Michael Brickler and Beth Raps
Donald’s View Intentional Community, Eagle Rock, Virginia
“Where we are” geographically is the rural area near Roanoke, Virginia. But, at Donald’s View Intentional Community, thinking before doing is really where we are.
To us, location is important in terms of connection to the land. And, as important as this connection is, what is also important is the state of mind we are in: questioning. Questioning everything: reality, “diversity,” our own lives and experiences, the importance of information vs. the importance of intuition in establishing a grounded interspiritual (including secular) community in the mountainous rural South. While this may seem idealistic and impractical, we feel it is more impractical to lack a heartfelt connection to our surrounding community. So that has become one of the important things we are thinking about. After researching many intentional communities, we found that the communities that lasted–as we hope ours will–have a visionary inspiration at their core. So that is another thing we are thinking deeply about as we form.
A third thing we are thinking about is purchasing the land. While we do not currently own it, we do have an option to buy it at a very low price and we have some money that may be set aside for this purpose.
What we want right now are people to think with us. Thinking-with is underrated in our culture. Thinking possibly for a very long time before doing is underrated and often confused with procrastination or inaction. Forming an IC requires practical work but any long-lasting IC requires a well conceived foundation. If we want a long lasting structure of heart, we must start with a foundation of heart.
Our aim is that all our community’s founders enjoy developing our core values with us. These core values are: diversity, consciousness, bridging and communication. In more detail, we express these core values as:
Diversity is a core value in part because of our history: a slave (Michael’s great-great-grandfather) bought the property that was the main impetus for Donald’s View from his “owner” after the Civil War; the land Donald’s View is on was the less-valuable, harder-to-farm “Negro area” where Blacks were allowed to live during Reconstruction. This land was also part of the homeland of the Monacan people before they were chased off of it, due largely to European invasion. The history of the land has a primary place in our thinking about how to build our IC. It is maintained and respected by making diversity a formal component of the community.
Consciousness, in the dominant culture and a good number of intentional communities, is an afterthought, or an assumption that either a shared religion will lead to consciousness, or that values suffice to ensure we increasingly develop conscious awareness. An active effort to grow in consciousness is important to heal the wounds inflicted by the dominant culture. It is not enough to acknowledge that the dominant culture has wounded almost everyone. Instead, we should actively work to heal in part by working with others in a community who are doing the same. Active consciousness work is a necessity for our community to be strong.
Bridging is reaching out, and extending ourselves to different others, on purpose. At Donald’s View, this means reaching out through service to our surrounding geographic community. Humans are communal animals. Attempting to live in a vacuum is a resolution to staying wounded.
Communication is the glue that binds all our other core values together. It is through communication that we will have success in diversity. It is through true communication that we may help each other grow in consciousness. Communication is the building material of social bridges.
We get guidance through structured intuitive sessions with the non-visible but sentient energies associated with our community and its land who have proven themselves helpful many times over. We do a lot of listening to our higher guidance and the spirits of the land and intentions we’ve set. We have a mission statement not only for our community but for the process of creating our community.
These meetings–and thinking itself, as an activity–may look like procrastination or inaction. But they are very different from them. We seldom talk about this quiet level of our activity. But we are “coming out” in this piece, especially to people who get thinking as a kind of doing. Especially thinking that takes its inspiration from the land. Thinking that takes the highest rather than the lowest common denominator as its guide. In the confidence we can not just hear, but converse reliably and actionably with energies perceived outside what is considered normal awareness but prove to be practical.
We realize our process may sound strange, weird, or excessively “woo-woo” to some readers. We don’t expect anyone to believe the things we do. We don’t expect anyone reading this to start listening to non-visible energies. We do want co-founders who will use their rational minds to think with us. For us, integration between the rational and intuitive is possible.
If anyone else is interested in our process, of course we’ll share. And if others have intuitive processes they use that work, we are interested as well. Our purpose in this article is to enrich the discourse around what “counts” as forming and allow others to join in it with us.
Examples of the things we have wondered in our meetings and gained guidance on:
- Are we waiting too long to develop Donald’s View? (No).
- Should we present at the Communities conference this year? (Yes.)
- Can we get Superfund clean-up money to help remediate some rubber dumped on the land? (No.)
- What does it mean that we are taking this long? (Others are starting to put in the infrastructure we will want without our ever having anticipated this would happen, for one thing.)
- What does the timing mean of learning about about the rubber dumping right after our first Founding Meeting when no one present but us wanted to move onto this land? (One thing it means is integrating the rubber into our building plans. Another is to change our direction enough that we will have an entirely different Founding Meeting when our new direction is clear.)
- What does it mean that so many obstacles arise in our path yet nothing ever seems to say, “Stop”? (It means: keep listening, keep taking one small action, take good notes, keep your word to each other, keep your meeting schedule, keep listening. It means trust yourselves and trust your guidance. Don’t let the world reframe what you are doing as procrastination or inaction. It means trust that every single thing that arises in this “lab” is important, and useful, and meant to be used in developing according to your intention.)
One of our favorite insights about Donald’s View came not from the non-visible but from our very visible human sister, Courtney Dowe, who has this post and this one too in the Commune Life Blog: the shape of the land we hope to build on looks like the human development process itself: flat, perhaps, and not very interesting, then rough as you climb, and then the most stellar views at the top. As the saying goes, the best views come after the hardest climb.
If you are interested in learning more about Donald’s View or in thinking more about it with us, here is our community description in the Fellowship for Intentional Community Directory, and you can contact Beth at firstname.lastname@example.org or (304) 410-2612.