Our itch to do something drastically different with our lives started in about 2009, when we released 99% of our belongings and moved to Santa Monica from Chicago to live more sustainably. We did this based on a vision I had upon waking up from a nap on my couch. I saw a little girl who told me that I must move to Santa Monica, and that it would be for autism healing. The girl was someone I knew, and had appeared to me with helpful messages before. We’d never been to Santa Monica, but after a few months of research, and meditating on it, we decided to make a go of it. Our first intention was to be closer to the Earth. The warm weather and perpetual farmer’s markets allowed for us to eat fresh, organic, locally and a mostly raw vegan diet, which really suited us at that time. And, we soon discovered that we could do it way less expensively than clean eating cost in Chicago. My son had just gone through a major transformation out of the thickness of his autism symptoms, and we had acquired way too much knowledge about the way the world works to not react by moving our family. We needed out of the energy of where he became sick. We needed out of the energy of the cold weather. We needed to create less waste, have more time on the Earth herself, call in real money or abundance in the way of providing better experiences and healing services for our son. And, we did all that and even learned yoga. My husband left a job at a family law firm which he felt was holding him down creatively and was not providing the finances we needed. We would use the time to commit to our own business and Doug would get to spend quality time with our boy. He’d been gone working for 12 hours per day with his Chicago commute. No fun. But, as soon as we rolled into our new town, it was as if the Universe opened its big juicy heart to us, pouring out the best of the best. I immediately got several very well paying writing jobs, increased my healing session client intake, signed Dougie up for part-time at an amazing nature-based school, we were given some amazing FREE furniture to cozy-up our new place, and of course, we met new and lasting friends. That was only the beginning. We spent just over 2 years in Santa Monica when we were given the next guidance. Scale down even more.
This time, the goal was to somehow create even less waste, eliminate spending on non-renewable resources, and begin sharing our gifts on a wider scale. Somewhere in this I became pretty sick again, and had to take some time to really dig in and better care for myself. We wanted an even smaller living space. Something with less responsibility. We wanted our time spent sharing energy with our son and the world. We would focus now on Home-Schooling and Un-Schooling. We teetered between the idea of finding an intentional community to live in, create one or live on the road. And, after some shifting between false realities where we lived with both of our families for a few months and wound up being kind of kicked to the curb emotionally by both sides, we landed in Mexico for some spiritual schooling. There, we got to be a part of chicken raising, vegetable growing, meditation and drum circles, and of course – we met amazing friends who we still hold dear. Mexico was where I had my first memorable experiences with time travel, extra terrestrials and really tuning into my psychic gifts. And, it’s where we were given the information about Community Living. We hashed out some plans for getting land and growing our own food. We weren’t strangers to growing, and really thought we could just dive right in. We saw ourselves living with other families on a beautiful piece of land, perhaps desert or forest. We saw yurts or tipis. Our vision felt very real.
When we returned to the US after our year in Mexico, we lived with 2 sets of friends. Friends who literally just took us in. Friends who we didn’t want to rely on, out of pride, but who were gratefully there for us. Our intentions to start or become part of a community looked a whole lot different than what we were experiencing. We wanted to plan things out more. Have whole-tribe-based goals. We wanted to support one another in our creative endeavors. We wanted to grow food and become sustainable. But, we knew nothing of how to make that happen. And, we were meant to humble down and literally accept housing in exchange for sharing our energy work. Nothing more.
