Community Part 1 – Gratitude

Part 1: Gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
Eckhart Tolle

If one could imagine what heaven would be like, it would be a place of infinite love, caring for all others, sharing of knowledge and enlightenment, and gratitude for all that they are given and have. There would be no fear because every soul would make sure that no one was wanting for anything they needed, there would be no theft since every soul would have everything they need, there would be no need for laws and enforcement, and there would be no need for money. This paradise would be the very essence of total efficiency because every soul cooperated to make certain that all needs were met. It would be a perfect community filled with love and free of fear.

One of the important elements in this vision is that of gratitude. Gratitude is a powerful force than can be harnessed to build the world we wish for. One key way to create gratitude is through GIFTING. If you think about it, our beautiful planet is a GIFT to all of life on earth and it was given freely. The warmth, energy, and life giving of the sun is a GIFT and is also given freely. When people receive gifts, there is an energy or spirit associated with that GIFT, and that energy or spirit also affects the giver. When we give a GIFT freely, we ourselves experience a sensation of well being and happiness. When we witness other people graciously giving GIFTS, we often become motivated to do the same. The very process of gift giving thus creates a force that has the potential to grow exponentially. A very special bond forms when a GIFT is given and these bonds have the potential to grow exponentially as well.

When people engage in barter or purchase, it is merely an accounting that takes place with something of accepted value flowing between both parties, but no gratitude is being generated. Charles Eisenstein wrote: “When we pay for everything we receive, we remain independent, disconnected, free from obligation, and free from ties.”i We have been conditioned by our culture to depend on no one and to be self sufficient all the time, yet these very acts separate us from others and thus weaken our connections to our communities. Rather than striving to be as independent as possible, a more positive goal would have us becoming more open to being interdependent to build the ties within our communities.

In contrast to barter or purchase, a gift elicits feelings of gratitude and a sense of wanting to reciprocate. In tribal societies there was little accounting of who owed what to whom, but there was much gift giving. A neighbor would care for the elderly, a hunter would share his food, a mother would care for the children of others, a healer would heal, people would cook for many, someone would create clothing, etc. These were all gifts and rarely did any of these actions include an accounting of something that was “owed”, but a great deal of gratitude was generated. Every time gratitude is generated, it adds to the positive energy in the universe. The desire to reciprocate is far more positive than an obligation to reciprocate, or to do an account balancing. This powerful potential energy of desire through gratitude can be harnessed in the process of creating positive communities.

Our culture tell us that competition creates the greatest efficiencies, yet if we look at nature as a model of efficiency, we can clearly see that cooperation is far more prevalent than competition, and it works better. Consider a human body, that most wondrous collection of cells, organs, and systems. The eyes do not compete with the ears, they cooperate to provide us with combined inputs to help us survive. The muscular system does not compete with the circulatory system or the digestive system, but they cooperate to provide the body with the nutrition and mobility it needs to survive and prosper. The blood cells do not compete with the skin cells, but instead care for, nourish, and protect each other in a marvelous symbiotic relationship of cooperation for the mutual good. On the biological level cooperation is the very basis for the success and efficiency of life on the planet whether it is a single cell organism or a complex one. Each living being is a thriving community.

On the social level, herds of grazing animals will cooperate to protect themselves and others from predators, individuals in lion prides without their own young will help with the raising and protection of the young of others, wolf packs will cooperate in the hunt, ants and bees cooperate for the good of the nest or hive, and geese cooperate by flying in the V formation and rotating the lead position. Should a goose become ill, wounded, or shot down, two of the geese will leave the formation and follow it down to help and protect it. All of these acts of cooperation help both the individual and the group to survive and thrive. There is saying I read once, “The better off others are, the better off we all are.”ii As life forms became more complex, it is often to their advantage to form cooperative social communities.

Of course there is also competition on the social level, such as for territory, for the finding of mates, or scarce food supplies, but it is not the competition as much as it is the cooperation that drives the success of nature. Much of the competition is for the benefit of the individual, rather than for the larger group.

Among humans, our best examples of local cooperative communities can be observed by examining small communities such as tribes. The members of the tribe work cooperatively for the benefit of all within the community and what benefits the larger tribe also benefits the individual. Each member is assigned a role to which he or she is well suited. Some may be the hunters, others may be the food preparers, others may be the teachers, others may be the healers, but each person has a role. No one is left out, even the elderly help raise the children of others if they are able or they may be the teachers. Those who are very disabled or can no longer contribute, are cared for by the tribe through the sharing of the common resources. This eliminates much of fear which brings about many of the symptoms of our current societies.

There is no individual homelessness or hunger unless it is affecting the entire tribe. If the hunters come back with food, it does not belong to the hunters, it is shared by all members of the tribe whether they directly participated in the hunt or not. Loneliness is derived from a lack of connection with those around us. In tribal life, with everyone being an active contributor to the community, connections are built and loneliness is reduced or eliminated.

Using nature as the model, thriving communities represent one of the most exciting areas where people can affect change, both personal and social. Communities can take many forms, they can be your local geographic location, or they can also be groups of people with common goals, interests, and beliefs that are not necessarily geographically linked. In upcoming posts, we will explore some examples of communities.

iEisenstein, Charles. Sacred Economics: Money, Gift, & Society in the Age of Transition. Berkeley, CA: Evolver Editions, 2011. Print. Pg 355

iiAtkins, Edward. On Which We Serve Part 2,. Vol. 2. West Bow Press, 2013. page 466