The New Group of World Servers Journal
celebrates and shares
This month we explore "intentional communities" in all thier multitude of forms and expressions as well as the many reasons humans have for choosing to live together in groups. From the early Native American tribes to India's ashrams, from Isreal's kibbutz's to Danish co-housing, from the Amish to the hippies of the 60's and the eco-village of today, humans have been creating lives together in groups large and small. If you thought it was a dying life-style, think again. The urge to live cooperatively is flourishing all over the world and expressing itself in wonderfully diverse ways. Just as the Occupy movement, the Internet and social "networking" and car/bike/tool/couch/job sharing, are expressions of our desire to work together to create a better world, so too are the diverse "intentional communities" of today.
The main focus of the community may be economic, social, spiritual, ecological or all of these, but underlying it all is the realization that we can do it better together. It may be more challenging in many ways than doing it alone, but the rewards can make it well worth the effort. If you are one of the many who are feeling the urge for a deeper connection to community in some form, you will want to read on and discover some of the many ways you might do that.
I would especially like to thank the three artists whose work so enlivens this issue: Julie O., Jane Evershed and Carolyn Rondthaler. Your art cheerfully punctuates this small sea of words!
On creating community:
Community Photo by Cameron Karsten for Yes! Magazine
Seeking Community -
“Whatever the problem, community is the answer.” For those of us who are intentional about community, it is hard to imagine how there might ever be another solution than to involve those we care about to share our concerns and needs.
When I was first married, my wife Marlene and I lived for five years on the ninth floor of a relatively new apartment building in Waterloo, Ontario. I am having trouble remembering even one significant conversation with a neighbor in that building. I do not recall ever having a meal with one of our neighbors.
We came and we went. There was little or no connection between us and the others who lived there. There was no green space near us, no common room within which to gather, no building association—and, even though many children lived in the building, no playground for them to enjoy. If there had been a fire at night and we were huddled outside in the dark and someone asked me, “Are the people on your floor here?” I am not sure I could have identified them.
This is a terribly sad story. I had no sense of
ownership or belonging in this community. No one there cared for me, and
I did not take care of them. My story has of course changed and now my
neighbors and extended community fill my life. But as I travel the
country speaking about community and hearing others’ stories, my
experience living for those five years in an apartment building is far
too common a story.
We are living in chaotic times, and I believe things are going to get worse. This from a guy whose wife introduces him as seeing the glass not as half empty or half full but as overflowing (though she quickly adds this gets annoying some days). Why does this eternal optimist have a growing sense that things are going to get a lot worse? Because the systems we have come to rely on are broken. They no longer serve us well. The environment is a mess, the economy is unstable to the point of being wonky, and people are angry and scared. They’re rising up all over the place, both against injustice and in fearful reaction.
Some may think my outlook is unwarranted. We live in a time of rapid and massive change, fueled by the hope of technology. We forge ahead, boldly believing that innovations are near that will help us address any challenge we might face. Science, we are told, is en route to curing every major disease, and solving every possible disaster. When this belief is challenged, the reply is confident: All we need is more time and more money and we will overcome this. We are asked to believe that we are a people of possibility, a people without limits.
Community, as experienced by generations before us, has broken down. Years of embracing individualism and consumerism and relying on government intervention to meet our needs have left us with few resources for building community. We live more densely than ever, but many of us do not know our neighbors, and most families are spread far and wide. Traditional observances and religious practice are on the decline. Television and other individual pursuits have stripped us of the skills to play together and share our stories. The frenetic pace at which we conduct our daily lives carries—no, hurls—us forward.
Paul Born is a best-selling author and activist who grew up with Mennonites—a people who taught him the value of the statement, “Whatever the problem, community is the answer.” He is the cofounder and president of the Tamarack Institute, a Canadian think tank and lab with a mandate to advance collaborative leadership, citizen engagement, and community innovation. Tamarack sponsors Vibrant Communities—Canada’s largest network of cities reducing poverty. Their goal is to reduce poverty for one million people. They are a quarter of the way there.