It wasn’t until 2013 when we finally landed in our first intentional community. During our year in that desert space, we lived off-grid in our RV on 640 acres of land. We were given loads of freedom to create the community we desired by the land owner. We grew 60-80% of our own food in a climate that many think doesn’t accommodate growing. We had whole -tribe meals, bon fires, circle gatherings, work projects and the true sense of LOVE. We learned how to go to sleep when the sun went down, charge our electronics with the solar power of the sun during the day, heat water during the day, dig holes for composting, wash dishes and clothes with warmed spring water, pee on the plants, and make the most of every tiny thing we owned. We climbed rocks for fun and and hid out in caves when it was too hot outside. We chased our son though prickly trails and wore our baby during 4 a.m. freezing walks under the stars because it was simply too beautiful to miss. Most of all we learned to share on such a grander scale. My parents are extremely generous people. It was always in my blood to share. But, in this place, giving whatever our tribe needed of us became so easy and normal in such a different way. But, we left because our ideals were in direct conflict with the land owner’s and some of the other people who were living on the land before we even arrived. We were so grateful to live there that, I was brought to tears nearly every time we returned home after a day in town. And, we still consider that our desert home. But, we were given the guidance to leave and an invitation from my best friend to house-sit at her avocado farm.
We really wanted to make the desert space happen forever since we had our baby there and had put so much energy into creating our dream with our Tribe. But, the energy of the place was transient, and we never could come to full alignment with EVERYONE. So, we took the invitation.
The avocado farm in North San Diego County taught us to grow food in climates that really love growing food. That was a treat. We continued to eat straight from the tree, and got to experience living in community in a place where there was far more financial abundance. We took our first indoor showers in a year. And, slept in our first beds. It had been over 6 months since we even stepped into an indoor home. It was beautiful to see how money can be used for the good and sustainability can be achieved when someone has all of the resources that money can buy. It was also beautiful to experience decisions being made based on the abundance of the Universe, and not the restraints that I felt with physical money. It was here that the heart vibration of HOME really opened up for me. In the dessert, I got to replay the fall of the divine feminine, and the rejection of receiving. Although I ran my coaching business from that space, I was unable to grow my business from that space. Creativity was deeply honored at the farm. And artists made their way in and out. The community there looked a lot more like our original vision.
When our time was up there, we sold our RV and again released more of our belongings and set out to Chicago to heal the family wounds that needed clearing, as instructed to us in our meditations. That also gave us time to re-group alone, in our private space — and make decisions about what was best for our future, and our original dream of community living.
Here, I sit today again living in community. This time in a completely urban setting. No big piece of land. It’s a condo. But, everything that we learned from our previous experiences about what works to make community life great can finally be implemented to make this our best experience yet.
I believe that community living is an essential part of the new paradigm of awakening, and that it is going to have to pop up in all areas where people need and want to live. The urban setting allows us to show our children the city and have access to public libraries, parks and transportation — and of course, it allows us to work online, meet people and feel like a part of society. That is not attractive to everyone. I know. :)I have met people in San Diego who have told me that the only way they can afford to live here is to have roomies. This is what I call obligational community. Those people who come together simply for getting the rent paid. They have a great purpose and help each other out, and may even become good friends. But, the nature of their relationship doesn’t necessarily create change in the world. Intentional communities create positive change in the people who share in them, and that energy is intended to extend out to the world in some beautiful way. I want to share with you some ways that I feel intentional communities work best for me, and how you can become a powerful member of your community.
Intentional Communities need an Intention: We have lived with people who we thought were “like-minded, “ only to discover that our lack of communicating our fundamental visions and goals led us to be completely repelled by them. We failed to discuss in the beginning of our relationship what each person desired out of their life and their community. What is the reason for forming or joining a community? Do you want to create art together? Help each other get jobs? Host amazing pot lucks? Do you want to grow food? Create one strong blanket intention that is unbreakable. And fill in all of the details with supportive ideas and projects. Make sure that your intention is agreed up by every single member. Decide if you just want to “live together” or you want to do something together. If all you want to do is live together, then it may not matter if someone doesn’t agree on an intention based on “doing something.”
Currently, we are living in a community where our main intention is to provide kick-ass home schooling. We decided that we are better at doing this together than alone, for now. We have some timeframes and goals set for our community. And, we have a schedule that reflects how we will achieve these goals. All of our secondary goals like finishing my book, flow into our schedule easily. We are all accustomed to eating clean and growing food, so those ideals become pillars that hold us up.
