Back in spring, 2009, I did my first weekend retreat. It was with Gina Sharpe, a wonderful teacher whose home sangha is in New York City. One of the ideas she left me with was the practice of examining an action according to whether it would create chaos or community. Before I speak, will what I say, when I say it, how I say it bring us closer to together or split us further apart? Before I act, will what I do, how I do it, when I do it connect or divide? Am I choosing to operate from my ego or from my essence? Because I do have a choice. Always. It’s a powerful practice in its simplicity—it not only illuminates our space to choose based on projected outcome, but it offers the opportunity to examine the intentions we habitually base our choices on.
Gina’s teaching was six years ago. It popped into my mind last night while watching the debate. Does this statement create community or chaos? I grew increasingly disheartened as I digested the extent to which divisiveness was chosen. It may be argued that the speakers were using it to build their group of “good guys.” I began to question the meaning of community. Does community leave anyone out? Can a true community exclude (at best) and target (at worst) people deemed to not merit membership? Isn’t that chaos masquerading as community? Barry Levin reported on Rachel Maddow last night that the FBI average reported hate crimes were 13 per month for the past five years. This number is up to 33 in recent months. Examining the outcome—a recent increase in violent and terrorizing acts aimed at those who don’t belong—appears to evidence the chaos of cultivating such a ‘community.’
If we wish to choose community over chaos, Gina Sharpe’s elegant model shows us how to examine our choices before making them. By anticipating the outcome, we can choose a different action. By making conscious our unexamined motivations, we free ourselves from them in the future.
Perhaps most poignantly, as I continue this practice, I can recognize more and more what is behind my egoic, chaos-creating intentions and discover all the ways that I am just like those fellow humans on stage last night. Further expanding my view of community.