The Theory of Change
The two loops model has been a fundamental piece of The Berkana Institute’s theory of change. As one system culminates and starts to collapse, isolated alternatives slowly begin to arise and give way to the new. In this video Deborah Frieze, Berkana’s former co-president, explains the two loops theory and speaks about the way that our work to name, connect, nourish and illuminate has fit into this model. She also identifies some of the different roles we might play to hospice the dying system, usher in the alternative system and make clear the choice between the two.
We believe that no universal solution exists for the challenges of this time: increased poverty and disease, failing large-scale systems, ecological degradation. But widespread impact does become possible when people working at the local level are able to learn from one another, practice together and share learning with communities everywhere. We have observed that large-scale change emerges when local actions get connected globally while preserving their deeply local culture, flavor and form. And we have called this trans-local learning.
Margaret Wheatley from
We Can Be Wise Only Together:
From Wikipedia –
Characteristics of a True Community
In his book The Different Drum: Community Making and Peace, M. Scott Peck (author of "A Road Less Traveled") describes what he considers to be the most salient characteristics of a true community:
Inclusivity, commitment and consensus: Members accept and embrace each other, celebrating their individuality and transcending their differences. They commit themselves to the effort and the people involved. They make decisions and reconcile their differences through consensus.
Realism: Members bring together multiple perspectives to better understand the whole context of the situation. Decisions are more well-rounded and humble, rather than one-sided and arrogant.
Contemplation: Members examine themselves. They are individually and collectively self-aware of the world outside themselves, the world inside themselves, and the relationship between the two.
A safe place: Members allow others to share their vulnerability, heal themselves, and express who they truly are.
A laboratory for personal disarmament: Members experientially discover the rules for peacemaking and embrace its virtues. They feel and express compassion and respect for each other as fellow human beings.
A group that can fight gracefully: Members resolve conflicts with wisdom and grace. They listen and understand, respect each others gifts, accept each other's limitations, celebrate their differences, bind each other's wounds, and commit to a struggle together rather than against each other.
A group of all leaders: Members harness the “flow of leadership” to make decisions and set a course of action. It is the spirit of community itself that leads and not any single individual.
A spirit: The true spirit of community is the
spirit of peace, love, wisdom and power. Members may view the source of this spirit as an
outgrowth of the collective self or as the manifestation of a
Scott Peck (May 23, 1936 – September 25, 2005) was an American psychiatrist and best-selling author, best known for his first book, The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978.
Drawing on information from his visits to hundreds of communities across the continent, Geoph Kozeny gives an overview of the communities movement -- not only its current state, but also how it has evolved and its prospects for the future. He points out the common bonds that link communities in spite of their diversity.
TODAY MANY PEOPLE ARE QUESTIONING our society's values, and asking what gives meaning to life. They bemoan the "loss of community," and are looking for ways to reintroduce community values into their lives.
There are several options now available to the average person that satisfy at least the basic cravings: many folks get involved with various civic or social change groups; others get more deeply involved in the activities of their church; still others create friendships and support networks in their neighborhoods. Those with strong motivation to live their values "full time" often seek to join or create intentional communities.
An "intentional community" is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. The people may live together on a piece of rural land, in a suburban home, or in an urban neighborhood, and they may share a single residence or live in a cluster of dwellings.
This definition spans a wide variety of groups, including (but not limited to) communes, student cooperatives, land co-ops, cohousing groups, monasteries and ashrams, and farming collectives. Although quite diverse in philosophy and lifestyle, each of these groups places a high priority on fostering a sense of community--a feeling of belonging and mutual support that is increasingly hard to find in mainstream Western society.
Intentional communities are like people--you can categorize them based on certain distinguishing characteristics, but no two are ever identical. Differences among them, whether obvious or subtle, can be attributed to variations in philosophy, in mission or project emphasis, in behavioral norms, or in the personality and style of the leaders (if the group has identified leaders), and the individual members. Each group is somehow unique.
A Time-Honored Idea
Mainstream media typically promote the popular myth that shared living began with the "hippie crash pads" of the '60s--and died with the arrival of "yuppies" in the late '70s and early '80s.
