As part of my ongoing Wwoofing volunteering I have ended up staying with an intentional community for the last week. It’s been fun and a great learning experience giving me an insight into how and why these places continue to work even in today’s modern world. I thought it would be cool to talk a little about intentional communities and share my experience so far.
What is an ‘intentional communuty’?
You may have never heard this term before but you have probably heard of a Kibbutz, probably the most well known kind of intentional community. Often these places get a bad rep and are thought of as ‘cults’ or places where people with extreme views gather.
In reality an intentional community is usually just an organised and planned residential community normally with a communal cause. This could be working towards self-sustainability, a spiritual or religious cause or working to solve a social issue. Communes, eco-villages and spiritual retreats often use the intentional community model.
The community I am staying on seems to be trying to be more self-sustainable but isn’t aligned on any specific spiritual cause. They keep some animals, grow crops and share the main meal every evening, taking it in turn to cook. There are a number of projects in progress which everyone should be working to complete with the help of us volunteers. Each member of the household has their own separate sleeping quarters on the property but share a main house / bathroom and kitchen. There are 5 adults, a baby and two children that live here. Each adult pays rent which goes towards the costs of living and running the property aswell as communal food and to cover the cost of hosting volunteers. They are also supposed to hold regular hose and farm meetings to work out jobs to be done and solve any outstanding problems and issues ideally by consensus.
The advantages of living on an intentional community
In general there is some kind of shared belief or ethical system so you generally know you are living with like minded people.
Your cost of living is generally lower too than traditional living as costs are shared amongst everyone and often the buildings have been owned outright for many years.
Most places grow and manage much of their own food meaning health is often a frontline concern that is being catered for and you know where your food is coming from.
Having a close community helps keep you feeling supported and not bogged down and lonely.
If you have children it can sometimes be a great environment.
The disadvantages if an intentional community
The reality is that some people will work harder than others and this will cause friction. Diagreements on how things need to be done and having to share your space with others can be stressful.
Privacy is something that is valued in the modern world and in a community like this you have it but are still having to cross paths with others and have your business out in the open.
If your beliefs or ethics start to change you could find yourself alienated from the rest of the community.
If you are passive in personality your voice may not get heard in joint discussion.
My experience and thoughts…
I have been here just over a week so it’s not like a can know everything about intentional communities but I think I have scratched the surface and gotten a rough idea of how these places can and do work. Here people are not massively social with each other but they do work together reasonably well even though there are tensions under the surface that may need addressing at some point. Some people could be considered a little lazy and more likely to work on their own projects but that may just be that I feel there needs to be more push on some of the group projects. It’s easy for one person to get annoyed and put in less effort, thus creating a slope everyone slides down. The meetings are supposed to sort these issues out but people’s busy lives mean they don’t always happen.
I have enjoyed working towards bigger crop farming, helping get a cow ready for milk and seeing the other animals but have had some ethical issues knowing the animals will go for meat in the end. I am a vegetarian and hate to see animals kept for meat!
I would love to see some more communities in action so I can get a wider scope of the different types. This place doesn’t have a unified spiritual basis so I would enjoy seeing that in action and would also love being on one that truly is self-sustainable.
Have you ever lived on an intentional community or been interested in it? Do you have any experiences that you would like to share or any thoughts or questions?
Thanks for reading.
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:PikiWiki_Israel_3290_Picking_Cotton.jpg