Deep Community

Artwork by Bryce Widom

Artwork by Bryce Widom

Have you noticed lately how much talk there is around real, authentic, community? The word community is gaining momentum and it appears that many folks are ready and hungry to belong to new kind of community.

Here are some important questions for all us to consider when thinking about community:

  • What does community mean?
  • What kind of community do you want and what is its purpose? What end will it serve for you?
  • Is a real, authentic, conscious community even possible?
  • What the hell do words like “real,” “authentic” and “conscious” even mean?
  • Is it possible to live in a community free of shame and guilt?
  • Can we create communities where when we hurt one another (because we will), we are able to stay in relationship, clean it up, and work through our differences?

I don’t know the answers to these questions but I do have a HUGE bias coming from a relational perspective.  I’d like to hear yours below. (For example, Robert masters wrote a long-winded piece on the subject of “authentic community” that is well worth the read. Alexis Neely asks a solid question in her latest blog post here.) Share other community links please!

For the sake of this post, let’s talk about the word community as a verb, not as a noun. Because if we talk about it as a fixed destination, we might perpetuate the trap of magical thinking mentioned below. So, community is a process, much like an fertile garden, a means to an end.

We will likely be more fulfilled in our lives if we find a community that supports our deepest, truest Self, one that serves to undermine our habitual patterns, desire for approval, and other defensive games, and one that allows us to give our gifts fully. To me, this is the kind of community I am a part of and one I want others to have. I feel grateful to have found a deep community I love that that feeds me emotionally, mentally, spiritually, and socially.

In a nutshell, my community serves to help me awaken to who I really am. For now, I’m playing with the term “deep community.”

Healthy Inner Family = Deep Community?

What if a real, conscious community was an attempt to recreate an ideal family? If we are not mindful, this will likely happen. But maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Since most of us grew up in dysfunctional families, we long (consciously and unconsciously) to be in a safe (emotionally, physically, spiritually) environment where the big talk of love actually matches the behaviors. A place where we were free to be ourselves, completely. Where we were accepted and embraced for who we are. A place beyond shame and shutting down one’s emotions or essence.

Does such a place really exist?

What if, in order to create the ideal family or community, we must first grow up the fragmented family living inside of us? In other words, if we want a functional community on the outside, we must practice each day to “clean up” the dysfunctional family on the inside.

This is certainly true in my marriage and with my two children. In order for my kids to thrive in my home and feel safe and loved, I am constantly attending to the dysfunction occurring inside of me and working to heal myself.

We also need to be mindful of the traps inherent in attempting to create an ideal community (outer family). Here are three main traps I see:

1. Magical Thinking

If we are not careful, we could answer the questions above from the perspective of child that lives within us. In other words, let’s acknowledge that the little boys and girls in us want the perfect, omniscient, safe, “place” where we feel good all the time and no one ever gets upset or hurt. Those young parts also want ideal parents that make everything safe for us. “If we only had ________ then ________.” This line of magical thinking is ultimately disempowering and a trap for ourselves and other.

We also might hope for a community free of conflict, pain, judgment and suffering. But if we look around, namely to our own experience, most of us will agree that suffering is unavoidable in life. Not only that, it’s part of what makes us human and always gives us the opportunity to grow

What if, rather than making us feel accepted or “good”, the entire point of a community is to help us become a separate, yet connected, integrated, whole human being?

And, any time we think the ideal set of circumstances will make everything okay, we are back to magical thinking.

2. Cynicism and Judgment

At the same time, if we dismiss the possibility that it is really attainable to create a conscious, sustainable, high-functioning, loving community, then we risk becoming jaded and cynical and might lose a real opportunity to be in genuine relationships for the long haul where we really are free to be ourselves, enter conflict and challenges while staying in relationship being intact, and still feel love and connection.

3. Being Rigid or Vague

Another risk of course is being so exclusive we miss the helpful mirroring people we may not like provide for us. Of course, we also get to choose who we like and who we don’t. Following the natural chemistry can make all the difference.

For example, I’m not a part of an “intentional” community, a spiritual group, or any formal group really. My community has naturally arose from years of making connections with people I have natural chemistry with. Liking and loving folks in my community is a personal preference I get to have.

For now this works wonderfully and I love my circle. At the same time, I can, and likely will, go further with my community (living together, sharing food, gardens, shared childcare, shared currency, and perhaps going completely local as consumers).

Or let’s say we don’t really know where we stand or what to do, so we become followers that get whisked away in a community that might not really serve our greater good. Or what if we are so “open” we claim we don’t need structure, a container, or accountability. Then we are back to creating fertile ground for a shadow element to take hold.

