An important question I often reflect on while living at Rainforest Lab for Cultural Transformation:
How do we want to live and learn together?
Rainforest Lab is an intentional community focused on a particular type of design we call a Transformational Learning Community- the core purpose of this intentional community design is to catalyze personal and systemic transformation in a way that is accessible and radical. At the basis of how we cultivate this intentional community space is to focus on people experiencing a sense of belonging, care, and safety. I recognize these qualities are vastly undernourished in the world we live in, and creating a space where those values are an active part of the culture is a huge leap in the right direction for me. For example, whenever we have a guest joining us out on the land, the community will spend time during our evening circle selecting a “buddy”- someone who has a specific intention to care for and track the new person while they are with us. The buddy’s purpose is to take seriously the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of the incoming person, and to support them in integrating into the community. This is just one opportunity we have created to prioritize people’s sense of belonging, care, and safety at Rainforest Lab first and foremost.
As people establish a sense of belonging, care, and safety in the community, we invite you into increasing degrees of practicing what we call life-serving systems with others who are already in the community. Participation in these systems might look like (but are not limited to): attending a community-held workshop on conflict transformation, engaging with different land projects, engaging in one-on-one work around exploring your passions/gifts/dreams, or become involved in our community-based programs.
One program our community sustains is a facilitated group in a nearby men’s maximum security prison in conjunction with the Freedom Project. Freedom Project is a non-profit which offering Nonviolent Communication learning events and community circles in the Washington State prison system. A part of my purpose for facilitating within the prison system weekly is to deepen our solidarity with those who are within one of the most violent and unsustainable systems within the US. My hope is to build community within that institution centered around cultivating connection, aliveness, and transformation so those on the receiving end of that violence (i.e. prisoners) can experience support, companionship, and nurturance in their struggle.
We seek to expand our presence within nearby indigenous communities (we have developed a small relationship with the Quileute Tribe) and seek to intervene on the behalf of young people (we are attempting to help co-create a Restorative System within the nearby school district). I recognize some of the most powerful healing work of this age will be to stand in solidarity with marginalized groups (whether human or non-human) and to own my privilege and learn about it, so I might steward my privilege for the benefit of all . Many members are also proactive in a variety of social and political movements. I believe this is central to the more radical focus of our community.
I realize that a part of the work of transforming oppression is to increase accessibility and redistribute resources so marginalized groups are able to better meet their needs. This realization flows in tandem with the Rainforest Lab community, which I would say is a group and physical space cultivated and structured to respond to all needs present with those who are interacting with the community. Shared ownership of assets, economic solidarity (through a shared monetary system), awareness and dialogue around power inequalities, and a fluid, collectively-held governance system are all present to help us transform oppression within the community itself.
I hope what we do inspires others to find their passions and live authentically in a world where we have been taught to disconnect from these qualities. I find living out my passions in community and supporting others in doing so is some of the most impactful and meaningful transformational play I can be doing on the planet.