Following a profoundly compelling experience in 1991, Stephan travelled back to Canada, looked for land, shared his vision, and in 1992 founded Morning Star Community: an integrally informed community of initially seven people seeking to explore and embody the potential communion possible when individuals come together, staying alive in their unique essence while opening to what is greater than the sum total of all gathered.
During the first two weeks of living together, simply put, magic happened. Looking back we could analyze and dissect the experience, we could call it the “honeymoon phase“ that generally arises initially in any relationship only to ebb away, or we could call it just a plain fluke. Yet “it“ emerged several times over the 10 years. This BEING was real, had its own volition and wanted to partake in humanity’s evolution. In fact, this communion between us human beings was the vehicle used by this BEING to come alive in our midst. And whichever way our minds could put it down, aside or asunder, there was something to these experiences that touched the deeper strings of our selves. The soul does know in rare moments when something is happening that has a deeper meaning than just a mere “coincidence“. It just didn‘t feel like a fluke or a phase. It actually felt like the most real experience we came across during that decade. All else was filled with trying, good ideas, great intentions, stumbling and a fair bit of integrity and willingness. The moments of “it“ stood out clearly and distinctly. Nagging us. What is it that happened in those sometimes fleeting moments and periods of grace? In one sense there was nothing extraordinary about them. Life was as life is – a blend of practicalities to be taken care of, relations to be nurtured, work to be done, play, prayer and meditation to sustain and inspire. Yet, at the same time, there was a distinct and undeniable sense of “finally, this is what we‘ve been longing for and seeking – this is what we‘ve always intuited that life should actually feel like“. The fullness of life become manifest experience. Actually being present and alive while in daily normal life. Not on a meditation retreat, during a workshop, immersed in prayer or any other specifically focused activity that seeks to touch the Real and the Sacred. Not compromised. Not hindered. Not caged or promoted, forced or produced, wishfully projected or imagined. But real life, simple and true, experienced together with others, actually amongst each other and within. Meaning and purpose not searched for, but rather, each moment naturally infused with the sacred in our midst. The birth of a new level of communion between humans that gives rise to a new BEING, Pentecost fulfilled! A sense of being lifted an octave, playing at a higher note, joy tangible. Does that all sound unlikely and strange? Or quite natural? It sure felt natural but it sure felt different too. Extraordinary and yet so normal.
At the very beginning, in those first few weeks of community life, we felt we had just stumbled upon a treasure. Sure, we had worked extremely hard – from purchasing the land to communicating well, to meditating and praying and invoking like never before. But God, did we ever feel gifted. This is it! Unspoken recognition. Touching the Sacred. Feeling the fragility, yet standing on this sacred ground with such fervor and trust. We celebrated. It was an adventure – you just didn‘t know what tomorrow would be like – and it felt that that was actually a big part of the recipe – being OK with the unknown, giving yourself fully to the moment.
In some ways, looking back, we took the experience for granted. We were in our early twenties, we were ready for miracles and were not analyzing too much. Some of us were more aware than others of the gift offered. A huge sense of idealism drove us. Others questioned more and doubted that this could last. What was required for this BEING to stay, to become grounded and embodied, we were not fully aware of, at least not as a group. Life carried on – and what had seemed so simple and real slowly dissipated. Personal challenges, doubts and desires found their way back in. And we were left with the regular take-it-or-leave-it-well-intentioned intentional community. Lukewarm. That glimpse, however, would haunt us, propel us to continue the search, it would not let us go. It was too real and too precious to forget or to put aside. It resonated too much in the innermost core of our being to simply be discarded as a “honeymoon phase of community-in-the-making“. That was the least we could do, now that it had „slipped“ through our fingers – to honor the experience, to seek to understand and to not forget, but continue to be available for this incredible gift of full life together with others.
And so, for the next ten years, some of the most pressing questions we asked ourselves and others were: what is the recipe, what are the ingredients? Do these glimpses really point to where we need to go as a human family? Could such a state experience become a stage? Is this invitation for real?