Failure inevitable unless…

Our most noble attempts will fail if the two points below are not taken into consideration. My experience is that if people are not willing or able to work out their differences, any brilliant vision will fail, people will leave feeling hurt, blamed, shamed, and egos will be bruised and shaken, and rifts will widen.

In my own community we are not living together, many of us several miles apart, but the one thing that holds us together is a shared language and a willingness to work through our inner family dynamics and our external differences.

Even though we are not living together in the community I’m a part of, my kids feel “safe” with everyone in my community to the point where I would leave my children for days with nearly every friend. That’s a good sign because the kid inside of me feels safe in the same way (inner family).

We all long to belong and be a part of a tribe, a real family where acceptance and love are actually practiced and not given lip service due to everyone’s neurotic limitations. And because of this longing, we must not expect the community to save us or make us feel better.

In conclusion, if we want to create a deep community we must:

  1. See community as a verb—a living, breathing organism that is constantly changing. It is a vehicle to return to the experience of wholeness.
  2. Acknowledge that we have a dysfunctional community (our inner family) living inside of us and commit to using the external community (outer family) as THE place to heal that fragmentation and become whole again.

If we strongly consider these two points as foundational, I think we’ll be well on our way.

Sure, there are hundreds of structural pieces well beyond this post, but a basic foundation is everything. Plus, I’m not the architect. I’m a relationship guy, one who helps those wanting to mature and deepen their connections thus strengthening their communities.

Your thoughts on this community stuff?


  • Marc Quinn

    Reply Reply March 7, 2011

    I have long thought about the idea of community and how it could grow here in London. It has been simmering in me for a while. It was only my recent trip to the US (and at the EMC) that had me decide to make a move on it. This choice was made simply from the perspective of “I feel alone in this. Many others do. AND, nobody else is going to do it”.

    So I've began to create focal points around which this community can grow. Because I want it. And so do many others. One shift that came for me this weekend was that I was not seeing myself as “acting from the whole” (that wants to be born, but is not yet) so it came very much about me me me. Huge trap, but inevitable. I keep having to bring it back to that as I'm going to forget it 100 more times.

    “What do I really want?” feels like the right question.

    I want a conscious community where men and women can come, enjoy the connection with others, and share themselves and be fully, completely seen and understood. It is these communities that can really help each other grow their lives, and I want to communicate to people that who they are, and what they do with their lives, and how they are being, is the most important thing to cultivate to feel happy and loved.

    AND…I hope others can help me to grow that idea also!! If I end up creating it on my own, it's just not going to work…and I simply don't want that kind of responsibility. I ain't no stinkin' guru 🙂

    Thanks for writing this, Jayson!! Very timely for me, right now!!

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 7, 2011

      yes yes yes brother!

      I so trust you to help co-create a stellar community where others can see and be seen. Thank you for doing the work to get to where you are.

      BIG respect,

    • Jen

      Reply Reply March 29, 2011

      Hi Marc, I am part of a community that runs community building workshops as described by M Scott Peck, we are also doing experimental work to make this 20 odd year old process easier to understand and apply outside of the workshop. A workshop reliably delivers people to community, and we really want to find other applications as it is an amazing foundational and ongoing tool for discovering the state of community and maintaining it. Please visit our website and contact us if you are interested in what we are doing, and would like to join us in any way.

  • Owen Marcus

    Reply Reply March 7, 2011

    Jayson your questions about community are very relevant for me. Six years ago I started the first men’s group here in Sandpoint in large part because I wanted a community. The one group evolved into three groups. Beyond men’s life changing – the real success is seen in the growing community that was created out of the groups.

    I knew first for myself, then the men in the groups and now their families we are “re-parenting” our past families. It is an interesting dance between not being ‘a family’ and acknowledging all the incompletions of our families of origin will come up.

    Particularly as a man starts the group he projects his unfinished family issues on to the group. I see that as a good thing. In large part because every one of us has gone through that, when a new man arrives doing that the group rolls with it. We all continue to heal our past as each new man brings his.

    After a couple of years of healing, building trust and the men impacting their families – their families started to participate in more and more activities. Our partners come to our Sweat Lodges, families come to pot-lucks and parties, and when one of the group members does a presentation in the community our families show up.

    I have everything I wanted and more in our community within a community. I have the emotional expression I didn’t have in my family, I have a community that feels like home, I get to participate in the raising of all the kids in our community and I know there are men and their partners who have my back.

    I wanted to believe all this was possible. Until it started occurring I wasn’t sure if we could do it. I count being a part of forming this community as one of the biggest accomplishments of my life. It might not be a large community with it 50+ men, partners and kids. It is a deep community growing organically impacting our larger community. I couldn’t have asked for more.

