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  January 6, 2003

The Healing Environment - Part 4: Creating Community

The knowledge of how and where to heal comes from inside us. Every cell has this innate knowledge, but the expression of that knowledge is held back by the biochemical and behavioural blockages of repression. Like water behind a dam and the tears behind our eyes, however, the pressure of the innate drive to heal will mount until it pours forth.

The healing process expands from the inside out, and it creates more substantial environments to contain itself while healing continues. Once a strong connection is made with a primary support person or therapist, healing often expresses itself in a drive to connect with others who are more emotionally open. These may be other group members from the therapist's circle, primallers from other groups and primal circles, or members of on-line primal support groups.

Through their more balanced behaviour, activities, and conversations, primal people also influence others who are less emotionally open. Many times they will kindle intimate loving relationships with others who are not yet involved in conscious healing. Family and friends are sometimes influenced and become more open and receptive.

When primal people find a few others with whom they can be themselves, it usually feels like a tremendous gift. They will often cherish their small circle and carry on in the larger society within this protective bubble. Even in this oasis, however, the process of healing continues to call for something more. Nature does not know the concept "good enough." If a plant needs a certain amount of sun to reach its full potential, it keeps stretching its branches upward. It's not a matter of thinking, it's a matter of being all that you are.

A doctor's mental image of a healthy bone informs her about the proper healing of a fracture, and the innate "image" of human health informs us intuitively as to the optimum human environment. It's like an old dream that won't go away. It's the thing that pulls people towards groups of other people, whether in churches, clubs, or stadiums. It's the longing for family, tribe, and community.

Community is the form in which humans are fully themselves, just as colonies, flocks, herds, and packs are the form in which other animals are fully themselves. There is a part of us that always wants that, even if our own painful experiences of dysfunctional families and groups have hardened our hearts.

It is in healthy, feeling community that we can fully be ourselves and heal most efficiently. A.S. Neill first believed that Reichian therapy would be the main healing force at his Summerhill school community. He came to find that children became happier and more balanced simply by living in a community that allowed them to be themselves. Healing is not something we do to people, it is something that happens all by itself - if it is supported.

When the IPA gathers once a year for six days, even that short "gathering of the tribes" has a profound effect on participants. Inevitably people say, "Why don't we create a place where we can be together all year round?" Since my involvement with the back-to-land movement in the 70s, I've heard the same ancient wish spoken again and again.

I am still interested in supporting and being a part of some form of larger, functioning community. The difference now is that I do not believe lasting, healthy communities are created by overt strategic planning. I believe they occur naturally as an expression of innate healing and through the warm personal attachments between feeling people. First there is one feeling person, then two, then ten, then twenty - and the community is a human reality that simply needs to be further organized.

A functional community does not necessarily require communal land ownership, but its members do need to live close to one another and be involved socially - and economically if possible. Although many community models are workable, any format chosen must be based on the essential needs for deep respect, appreciation, non-judgment, equality, and honest emotional expression.

In essence, a healing community organically exemplifies ancient formats of egalitarian tribal organization. All members are open to one another, and all members support one another - especially in difficult times and conflicts. Conflicts are seen as messages of imbalance to be addressed and worked through, not behaviours to be censured and stamped out. Rather than crushing conflicts under the dogmatic operating structure or belief system, conflicts can be a process that actually alters that operating system. Like the cultures and spiritual expression of aboriginal nations, healing communities are fluid and open to the essential element of change.

With the support of a community healing environment, we can drop our defenses and grow toward our natural way of being. This is not a way of being that is directed by the dogma and expectations of a group, but a way of being that is directed from within ourselves that is both accepted by - and can transform - the group. It is the way of living things.

Imagine . . .

• a place where you are greeted each morning by people who respect and appreciate you as you are.

• a place where you will be supported in your healing process with individual sessions, groups, and all the regular, caring, interpersonal contacts that happen every day.

• a place that fulfills your physical needs and security in exchange for your involvement and effort.

• a place where you can receive as much safe affection as you need.

• a place where you can express your talents, work, and get involved in activities that are meaningful and helpful to you and the community at large.

• a place where you are free from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

• a place where you are free to express your perceptions, feelings, creativity, and desires in responsible ways (that don't suppress the safety and freedom of others).

• a place where people will honestly, directly, and respectfully engage personal and community conflicts in a primally responsible way.

• a place where you can finally be yourself.


You may say I'm a dreamer,
but I'm not the only one,
I hope some day you'll join us,
And the world will live as one.

- John Lennon

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