Intentional community beginnings: Moora Moora

~ DESTINATION SIX: HEALESVILLE ~

Terrific folks at the top of the mountain

Sometimes this trip feels like a slow-moving and expansive journey, winding its way increasingly further from our previous life.  When I think about how it’s been 2 1/2 months since we left our Adelaide house and starting living in borrowed accommodation, it seems like we’ve been on the move for quite some, and we still have over 3 roadtrip weeks to go until we settle in with another 2 1/2 months of house sitting. Other times, like now, this journey feels like a whirling dervish with the experience seemingly just flying by. With our recently completed stay at Moora Moora, this pics-442latter feeling certainly prevails as we only had a scant 4 night stay there and now a new WWOOFing assignment is hot on its heels – barely time to catch our breath!

Moora Moora is a “celebrity” intentional community amongst some of the others on our trip, having been featured in many articles, news and tv programs since it was developed back in the 1970’s following the Aquarius festival in NSW (which apparently jump-started a number of such communities). As one of the longest-standing cooperatives still in existence in Australia, it was appealing to see if this developed, larger-scale and presumably robust community was continuing to go strong and what was its secret for success.

pics-450 Apparently our diligent pre-trip planning had paid off, as all of our communities at the moment are within a few kms of each other, so we dropped Kito off at another kennel (no dogs, cats or animals for slaughter allowed at Moora Moora) and drove 15min to the top pics-451Mt. Toolebewong to their property. The first impression before even arriving to the front gate is the enchanting gum tree and fern rainforest for the first couple of kms leading to their gate. Once onto their property, it’s obvious that this isn’t a densely-packed community, but rather a private rural retreat at the top of the mountain. Despite the wilderness feel, it’s still only an hour drive to Melbourne CBD, whose city centre is clearly visible from the village. Amongst the first things we see are a giant wind turbine-slash-sculpture (we later learn that it actually was an innovative wind machine that never really worked, but when the press arrived for its launch, two people were hidden inside the base turning the sail on cue for the cameras), plus a couple of dwellings, lots of hand-carved directional signs and a heap of open space. pics-447Once you learn that the property is set on over 600 acres and the residential living area is spread amongst 6 clusters of 5 houses each over 13 acres, then it is clear why we’re not rolling up and seeing much yet. Later, when we did a tour of the residential areas, we were able to see how spread out the village is with all the houses nestled in amongst the dense forest. In fact, 2/3s of the whole property is to be left as native forest and never to be developed.

pics-479With a nice stroke of luck our hosts turn out to be Sandra and Peter Cock, not only two of the original founders but the visionaries of the whole Moora Moora idea. Having traveled around Australia and beyond looking at 50 alternative communities for Peter’s PhD thesis (creating a book on the topic in the process), plans begun for Moora Moora. A core group of energetic young professionals planned what they hoped would be a communal-living settlement where individuals owned their owns house but the Cooperative owned and governed the land. Through his research, Peter felt that this structure would be best suited for a community that hoped to endure the test of time. Forty years on, Sandra and Peter have grown into parents and then grandparents, have watched members move or pass away, have withstood a variety of personal, legal, local government and environmental challenges, and experienced the majority of their adult life from within an intentional community. From what we can see, they have come through very well, with the usual number of regrets consistent with a project of this scale and complexity, but still smiles on their face. In terms of regrets, Peter feels that the shared community elements and the true spirit of what an intentional community is all about – the relationships – are what could be improved as many people are content to withdraw into their individual lives if let be. Overall though it is clear that they have been part of an impressive community-building project.