    Thank you for writing your post. Community is huge for me and I like to believe for others. I believe we need to foster the development of these deep communities that reframe our past families while providing for the simple love we all need.

    I see our shared work we do in supporting men is also supporting the development of these deep communities. Your post is an excellent outline of where to start. Maybe what we are in is not a ‘new men’s movement’, but a community movement.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 7, 2011

      Owen, congrats for doing the work to get what you want/deserve. I feel inspired reading your words here and motivated to continue to offer the stuff I do.

  • alexisneely

    Reply Reply March 7, 2011

    This is great discussion on community Jason. Your two conclusions are right on. The biggest challenge and the greatest opportunity we have is to discover how to handle conflict that will most certainly arise inside the community as reflections of our own internal conflict. “What if, rather than making us feel accepted or “good”, the entire point of a community is to help us become a separate, yet connected, integrated, whole human being?” Amen.

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 9, 2011

      Thanks Alexis, Blessings on your gathering tonight. Thanks for doing your part and leading the way you do!

  • Jason W Digges

    Reply Reply March 7, 2011


    This post strikes a nerve for me. I came to boulder to find conscious community 7 years ago… I found it, but it wasn't perfect and there was difficulty and disappointment involved. Thats about the extent of my shared experience with you… I have a perspective thats different then yours, and disagrees in many places. My aim is to put that forth respectively.

    Community is a place where your BELONGING NEEDS get met, but I wont be taking an attitude like: 'What end will it serve for me?' or 'Is a real, authentic, conscious community even possible?'

    Asking these question seem to me like a surefire way to lock yourself into the cycle of neediness and disappointment.

    Community is a place you can give your gifts, learn and serve. This orientation to community lights up the ACTUALIZATION NEEDS that are operating on a higher level of consciousness. You still might experience disappointment if your gifts aren't fully received, but at least your contributing!

    Also, from a non-dual perspective the only way to bring conscious community into the world is to become it. To live it. This means that your not looking for it, your not trying to create it, and your certainly not asking; Do I have it? and Where can I get it?

    Here's a MUCH better question: How do I follow in the footsteps of sages and saints who taught that Shambala, the Promised Land, and Conscious community is my birthright. How can I live this everyday knowing that it is already here? another: What blocks are in me to seeing the REALITY of conscious community all around me?

    These are much more difficult questions to ask, they are dissonant to the ego and its plan to gain something and attach itself to what it has gained.

    I also disagree with or don't understand the 2nd point of your 'foundation'. I hope Im not engaging in semantics, but here is what my experience tells me:

    Community is THE place where we can see our shadow and begin to come to terms with it, IF we are earnestly looking at ourselves with honesty AND we invite feedback from others to help illuminate the things that are hard to look at.

    After this crucial step of identification of issues, relying on community as the place you get healing and return to wholeness seems really off to me. Isn't that kinda like relying on your spouse to make you a better person? Really the only thing they can do is point out the shadow and tell you how it impacts them.

    Ultimately wholeness comes from taking 100% responsibility for all energy, karma, and shadow that is in your soul and not leaning on others, but realize that you were created uniquely to live out that path. Also to realize that the shadow wont go away. It can't be healed, only integrated.

    The foundation that I believe will provide a Right View of community must be integral. Inside and outside must be addressed, individual and collective can't be conflated… and the vertical development of a community must be seen and assessed.

    My inquiry is:
    “What level of conscious am I brining to my engagement with my community?
    “Am I asking what my community can do for me? or what I can do for others?”

    • Jayson

      Reply Reply March 7, 2011

      Jason. thanks for your input.

      You bring up some important points to be sure, most of which I find myself contracting around and pulling back. Feels patronizing and condescending. Thanks for reminding me that I too am this way.

      I'm trying to put my finger on the shadow in your words. Hmmmm. Sadly, I find myself dismissing much of what you say due to this comment: “…Must be Integral”

      I wonder if there is a bypass here? Most of us are not living in the NON-dual.

      Integral is one of the more judgmental and dysfunctional communities I've experienced. R. Masters and I have spoke a lot about this and I appreciate what he has to say on this subject. You make a classic integral comment. Please show me/us the Integral community that is rockin' it for years on end. Also, please take responsibility for the way you are making your point here.

      At this point, I don't trust you can engage in a conversation about this without bypassing. I imagine this is how I would feel if I were in an actual relationship with you.

      • Jayson

        Reply Reply March 9, 2011


        A friend just called me on being dismissive with Jason above. True.

        My triggers with Jason go way back. so, really you are seeing my issues with him, much more than what he's saying. Interesting right?