The truth, however, is quite different. Today there are literally thousands of groups, with hundreds of thousands of members, that live in intentional communities and extended families based on something other than blood ties. This type of living has been around for thousands of years, not just decades.
It is well documented that early followers of Jesus banded together to live in a "community of goods," simplifying their lives and sharing all that they owned. That tradition continues to this day, particularly through many inner-city Christian groups that live communally. These groups often pool resources and efforts in their ministry to the homeless, the poor, orphans, single parents, battered women, and otherwise neglected and oppressed minorities.
Yet shared living goes back much farther than that, predating the development of agriculture many thousands of years ago. Early hunter-gatherers banded together in tribes, not just blood-related families, and depended on cooperation for their very survival.
The advent of the isolated nuclear family is, in fact, a fairly recent phenomenon, having evolved primarily with the rise of industrialization, particularly the development of high-speed transportation. As transportation has become cheaper and faster, we've also witnessed an increase in transience, and the demise of the traditional neighborhood.
Roots & Realities
Although many contemporary community visions emphasize the creation of neighborhood and/or extended family ties, their philosophic roots are amazingly diverse. The range includes Christians, Quakers, and followers of Eastern religions, to '60s drop-outs, anarchists, psychologists, artists, back-to-the-land survivalists--and the list goes on.
The scope of their primary values is equally broad, including ecology, equality, appropriate technology, self-sufficiency, right livelihood, humanist psychology, creativity, spirituality, meditation, yoga, and the pursuit of global peace. However, even among groups that base their philosophy on "achieving a holistic view of the world," it would be quite surprising to discover a community that has achieved "perfection" amidst the fast-paced chaos of modern life. Communities draw their membership from society at large, and those members bring with them generations of social conditioning. The attitudes, behaviors, and institutions prevalent in the broader society--including the very things we seek alternatives to--are a significant part of our upbringing. Merely identifying a problem and expressing a desire to overcome it does not mean that we presently have the perspective or skills needed to transcend it. The problems we see "out there" in the mainstream--greed, dishonesty, excessive ego, lack of self-esteem, factionalism, inadequate resources, poor communication skills, you name it--all manage to find a significant role in alternative cultures as well.
What is encouraging about many intentional communities is their tendency to be open to new ideas, their willingness to be tolerant of other approaches, and their commitment to live in a way that reflects their idealism. Although communities exist that are close-minded and bigoted, they're the exception, not the rule. More often than not, people who consciously choose to live in an intentional community also have parallel interests in ecology, personal growth, cooperation, and peaceful social transformation--pursuing the work necessary to change destructive attitudes and behaviors often taken for granted in the prevailing culture.
Some Common Threads
Spirituality or religion, regardless of the specific sect or form, is probably the most common inspiration for launching a new community. Such groups bear a striking resemblance to their centuries-old predecessors--in spite of current developments in technology, education, psychology, and theology. Many of North America's leading centers for the study of meditation and yoga have been established by intentional communities based on the teachings of spiritual masters from the Far East. (Such centers include Kripalu in Massachusetts, Ananda Village in California, Satchidananda Ashram in Virginia, Ananda Marga in New York, and Maharishi University in Iowa. Each of these intentional communities serves a widely dispersed group of practitioners, including those who live in "sister" communities, and many who live "out there" in the wider society.)
Among secular communities, the inspiration is typically based on bold visions of creating a new social and economic order--establishing replicable models that will lead to the peaceful and ecological salvation of the planet.
"WITHIN REACH" documents one couple's pedal-powered journey across the United States in search of a new home in sustainable community. Mandy and Ryan have given up their corporate jobs and their traditional houses to "bike-pack" thousands of miles around the USA, looking around as they look within.
Their journey and their film has answered the question that they and many others are asking: Is it possible for all of us to live in a sustainable? After circling the country, and talking with over 20,000 people they have found that not only is it possible but its already underway...
“In order to create a sustainable future, we first need to imagine it. Within Reach takes the audience on a journey to redefine community and concludes that "community is the secret ingredient in sustainability."
