Community is like a big wheel with many spokes. I am reminded of the Medicine Wheels, or Sacred Hoops, of Native American spirituality that have been constructed by laying stones in a particular pattern on the ground. Most of them have a center cairn of stones from which lines of stones radiate in spokes to an outer ring of stones forming the periphery. These wheels are considered to be a major symbol of peaceful interaction among all living beings on Earth.
Ideally, a community would embrace this golden rule of honoring “All My Relations”. To the extent that each person in a particular community is included in a web of cooperation, understanding, and purpose, then that community seems to flourish or to wither. Wellness of the individual is inseparable from the harmony, or the unity (but not the uniformity), of the group. So the spokes of the wheel can become the different elements that contribute to its well-being.
I now look back over eighty-one years to remember my various community experiences. The earliest one took place in a big school in the north of England. Having experienced an isolated early childhood in which I had spent much time alone in my big, green backyard, I did not know how to interrelate with the other children. So I was a shy watcher for quite a long time and always felt rather overwhelmed by the numbers and the noise. But eventually I did very well there as a student, and particularly enjoyed morning assembly where we all sang a beautiful hymn together. Some of those hymns have haunted me all my life! I would say the major spokes in the wheel that sustained the well-being of this school were respect for the teachers, appreciation for what we learned, and a predominating sense of goodwill. When I had to leave at the age of eleven in order to move to a London suburb, I felt wrenched from my growing roots. Some of the spirit of this community has stayed in my heart and it still helps to guide me when I teach young children in the community where I now live.
In due course I was sent away to a girls’ boarding school in Sussex, and after that experience, school was a nightmare! This school at times resembled a Dickens’ novel in its strict and narrow ways, and we never had a solitary moment. I felt as if I were living in a world without sunlight, and became depressed just as those people who suffer from lack of winter sunlight can become depressed until the spring comes around. Only spring did not come around, and I dropped out in heart, mind, and spirit! Some essential spokes that would have contributed to our well-being were definitely missing in the wheel of this community—its stern creed of ethics needed to be complemented by a measure of encouragement and understanding, and its dry pattern of repetition crystallized what could have been the living spirit of the place. From this I learned how crippling the letter of the law without the spirit of the law can be.
Many years later, with my second husband, I discovered another type of community on an alternative island close to Vancouver Island in British Columbia. We had moved there in order to abandon the rush, push, and jostle of city life, and we found ourselves part of a loose-knit population of like-minded folks. There we joined an excellent choir, went to a free-wheeling church on Sundays that discussed spirituality but rarely dared to mention the word “God”, hosted poetry readings, went for back-packing trips with nearby neighbors, built a cabin, and became part of it all. The spokes in this island community wheel were built on neighborliness, recreational and hobby interests, growing small gardens, and fighting the forest industry that was threatening to log the remaining wild areas on the island and desecrate the wildlife there. Such a wheel can sustain one’s interest but not one’s soul! I was seeking something deeper but did not yet realize the kind of setting this would require.
During this same time-period I worked as a life-skills coach, becoming part of a close-knit working group in a Job Project that helped young people find and keep jobs after a rocky start in their lives. We had nine staff members, and we blended well. Although we achieved good results with our clients, the work was repeatedly challenging. There were some life-giving spokes in this work-based community wheel that were new to me—the goal of serving others, dealing with continuous challenge for a positive purpose, and deriving mutual support from working closely with colleagues under good leadership.
Perhaps it would seem that this purposeful work-based community, when added to my more open-ended island based community, would provide enough balance between them for a meaningful life, particularly when supplemented by frequent fun visits from my now grown-up children and their families. But I continued to long for deeper meaning and fulfillment—a spiritual element that my own personal truth-search and efforts at meditation did not sufficiently mitigate. When we are ready, it seems our destiny can come to meet us, as I did not plan for the next set of surprising circumstances.
My husband decided to finish the degree necessary to be able to teach in our local school system, and so we took what we thought was a vacation down through the western U.S. in order to look first-hand at two or three universities that only required a year more of study. On the way we stopped at a bookstore where I found a booklet on the vortices at Sedona. It described them as gateways of spiritual energy, and I immediately developed a strong desire to visit them. Because we followed this urge, the next anticipated chapter in our lives that we had so carefully planned never took place. Instead, we experienced the beginning of another story. . . .
Walking along the banks of Oak Creek in Sedona on the day before we were due to return to Canada, I met a woman who began to talk to me about the intentional spiritual community she lived in. She told me they studied The Urantia Book—which I was already reading—and that they were receiving continuing revelation as well. In an extraordinary moment of realization that transcended my sense of logic, I knew that destiny was calling me! Despite my dour memories of boarding school, my husband and I both decided to find out more. We did not go back to Canada the next day, but stayed to investigate. Within a few weeks we enrolled as students at The University of Ascension Science and The Physics of Rebellion (UASPR) and Divine Administration, which is now based in Tumacácori, Arizona.