Honor Preferences: What makes each person tick? Does your housemate or tribe mate love to listen to Enya in the morning? Does your soul sister like her coffee burned? It’s super easy to honor people’s preferences for how they deal with stress, eat, socialize, sleep, decorate, as long as you have clear communication, and enough space to have your preferences honored. If you honor your own needs first, and take responsibility for yourself this is as easy as pie. However, if you expect that your housemate should want to be hugged in the morning, and he is not a morning person (light example here), this will not be good. Do not force your ways on others. This is not the same thing as compromise. Compromise is when each person receives some of what they want. I am asking you to fully honor the preferences of your community members. And, to keep your preferences from including anything that anyone else has to do for you. Your preferences are about how you treat yourself and how you handle your life.
Set Boundaries and Rules: Here is where you want to have a full understanding of each person’s ideals and pet peeves. You want to include everything that makes sense for upholding your main goals and honoring your preferences. Here are some categories that we use: Chores, Guests, Finances, Food, Education and Children. How do you like the home to look, feel and smell? Make sure all community spaces reflect the boundaries that are important to the tribe. You need to talk about this in the beginning. Or now. Also, talk about what would break your community apart and what the breaking of the rules would look like.
Have Meetings: Meet at agreed upon times as a whole to plan out your schedule and needs. Make this a time to discuss anything that went right or wrong and how you can fix “problems.” Keep consistent meetings and open, nonjudgmental communication during them so that you can create forward movement for your tribe.
Address issues right away: When a problem arises within the community or between you and one member, address it right away with respect. Everyone gets triggered now and then, and it’s necessary to clear the air and keep community energy flowing.
In our desert home, the land owner would often dislike building projects one of us did and talk about it behind our backs. Never ever ever talk about one community member while they are not there, unless it is out of praise. Stick up for yourself with dignity when necessary, but always listen before speaking. This is necessary because when people live in close quarters they often get unreasonably triggered, and one misplaced loud or negative word can make someone feel accused or hurt. If you are feeling too triggered to speak, have an agreement within your rules that gives the other person a knowing that you will return to speak about it.
Don’t be Passive Aggressive: I can’t say it in any better way. This way of reacting to stress and being triggered is so counter-productive. I even find that so many people I meet now cannot discern passive aggressive or sarcastic behavior. Never smile while saying something mean, or say something kind when you are hating your housemate. Be honest or do not be. Some of us were taught that kindness is about saying nice words, doing nice deeds and giving things to people. But, this really is a new paradigm. You can be compassionate and honest without making sly derogatory comments.
Be a Grown Up And Remember that You Live with Grown-Ups: Take care of your emotional needs. We’ve had times when community members have used profanities at other members over dishes needing to be washed. These are refections of us not setting boundaries and intentions in the beginning.
Get Time Away: Get alone time each day and more of that each week so that you can re-group. When we lived in the desert, our tribe members often became a little loopy after spending too much time in the sun and with the same people. You may live within a community, but you are an individual. Create your community goals with the self-knowledge that will support your free time.
Be the Change: Actively change those aspects that you do not like about the community by becoming the solution. Once you identify the solution, act as if it has already occurred by behaving in your new way, and letting go of judgements that got you to the problem. Take as much time to process your way into your answers. But, once you find them, just be them.
Everyone is Equal: In an obligational community, like when your parents welcome you back home in your mid-thirties because your hard work is not paying off… you do not have equality. You have obligation, often guilt and hopefully an agenda for leaving. But, when you set your intention together with a group, make sure that everyone has comfort in all community areas. Make sure that, if you start community in an urban home, that everyone has space for their special art or family photos. Also equally honor the space by honoring the belongings of every other person.