What's True About Intentional Communities:
(Editor's Note: Although this was put together in 1995 the 13 myths dispelled are still as valid today... although some of the figures have changed)
1. Myth: There are no intentional communities anymore; they died out in the `60s &`70s.
Fact: Not so. Many of those communities survived and thrived, and many new ones have formed since then. A significant new wave of interest in intentional communities has grown over the last several years.
We listed 540 intentional communities in North America in the 1995 edition of our Communities Directory--up from 300 in our 1990/91 edition (*Ed. note: the count in 2013 is 1664 in the US alone!). Several hundred more communities (who declined to be listed) are in our database. We estimate there are several thousand altogether.
2. Myth: Intentional communities are all alike.
Fact: There is enormous diversity among intentional communities. Most communities share land or housing, but more importantly, their members share a common vision and work actively to carry out their common purpose.
However, their purposes vary widely. For example, communities have been formed to share resources, to create great family neighborhoods, to live ecologically sustainable lifestyles, or to live with others who hold similar values. Some communities are wholly secular; others are committed to a common spiritual practice; many are spiritually eclectic. Some are focused on egalitarian values and voluntary simplicity, or mutual interpersonal growth work, or rural homesteading and self-reliance. Some communities provide services, for example helping war refugees, the urban homeless, or developmentally disabled children or adults. Some communities operate rural conference and retreat centers, health and healing centers, or sustainable-living education centers.
3. Myth: Intentional communities are "communes."
Fact: Many people use these terms interchangeably, however, it is probably more useful to use the term "commune" to describe a particular kind of intentional community whose members live "communally" in an economic sense--operating with a common treasury and sharing ownership of their property. Most intentional communities are not communes, though some of the communities most active in the communities movement are.
4. Myth: Most community members are young--in their twenties.
Fact: Most communities are multi-generational. In the hundreds of North American communities we know about, most members range in age from 30 to 60, with some in their 20s, some 60 and older, and many children.
5. Myth: Most communitarians are hippies.
Fact: While some of today's communities can trace their roots back to the counterculture of the `60s and `70s, few today identify with the hippie stereotype. (Moreover, many of the characteristics that identified "hippies" 25 years ago--long hair, bright clothes, ecological awareness--have become integrated into mainstream lifestyles.)
On the political spectrum, communitarians tend to be left of
center. In terms of lifestyle choices, they tend to be hard working,
peace loving, health conscious, environmentally concerned, and
family oriented. Philosophically they tend toward a way of life
which increases the options for their own members without limiting
the choices of others.
For more information, please contact the Fellowship for Intentional Community
"Intentional communities are testing grounds for new ideas about how to live more satisfying lives that enable us to actualize more of our untapped potential."
In Community, Intentionally
"I want more of a sense of community in my life." If I had a dollar for every time I've heard someone utter that phrase, I could invest the funds, retire to my favorite rural community, and live off the interest.
What's remarkable is that this inspiration is not coming only from folks that might be called "alternative" - I hear it from people representing a wide spectrum of values, ideals, and lifestyles
Because of mainstream media's lack of understanding of the phenomenon, most people fail to realize that the hippie communes of the '60s were collectively just one small blip in history's timeline of intentional communities. Efforts to create new lifestyles based on lofty ideals have been happening since we have moved out of caves.
What all intentional communities have in common is idealism -- each one was founded on a vision of living in a better way, usually in response to something perceived as lacking or missing in the broader culture. Most communities aspire to provide a supportive environment for the development of members' awareness, abilities, and spiritual growth. Most seek to create a life that will satisfy the basic human cravings: security, family, relationship, fellowship, mutual cooperation, creativity and self-expression, a sense of place, a sense of belonging.