As mentioned earlier, that initial experience of “Togetherness“ was followed by others – sometimes just moments, other times for a few hours or days. A common thread to all of these times was the act of coming together with the focus of “being out of the way“, that is, being present to what is greater than the sum total of all of us put together, listening to what truly needs to be said or unsaid. Making space for the sacred – within each of us, between us and unto itself. Welcoming, invoking, and creating the conditions for this BEING to come and visit.
The most likely format that allowed for this presence, this “We-consciousness” as we sometimes called it, to land was us coming together in what we came to call sacred circles. A simple outer structure: we would sit in a circle with a candle in the middle and begin in silence with the focus of emptying, coming to presence and beingness and opening to what actually needed to be shared rather than what any of us present might personally desire or seek to share. Listening, being attentive, was therefore a first priority. Moving from mind to heart. Touching base with the possibility that the whole of us can be attentive, not just our physical ears but our entire being. Spirit-led sharing. Listening to what lies beyond the egoic habit of speech and communication. Sometimes we would sit in silence for the whole duration (which had no specific time limit but usually went from anywhere between one to two hours). Often an experience, an insight, a question, a feedback was uttered, sometimes a song, poem or prayer. And thus a web was woven between those present – in the midst of the spoken and unspoken, a tangible presence that was beyond any of us individually, yet seemed to spring forth from joining in this focused way. We spoke of this presence as a BEING, a We-Being – it literally seemed to be more than a collection of who we were together and much more like a BEING unto itself: a new form of life where none of us lost ourselves, yet at the same time we were completely in service to, available to this sacred experience.
Through the years we called these circles (that took place daily, weekly or monthly depending on the rhythms of communal and individual life) the “glue“ of the community. They seemed to make all the difference as far as quality, purpose and meaning of living together. They were easy to not take time for, even to shy away from; they took commitment and courage to take part in – and they were always worth it. You never knew what would happen, it was not a controlled, “for sure“ thing. Rather it was a possibility to give everything you had while not straining. Letting go and being fully engaged. Not making rules out of the experience. Learning from what worked and what didn‘t. The mind would get in the way at times – the “trying approach“ to be real doesn‘t work.
We understood these sacred circles as a place to practice how to be together and how to communicate with each other in a new and different way. We felt that these experiences were beckoning us towards what communication could really be like. Practice ground for life. These times provided us with the opportunity to taste and try out what is possible when we relax the mind and are at the same time deeply wakeful, when we allow life to be infused with the ineffable and sacred without it being weird or esoteric or extraordinary. How much more simple can it get than people sitting together, focusing on being present and authentic?
The direction we took from these sacred circles was that they were pointing to where we could and needed to go as a human family. That it is possible. Simple. And available. And that what it required is for us to be ready, willing and available ourselves to life being immersed, infused with God, not just when sitting alone in meditation or prayer, but in the daily life rhythms, in interaction with each other, with our surroundings, with earth and sky.
Another main element and founding principle of Morning Star was the clear sense and understanding that what is required at this time in history are integral examples of life on earth, with each other and with God. Not a life sectioned into separate compartments, even to the point of discarding certain levels of existence as unnecessary or lesser, but one that gives attention and care to each level and aspect of life – the social, the ecological/environmental, the psychological, the spiritual, the inter-relational etc.
So much energy and focus has gone into increasing specialization, bringing forth fruits of in-depth insight into particular fields of knowledge. However, the acknowledgement that each area is but a piece of the puzzle is sorely lacking. For a full picture to emerge we need to begin to listen and integrate the wisdom gathered in many fields. Spirituality without ecology is not going to go far if we want to continue living upon this earth. Ecology without spirituality will not address the core issues that stand in the way of true sustainability in the human heart. Social and psychological wisdom and insight are of utmost importance in ensuring wholesome awareness of many aspects of life. And so on…
As we contemplated, discussed and researched what lay at the root of the world crisis, following it all the way down, we found a deep sense of separation, even alienation – separation from nature, each other, the universe, even from ourselves. And above and beneath all this, a sense of separation from life itself, from God and anything transcendent. At Morning Star we attempted, each in our own ways and as a community, to at least loosen the hard edges of separation, to allow space in our thinking and acting for real connection to be present and expressed.