Building community, or not. It's up to you!
What is collective living
At the beginning of my visit to L.A., I had the chance to experience in first person community living.
Living collectively means share a physical and mental space with other people, working every day to maintain and achieve a particular lifestyle or shared vision.
I was interested in joining a Workaway exchange program. It was an ecologically savvy community right in the middle of LA city.
They observe ecological lifestyle habits - i.e. mindful water and paper usage. They have a garden to grow their own vegetables. They use but biodegradable soap for all kind of washing. They sun-dry laundry - which is a quite remarkable fact, given that this is America and life without a tumble-drier is not life.
Besides caring for the environment, this community's focus is to develop psychic abilities. They navigate multidimensional realities, connect to other-than-human beings, and pro-actively manifest things.
They call themselves “New Reality”. Their vision is to connect Nature and Technology through their art & crafts. Eventually, they want to create a line of products for the 'enhanced' modern human.
How did I come to meet these people and stay with them? The story goes like this...
-- PS: if you want to jump to the epilogue of the story, jump down to the section 'What I learned on community building and life'.
Finding a urban collective and moving in
At the same time when I was checking flights to L.A., I was checking out some options for accommodation. I already did some work-for-stay exchanges in my past trips and I thought it would have been fun to try this in L.A., too.
What I appreciate about the 'stay-for-work' type of exchange is people are more open to each other than a regular house-sharing agreement. Usually they are curious and keen on meeting foreigners - that's why they voluntarily sign up to host them.
Staying with kind and welcoming local people is always a good thing when you move to a new city. I was really turned on by experiencing collective living at New Reality Community.
I am writing this post 3 days into the experience. I am quick at perceiving if a situation feels right for me, or not... (so can do all the people in touch with their body and intuition).
You know when you have a gut feeling about something?
There was something about the situation that felt odd even before moving in, yet I was consciously ignoring this red flag with all my rational power.
I can tell you I pushed myself way out of my comfort zone. It is there - when you leave your comfort zone behind - where the learning happens - so they say.
Now, I understand I pushed too hard, I pushed too odd.
To the point where my body has been feeling contracted and stuck in an emotional tummy ache for the last few days.
To the point where my mood - genuinely happy, joyful and excited - became gloomy, fussy and heavy-hearted.
A few days later I moved into New Reality, finally I let my gut feeling lead the way and I decide to move out. "This is not how community living should feel like" - I think to myself.
I pray for a way to handle the situation gracefully, so I can move out without arguments nor disappointments between the parts.
Later that they, the owner comes down to kick me out of the apartment. Literally kicked out for no apparent reason and with less than 24 hours notice!
The owner decided to break our stay-for-work agreement, no explanations needed.
Most people would have been mad at him, yet I was sooooo happy because I knew that was the Universe blinking the eye to me.
"Did you ask for a way to leave this situation without hard feelings about it? Here you go. You are free now" - Universe said to me...
I went back to my friend place - she lives in L.A. - and I decide to settle there for the weeks ahead.
My friend was happy to have me back at her place - and I was happy to learn something from this adventure.
What I learned on community building and life
A big part of my motivation to jump into this was that I wanted to experience life in a collective. I wanted to see how they do it, for one day I want to build a collective on my own and bring back the best practices with me.
Originally, I was thinking that building a collective of people is like building a house, or a new work team for a (life) project.
"There may be a strategy to that - I thought - I want to learn how to do it, so than I can do it myself!"
Reality is (new reality is - pun intended) that a community is a sum of personal, mutual and intentional relationships.
Building relationships is not like trying out a new piece of clothing. There is nothing like a “Relationship Changing Room” where you can try one on and see if it fits you. Similarly, you cannot “try on” a community to see if it fits you.
Relationships are deeply personal experiences, and so it is building a life-long collective.
I learnt that building community is a long term commitment to intentional and authentic relationships. Some people you meet on your way might respond well to your intentions - and there you create a sincere connection.
I learnt I can stop looking for a secret formula to community building, as such thing does not exist to begin with.
If I envision myself living in a collective, I don’t have to go and seek it proactively. Once I put my intention there, I am already seeking it.
I can build community every day of my life, anywhere I am. I can put my intention into creating the most meaningful connections and friendships with people around me.
Think about it this way: If you want to experience a meaningful romantic relationship, you can’t just borrow your friend’s fiancé. You need to put in the work to build one for yourself and just experience it.
Community living works the same way - as it is a sum of personal relationships - so I learnt.
I have many friends into the permaculture world who like to travel. They love going from one small ecological community to another, to get experience - they say. If they happen to find one which is really awesome, they would be likely stay there forever.
I thought this was the right way to do it, so I threw myself out there and went to places.
It turns out this way does not feel authentic to me.
It is like if I wanted to have a sneak peak of my marriage when I have not yet met my husband. Weird, right?
Build a community or die tryin' it
I am so grateful for my short but eye-opening experience at New Reality in L.A.
I learnt that it is up to me to build the community I want to live in, and that I can’t just borrow communities from others.
I learnt there is no secret recipe to it, nor best practices to apply, because every community is unique, like every relationship and every person is very unique.
I can start building the community I want to live in today, by being authentic and intentional in the interactions I have every day with the people in my life.
And you can do that, too, with the people that show up in your life, exactly where you are right now - if you value community living as much as I do.
Sweet greetings from America,
Illustrations by Aurélia. Follow her in Instagram @mutations_illustrations.