Have you been hearing about the rise of intentional communities from around the world? This isn’t a recent phenomenon, it's been happening for decades. Intentional community-born Evan Welkin joins us in this week’s Episode 069 of the Seeds of Tao Podcast to share his years of experience in and around intentional communities and gives key insights into what makes them thrive. Currently, Evan is in Italy working with intentional communities. You can follow his journey on his website, or on Facebook and Instagram. If you’re interested in learning more about intentional communities around the world, check out the Global Ecovillage Network, or this branch for those in North America.
Have you heard about intentional communities? Do you have experience with any? It seems like lately, we’re hearing more and more about communities trying to band together to create a more intentional life. And yet this isn’t the newest thing under the sun. Evan shares his story about growing up and living in intentional communities throughout his life and the fact that his parents were part of a community in the early ’80s. They stayed there for a few years but then had to leave for financial reasons, which is fairly common. Every community is different, some sharing resources more than others. But why would anyone want to live in this type of community?
Though specific reasons may vary, people are gathering themselves together in order to build communities that are different from our mainstream life. For some, it’s to live closer to the land, for others it’s to raise their families in a certain type of environment, for others it’s a place to learn from people around the world in a unique environment. But as Evan points out, these people are all seeking community.
The world has never had so many people in it. Miles of urban and suburban expanse is ever increasing. With so many people, how could we possibly be suffering from a lack of community? Josh shared his experience in the episode with Evan, about how he grew up in typical suburbia. And yet with so many people so close, there wasn’t really a sense of community. These days it’s pretty rare for people to even know the names of their neighbors, much less have a relationship with them. We are living in an unprecedented age of solitude.
We put fences between our homes for privacy, we spend more time talking to people online than in person, and we are discovering ever-increasing ways to not have to leave our homes. Add social distancing limits and curfews with COVID-19 and you can see why people are feeling extremely isolated and craving community and support. But going to live in an intentional community is not all rainbows and sunshine though, and many completely fall apart.
In the podcast episode, Evan shares his experience going to meet with a group of hopeful and experienced intentional community members, and one of the first meetings involved experienced members sharing their failures along the way. It really opened Evan’s eyes to what does and doesn’t work, and gave him a greater appreciation for vulnerability in that sphere. Throughout his journey, Evan points out three big factors that he has found to be integral in the survival and success of intentional communities.
The first factor Evan says is being honest with ourselves. This seemingly easy admonition is often more difficult than it appears. It’s more than just simply not lying to yourself, but rather spending time to really discover what you want, where you want to be, and how you want to create your life moving forward. Some people are much more in tune this way than others, but either way, it takes considerable practice in intuition, reflection, and vulnerability with one’s self.
The next piece Evan brings up is being vulnerable. This is a tricky one, and perhaps one of the hardest things to do in this mortal life. Personally, I spent the majority of my life doing everything possible to avoid being vulnerable. I would do anything to please others, try to fulfill their expectations of me, and work really hard to look and act the part of who I thought I needed to be. Only in the last few years have I started to really work on myself, and with help from mentors and authors like Brene Brown, I’ve been able to open myself up to the power of vulnerability. It’s something truly lacking in today’s society, but if we can live in a way that is open to being vulnerable, then we can really be a positive force in the community we hope to be a part of.
The last part Evan talks about is being willing to be mistaken. This is a tricky one. So often we get stuck in our ways and only see what we want to see, but in that lens, we only see the world through colored glasses. If we are unwilling to make mistakes, acknowledge those mistakes, and move forward in a positive way, we will be more loving, more cooperative, and more inspiring to those around us.
Evan shares a really great story about resilience in the episode about deciding whether we would want to be a tennis ball or a tomato. Sure, a tennis ball seems more resilient at first glance, we can squeeze it and it bounced right back. We can leave it in the sun for a week and it maintains its shape. The tomato looks vulnerable and fragile. It squishes when we squeeze it, grows mold if left to over-ripen, and is a fleeting one season vegetable. And yet when we take a closer look we can see that actually, the tomato is more resilient in the long-term. Though you can squish a tomato, or let it decompose, its tiny, resilient little seeds can live through a lot and still grow an entirely new plant to produce thousands of more seeds. The tennis ball will get torn up by an animal, and ever so slowly break down never to have another use as it waits hundreds of years in a landfill to give itself back to the universe.
How do we develop this long-term resilience like the tomato? All three major aspects of successful communities rely on doing our own work on ourselves. Whether or not you desire to sell your home and move into an intentional community or not, the work we do ourselves will be some of the greatest work we can do. It will allow us space to effectively take on any desire or dream we have.
So be honest with yourself, be vulnerable with yourself and those around you, and be willing to be mistaken so you can build up the personal resiliency necessary to be that change you wish to see in the world, and create the regenerative livelihood you’re reaching for.
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