Reflections on Community

Submitted by SILC on September 19, 2013 - 4:09pm
A reflection on a road trip exploring intentional communities

As I sit, Enza leads five other community members in an impromtu sunrise yoga class at the end of the dock. Eleven members our community, SILC Guelph (Sustainable Intentional Living Community) are camped at Crooked Lake, north of Ann Arbor, Michigan. We are on a road trip to visit four other intentional co-housing communities in the region. We arrived yesterday evening and, seemingly without effort, tents were set up and a spread of delicious food was quickly laid out on two end to end picnic tables, complete with table cloths. The delicious wholesome food has come to be the norm for SILC, potlucks fulfilling the age-old tradition of bringing community together.

As the class settles into Savasana, I feel gratitude arising for the intentions of these friends of mine who share so much of themselves with the understanding that sharing aspects of their lives enrich all of us. That this yoga class on the end of the dock was spontaneous and continued to grow in numbers as others arrived, is reflective of the flexibility of these separate individuals and their commitment to a healthy, sustaining lifestyle.

Among the many things I appreciate about this community is the quality of the communication. It is the norm to fully listen to each individual and validate every opinion and idea. While projection does occur, it is usually taken back readily and easily. Everyone gives each other a chance to be heard. And from this, decisions, when necessary, are usually made quickly and effectively. Both the needs of the group and the individual are valued.

More importantly, so much sharing comes straight from the heart. On the last evening of the camping trip/community tour, all eleven of us went around a circle, each sharing for at least a few minutes of our experience over the three day trip. It was heartfelt and moving.

Other highlights of our little adventure included the simple things: hanging around in camp, individuals pitching in to help each other with tents, meals, clean up and so on. There was no plan, no schedule, no dictated organization; it just happened naturally.

I observed the balance this gives my life: between my ‘normal life’, were I am a ‘take charge’ personality, making decisions constantly and being in control; and the group dynamic where I can sit back and follow others’ leadership; then step into leadership as it feels right—sharing the load, supporting each other, being helpful.

Mike, one of the SILCies mentioned the sense of purpose that develops in community working for a cause. He noted for his father it was being in World War II—it was for my father, as well. The cause is not necessarily so important in eliciting this phenomenon. Yet, the sense of purpose and coming together of community can be more powerful when the cause is something for which we hold strong convictions.

With SILC, it is healthy connection, strong communication, sustainability, healthy food, supportive relationships, kindness and acceptance. On the surface, it seems these less tangible goals may be harder to build community around than a specific form: example, building a place to live together. It can be easier to attach ourself to physical form than intangible qualities. Mike continued to ponder whether we would experience regret once our ‘home’ was built and we had moved in: would we be able to find purpose in such things as supportive relationships, healthy connection and so on, or would we need another physical cause to ‘rally behind’? Perhaps we would need to spur the development of other similar communities, or local projects such as urban farming or bike paths? Ego is always attracted to form; the heart to qualities and attributes. Which one will we listen to? Yes, we can have both. We can express our purpose through our qualities in whatever form we choose. Like this recent trip, I find my purpose not in the home we are working towards building, but in the human interactions.

To me, it is the process, not the physical goal that is rich; the journey, not the destination.

By Murray Arnott 


Reflections in Community

You speak of common purpose and the cause. This is an area worth wondering about and makes sense to me. Can we come to a single cause for different reasons? With active listening, respect for all and a willingness to risk and develop relationships has been important in my experience of community.  Knowing that we could be hurt or that our willingness to risk could come back to haunt us, is also a chance we take in engaging with others. Honesty, transparency, a willingness to share personal challenges and ask for help from others, in my personal journey of relationships, is important in our connection with others. Those I enjoy the most are those, who with time become their genuine self. These people become friends. We all need friends for none of us can be part of a welcoming community without good friendships. Some people need help, as developing lasting friendships can be hard. What a beautiful opportunity you have shared here with the reader. Your experience gives me hope for our future generations to come.

A lovely image!

Thanks for much for sharing your reflections on this special moment, Murray. Beautiful!

It would be fabulous to hear more of your observations about the different communities you visited. There are many people on this site who are curious about intentional community and I'm sure would love to hear your thoughts!