Spirituality is an essential facet of any culture, intentional community or a conscious individual’s life. While there is not a single spiritual path that everyone here at GaiaYoga Gardens shares, there is something at a spiritual level that helps guide us and bonds our community together. In fact, one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced in “designing” our culture is clarifying and manifesting a spiritual community “glue.” One that keeps us together, but also supports diversity and change in peoples’ spiritual practice, focus and realization.
The primary filter we are monitoring in regards to spiritual philosophies or practices is whether or not they support a sustainable and holistic lifestyle. In other words, does the spiritual path support wholeness in the individual and does it support their ability to fully incarnate their human “beingness” as a member of a spiritual community.
There are many spiritual traditions that subtly or not so subtly discount or invalidate parts of our humanity. Examples of this are the concept of original sin in Christianity or this punishing god found in the Old Testament or the Koran. Many Eastern traditions are interpreted to be saying that the world is simply an illusion or maya and must be transcended. That being incarnated is a fundamental problem or fall from the divine. This often leads to psychic and emotional violence against the body and inner child.
There are traditions that see a schism between (life / manifestation / the feminine / change / form / birth-death) and (God / The Self / emptiness / Consciousness). When people hold this schism and value consciousness over manifestation this often leads to fragmentation and even self-violence in the practitioner. There is still value in teachings that have this orientation, but we want to be clear about it as a community and see the overall ramifications of these teachings.
We actually have a lot of discrimination at GaiaYoga Gardens around spirituality. And while there are numerous paths we support and trust that serve the practitioner in coming to greater wholeness, soul-development, and spiritual realization, we see there are definitely paths that actually lead away from this, despite their “marketing” to the contrary.
It’s important that we are able to have open, respectful but challenging conversations around spirituality with people who stay here and that people are open to looking at their spiritual approach from a “permaculture perspective.” By this we mean looking at the design and basic structure of the spiritual approach and seeing if it actually produces the results you want and is actually sustainable over time. Does it actually support the integration of God and Goddess or Consciousness and Love/Energy? Does it support a functional, healthy, aware life?
In simplest terms, we see that there are two primary faces of Spirit. The Divine Masculine – which is the Consciousness, Witness, or emptiness sought through many forms of meditation – and The Divine Feminine – which is the energy of birth-life-death often sought through sacred sexuality, art, prayer, dance, music and ritual. We encourage people to engage in a spiritual practice that serves to integrate the Divine Masculine and Divine Feminine, that values both, and helps us deepen our realization and manifestation of this union.
Teachings and practices we’ve found to support this kind of spiritual community orientation include: Waking Down, Nonviolent Communication, some pagan rituals, 12-step recovery, Re-Evaluative Co-Counseling, nature communion, shamanic journeying, plant-spirit-medicine ceremonies, Tantra, The Michael Teaching, guided visualizations, prayer, Qigong, Tai Chi, and various yoga and meditation techniques. There are many others we are open to embracing but with which we are not as familiar.
While we don’t fully embrace any of the well-established “world religions,” (Buddhism, Christianity, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, etc.) we appreciate aspects in all of them. We find spiritual wisdom and support in many of the world religions and also in the more recent teachings of Osho, Adi Da (Da Free John), Ammachi, Saniel Bonder, Rumi, Malidoma and Sobonfu Somé (The Dagara People), native Hawaiian spirituality and many other indigenous spiritual traditions from around the world.
We also distinguish between “soul development,” “spiritual practice” and “spiritual realization.” We consider “spiritual realization,” to be the realization of The Divine Masculine (The Witness or Seat of Consciousness). In Adi Da’s language this is a 6th Stage Realization and in Saniel Bonder’s language this is The Witness Awakening. This realization is then integrated with The Divine Feminine, so that instead of a duality between Consciousness and matter/energy/life, there is the realization of the seamlessness between these at first apparently different aspects of being. Adi Da calls this the 7th Stage realization and Saniel calls this The Second Birth. Each of these two realizations are fundamentally something that occur once and then you have for the rest of your life. Like the way you are born once (essentially realizing the reality of incarnation) or learn to ride a bike once, or reach sexual maturity once. Spiritual practice is what we do to achieve spiritual realization. Many people get “stuck” in their spiritual practice because they are following a dharma or practice that doesn’t actually effectively lead to spiritual realization, BUT is effective at cultivating various qualities of soul development.