Typically, today's intentional communities are melting pots of ideals and issues that have been in the public spotlight over the decades: equality and civil rights, women's liberation, anti-war efforts, ecology and conservation, alternative energy, sustainable agriculture, co-ops, worker-owned businesses, personal growth work, spirituality. Some groups focus on only one or a few of these areas, while others try to integrate them all into a coherent whole.
communities are usually on the fringes of mainstream culture, the
everyday values and priorities of community members are surprisingly
compatible with the values and priorities of their less adventurous
counterparts. Both tend to assign value to providing a stable home
and good education for their children; finding meaningful and
satisfying work; living in a safe neighborhood and an unpolluted
environment; and participating in local organizations and activities.
For many, finding a spiritual path that provides a context for the
other goals, and a basis for making decisions in times of
uncertainty is also important. The big difference is that the
community members are not satisfied with the status quo. They want
to do all those things better than in the past - better
than their parents did them, and better than the generations before
that. Intentional communities
are testing grounds for new ideas about how to live more satisfying
lives that enable us to actualize more of our untapped potential.
Because of his extensive travels visiting Intentional Communities (more than 350), Geoph may be the most widely-known communitarian. For decades, Geoph broke bread with thousands of communitarians - one community at a time.
Geoph continued to embrace new opportunities to grow community through networking, until his death by pancreatic cancer, at home, in his sleep, the afternoon of October 22, 2007.
Curious about the leading edge of green living? After traveling to ecovillages on five continents, Professor Karen Litfin shares some gleanings about how these seed communities might help us to create a sustainable future.
Self-Reliance, Right Livelihood,
The dirt road to the valley floor winds its way through oak woodlands and past an enormous corporate vineyard. It bisects our neighbors’ small horse farm and a massive overgrazed cattle ranch. If you had told me seven years ago that I’d have a 30-minute commute alone in my car to get to work twice a week, I’d have pointed out that I’d never even owned a car, that I don’t need much money, and certainly don’t work for “the man.”
It’s true, I have biked the road many times, and even driven our mule cart to town. Still, I’ve grown to really appreciate my biodiesel
Jetta, and find I actually enjoy the time and space I get driving slowly through the countryside on my way to my bodywork practice in Boonville. Some would say I’ve grown up, some would say I’ve sold out. I would say that I have learned to compromise for love and a larger purpose. Having a child and living at Emerald Earth—a small, rural eco-village in northern California—have taught me a lot about compromise.
Abeja has lived at Emerald Earth with her family for the last six years, and she has lived in intentional community for the better part of the last 18 years. Folks still seem willing to put up with her.
“Copyright 2013, Abeja Hummel and Communities Magazine.
This article first appeared in Communities: Life in Cooperative Culture, Spring 2013; for further information on Communities: communities.ic.org.”
“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.”
There's No Place Like Here –
Nice little video on one type of community living...
How to Design Our Neighborhoods for Happiness
When we share our yards, sidewalks, and other common spaces, we find a greater sense of belonging and connection to those around us.
Biology is destiny, declared Sigmund Freud.
But if Freud were around today, he might say “design is destiny”—especially after taking a stroll through most modern cities.
The way we design our communities plays a huge role in how we experience our lives. Neighborhoods built without sidewalks, for instance, mean that people walk less and therefore enjoy fewer spontaneous encounters, which is what instills a spirit of community to a place. A neighborly sense of the commons is missing.
You don’t have to be a therapist to realize that this creates lasting psychological effects. It thwarts the connections between people that encourage us to congregate, cooperate, and work for the common good. We retreat into ever more privatized existences.
Of course, this is no startling revelation. Over the past 40 years, the shrinking sense of community across America has been widely discussed, and many proposals outlined about how to bring us back together.
One of the notable solutions being put into practice to combat this problem is New Urbanism, an architectural movement to build new communities (and revitalize existing ones) by maximizing opportunities for social exchange: public plazas, front porches, corner stores, coffee shops, neighborhood schools, narrow streets, and, yes, sidewalks.
But while New Urbanism is making strides at the level of the neighborhood, we still spend most of our time at home, which today means seeing no one other than our nuclear family. How could we widen that circle just a bit? Cooperative living and cohousing communities are gaining popularity, especially among young people. Yet, millions more people are looking for more informal arrangements with neighbors, where they share more than a property line.
