We started off as veteran Burning Man friends and we ended up as neighbors, chosen family members, business partners, co-parents and partners in the process of life. Little did we know that there was a grand design at work when years before, many of us came together to do a deep dive into a profound spiritual work. With the aid of a trusted guide and teacher, we witnessed each other shed layers of fear, persona and ego. It was gritty, gut wrenching, and sometimes, very entertaining.
Guided by faith and trust
Through this process, we were willing to let go of the comfortable, yet limiting, disconnected lives we were living and were able to get honest about our lives and where we really wanted to be living: in a communal village where we could raise humans into integral beings. Many of us held the vision of community in various iterations for quite some time and had organized meetings and facilitated discussions around how this could actually come about in a place as independent and narcissistic as Southern California.
What we learned is that it wasn’t enough to gather people against something like “The Man” or “Capitalism”. We had to unite for higher values we believed in, while being guided by heart based wisdom, service, integrity, unconditional love, collaboration, and childlike play. It wasn’t even enough to agree on a set of values; we came together because we were already in the process of living those values.
From there, it was almost as if we were chosen by invisible forces to cultivate ourselves, our children, our relationships, and the earth. We had little to no blueprint of how to go about this behemoth task, so we called upon our collective skill set to find our way in the dark, guided mostly by faith and trust.
A diversity of skills
Our village was born with a diverse group with backgrounds in construction, education, permaculture, property management, real estate, performance art, furniture design, acupuncture, psychology and the armed forces. It involved long meetings that asked us to deepen our frustration tolerance, find levity and ultimately, chose love.
I can see now why few communities actually make it, for a functioning village involves incredible amounts of emotional intelligence, personal awareness, maturity, and a profound willingness to evolve. Unlike a quaint suburban existence, where habits and peccadillos can be scrupulously concealed, there is no hiding amidst the reflection of 10 people who are equally aware and committed to growth.
Learning to work together
In the past four and a half years, we have learned many lessons about the stickiness of power distribution, the tribulations of consensus-based decision making, the downsides of overly ambitious plans and projects, the importance of personal integrity and boundaries, the necessity of non-violent, heart based communication, the beauty of sharing meals, the frustration (and awesomeness) of sharing resources, the benefit of regular emotional clearings, the challenge of keeping communal kitchens clean and perhaps most importantly, the importance of doing our own personal work to remove the barriers to our own connections with truth.
Saving the world, one community at a time
Though at times, I reflect on the massive amount of energy that has gone into these 9 acres we call home and I think about what I could be doing with all that life force. I could be saving the rainforests, educating the world’s children, aiding the reduction of the global carbon imprint, or healing the masses.
Then I realize, that’s exactly what we are doing in our own backyard, and if we can practice integrity from the inside out at home, then maybe our practice can inspire others to cultivate their own version of family in their own humble, yet deeply meaningful way.
No matter where you are or where you come from, we all need to feel connected to a sense of belonging, a sense of family. It takes many hands and hearts to raise beings into caring global citizens!