Changing Community Chi

Tom Bender
© 15 September 1998

There are many kinds of chi to be dealt with in improving our resonance with the world we inhabit. There is heavenly or cosmic chi - the influences from other places and dimensions of existence. There is earthly chi - the variations of natural energy in a physical setting. There is personal chi that we bring to our surroundings - our heritage, intentions, and dreams. And there is another kind of chi, community chi, which is often ignored when we focus solely on the energetics of our personal living and working places.

Community chi is the glue of culture - the result of values, beliefs, and energy reflected back to us from our human surroundings. It is the joy or fear we feel walking down a street at night or being approached by a lover or a stranger in the dark. It is the dread or excitement we feel as we enter a school, or hospital, or government building. It is the emptiness or fullness we feel as we leave a church, shrine, or temple. It is the shared meaningfulness or emptiness of our lives which we gain from our surroundings, communities, and culture. That in turn comes from whether and how they embody, both operationally and symbolically, a profound relationship with the rest of Creation and a role of value in our universe.

Our surroundings act as perfect mirrors to our beliefs and values. And it is not only what they reflect but what they don't reflect which communicates to us our community chi, which creates resonance in our hearts, and which nurtures our personal and community health and energy. Those gaps and silences, those darknesses where nothing is reflected when something should be reflected, are possibly the most essential aspects of community chi to be dealt with if we are to create wholeness in our lives and society.

Let's look at death for example. Death is an essential part of the cycles of life. It is the gateway between the material and energetic planes of existence. It is the compost out of which richer life evolves. It is the place where we often most deeply feel the bonds of connection with people and things that suddenly are no longer a part of our material world. And in a culture of growth and materialism where newness and youth are worshipped, it is feared, fought against, denied in all possible ways, and dealt with in frightening superficiality when it inevitably occurs.

CELEBRATE DEATH! Only when we acknowledge its wonder and value can we begin to see how we have shunned it in every aspects of our surroundings as well as our lives and culture. We begin to see then how to honor and celebrate it and bring greater richness to our lives and to the energy of our communities. We begin to design buildings which become richer and more mellow under the patina of time and aging. We begin to design gardens and landscapes that honor the full cycles of new fresh life, blossoming and fruiting, ripening, aging, death and rebirth.

Nurse logs become a symbol of new life emerging out of death. We incorporate the beauty of decay and transformation in our gardens. We begin to give proper prominence to hospices, funeral chapels, and other facilities dealing with death. We learn to create them as gateway structures - places where we can reflect, summate, say our farewells, grieve, and honor the losses, the gains, and both the living and the dead. We make place for the rituals of departure.

We can also begin to create places which assist connection between our world and the spirit world - where we can connect with the wisdom of our ancestors and other life. We begin to acknowledge and honor the lives of the materials given up in the making of our places and our lives. In acknowledging the constant feeding upon and giving of life to other life through death, we begin to offer our own deaths in that spirit. Ending this one silence alone begins to transform our connection with all life and to bring our own lives into harmony with reality.

MEND PLACE-RAPE. We have also ignored the essential role of the energetic dimensions of place in its health as we have in that of people. We now are coming to know the indelible marks that rape, abuse, or destruction of self-esteem have on an individual. We have yet to acknowledge, however, that those same imprints are left on the physical and psychic bodies of places both human and ecological communities that have suffered pillage, rape, murder, or abandonment.

There is a similarity in the feeling of an abandoned New England mill town, a logged-out California hamlet in the redwoods, a fished-out Oregon coastal village, a corporatized Midwestern farm community, or a mined-out Appalachian town. The human population is left without source of livelihood; left with the debt and costs of infrastructure and mortgage payments on now valueless homes; left with injury, sickness, and hopelessness. There is the ravaged soil, forests, waters, and earth no longer able to support the needs of its community of life There is a sense of defeat, abandonment, grief, bewilderment. There is, as with an individual, massive damage on energetic levels to the psychic bodies of the individuals, the community, and the land.

The power to cleanse and restore wholeness to places comes in part through the healing of time. It comes in part through the renewal of faith of an individual, then a group, and then the community. It comes from tapping the infinite power of the earth to heal, which makes even its own grievous pains insignificant. It comes through actions of individuals to forgive, release, and set free the memory of those who caused the damage. It can come from the intentional action of a community to self-heal its energetic and physical body.

The auras or energy bodies of communities and places bring into being the same physical manifestations of health or illness as with individuals. They show the same kind of rupture, clogging, displacement and disconnection from their sources of energy that individual auras do from traumatic events. They can attract and have in residence the same negative spirits that an individual can have. Intentional healing can be performed on the chi of a place or community as well as an individual, to begin restoration of the energy source of the community well-being.