That’s an idea Seattle-area architect Ross Chapin has explored for many years, and now showcases in an inspiring book: Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating a Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World.
He believes that groupings of four to twelve households make an ideal community “where meaningful ‘neighborly’ relationships are fostered.” But even here, design shapes our destiny. Chapin explains that strong connections between neighbors develop most fully and organically when everyone shares some “common ground.”
That can be a semi-public space, as in the pocket neighborhoods Chapin designs in the Seattle area. In the book’s bright photographs, they look like grassy patches of paradise, where kids scamper, flowers bloom, and neighbors stop to chat.
But Chapin points out these commons can take many different forms—an apartment building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with a shared backyard; a group of neighbors in Oakland who tore down their backyard fences to create a commons; a block in Baltimore that turned their alley into a public commons; or the residential pedestrian streets found in Manhattan Beach, California, and all around Europe.
The benefits of a living in such a community go farther than you might imagine. I lived in one while in graduate school, a rundown 1886 row house with a common courtyard near the University of Minnesota campus. At no other time in my life have I become such close friends with my neighbors. We shared impromptu afternoon conversations at the picnic table and parties that went into the early hours of the morning under Italian lights we strung from the trees.
When the property was sold to a speculator who jacked up the rents to raise capital for the eventual demolition of the building, we organized a rent strike. And we won, which would never have happened if we had not already forged strong bonds with each other. Because the judge ruled that the landlord could not raise our rents until he fixed up the building, he abandoned plans to knock it down. It still stands today, and I still remain in contact with some of the old gang that partied in the courtyard.
Jay Walljasper wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Jay is a senior fellow at On the Commons and editor of OnTheCommons.org and author of All That We Share (see below).
All That We Share
All That We Share: A Field Guide to the Commons is a wake-up call that will inspire you to see the world in a new way. As soon as you realize that some things belong to everyone, you become a commoner, part of a movement that’s reshaping how we will solve the problems facing us. Edited by award-winning journalist Jay Walljasper, All That We Share is an indispensable introduction to fresh ideas that touch all of us.
Jay Walljasper chronicles stories from around the world that point us toward a greener, more equitable and more enjoyable future. His focus goes beyond what’s in the headlines to chronicle the surprising real life of communities today. Jay is editor of OnTheCommons.org and a Senior Fellow Fellow at Project for Public Spaces, a New York-based organization that helps citizens enliven their communities by improving public places.
Why would anyone voluntarily give up having a place of her own? “I could never do it,” say my more traditional friends, shaking their heads in wonder. “I could never handle other people in my home. I can’t even take house guests for more than three days! I need to have my own space.”
Having one’s own house (and washer, dryer, garden, lawn mower, stuff) may be the American Dream, but some of us have a different dream: a dream of learning to live more cooperatively with others and sharing resources rather than each needing to have our own. And as it happens, the skills it takes to live closely with others and low on the food chain are extremely useful when the economic systems of the larger culture hit the skids.
I’ve lived in shared households all my adult life. Shared living has always been my chosen lifestyle, both for the companionship and the sharing of resources. When other young women were dreaming of becoming brides, my dream was to find my tribe. I was part of several start-up groups exploring intentional community, but none of them got off the ground. However, at age 35, I joined with three other women to buy a large house on an acre of land in San Luis Obispo, California as an experiment in community living on a small scale.
None of us could have afforded to buy property alone, and none of us wanted to dedicate our lives to earning enough to do so. We reasoned that if we shared living expenses we could all be free from the rat race. We called the place Caballeros House, and buying it jointly was a splendid decision. There was lots of turnover in the household as people’s lives changed, but for 20 years there was always a houseful of folks living and growing together.
