The paper below was written in 2005 and was based upon specific problems experience in the town of Glastonbury UK - for information about this town , look at our web site:
The Positive Aspect to Problems - in this section we look at apparent problems that arise when working with spiritually inspired projects. It is important to always understand that these problems may make a positive contribution to the success of the project by compelling constant attention to the clarity of vision and sharing this with all involved.
Apparently negative influences appear to disrupt everything we set out to do
but these forces play a constructive role in compelling us
to focus with clarity on what we are trying to achieve
In this section, we look at obstructions to sustainable growth experienced by spiritually inspired projects. The comments here are based on experiences with projects of this type in Glastonbury UK. All new ventures encounter difficulties but some unusual factors affect those in which we are interested. In these cases the apparent trials are not only opportunities for growth, but are part of a ‘winnowing process,’ which allows successful projects to flourish and unsuitable ones to wither and die. Some of these problems are given below
Balance – any project, particularly where it is spiritually inspired, needs a range of experience and skills which may in be in conflict with one another – these include
The Spiritual Inspired - these people will often want to value their spiritual inspiration above that of practical considerations. They will often be suspicious of people skilled in materialistic matters. They will have a desire for what they see as natural, inspired, organic growth and have a deep distrust of concrete planning and firm objectives.
Academics - their training may leave him to expect to be able to understand spiritual matters by approaching them in an objective, detached fashion and observing what appears to be happening. In fact spirituality can only be understood by a subjective experiential approach arising from some form of spiritual practice, such as meditation.
Politicians and business people – this these people will be essential at some stage in providing financial and practical support to the emerging new venture. They will want to see clear and concrete plans with clearly defined ultimate objectives and outputs. The idea of backing something which is developing in its own organic fashion, with no forecast path for this development, will not acceptable to them
Balance - So our planned spiritually inspired project will need to be able to steer a course between these conflicting attitudes. It will be necessary to present a case for the project that is understandable to those who are being addressed – and this needs to be done without losing the beating spiritual heart of the project.
Distraction - the organisation will need some form of executive body to manage and run it. There will be a continuing pressure of mundane, but essential, details, which can lead to losing the broad vision and understanding of the true purpose of the project. The key to success for all community projects is constant attention and commitment to the originating vision, and overcoming the distraction of everyday details as part of the process.
Authority - The executive body will consist of a group of peers - a group with equal authority but with different skills. This is perfection, but as we are dealing with real human beings, there will inevitably be a difference in natural charisma and authority. Hence the importance of every individual having the strength and courage to speak openly to a member who is endeavouring to dominate the group. and being fully supported in so doing.
Compassion - Spiritual projects hold a balance between two opposing forces. The mystical vision, carried out in a loving and caring way, matched with practical material efficiency. Some may think kindness is needed at all times and no-one’s feelings should ever be hurt. Others may feel that being over compassionate gets in the way of essential practical decisions. Such differences will inevitably occur. If not addressed, they lead to resentment and undercurrents of unspoken emotional tension. If something is not working, the problem needs to be tackled in a straightforward but compassionate and gentle fashion. This may require talking through painful personal matters, but avoiding the situation will lead to more damage than facing it with courage.
Delegation - A source of potential problems lies in individuals, inspired by the project but having little or no experience of managing staff. As a result, a person may create and develop a specific service and feel that only he can look after every detail to ensure success. There must be continual vigilance to ensure that when a service is developing rapidly, a sufficient number of people are involved to ensure proper delivery, and that each is empowered to take responsibility for a specific part. Only by effective delegation, can the project flourish.
Intent - The organisation needs to be both inspired spiritually and managed in an efficient manner. There will be an on-going tendency to move towards either a more ‘floating’ spirituality or a more ‘concrete’ materialism. This needs to be watched, as a strong movement towards either of these poles will damage the project.
Skills – the staff and volunteers must contain all the skills and experience needed. If any are missing, they need to be found from friendly, outside support. There is a tendency to think existing members of the team can cope with any situation. This blindness to weakness and lack is a serious vulnerability.
Entropy is a term used in thermodynamics to describe the way in which structures gradually decline into disorder unless maintained by a continual input of energy. This also applies to human activities. A huge amount of effort is put into establishing and building a project, but without the contribution of continuing inspiration and work, it will gradually lose energy and may even disintegrate and disappear.
In Glastonbury, entropy is ever present. Apparent ‘Forces of Chaos’ resent any attempt to build a new structure and do their best to destroy the activity. The effects of these ‘negative’ forces seem to be more powerful than would be expected from simple tiredness and boredom of those running the project. Confusion of purpose appears to be the characteristic that opens the door for chaos to enter, and it does so where any lack of clarity between individuals is found.
The answer is ‘clarity of contract’, in legal, written and verbal agreements. This necessitates all parties being clear about the understanding reached and being prepared to honour this as far as possible. If it is necessary to change something, then all parties must agree. Any departure from this clarity will open the way for the forces of chaos to make merry – and they are very good at this !
