I was in Kansas City, Missouri staying at Jerusalem Farm; an intentional community made up of 5 hippies and there coming and going sojourners, where they live as simply as they possibly can, devoting themselves to living in solidarity with the rest of the world and serving their community. This trip wasn't required but as a junior in high school I felt like this opportunity was not just calling, but screaming my name from the mountain tops. I had, inarguably, the best week of my life.
After a long day of working, we all met in the house chapel, which was less of a chapel and more of room with a bunch of couches and instruments, an alter, and the most intense spiritual presence I had ever felt. We usually ended our days here with a mass and some light reflection on the day that most often turned into chats about love and the meaning of life and why we woke up each morning.
On one of these afternoons, speaking with one of the men who lived and worked there, I received what I still to this day see as the best piece of advice I have ever received. Let me note that this week was filled with things I knew I would never forget. And while I have inevitably forgotten some of the things I promised myself I wouldn't, this hung around.
I asked Sunny a question that anywhere else, probably would have been a bit inappropriate. I said, "Sunny, how often do you guys shower", to which he replied with what I don't remember word for word, but can sum up with, "Well, not very often." What followed this answer, however, was some drawn out life advice with one part I clung to, "You have to go out and find your own truths."
Sure, Sunny and the rest of the community members may not shower everyday or even every few days and some of you might find that pretty gross. So be it. But this is not about showers or cleanliness or the habits of the J Farm members. It is the fact that we are constantly fed advice and standards; what is a good and bad idea or the right or wrong way to live but unfortunately (fortunately really) it isn't that easy. We can read all the self help books and watch all the TED talks and listen to all the motivational speakers but it is not until we go out and experience and try new things, experiment with our life that we learn what truly works and what truly doesn't. We learn our truths.
We learn what gets us out of bed in the morning. We learn what makes us happy, what makes us feel healthy and full of energy. What is important to us and what can be put on the back burner. The kind of people we need around and the kind that drain us. What makes us feel beautiful and what makes life beautiful.
For Sunny, his truth meant dreadlocks. It meant devoting his life to helping others. It meant living with intention. It meant using fair trade products and eating minimal meat. It meant leaving material things behind and focusing on the intangible parts of life.
This may not be your truth, but you won't know until you figure it out for yourself.