Conflict was inevitable, and we had to learn how to manage it. One day a few months after we had moved in, Maxine came home to find a new piece of wall art mounted at the end of the hall. “Who put that there?” she demanded. “I did,” replied Elizabeth mildly, “I think the colorful herb and flowers in the poster look nice there.” “Well I don’t like it,” grumbled Maxine, slamming her door. Elizabeth’s feelings were hurt, and we all tiptoed around on eggshells for a day or two. Finally we called a house meeting to discuss what had happened and how we would handle such things in the future. The real issue was not the poster, of course, but territoriality. Max was sensitive to changes being made without consulting her, and Liz wanted the freedom to experiment without new additions being shot down. We came up with a simple policy that we called ”Try it for a week.” Anyone could bring anything into the house on a trial basis and the others would wait a week to pass final judgment. As it turned out, we discovered that an immediate negative reaction frequently dissipated after living with the change for a while. “Try it for a week” saved us innumerable arguments and much unpleasantness, and we often laughed remembering the stir caused by that inoffensive poster.
Living with others presents challenges. Relationship dynamics can get prickly and fantasies that the household will meet extended family needs or that everyone will pitch in equally may not pan out. Mutual adjustment is necessary. It takes a couple of months for a new resident to get into the flow of the household, and there’s a lingering emptiness when a much-loved person departs. It’s all part of the ebb and flow.
Communication is the key to making it work. Every new resident at Casa Caballeros had a long interview, in which we shared our values of recycling, composting, and conserving energy and resources, to determine whether s/he would be a good match for the household. We talked about mutual respect and the importance of communicating with one another about needs and irritations so that we could mutually adjust to prevent chronic complaints or resentments. There was no structure or expectation of how much we would interact; that was allowed to develop organically. Sometimes we shared meals, late night schmoozing, or celebrations. Always we respected one another’s privacy.
Carol Pimentel was Mistress of Caballeros House in San Luis Obispo, California for over 20 years. She now resides with a housemate in Asheville, North Carolina, where she has a relaxed private practice as a counselor and organizing consultant.
A charming and touching talk about living in community – by a young man named Nick April – from the CoHousing blog -- http://www.cohousing.org/blog
"In My Community"
My neighbor Nick April won first place for his Junior class's declamation competition. His speech is titled "In My Community." It made me proud of him and our community.
Creative Housing for Seniors
In cohousing communities, residents own their units but share a common house to socialize and enjoy meals.
Lately, I've been considering downsizing, not only to save on mortgage payments and maintenance but also to get a jump on my next phase of life, when the kids-school-work routine of the past 30 or so years is replaced by the read-travel-relax routine of retirement. So far, the choices—boxy condos in antiseptic high-rises or houses that are short on space but long on yardwork—don't appeal. And I'm loath to give up the relationships I've formed in my current neighborhood.
READ FULL ARTICLE on Kiplinger's
Wisdom from Within, Wisdom from Without
Soon after moving to Lost Valley Educational Center, an intentional community in Dexter, Oregon, I found one member particularly difficult to resonate with. I did what came naturally—which was to avoid conflict at all costs. I shrank from her sharp edges and worked to soften my own; to see her as beautiful, to understand her perspective, to give her latitude.
One day she said to me, “You know, Karin, I have my part it in too.” She asked me to interact with her more, to tell her the truth. She wanted connection and understanding, perhaps to know why people reacted to her as they did. I still felt tentative, but began to offer her my perspective. Though we never became the closest of friends, over time we forged a more trusting bond. I appreciated her strength, and she responded to my warmth. Her willingness to ask for feedback took courage; she created an opening, and light shone in.
We all need each other to see ourselves clearly. In many communities, even those that are spiritually based, we don’t always connect from a place of honesty. By honesty I don’t mean sharing every judgment. Judgment isn’t honest, it’s delusion—it’s seeing someone else through harsh eyes rather than owning our own discomfort. But to share who we are, what our fears or dreams are, to say the hard thing that makes us feel vulnerable—especially when a lot is at stake—from a caring, responsible place within…can make or break the well-being of family or community. We have to risk. We have to keep our relationships clear.
Karin Iona Sundberg is a writer, painter, and poet living in Eugene, Oregon. She lived at Lost Valley with her family from 1994-2003, and now makes her living as one of the flock at Hummingbird Wholesale.