Individuals, a group, or preferably the community itself, can raise healing energy and feed it into the energy body of the community or the place. Rituals offering acknowledgment, release and healing to any unwanted spirits that have come to reside there can be performed. We can restore the ongoing cycles of ritual and celebration that generate and sustain the energy of a community and empower individual acts of healing. When their energetic roles are more deeply understood and acknowledged, existing rituals such as births, graduations, weddings, funerals and 4th of July parades can contribute much to community energetics.

We need at the same time to perform physical acts of healing - planting trees, restoring streams and wetlands, creating fish and wildlife habitat, removing sources of toxins and creating meaningful work and self-respecting lives for the members of the community. Any acts of caring and taking responsibility - from sweeping sidewalks to picking up trash and removing junked autos and equipment to painting, fixing up, planting flowers or just a song and a smile can begin the upbuilding process of healing. Avoiding institutional patterns and practices which exploit people, place and things is essential. It is important, though, that we attend to the re-empowerment of individuals and community and restoration of the health of their energy bodies as well as attention to the physical level of the community if we wish to attain lasting results.

MAKE THE SACRED VISIBLE. When we know some one, some place, or some thing intimately, we love them. That love causes us to hold their well-being inviolate. That is what we mean by holding something sacred. That act is vital to our social health and to the sustainability of culture and place. When we hold something sacred in community, and make that sacredness visible in our public places, our whole culture comes to embody and reflect that dimension of life. Places - shrines - dedicated solely to the sacred provide a locus for individual and communal nurture, grounding, and harmonizing. They focus and accumulate chi in place so we can more easily bring our energy into resonance with it. They reinforce the sense of the sacred within us essential for it to be brought to imbue all of our public and shared institutions and places.

Create shrines. Honor the sacredness of place, of other life, of all Creation, and of our dreams. Fill that absence in our communities with the presence of joy and celebration.

MAKE WORK SACRED. Work - and any action which employs and enhances our skills and joins them together with those of others to bring forth the wonderful gifts of joint action - is vital for the fellowship of community to develop and be sustained. When held sacred, work honors, joins, expands and enriches our own nature and that of the community of life.

In sacred work all serve and are served. None are servants. Its outward product in our community places becomes a celebration of the heights which our individual and joined capabilities can attain. It becomes an encouragement to others and an acknowledgment of a coming together and uplifting in concord.

TRANSFORM OUR ROOT INTENTIONS TO ONES OF LOVING, GIVING, HONORING, AND NURTURING. Love and giving are the fundamental principles upon which any viable society or community is formed. Their absence, and even the lack of acknowledgment of their existence and importance are gnawing silences in our communities which clash with our root inner impulses.

The shaping and use of our surroundings from these intentions transforms what we are given by the places we inhabit, the nature of relationships we enter into within them, and the inner nature of the institutions and community we create. Out of that comes a shared song of resounding power and beauty which fundamentally transforms our lives.

HONOR OTHER LIFE. Our communities and their energy have spoken only of ourselves. The rest of Creation, their needs, their dreams, and the greater community we form together have been yet another void of silence in the places we live. We can give room for other life -for itself, not for our enjoyment or recreation - in our communities. We can honor other life in our building. We can, like other cultures, live intimately with other life, open our souls to their special gifts and wisdom, and live intimately with those gifts through spirit totems, shrines, and other ways to manifest and connect with that energy.

Let the earth breathe, and the waters run free. Open corridors for wildlife migration. Create room for the song of birds and insects, and the beauty of moonlight and shadows. Make places where other life is held sacred and our presence proscribed. Ask into our lives the wisdom and gifts of other forms of life. Limit our numbers and appetites. Celebrate and honor other life in the making and use of our places.

MAKE SPACE FOR NEW CREATION TO ARISE. These silences in our community energy are silences of purposeful omission. They are the silences of shunning and intentional ignoring of fundamental elements of a society which nurtures and supports life and shares in the evolution and creation of an ever more wonderful community of life. There is another kind of silence, however, whose absence is also a form of shunning. It is the silence out of which new creation emerges, awaiting behind the desperate staccato of our media-filled lives. It is the silence awaiting behind the fear that we will think a thought of our own if any gap appears in the endless barrage of stimulation impinging on our lives.

Allow silence. Breathe. Create stillness, emptiness, and openness. Make room out of which new creation can arise in our lives. Generate a soul in our places and our communities which provides the energy to feed new creation. There is a music to silence and a dance within stillness which is lacking in our lives and communities. And there is a depth and a wonder in the act of true creation it allows which brings incredible joy and meaning to our lives.

Community is born and its energy nurtured through many, often subtle things. A coffee shop next to the post office where news passes, friendships lubricate, and new things spark into being. The percentage of people on the street that we know and care about. Song. Hardship and joy shared. Passage of life together. The examples above help us see the role which community chi that we put into a place plays in our lives and some of the voids and gaps in the energetics of our communities. Our actions, no matter how small, can have transformative impact on restoring wholeness and resonance to our communities.

38755 Reed Rd.
Nehalem OR 97131 USA
© 15 September 1998