Share Your Best Gifts: You are in your community because they need your energy. What exactly do they need? Be that. Be you specifically. And, be open to receiving the wisdom from your tribe. If you are an artist, a teacher, lawyer, grower, musician, how does this create your tribe role? With intentional communities especially, using our best gifts is what helps the community thrive. If you feel blocked from sharing the best parts of you, you cannot thrive.
Don’t Take things Personally: Each person is on their own path, and you are simply blessed to ride next to them. Like I said, it’s easy to be triggered by someone you live so close to, and we all have different first family “programming” that taught us how to deal with those triggers. You may have a housemate who is extremely passive aggressive. It’s not ideal. But, it’s not about you. And, perhaps you will find that her behavior is a survival mechanism, and that she is there to clear it. Decide how you will handle the triggering of your tribe and go with what works.
Hold Space: This takes practice. But, can you actively listen while holding your heart open and not make judgements or suggestions? Can you listen to someone who needs an ear without the urge to tell them what to do? This is probably the best quality in a tribe member. Start your practice now.
Know When to Fold-Em: When it is time to go, often it just is. Community living is full of spiritual purpose, as we are carrying the codes for ascension of our planet. Often, my family has been called to work and live in different places when our work has finished. Be open to your guidance and without judgement. You may not stay in the same community forever. It may take time before you find your perfect space.
I come from an education that taught me to want to financially provide for myself and my family, and have shame for needing housing support from others after my college years. After getting married, we moved back in with both sets of our family a few times before getting on our feet. I always felt out of place. Our first experiences with community living were with our parents and bros and sisters. And, they were obligational. Of course, there was love. But there were no tight-knit bonds of a joined mission. So, we were left feeling like failures for needing help. As if our contributions were not good enough — and that our work, although seemingly serving many clients was going un-acknowledged. These first experiences for us were all about self-worth and undoing the chains of disdain and disappointment from both of our families. We did it!!!
It was strange to discover our calling to live in community because our family bonds meant so much to both of us, and the idea would not be understood by our first tribes. So, saying yes to that calling was another invitation to break through old family patterns that created the “failure” energy around the choice to co-habitate with our soul tribe.
Once we decided to do the community thing, we got disappointed in ourselves for not making one space last longer. But, the very brave choices of living off-grid, living on a farm, and living outside our home country made us feel a more bad-assy than flighty. Even when a family member refers to us as gypsies, we don’t take it personally. Soon, there was just as much accomplishment in the leaving as there was in the building. It came to mean that we fulfilled something very important. I have been called to do some grid healing work on the land we lived on, and like missionaries, we have been guided to our next space with certainty.
It wasn’t until late last year in 2015, that I really just “got it” on a new level. Not only have we been spiritually guided to live this way and have gained lifetimes of rich experiences for our children and ourselves, but we also consciously chose this for our life right now. We chose to open up to others and accept their help as well. I was often ashamed to share my rich experiences with my family because I felt a strong tie to the money judgment. I assumed that they assumed that we were not making enough money and therefore we were somehow lazy or unsuccessful. Lots of people in the “normal” world have assumed that we are “lacking” because we share space. And, all of the energy we put into that presumed belief has often made us feel “lacking.” So, for my husband and myself, living in community has taught us some of life’s best lessons. We can take great satisfaction in claiming our life and choices and the desire to share within a community. When we first accepted the invite to move in with a Chicago friend years ago, I felt the tension that was still thick from family judgement and was unable to fully relax in the space — even though my family was not there with me. But, after having deeply tuned into my guidance, I see the grander purpose for why I chose this. I see the maturity and grounded-ness I must possess to live this way, and I feel in full alignment with it. Soon it will be time to expand our community across more physical spaces, and we are ready for it. Anchoring in a new paradigm of Oneness has forced me to face all of my separateness with love. I am so grateful for all of the faces and hearts who have mirrored me over the years so that I can feel a new sense of what family means. We are creating heaven on earth in apartments and in forests. And, we are grateful for the assignment.