the question that drives us, both individually and as a community, as we explore the renewal of Light Morning. And only as we find a viscerally personal answer to this crucial question will we truly devote ourselves to the mastery of the following family-building skills.

A New Kind of Family: 2 — Five Core Social Skills

Five Core Social Skills

Currants
Currants

For the moment, let’s assume that the willingness to help build a family or team capable of withstanding the pressures of a transformational journey is already in place. Let’s say this journey resembles a mission to send men and women into space, with willingness being the fuel which catapults the crew into orbit and then allows them to maneuver the spacecraft once orbital velocity has been achieved.

Setting aside this evocative metaphor, what specific crew-building skills are needed if this new kind of family is to thrive? Below are five candidates. Some have been developed here more than others. All still need work.

Common Table—The communion of shared food stretches down through the family meals of childhood, to the infant at its mother’s breast and the umbilical intimacy of the womb, and even deeper, to mythological memories of manna and sacramental bread. To prepare food for one another, then, stirs powerful associations.

Choosing to show up for meals, despite the occasional grumpy mood or captivating project, is likewise a gesture of caring. For mealtime is, quite literally, a forum, and our common table is therefore both the primary gathering place for our family and the loom upon which the remaining binding spells may be woven.

Emotional Rapport—We don’t have to always like the people we’re living with, but we do have to learn to love them. To paraphrase scripture, while it’s no big deal to love my friends, it’s a sizable stretch to love my enemies—those playing adversarial roles in my therapeutic dramas.

But whether enemy or friend, how do I learn to love you? What skills help me develop emotional rapport? Conversation. Music. Massage. Working and playing together. The formal or informal sharing of meditation, dreams, and prayer. There are plenty of opportunities, once the need (as well as the shadow) have been acknowledged.

Conscious Projection—The third skill lies close to the heart of why we came here. “You see and feel what you expect to see and feel. The world as you know it is a picture of your expectations.” We project ourselves onto everything and everyone around us, as though onto a vast theater screen. We see the world not as it is, but as we are.

To verify this premise, viscerally and experientially, requires a mutational leap of awareness. A second great leap occurs as we introduce lucidity; as our projections become conscious. Offering such projections back and forth to one another wisely and well is a vital and delicate art form.

Creative Problem-Solving—If interpersonal conflict is unavoidable (as the first underlying assumption suggests), then how may we best respond to these inevitable conflicts as they arise? Ideally, we employ conscious projection, readjusting our expectations and perceptions until we have  internalized our adversaries and transformed our problems into opportunities.

Somewhere in between being able to fully actualize this skill, on the one hand, and remaining locked in a downward spiral of fight-or-flight, on the other, lies creative problem-solving.

While the terminologies of various problem-solving techniques differ, the basic process is the same. First the needs and feelings of each person involved in the dispute are ascertained and validated. This helps clarify the problem. Then everyone commits themselves to finding and implementing a mutually acceptable solution. And the solutions which emerge out of such a process are, more often than not, elegantly synergistic.

Peer Coaching—How does a community choose to govern itself? There’s the dictatorial mode, in which a leader says, “Do as I say.” Or where the community as an entity says, “Obey these rules.” Then there’s the “anything goes” mode, in which everyone does their own thing and you have an environment with no common goals or standards and no accountability.

Having flirted with both extremes, we find that neither is palatable. Peer coaching, the final of these five crew-building skills, offers a third option. For coaching honors the importance of goals, standards, and accountability, as well as the necessity for personal autonomy and self-motivation.

Developmental coaching lays the foundation for peer coaching. Still later we internalize this process and learn to coach ourselves. Becoming proficient in any of the four binding spells touched on above only happens as we become competent practitioners of peer coaching.

A New Kind of Family: 3 — A Social Covenant

A Social Covenant

Sunflower
Sunflower

The foregoing skills offer an amorphous group of acquaintances the opportunity to forge themselves into a new kind of family; a family that may also function as a cohesive and effective crew. Whether or not this potential is actualized depends upon the readiness of those individuals to be forged, and their diligence in acquiring the skills.

If their desire has “ripened” sufficiently, they will know (at least intuitively) that in order for their deepest dreams to be realized, synergy is essential. They will therefore make promises—to themselves, to each other, and to the living Spirit within them—to master the skills necessary to make such synergy possible. Their promises will serve as a covenant.

What is a covenant? The dictionary describes it as an agreement that is “formal, solemn, and binding.” The word solemn suggests a spiritual or religious invocation. One that is formal rather than informal. And binding rather than casual.

This succinct definition is then elaborated. A covenant is “a written agreement or promise usually under seal between two or more parties especially for the performance of some action.” The italicized words and phrases are evocative, leading into a progressively deeper understanding of how we may harness ourselves to a shared vision.

Why are covenants necessary? Living lightly on the Earth, living communally, living with transformational intent—each of these paths is strenuous. And the journey that Light Morning has embarked upon blends all three!

Along the way, we encounter fierce resistance from our personal inertia. This inertia is then projected onto the consensual restraints of a status quo society. To free ourselves from these gravitational restraints, we must fashion a special consensus. A cocoon. A space capsule. A covenant.

What might a Light Morning covenant look like? In these renewal pages we have been bringing one into focus. The labor, financial, and attitude benchmarks were clarified, as were the needs for good focalization and the role of bread labor coordinator. Five key social skills, viewed as interpersonal binding spells, were also addressed.

These binding spells must be “spelled” correctly, for each is composed of discrete, sequential steps. Only when the steps, or “letters,” are placed in the proper order may the “word” be spoken. This is true for both the bread-labor benchmarks and the social skills, as well as for the spiritual components of the covenant, which have yet to be explored.

Where does the willingness to covenant come from? Learning something new, like an unusual dance or a new kind of family, can be exhilarating. It can also be awkward, uncomfortable, and threatening. Until the strange gestures become second nature, the learning curve may seem steep and intimidating. Returning, therefore, to an earlier question, “From where do we derive the willingness to face our interpersonal challenges with a warrior’s spirit and an open heart?”

Perhaps willingness comes from gazing into an unfamiliar mirror and seeing a startlingly beautiful creature. This one brief glimpse keeps us going. Maybe our resolve is further strengthened as we’re moved to help others seek healing in a similar way.

Or perhaps we find that the core social skills are relevant to any relationship, such as marriage or parenting, and we decide to approach covenanting as an apprenticeship. We may also be motivated by the pleasures inherent in stretching, whether that stretching be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual. Perhaps we are seduced, in other words, by the joy of the journey.

Whatever its source, willingness helps us simplify our needs and live closer to “Mother” Earth. It helps us jettison some of our muscle-bound independence, and sense the guiding Presence which some traditions call the “Father”. Willingness also allows us to share our daily lives with others who are choosing to become re-acquainted with their archetypal “Parents.” It gives us the courage to covenant with them. To embrace them as brothers and sisters.

Finally, a well-activated willingness manages to stir up plenty of what we humorously refer to as UPS—Unresolved Parental Stuff. We seem to keep our local UPS driver busy. Lots of packages keep coming in! It is only by transmuting our bone-deep, “UPS” conditioning that we shall fully experience the promise of a new kind of family.