There often leads to a lot of confusion around the difference between what we call spiritual practice and what we call soul development. To discriminate, Soul Development practices are the things people do that grow our souls, develop our human potential, heal psychic, emotional, and soul wounds, grow compassion, increase Tantric, kundalini, and subtle energy movement, cultivate inner peace, self-connection and a quiet mind, etc. Soul development is a life-long process that in many ways has no finish line. For example, we might be able to maintain self-connection in relationship to our friends, but lose self connection (get triggered) with our children. This is a place to practice more soul development, but not necessarily a place to do spiritual practice, per se.
Our dream here at GaiaYoga Gardens is to create a holistic community (not a spiritual community) that integrates Spirit, self, community and Earth in a full and sustainable manner. Obviously, spirituality is an essential part of this. While many communities have spirituality at their core, for us the core is slightly different. Our core is balance itself, wholeness itself, integration itself – the approach we call GaiaYoga. We’ve seen many spiritual communities that are actually out of balance because of an “over focus” on spirituality (and therefore an under focus on other areas of life). This “over focus” is a structural issue that becomes possible when spirituality dominates over balance itself, wholeness itself, integration itself. So, while spirituality is an essential aspect of our life here, it is held in the same esteem as self, community, and Earth.
The greatest gift we offer people here is spaciousness. There’s real space here to fall into yourself, to unwind and have the time and support to explore your spirituality and find what is true for you. If you have any questions about our approach to spirituality at GaiaYoga Gardens please feel free to ask us.
One more thing worth mentioning is that most people have a concept of what a spiritual community looks like. GYG almost certainly will NOT fit that picture. Both Melekai and Ano are not in the active “spiritual” seeker or traditional “spiritual” practice phase of their lives. They are much more karma and bhakti yogis than meditation practitioners, chanters, hatha yogis, etc. Their two biggest yogas is “parenting yoga” and “community and culture co-creating yoga” which is very time consuming! Because most people associate those type of spiritual practices with what a spiritual person should look like, many people are disappointed or confused by what they see here. But it is actually the foundation of spiritual and holistic practice and realization that allows them to do what they are doing here. It’s inherent, not overt.
You can think of it this way: When I was learning to ride a bike I spent hours practicing, falling down, getting up again, riding a bit, falling down, etc. It was a big focus of my life. When I was learning to sing, I took voice lessons, I practiced scales, vowels and pitch, breathing, etc. for hours upon hours. Once I could sing in a way that pleased me I stopped practicing all the time. Eventually I hardly practiced at all, except for warming up before performing or recording. Spiritual practice is no different. Spiritual practice is meant to lead to spiritual realization. Like riding a bike or singing, once you “get” it, it’s yours for the rest of your life. You don’t have to keep practicing. You just live a life integrated with the realization of The Divine. You just ride and sing as you’re inspired. Seen from this light, having a spiritual practice (or a soul development practice in a particular area) isn’t really a sign that someone is more spiritual, it’s a sign that their connection to Spirit needs support or that they need to develop their soul in a particular area. If the connection to the Divine Masculine, Divine Feminine and our own soul is stable and strong, we can just live a spiritual/holistic life and enjoy it. This may or may not look “spiritual” on the outside. But the proof is in the realization of the person and the amount of energy and consciousness they bring to life, not in how much time they spend each day or week doing “spiritual” things.
If you come here, we invite you to look past your ideas of what “spiritual” looks like and acts like. We invite you to realize that there is a very deep and mysterious process alive here that is guided by and rooted in Spirit – but it’s almost certainly not what you think it will look like.