Life Is Easier With Friends Next Door
Feeling a need for community? Cohousing can provide affordable space and neighbors to share it with.
When Sarah and Andy Karlson’s daughter, Greta, was born, they were living in a one-bedroom apartment in Oakland. They had been feeling a bit strange about living in a building where they rarely saw the other residents, but it really hit Sarah when she bumped into a neighbor one day and was greeted with a stunned “You had a baby?”
“She didn’t even know I had been pregnant,” Sarah remembers. “After two years we didn’t even know all of our neighbors’ names.”
With no family in California and feeling isolated in their tiny apartment, Sarah and Andy were dreaming about a place with a feeling of neighborliness, where people watch out for each other and Greta could have space to run around. “We had no outdoor access except for the parking lot behind our building,” Sarah recalls, “and I felt this deep sadness, wondering where Greta would learn to climb a tree.”
They started looking for apartments but were unable to find a place they could afford that had green space—let alone a sense of community. Then, last summer, Sarah and Andy heard about an opening at Temescal Creek, a block of adjacent 1920s duplexes retrofitted into an eleven-unit, multi-generational cohousing community in North Oakland’s Temescal district. They jumped at the opportunity and still can’t quite believe how lucky they are to be sharing meals with their new neighbors and watching Greta run through this urban oasis with nine playmates and with pet rabbits and chickens to enjoy. It’s just a matter of time until she starts climbing the avocado and fig trees.
Gunkel says that Doyle Street has deepened his life beyond anything he could have imagined. “I’ve lived in single-family homes, and you might run into your neighbors and chat or even hang out,” he says, “but for the most part you’re not really sharing with them your concerns and feelings of day-to-day life.”
The yearning to live in community is not a new one. Human beings evolved sharing common space, resources, and neighborly support, not only for physical survival but also for a sense of belonging and togetherness.
But modern society values autonomy, often at the cost of the social connection offered by traditional communities. Cohousing, an idea that originated in Denmark in the 1960s, has been increasingly filling the gap. Each household in cohousing has an individual residence but takes part in the design process, consensus-based decision-making, shared meals, and socializing.
A Declaration of INTERdependence
A Declaration of INTERdependence is no more than accepting the obvious, for no matter what we do, we humans cannot survive independently of each other and of the planet’s ecosystem. We may think we are doing it all without anyone else’s help by driving to the store, picking up some food, paying with our credit card at the automatic checkout scanner, driving back into our remote controlled garage, popping the food in the microwave, then eating dinner while being entertained by the television - but we’re really just fooling ourselves.
This seemingly simple process of getting food in our tummy depends on literally thousands of processes and interactions, from getting the oil extracted to fuel and build our cars, to growing and distributing the food we’re buying, to powering the stove, dishwasher, and television. Not to mention all the things we do that have nothing to do with survival and are purely designed to entertain our minds that are increasingly unable to find meaning and purpose without material boosters. Almost every facet of our life that we take for granted is completely fossil-fueled, and thus dependent on a whole host of industrial processes we have no control over.
It is, in fact, a very complex and anonymous system of interdependence that has allowed us to revel in a false sense of independence. These very complex systems have not only sheltered us from the staggering amount of energy that goes into them but the huge mountains of waste they produce. It’s only during blackouts, phone and internet disconnections, and periods of rising oil prices on an elusive world market that we realize how dependent we’ve really become on mechanisms that are beyond our control.
Damanhur Community in Italy,
“The Temples of Humankind are a surprising achievement, and what does that say about the community that built them? The social structure developed by the Damanhurians has turned out to be as extraordinary in every aspect as the Temples are. The first thing to clarify is that this is a place of spiritual and philosophical research; Damanhur is not trying to create a new religion. Here they are researching in the field of spirituality, of social philosophy, here they are researching life.
If all this sounds a bit too good to be true, just let me say that after being with many of these people, living with them, experiencing people daily, there is no doubt in my mind that the reality comes close to the vision.”
Damanhur – Italy
A video introduction to this large, well established and unusual community in Italy – Part 1 of several parts that can be seen on YouTube here.