Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Finding the Sacred in Place

All of life is sacred, including the places we find ourselves. What is it we mean when we use the term "sacred?"
The sacred is that which is the object of veneration and awe. The term comes from the Latin sacer meaning restricted or set off. A person may be designated as sacred, and so can an object or a place which is regarded as extraordinary or unique.
The term sacer is closely related to numen meaning mysterious power or god. Numinous is used to describe the sacred to indicate its power. Various traditions around the world have a term which correlates with sacer. In Hebrew the term is qadosh, in Greek hagios, in Arabic muqaddas, and in Polynesian tapu. Correlates of numen are found in the Sanskrit word Brahman, in the Sioux wakanda, the Melanesian mana, and the old German word haminja meaning luck.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Thoughts Inspiring Consciousness

It has become clear to me that our age, if it is to deliver on its promise, needs people capable of real heroism - not the kind of heroism that ends up in glory - but the kind that ends up bringing out and making available the truth, what works, what is honest and real. --Warner Erhard
We know ourselves to be made from this earth. We know this earth is made from our bodies. For we see ourselves. And we are nature. We are nature seeing nature. We are nature with a concept of nature. Nature speaking of nature to nature. -- Susan Griffin
I do not know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be truly happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.--Albert Schweitzer
The very essence of leadership is that you have to have a vision. It has got to be a vision that you articulate clearly and forcefully on every occasion. -- Theodore Hesburgh

Saturday, February 24, 2007

What is a Sustainable Community?

According to the Austin Sustainable Communities Initiative, a sustainable community is one whose prospects for long-term health are good. Its residents do not deplete the resources that they depend on faster than those resources are replenished. Specific characteristics include:

  • respect for basic rights and recognition of basic responsibilities
  • living within ecological carrying capacity
  • equal opportunities for individual development
  • a diverse economic base
  • a vibrant democracy - with an informed, involved citizenry
  • protection of natural diversity
  • improving the minimum standard of living
  • maximizing the use of people's abilities while minimizing the use of natural resources.

Friday, February 23, 2007


Consciousness is perhaps one of the most mystifying aspects of our existence. When I use the term to refer to being conscious, I usually mean awareness, including self-awareness. The term for me also refers to our most intimate experience of ourselves; that is our encounter with our interiority, giving us our deepest sense of "I am-ness."
Communities contribute to our sense of "I am-ness" in so many ways. They also help us from becoming self-consumed with ourselves and becoming aware of our larger connections to the universe. Both are important: that we are in touch with own sense of being; and that we are in touch with our sense of being a part of it all. The latter is said in many religious traditions to be one of the most sacred and special spiritual realizations.
As I sit in the sunshine watching the ancient boulder rocks in Carefree, Arizona, a glimmer of a feeling of being a part of it all arises within me. Place has a way of helping us arrive at this experience It's simply extraordinary!

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Conscious Place-Making

Oregon works at creating and preserving a strong ethic of sustainability and sense of place. Bend and Portland are two Oregon communities that do this very well. Click here to see what Sustainable Oregon is doing.
Looking for information on how to develop in a "conscious" manner? Check out this place-making guide here.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Transforming Thoughts about Community

"I am a part of all that I have met." --Alfred Lord Tennyson
"The first duty of a human being is to assume the right functional relationship to society--more briefly, to find your real job, and do it." --Charlotte Perkins Gilman
"One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade." --Chinese proverb
"I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can." --George Bernard Shaw
"When they are alone they want to be with others, and when they are with others they want to be alone. After all, human beings are like that." --Gertrude Stein

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Northwest Pennsylvania Communities

A few communities I have met and seen their goodness...
Top to Bottom: (Oil City, Recent, Zelienople, 1948, Clarion, Recent, Franklin, 2006, Warren, 2006

Monday, February 19, 2007

Roots of the Word "Community"

