Recently, I have been ruminating on the value of different kinds of community. The first six years of my life were spent in the midst of my maternal East Prussian grandparents’ large Seventh Day Adventist family—one of the lesser known religions targeted by Gestapo. There were 8 children, my mother the oldest, and I was the only grandchild at that time. In spite of grace and the gift of co-operation that helped most of the family to survive both the Hitler and Stalin regimes, family connections were torn apart in many different ways as each member, more or less, found his or her own healing path.
As displaced Europeans, my parents and I left the community of our extended families on both sides and moved to the USA. In my early immigrant years—as an only child separated from the protective sense of a larger group— I felt isolated in my efforts to learn a new language and culture. Much later, after meeting Sri Swami Satchidananda Yogiraj, the community atmosphere and enthusiastic co-operation of a spiritual family that he encouraged was extremely rejuvenating and strengthening for me.
I eventually learned, however, that a community, if it is to be fully viable, also needs to acknowledge disparate elements. Humans are seldom in complete agreement with each other, and that is not even desirable. Open minded, honest discourse increases a community’s capacity for growth.
Today, at the border of a 1960s California housing development and a Wild West nature habitat, we have been observing a group of visiting quail. They remind me of a well functioning community. This morning, I had thrown out some sunflower seeds; yet, the quail remain peaceful, without getting in each others’ way. They exhibited a natural restraint as well as co-operation. I enjoy watching them, especially during these current times when there seems to be a pervasive atmosphere of national anxiety.
And so the quail inspire me to practice a loving kindness meditation: “May I forgive all who have harmed me. May I be forgiven for any harm I may have caused to others. May I be peaceful. May I be happy. May I have ease of body and mind. May all sentient beings be peaceful. May all be happy. May all have physical and mental ease.”
—Om Tat Sat.
Gudrun Mouw is the author of From Ashes Into Light which won the 2017 Living Now Award for Inspirational Fiction as well as 6 other awards. Find out more here.