Our primary obligation is to our soul. This is fundamental. We are here to serve our soul, not by imposing upon it the practices and standards of religion, but by listening to it and living in sync with its purposes. We serve our soul by exhibiting the values of soul in our lives, by consciously, intentionally, aligning ourselves with its interests and bringing soul to life within the here and now of our living.
Our soul is the interface, the point of contact, of connection, with the invisible world. It stands as a threshold between ourselves and what has always been thought of as God. Soul is the carrier of life that is life, the vitality and the values that form the heart, the core of life. Soul is the vehicle of life and guides us to life. In establishing and maintaining right relationship with soul, we come alive in the truest sense, and live the life that is ours to live.
We collaborate with soul in producing a life that serves the values of soul within the limits and possibilities of physical existence. But when we hit a hard place we think of quitting. We give up too easily, quit too soon. Soul has dealt with restrictions and hardships we cannot imagine, and waits to help us find ways of facing up to and dealing with all that comes our way—in ways that are commensurate with the values of soul.
Within any circumstance, we can serve the values of soul, we can bring to life there what can be brought to life there. In any situation, we can give soul a shot at coming forth, being alive. When it seems to be hopeless, futile, pointless to go on we have to realize it is only our ends that are blocked, our desires that are frustrated. Soul lives for different purposes and calls us to serve those purposes in every situation as it unfolds. Our place is to learn to see life from soul’s point of view.
Our task, our calling, is to bring soul to life within the terms and conditions of life. In each one of us there is a soul that is more or less alive. In some of us soul is mostly dead or completely gone. We have to live in ways that retrieve soul, revive soul, wake soul up, bring our soul to life!
We are here to serve and protect our soul, which is the heart of life and guides us to life. We are best equipped to do that within what I think of as communities of innocence. Innocence is at once vulnerable and invincible. Communities of innocence don’t know any better than to do what is theirs to do in service to soul, and trust that the out come will be what it needs to be—and in that innocent trust there is power to transform, to save, the world.
Communities of innocence have no agenda, no strategy, no purpose beyond supporting the individual work of connecting with, and serving, soul. Communities of innocence help us find our way to our soul and then get out of our way. Communities of innocence have no stake in the outcomes of our lives beyond assisting us in living in sync, aligned, integrated with soul.
Communities of innocence are safe places in the surest sense of the word. Chance the Gardener, or "Chauncey Gardner," the Peter Sellers character in Being There, is an example of safety and security at the heart of innocence. Jesus, the Buddha and the Dali Lama are other examples of safety and security at the heart of innocence.
We build communities of innocence with those people who are safe places for us to be, who do not condemn, convert, advise, direct, exhort, rebuke, chide, ridicule, lecture, etc., but who do indeed challenge us, confront us, question our assumptions, and call us beyond ourselves to a depth and breadth of being we could not manage on our own. The best of the 12-step groups, and the church as it ought to be, rank for me as communities of innocence. Circles of Trust and the Clearness Committee are two places we work to create communities of innocence within this Gathering of Sojourners. It is a work that is worthy of the best effort we can put forth. Essential to that work is “good faith” on the part of each of us. Living together in good faith is the foundation of communities of innocence.
The heart of the kind of community that is necessary for the development of individuals who are serving their soul, living lives aligned with the Way, and bringing forth their gifts in ways that save the world is, what Rumi calls, “good faith.” He says, “If you are not here with us in good faith, you are doing terrible damage.” Good faith is the key to our life together. When we live together in good faith we create the communities of innocence that are necessary for the development of right relationship with our soul.
“Good faith” describes our commitment to, our covenant with, each other to do right by one another, to be with one another in ways that are good for the other, to offer the right kind of help in the right kind of way, and to help others help us by doing what is ours to do and not being too needy or too dependent ourselves. It also recognizes the old truism that “good fences make good neighbors,” and carefully observes the Old Testament commandment (One that did not make, but should have, the Top Ten): “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark!” We do not do violence to our neighbors’ boundaries by offering the wrong kind of help in the wrong kind of way, and we trust our neighbors to do right by us as much as they trust us to do right by them.