If this is your first time here…

Commune Life is media made by communards, for communards.
We are a platform for sharing stories about life in community. 

This is our wordpress blog. Here you will find text based stories and photo essays  from a variety of communards. You can find other kinds of content in other places!

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To use this site to find information about a particular community or topic, the three lines in the top right hand corner will reveal a drop down list that covers most of the subjects on the blog.

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If this is your first time here…

Crafting Community: Do’s and Don’t’s

by Raven Cotyledon

I have said all this before but here are what I see as the most important ways to successfully  craft community, broken out into a list of Do’s and Don’t’s:

DON’T start by buying land or getting a place

DO have a few ‘bottom lines’ for what you want the community to value or what the community is about

DON’T have a detailed plan before you have others involved

DON’T ever have a plan that you are not willing to change

DO try to find like minded people who want to start a community with you

DO look for good people with useful skills

DON’T be too fussy however

DON’T reject people because they are not perfect

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DO talk about what you want and make collective agreements together

DO support, encourage, and care for the people you are building community with

DON’T critique, belittle, or discourage people

DO come up with steps and goals in building community

DO think about money and pay attention to finances

DON’T limit your thoughts to jobs and traditional sources

DO celebrate your successes

DON’T be discouraged when things don’t happen quickly

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DO keep at it

DO get support to keep at it

DO make commitments to each other

DO keep those commitments, especially when it becomes difficult

DON’T give up

Two important pieces in here, that I am convinced make a difference, are to support others and make sure you get support for yourself.  Building community isn’t easy; if it was we would have a lot more of them.

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

Communities

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community

 

Communards

  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore
  • Kai Koru
  • Bryan Utesch
  • Jenn Morgan
  • Jonathan Thaler
  • Nance & Jack Williford
  • Julia Evans
  • William Croft

Thanks!

 

Crafting Community: Do’s and Don’t’s

Aspirational Egalitarianism

by Raven Cotyledon

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities is a network of North American communes. As the name implies the communities involved have a commitment to equality and egalitarianism. Unfortunately, these communities are filled with flawed and fallible human beings, as is the nature of any human endeavor.  Thus, as the title of my post suggests, egalitarianism is an aspiration, something aimed for but not always accomplished.

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Right now the FEC is struggling with questions about how to better live up to its name. Racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, and transphobia (and more) are all found in our communities because these oppressions are a basic part of our society and the communes are not separate from society.   The communities are mostly white, mostly middle-class, and while there is a decent percentage of women, there is still misogyny, and while we try to be a safe place for queer and transfolk, it isn’t always true.

So the work is about how to change that. How can these communities reflect the world we want rather than the world we have?  I would suggest that the first step is to acknowledge that we are still far from where we want to be. At Twin Oaks they give visitors a booklet with the title “Not Utopia Yet.”  This reflects both where we are and where we want to go.

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Each year the FEC has an assembly of representatives from the member communities and the  Communities-in-Dialogue where we talk about pressing issues in the communities. Figuring out how we can really become more egalitarian is one of the top topics this year.


 

Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community
  • Sumner Nichols
  • Tobin Moore

Thanks!

 

Aspirational Egalitarianism

Building Urban Communes

by Raven Cotyledon

The Federation of Egalitarian Communities (the commune people) have had rural communes in Virginia and Missouri for decades. Which is great, except, as someone pointed out, most people live in the cities these days in the United States.

Building a commune in the city is a little different than starting a rural commune. It’s harder to grow food in the city.  It’s harder to create cottage industries in the city. It’s harder to find land/property/places in the city. People are less trusting in the city. People have less time in the city. People are more distracted in the city.

 

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Co-ops and cohousing communities have flourished in urban areas. Ganas, on Staten Island, New York, has been going strong for nearly forty years. But these communities require less commitment than egalitarian, income-sharing communities–that is, communes.

I helped build a commune in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in the 1990s.  I am currently helping to create one in Queens, New York. I can tell you that it isn’t easy, for all the reasons that I listed above and more.

But it is possible. Our Cambridge community lasted five years. There have been FEC related communities (or attempts at communities) in Seattle and Baltimore and Richmond, Virginia,  and Columbus, Ohio, and there are currently (besides Cotyledon, our commune in Queens) communes in Washington, DC, and Portland, Oregon. I have been particularly watching Compersia, the commune in DC.  They seem to have a bunch of members and look like they are going strong.

But cities are hard on communes. I don’t know of any that have lasted longer than ten years. Yet.

We’re working to change that.  Hopefully you can check this space in ten years to find out how we did it.  I’m certainly curious. But I think that urban communes are the leading edge of the communities movement.

building-urban-communes

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Thanks for reading! This post was made possible by our patrons on Patreon. The Commune Life team works hard to bring you these stories about our lives in community, and that work couldn’t happen without support from our audience. So if you liked this article, and want to help us make more like it, head on over to https://www.patreon.com/communelife to join us!

Deep gratitude to all of our patrons:  

  • Acorn Community
  • Compersia Community
  • Cotyledon Community
  • East Brook Community Farm
  • The Federation of Egalitarian Communities
  • Twin Oaks Community
  • Sumner Nichols

 

Thanks!

 

Building Urban Communes

Communities Conference Workshops

Here is the workshop and partial presentation schedule for the upcoming Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  The below links are to blog posts on these elements.  There is a posted full program (with short descriptions for every workshop are in the newly published program).  

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Cambia lunch

Saturday September 1st

9:30 to noon

1:30 to 3 PM

4 to 5:30 PM

Sunday September 2

9:30 to 11

There is still time to register for this amazing event.  Twin Oaks Community is hosting this event in central Virginia Aug 31st thru Sept 2.  There is also great Labor Day (Sept 3) program at Cambia Community, less than one mile from the Twin Oaks Conference site.

