By Mark Anthony Lord
Having served thousands of people as the founder and minister of Bodhi Spiritual Center, a spiritual community in Chicago, I have seen what I would call “ailments of the soul” – far too many people walking around feeling depressed, struggling with addictions and suffering from a pervasive feeling of disconnection and loneliness. They work hard and have given much to their education and career success, but they feel empty inside.
I have simultaneously watched people become healed from these ailments by coming together to practice meditation and pray, to be inspired and uplifted. I’ve witnessed strangers quickly become lifelong friends, and I’ve watched romances blossom and turn into marriages. I’ve observed people growing through the changes of life – becoming parents, facing illness, overcoming financial challenges and healing family relationships – and they did all of this together in community.
Community heals! Community causes connections that create happiness, peace and the experience of being loved.
One memory that’s forever imprinted on my heart was watching community members gather around a fellow member, Richard, who was dying from a brain tumor. He was a young man in his mid-40s, and he was dearly loved by so many in the community.
Richard was a member of a “home group,” a group of people who meet monthly in one another’s homes to deepen intimacy and spiritual practice. This circle of eight were devastated to receive the news about Richard’s terminal illness.
It would have been easy to feign being too busy to help, especially in our society where having too much to do is the number one reason people don’t take time to care and connect. But the small group of community members didn’t do that.
These community members put aside their lives, stopped being too busy and turned toward Richard to help him in his final months. They took turns bringing food to him and his partner. They prayed with him, played games with him and gave Richard’s family relief whenever and however they could.
This circle of people, who were once strangers, used their community to heal, forever bonding them. They became Richard’s spiritual family, and they rose to the occasion, allowing love to use them. They were transformed by the experience. Five years later, this circle of people will tell you the most blessed gift they’ve been given was the chance to help another.
Being in a community can forever change your life, but you have to show up. You have to put in the time. You have to allow yourself to be known, to be loved and to give love. You will stretch beyond your comfort zone. You will think, more than once, “It’s much easier to just stay home, sit on the couch and watch TV.” And I can’t argue with you on that. It would be easier. But it would also be far, far less fulfilling.
Mark Anthony Lord is a spiritual teacher, transformational coach and the author of two books. His newest adventure, malaproject.com, is an online spiritual community dedicated to praying, meditating and having fun waking up together.