Lack of clarity of obligations is a frequent cause of the failure of community projects. Uncertainty leaves a vacuum for the ever-present forces of chaos to enter in the form of malicious gossip, rumours and misunderstandings, all of which serve to undermine the clarity of purpose of the venture.
In addition to the dangers of confusion is the slow decline of the project due to lack of continuing input of inspiring energy. A time may come when the initiators feel they have had enough and hand over to others. In some cases, those who take over will enjoy running the project but be unable or unwilling to contribute the initiative, inspiration and energy needed keep the organization progressing towards its full potential.
The forces of entropy are overcome with:
Clarity of contract, inspired vision and continuing energy invested in the project
These negative energies have a positive part to play in that they bring to bear a cleansing and sieving process. If the concept is not inspired, understood and attuned with the purposes of Glastonbury, then the over-lighting energy will do its best to prevent the activity from flourishing.
Astrology claims that the Piscean Age was one of authority and control - strong leaders deciding how people should live and compliant individuals going along with what they were told. We are now entering the Aquarian Age with which comes the emergence of strong feelings of individuality. People want to look after their own lives, make their own choices and are suspicious of authority. This has led to democracy, but also the increasing difficulty of running a project, not to mention a country. This difficulty comes particularly into focus in Glastonbury.
Many of those involved in starting new community projects in Glastonbury have been ‘called to serve’ in the town. Often, a high price has been paid in honouring this call; jobs, families, partners and friends have been left behind. Whilst the way of living is enjoyed, there is often a reluctance to impair this new freedom by making the compromises that would be required to work with others.
A development resulting from this individuality is the way in which different projects flourish and thrive. Individuals concentrate upon the project with which they feel inspired, and pour their energy into making it a success. With this seems to go an ‘inward looking’ and reluctance to understand and work with other projects.
Our thesis is that these apparent problems eventually make a positive contribution to the emergence of the real purpose of the town. How does this materialize in this case ?
Positive results have been achieved in the way in which various individual projects are thriving. This seems to have been a necessary process in helping the Whole to flourish. With the emerging realization of the success of the components has come an awareness of the need for closer cooperation. This in turn brings an awareness of a need for clarity of vision, not only of the individual projects, which we described above, but of the town as a whole. Perhaps this would not be so clear if the individual projects had not emerged so strongly
This is a particular problem found in Glastonbury arising from the concept that no charge should be made for spiritual services, coupled with the idea that true servants of the spirit are devoted to poverty. The monks of old understood that delivering a spiritually inspired service required a balanced material life. ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire’ and every individual deserves sufficient personal income to enable him to carry out the work he is called to do. Understanding this concept leads to the realization that income needs to be generated from possibly mundane tasks in order to support unpaid spiritual work.
Suitable premises are the key to success of any project. In the early days there may be insufficient income to pay rent and rates on premises, and certainly not enough to purchase a property. But the existence of physical space to enable the services to be delivered helps the energy to build and people to become involved. So a high priority is to be given to acquiring a place from which to operate. This may initially be rented but will need to be owned to ensure long-term sustainability. This requires substantial funding and securing these funds is an essential part of the business plan. The problem of acquiring suitable premises is one of the imperatives that drive the project forward.
is needed to the needs of the community. Working in harmony with the community as a whole is essential but not always easy. Sensitivity is also needed to the group running the project. Sustaining a harmonious working group is not always easy. Personality clashes and differences of opinions will occur and need to be treated with sensitivity and firmness, if they are not to damage the work of the group.
Glastonbury is blessed with many talented people, ‘called’ to live in the town, including artists, musicians, writers, therapists, and computer experts. More graduates are to be found here than in most small towns. At the moment, this wealth of talent tends to be under-employed. Generating a reasonable income in Glastonbury is not easy and many bright people are working behind shop counters and doing other pedestrian jobs. Such tasks are valuable and rewarding in themselves, but a more appropriate use of these skills would provide a better income and help the town as a whole to flourish.
This is another possible ‘cloud with a silver lining’. People are drawn to the town, and may mistakenly think this will enable them to blossom in doing something entirely different to that which they followed in the outside world. Glastonbury does indeed need the inherent talents of the people that it calls, but it also requires the practical skills they have developed and honed in their professional life. The difficulties experienced in finding worthwhile work will help them to understand the need for balance between their inherent talents and their materially honed skills. It may well be that they are being asked to do something very similar to that which they did before they came to Glastonbury, but this time using this experience in a project that is spiritually inspired.
Once this understanding is reached, their true niche in the town will become clear and lead to achieving a personal balance between adequate income and an enjoyable and fulfilling place in the community.
Nothing can be successfully started without a clear vision. In our case, the original ‘inspired one’ accesses what we call the ‘over-lighting energy’ of Glastonbury, ‘attunes’ with what is being called for, and puts into writing a plan of the objective.
What is required is obvious, but keeping in touch with this intent is not always easy. Once the project starts, a whole welter of new difficulties will arise involving cash flow, volunteers, people, equipment and other resources. Such practical details tend to cause confusion and distraction unless a conscious effort is made to keep reaffirming the original vision in the certainty of achievement.