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Twin Oaks 50th Anniversary – Circa 2017
Communities Conference Workshops

Will your community survive an Exodus?

By Paxus of Cambia Community

exodus people walking.jpgOne of the interesting new workshop topics for this years Twin Oaks communities conference (over Labor Day Weekend) is the Exodus Panel, which will be moderated by Taylor Kinniburgh, a member of the Baltimore Free Farm:

Panel Discussion on Surviving Exodus
Sunday, 9:30-11:00am, Registration Tarp

How can intentional communities survive a membership exodus? This workshop will carve out space for community members to share their experiences, learn from other communities, and develop strategies to overcome the challenges of member- ship overhaul. The panel will consist of experienced community leaders that have dealt with exodus to varying levels of success. Failure to deal with member exodus can lead to the collapse of a community, but it take more than recruiting new
members to take on this problem. Communities need to be self reflective about why the exodus took place and this panel hopes to guide participants in how to do that analysis.

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Come with me on a thought experiment.

You knew it might happen.  In the worst case the conflict within your community could blow things up seriously.  Now several of your members are leaving and the future of your community is in doubt.  Often people within the communities movement say “No one is indispensable” as a secular mantra for communities shifting to cover important jobs left vacant when an important member leaves.  But when several people leave?  Well, this is likely no longer a true maxim when the number departing is larger than one.

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When people leave en mass, the group changes and perhaps dies

Certainly, some part of the response of the group left behind must be soul searching.  “What did we do that was wrong?  Could we have taken better care of the group?  What have we learned from difficult circumstance and can we create new policies and practices to avoid it happening again?”

But after this important self reflection is completed, there will likely be a need to re-assess if the mission of the community is still the same after the exodus.  It is possible that the new group of members have a somewhat (and potentially quite) different vision of the future community.  While difficult work, this can be very satisfying and healing to the group remaining.

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The Baltimore Free Farm, Acorn Community and Twin Oaks have all experienced an exodus of members and survived.  Other communities we will discuss did not survive.

There is still time to register for the Twin Oaks Communities Conference over the labor day weekend (Aug 31 thru Sept 2) in central Virginia, 45 minutes from Charlottesville and 55 minutes to central Richmond or RSVP on Facebook

Will your community survive an Exodus?

Meet the Communities

The most important part of the Twin Oaks Communities Conference is not the incredible collection of workshops.  It is not the rich Open Space offerings.  It is not even the Saturday night dance, which is reliably one of the best dances of the year at Twin Oaks.

The most important part is Meet the Communities.

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The FECs newest member – East Brook Community Farm 2017

For the first couple of hours of Saturday’s program, each of the communities present send up a representative or three to introduce their community to the whole group for 1 minute.  There is a script of questions which representatives can answer, but there is a strong anarchist streak among many of these people and they often freestyle.

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Nope – but we are still looking hard for it

Then participants of the event mill around the collection of picnic tables where representatives of the different communities are present longer and more personal presentations.  It is like speed dating, except it is better in every way.  People can meet people who live in these 40 or 50 different communities and try to figure out if any of them are a good match.

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Conversation is the Key – Sky and Victor circa 2016

I have no idea how many people precisely found the community they want to live in at each years Meet the Communities. What i do know is that some of the most important community recruitment each year happens at this conference and this is one of our better tools.  If you have a community which is seeking new members, even if you can’t make the entire event, it makes sense to be there Saturday morning.

It might be just the most important place to meet new members for your community or your new home.

 

Meet the Communities

Art and Creating Community

Many artists – no signatures

 

This post is one in a series on workshops being offered at this years Twin Oaks Communities Conference. Betsy Pool and Formica Coriandolo of Damanhur Federation of Communities will be presenting on the critical role of art in creating community.  

 

I had the great good fortune to visit Damanhur in 2015.  It changed my thinking about esoteric and spiritual communities.  Particularly, it broadened my belief that these are powerful and appropriate living solutions for a number of people.  Damanhur specifically gave me insight into how a community which puts art and the creation of art in the center are important.

 

One of the interesting things about the Damanhur approach is that there is art everywhere and people creating it all the time.  But none of it is signed. It is a collective effort, it is not important to celebrate a single artist. One of Damanhur’s missions is to bring out the artist in every citizen.

 

Temple of Mirrors

 

Here is the description of the workshop they are offering at the Twin Oaks Communities Conference.  

 

Why art is strategic in creating community:  The Damanhur approach.

 

This is a brief journey into how we have created Damanhur and why art is so strategic.  We share how we have used art at the foundation of our community creation, and continually utilize art in order to increase community well-being, embrace diversity as resource and potential as well as to process conflict. Our community has created The Temples of Humankind, heralded in the press as “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” Our extraordinary subterranean eight chamber temple complex features remarkable paintings, mosaics, sculpture and glass art—all created to celebrate universal spirituality. The Temples were created within the solidarity of a community who were not artists. Yet, within a field of trust and non-judgment, the miracle of the Temples grows and every individual has the opportunity to create and discover the artist within.

 

FORMICA CORIANDOLO has lived at the Damanhur Federation for over 34 years.  Initially she sculpted, painted and crafted stained glass in Damanhur’s underground temples.  She then moved into various leadership positions including development of the Federation and coordination of outside researchers, sociologists and filmmakers.

 

BETSY POOLis the co-founder of The Institute for the Mythology of Humanity, an organization that works with researchers and storytellers worldwide to elucidate a history of humanity that was previously reserved in esoteric archives. She is a film and television writer/director and producer.  She hosts and produces the YouTube series “Confessions of a Time Monk,” which tells personal stories of world renowned activists, physicists, researchers, mediums,and relationship anarchists. She lives at Damanhur and organizers these and other activities from there.

Art and Creating Community