I have now been a student of UASPR and Divine Administration for twenty years. At the hub of its life-affirming wheel is the pursuit of personal, group, and planetary transformation, and its many spokes support this ideal. Does this sound like a kind of nirvana? On the contrary it is a tough school, and even though we experience much joy of fellowship it will only really work out for those who fully desire to follow this path of spiritual commitment.
My past experiences in the job community where I was a life-skills coach gave me a grounding in how to deal with continuous challenge. However, my present community does not repeat the mistakes of my strict boarding school by embracing a static philosophy. Instead it upholds positive change, and we are all requested to shed our old snakeskins of erroneous habits just as quickly as we can. We obviously cannot effect meaningful change in the world if we do not start with ourselves, and this deliberate process of shedding our lower selves is what makes it tough as well as highly rewarding.
In my past community experiences I was able to observe varying degrees of leadership, ranging from good to poor. I am personally suspicious of leadership until the leader or leaders earn my respect because so often leaders can pursue the goal of personal power. When I first began my studies of Divine Administration principles, I learned that there was a hierarchy of leadership consisting first of the co-founders, next the rest of the eldership, and then those who had mandated positions as assistants at various levels. Below that was the broad category of “students” although in a sense everyone here is a student. I was not sure what to make of it so I adopted a wait-and-see policy. In a fairly short time I came to realize that everyone who had leadership authority had fully earned it. I saw that our two well-loved founders, Gabriel of Urantia and Niánn Emerson Chase, as well as our dedicated Elders, were able to offer us the wisdom, balance, counsel, and understanding that comes with spiritual ascension.
Over time, this impression has deepened. I see that this pyramid of leadership is very necessary for the well-being of everyone here and that without it we could not possibly have sustained our growth and vision. One balancing factor is that we are all are trained and encouraged to become leaders ourselves.
Another spoke in the wheel of this community is the implementation of procedures. These are intended to create commonsense ways of doing things for the general good, rather than having individuals just do their own thing which, with 100+ people, would make for quite a degree of chaos. At first I often found following procedures irksome, but as I moved gradually from a focus of “me” to “we”, I came to see the wisdom and the logic behind the protocol we were asked to follow.
There is a large quota of goodwill within our community, but at times conflicts do arise, as they always will when numerous human beings are gathered together. Our methods of conflict resolution represent another helpful spoke in our community wheel. The type of “care-fronting” and counseling we have developed provide a realistic training in human relationships, in which we gradually acquire greater humility and the art of being more transparent.
The kind of counseling we can also seek for personal problems encourages us to improve our relationship with the living spiritual forces in order to align with right action. It sounds Spartan, but it really works when we choose to follow it —because we then move out of victim mode and are capable of being partners with God in our own healing.
All of this requires a degree of what is commonly known as “sacrifice”, but what we are actually sacrificing are the patterns of our lower-driven selves. In return we experience an increasing sense of who we were created to be, plus a more loving group awareness that I would not have dreamed possible in my younger years. We also become more suitable vessels to incorporate change in our dark, troubled world. And that is what we came here for.
We seek to create a Sacred Hoop that is life sustaining in its many aspects. This has meant building our own eco-village, supporting ourselves from our many and diverse service-oriented programs, and sharing what we learn in these processes with all who seek to know. Among those outreach ministry programs are a hospice that gives comfort to many, a healing center that complements individuals’ wellness processes, and a legal department that supports those who are in the immigration process.
Another life-affirming spoke of our Medicine Wheel is our dedication to the arts. We are all encouraged to develop our artistic talents in order to express and share beauty, truth, and goodness. We thus reach out to the general public through our own talented musicians, visual artists, and writers, and we have our own arts center in Tucson.
Through these many aspects of our life together I have at last found a community that matches my soul-longings. With all the challenges, fellowship, vision, laughter, sweat, and tears, I realize that I have indeed found my own “tribe” within The Sacred Hoop.
My own contribution to UASPR and Divine Administration—where I have chosen to live for the rest of my life—consists of refining what and who I am, and in giving back in various forms of service. I have always loved teaching, writing, and making up songs, and now I do all three as part of this service. I teach and train other teachers at our own children’s school; I write in various genres for different readers when time is available; and I make up songs for the children’s choir, which I also direct. I am a leader, a follower, a change-agent, and a student of revelation all at the same time! This is fortuitous as it creates a rounded, unwritten curriculum of personal development for me! I can feel the yeast of goodness working within our community of diverse people who have united in their spiritual goals. Although expansion through the dynamics of change and growth is often uncomfortable, it is also wonderfully recharging for my heart and mind.
Perhaps I have always longed at some unrecognized level to be with others in this way. I am reminded of the words of Cecil Spring-Rice in one of those hymns that I used to enjoy singing at my first school. These words speak of the vision of light and life for the greater community of the whole world. It is the vision of The Sacred Hoop fulfilled:
And there’s another country, I’ve heard of long ago,
Most dear to them that love her, most great to them that know;
We may not count her armies, we may not see her King;
Her fortress is a faithful heart, her pride is suffering;
And soul by soul and silently her shining bounds increase,
And her ways are ways of gentleness and all her paths are peace.