The word community comes from the Latin communis, meaning "common, public, shared by all or many."
<--(East Cleveland, OH, Euclid Avenue in 1951)
The Latin term communitatus from which the English word "community" comes, is comprised of three elements, "Com-" - a Latin prefix meaning with or together, "-Munis-" - ultimately Proto-Indo-European in origin, it has been suggested that it means "the changes or exchanges that link" and "-tatus" a Latin suffix suggesting diminutive, small, intimate or local.
German sociologist, Ferdinand Tönnies, presented a concise differentiation between the terms "community" (gemeinschaft) and "society" (gesellschaft). In his 1887 work, Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft, Tönnies argued that "community" is perceived to be a tighter and more cohesive social entity within the context of the larger society, due to the presence of a "unity of will." He added that family and kinship were the perfect expressions of community but that other shared characteristics, such as place or belief, could also result in gemeinschaft.
If the sense of community exists, both freedom and security exist as well. The community then takes on a life of its own, as people become free enough to share and secure enough to get along. The sense of connectedness and formation of social networks comprise what has become known as social capital.
Social capital is defined by Harvard University Political Scientist Robert D. Putnam as "the collective value of all social networks (who people know) and the inclinations that arise from these networks to do things for each other (norms of reciprocity)."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Welcome to Conscious Communities©

About This Blog

This new blog explores the complex and essential nature of community in our lives. We live and we die in communities; from the tiniest crossroad towns to the largest megapolitan areas. Conscious Communities looks at community from various vantage points, and it offers a new way to conceive of communities, as we move forward into the future.

This new view encourages us to see communities as having the potential to rise and grow as places or centers of heightened awareness and expression. By heightened awareness and expression, there is an intention to point to the effect of community, in its many dimensions, on our consciousness, or our deepest sense of ourselves. It is in this vein that this blog is given its name: Conscious Communities. Communities should inspire and exhort their citizens' consciousness, and citizens should in return use that inspiration and exhortation to lift up and sustain their communities.

On one level, each of us is conscious, that is perceptually aware, of the communities we know and have experience with. There is more. Have we considered the possibility that communities are powerful agents co-creating our most basic consciousness? Have we considered the possibility that our most intimate and personal interiority is in part supported and shaped by what we take to be community?

Have we considered the possibility that we owe, in part, our capacity for heightened awareness and expression to those communities in which we live, work and play? So too, our communities, when beset by social, economic, political and ecological problems, diminish our capacity for heightened awareness and expression. For our communities to support and sustain us, we must support and sustain them.

Finally, have we evolved a view of our communities as conscious creations, flowing from our individual and collective thoughts, feelings and actions? In this sense, do our communities reflect our deepest, most honest, and good intentions? Absent these intentions, we have what we see all too often: Communities divided against themselves, a growing loss of commitment to community, a decline in community pride, violence, illiteracy, poverty, hate, fear, and near devastating ecological damage.

Communities play a central role in shaping all aspects of human life. This blog has been created in recognition and celebration of communities as conscious connecting, gathering, creating, sustaining, learning, producing and integrating centers for human beings.

At times, we are prone to romanticize and idealize community because we long to feel connected to the whole of life. Because we simply want to belong...to something. Sadly, many of us have lost our sense of belonging to community, family, our work, and even ourselves. On the other end of our romanticization is demonization, where we project our sense of alienation and loss onto our most basic community institutions, such as the schools, city hall, or churches. And yes, at times these institutions do fail us, and crush rather than lift our civic commitment.

The 19th century French sociologist Emile Durkheim used the term anomie in referring to the sense of malaise in individuals, characterized by an absence or diminution of standards or values, which Durkheim attributed to the failure of religious institutions in sustaining faith and our overall sense of being connected spiritually. Durkheim also pointed to the division of labor dominating economic life since the Industrial Revolution leading individuals to pursue egoistic (individualistic) ends rather than seeking the good of the larger community.

Many of the sociologists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries pointed to the alienating effects of modernization. Alienation refers to the individual's estrangement from traditional community and others in general. The 19th century German economic philosopher Karl Marx's theory of alienation refers to the separation of things that naturally belong together, or to the antagonism between things that are properly in harmony. In the concept's most important use, it refers to the alienation of people from aspects of their "human nature." In today's age of George W. Bush Bourgeoisie ideology, these ideas appear incomprehensible. After all, who would dare criticize the engines of Capitalism as causal agents in our loss of sense of community and overall human connectedness?

Politics, hidden behind the mask of government and public service, has also robbed us of our sense of community. Only the most naive, or incurably gullible, would miss the abuse of power taking place in the name of community goverance today. And yes, people of all walks of life consciously choose to embed their self or group interests in the political process. All, you might say, in the name of community.