        Jason, I judge you as bypassing. In my judgment I see my arrogant self in you and how I think I'm better than others, which is why so many “integral” people trigger me with that attitude, because it lives in me too. Ouch. Thanks for the reminder.

      • Richard Furr

        Reply Reply March 9, 2011

        I think the application of integral theories to other groups is separate from the functionality of the actual integral community. IMHO, the integral community is really heady(5ish) so not much of the stuff actually gets applied in the real world, mostly just thought about/analyzed. I think the theories and those of clare graves still apply to communities who don't know about the theories and are still useful if made actionable and applied.

  • AJ

    Reply Reply March 7, 2011

    Thanks for writing this Jayson.

  • Lion

    Reply Reply March 8, 2011

    Brother David Steindl-Rast said this about living in a spiritual community (he's a Benedictine Monk of high repute): It's like a rock tumbler. Put one rock in a tumbler and nothing happens. Put two rocks in, and every once in awhile, they bump up against each other and knock a rough edge off. Put a bunch of rocks in there, and they're constantly bumping up against each other, knocking off rough edges, until they're all smoothed out…”

    Our community of men, The Tribe of Men (, is now about 100 strong, and we focus on our work of challenging each other to live up to our Principles. With this strong focus, we do well, even when conflict emerges. I also live in a community of 5 other people, and I have to agree with Brother David – we're always finding ways of bumping into our own and each others' stuff…

  • Graham Phoenix

    Reply Reply March 8, 2011

    Jayson, thank you for a thought provoking post. I have to be honest to start with and say that I have never sought the kind of community you talk about, not consciously, it's just not how I live, or have lived, my life. Yet my life is, and always has been, about community. I think the process of community has been constant and abiding for me.

    The process of community, for me, is about intersecting communities that ebb and flow throughout my life. I live at the point where they all meet. There is my family of origin, the family I created for most of my life, the new family I am now creating. There are the changing communities around work and career, from the families of people I have worked with or employed to the global groups I have joined and fostered. There are the interest groups I have belonged to from church groups and meditation circles to 12-step groups. There are the people I spend time with and the people I connect with digitally.

    I am now spending much of my time fostering community among men, not because it is a livelihood for me but because it is a group I need and can contribute to. This is the key to community in my life. A community is a group of people that fulfil a need or desire I have, whether it's for connection, mutual aid or growth, and a group that I can contribute to or just be together with.

    I think the difference I see is that the complexity and layering of life needs the same complexity and layering in community. I could not see one community fulfilling the multiplicity of interests and needs that make up me, or any other person.

    To some extent this means that I have a greater need to resolve my dysfunctions in myself rather than relying on others to do this for me. I see my emotional and psychological health as critical in being part of any sense of community. I need to take responsibility for myself and how I behave, not ask a community to do it for me. Paradoxically it is this layering of communities that enables me to do this. It allows me to shift and change through my stages of growth and development. I don't have to break with my community because it no longer serves me, or I it, I just shift the emphasis in my life.

    In regard to your two final points. I agree partially with the first, the sense of community as a process through which we see, rather than return, to wholeness. But the second one I take some issue with. Community is not the place to heal, it is the place we seek and understand the reference points in our life. Community should constantly challenge us to be whole and help us to understand what we need to do to become whole. The healing and wholeness, however, must come from within ourselves, our inner family.

    I believe in inter-dependent families and communities, they rely on us being comfortable with ourselves first. Co-dependent families and communities rely too much on each other to fulfil their needs, stripping people of the responsibility to do the healing in themselves. My new relationship works because we have both worked on the healing before we met, we both take responsibility for our own healing and we are both happy to help the other see how they can grow if they want to take the necessary steps.

    I don't know what a real, authentic, conscious community is. I only know that communities are like people, they grow, they become strong, they weaken and they die. The people in them create them with what they bring to them as people as well as what they take out of them. They are no more real, authentic and conscious than people are.

  • Jeremy Way

    Reply Reply March 14, 2011

    Awsome Jayson, I don't think I've ever contemplated community as a verb, which seems kind of odd, having been part of intentional communities. How did you come about the verb peice, did you arrive at that on your 'own' or is it directly from some other source? Just curious. Take care man, peace

  • Jen

    Reply Reply March 29, 2011

    Hi Marc, I am part of a community that runs community building workshops as described by M Scott Peck, we are also doing experimental work to make this 20 odd year old process easier to understand and apply outside of the workshop. A workshop reliably delivers people to community, and we really want to find other applications as it is an amazing foundational and ongoing tool for discovering the state of community and maintaining it. Please visit our website and contact us if you are interested in what we are doing, and would like to join us in any way.

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