Have things really changed over time when it comes to our treatment of community? There has always been an unmistakable and irresolvable tension between self and community interest. What is our way out? Could a new vantage point looking at the intersection of consciousness and community help ease this tension? That is the experiment this new blog aims to carry out.

We manifest our communities out of our consciousness. We give birth to them by the way we think and feel about them. Our cynicism kills of hope and faith in communities. Our unidimensional view of communities robs them of their richness and dynamic nature. Our unconsciousness of the connectedness of the whole of life cheats us out of our sense of belonging and connection with our communities.

In many ways, communities are sadly under-estimated, and possibly under-valued, in today's fast-paced, ever-changing world. It seems it is always something else that is more important; be that our individual wants and desires, our families and personal relationships, local or state government, our major corporations, or the global economy. Yet, when we think about it, we see that our communities, and the personal relationships we have with them, provide one of the most essential building blocks for society. Communities have a civilizing influence on us through our daily interaction with other citizens. They are the local lenses through which we see and come to understand many other aspects of the world and our lives.

Communities are truly complex human organizations that exist in geographic places. As such, communities are located in time and space, and find locality in the natural environment. Yes, our communities exist within nature, which reminds us to build our communities in a sustainable fashion.

The complexity of communities is explained by their multi-dimensional natures, which include ten intersecting and co-existing realities: 1) social; 2) cultural; 3) economic; 4) political; 5) technological; 6) spiritual or religious; 7) creative; 8) educational; 9) personal and interpersonal psychological; and 10) ecological. While many may argue that communities are determined to a greater degree by one or more of these realities, Conscious Communities sees each as playing a vitally important role that only it can play. The articles and stories shared here reflect each of these realities. Each is important in giving rise to heightened awareness and expression in our communities.

While not often thought of in this way, communities are powerful incubators of the human spirit. They house us, nurture us and challenge us to grow. Communities are centers of collective energy, talent, meaning and awareness. In this sense, communities are very powerful, especially when they draw together their various energies in service to the human spirit. Yes, communities, like all else, should be in service of the spirit; for that is our most essential nature.

By spirit, no particular religious view is intended. This blog should be a confortable place for people of all faiths, or no faith at all, to come, share and celebrate community as an essential foundation of spirit. Moreover, all should feel welcome to draw upon various modalities for knowledge and understanding as they seek to make community real for themselves in a spiritual consciousness sense. As such, the community resident, spiritual teacher, student, scientist, community planner, worker, economic and community developer, local elected official, business owner and executive, educator, philanthropist, medical doctor, human service and counseling professional, retired person, poet, writer and artist should all feel equally welcome here at Conscious Communities.

Conscious Communities' Author

Don Iannone is a spiritually-based organizational and community change agent and strategic planning consultant based in Cleveland, Ohio. For the past thirty years, his work has been to strengthen the economic life of communities. To most, he has been known as an economic development strategy consultant.

Don's work since the mid-1970s has carried him to 41 states and 13 countries. While the vast majority of his work has been in the United States, Don firmly believes that the future of communities will be influenced to an even greater degree in the future by global economics and transformational technology shifts. Things and events outside local communities will be even greater forces for change. Don also believes that the future of communities rests in the hands of people, and the degree to which they hold the right intentions, make the right choices and take the right action to develop and cultivate their communities. He believes that communities can muster and exhibit great wisdom, creativity, and heightened awareness and expression when such things are intended, upheld and allowed to sprout socially, culturally, economically, politically, and creatively.

In addition to Don's work with communities and organizations, he is a published poet and author, and public speaker. His poetry blog, can be found at: http://conscious-living.blogspot.com Finally, Don has a daily meditation and yoga practice. His undergraduate education is in Anthropology and Psychology and his graduate training is in Organizational Behavior. He is currently completing a new Masters Degree in Consciousness Studies, which is an emerging field, drawing upon world religions, psychology, philosophy, mind-body medicine and science in advancing our understanding of human consciousness.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Welcome to Conscious Communities

Dear Reader:
Welcome to Conscious Communities!
This is a new blog. To get a feel for what it is all about, you may wish to click on this link and read the introductory article.
Enjoy and please share your thoughts. Scroll down the page and you can read the posted articles, or use the archive links to the right.
Thank you.
Don Iannone
Email link