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Our actual stay was part Intentional Community Education and part working holiday (WWOOF). Peter, a tall and slim 60-something chap with a cheeky glint in his eyes and quick wit, was not shy at getting us in the thick of the work, though he vigorously participated in it as well. IMG_5388Despite of persistent threat of rain (it was constantly wet, foggy and windy up there, plus 4 degrees colder on average than the town at the foot of the mountain), we spent as much of our 3+ days there outdoors. Whereas food preserving was the call to order at Commonground, here it was preparing firewood for the quickly advancing winter season. We sourced previously felled trees from a clearing in the woods, shifting a tonne of wood (quite literally) numerous times onto the back of the IMG_5390Moora Moora shared tractor’s trailer, and then power-split the pieces (using a diesel-powered splitter I named “The Beast” for its awe-inspiring wood-smashing abilities) and stacked it all. When the weather finally impeded our best intentions with wild wind and lashing rain, Heidi worked the apple peeler and nutcracker while I provided some video recording and computer training to our hosts. As with every day, Sandra would provide us with warm soups and tasty homebaked snacks through the day and a delicious dinner each night – mostly vegetarian or vegan to her credit!

In the end, what was different with Moora Moora than we might have expected was the more isolated experience from other members of the community. With the exception of a couple of chance encounters on the village roadsides and a movie night where we got to see some good group bonding, there wasn’t too much obvious regular interaction between members of the community. IMG_5377Of course, in 4 days (and cold, wet ones at that), we weren’t getting any kind of typical gauge to work with, but my guess is I’d still feel that we were getting a fairly accurate sense of the place. Peter himself mentioned that if he could do it again, he’d make all the house clusters closer to the central hub (where their share facilities were) to encourage more regular interaction between members. In terms of my own community village design ideas, the thing I would take away from Moora Moora is the cluster idea, even in a small community village setup. The main reason is conflict; Peter says that one of the reasons they have survived is that when a cluster has its own problems or goes bad, it doesn’t bring the whole place down.

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Peter and Sandra’s cluster shares this solar array amongst the 4 houses

We became quite fond of Sandra and Peter during our stay, as well as with Mark – a long time resident and friend of Peter’s – who was living in Peter and Sandra’s house while we visited. Mark has tremendous knowledge, ideas and insight as well having been connected with local government and councils for years, plus a member who’s been involved in the journey of Moora Moora for a long time as well. Despite the short stay, we were once again treated with warm hospitality, engaged in plenty of quality conversations about everything, gleaned amazing wisdom and advice about communities, and made a great connection for future visits or more. We’ll aim for spring or summer next time perhaps though! 😀

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Mt. Toolebewong from the valley. Still enshrouded in clouds

Mt. Toolebewong from the valley. Still enshrouded in clouds

I found this guy sitting at the back door

I found this guy sitting at the back door

Preparations & expectations

I’m homeless, jobless and about to hit the road with only a Honda Civic filled with the basics needed to get by. The aim is that it’ll be a two-month escapade of trip-carcommunity living, WWOOFing*, meeting like-minded individuals,  learning new skills and awakening the creative part of my brain that feels like it has been dormant for awhile. I can’t wait.

Having become a nomadic person over time, I feel the sense that I am about to get back into my element soon. My wife, Heidi, and I along with our shiba inu, Kito, are about to embark on a (cue Troy McClure type voice) a wacky journey of discoveryness! as we explore the a range of interests close to our hearts: intentional community living**; connecting with folks who are keen on treading lightly on this planet; sustainable practices such as organic farming, off-grid*** living and reuse/recycle/repair philosophies; meeting people who strive to explore and grow in their creative interests, personal, community and spiritual well-being; and anyone who chooses to live an alternative life off the mainstream path. As far as we reckon, those original 60’s far-out-dude hippies were onto something after all! We’ll see if growing my hair out, weaving my own shapeless hemp clothing and foregoing bathing ends up being the “new Mike” upon our return 😛

Truth be told, the traveler, explorer and generally curious information-seeker in me resonates with this type of trip, however the introvert and day-to-day homebody will struggle with aspects of it. I suspect that some of the personal growth I will look to gain could be in improving patience when I feel “people-grumpy”. Also, as Heidi will likely attest in her own blog writings (which I will link from here once she has her blog live, so you can have an alternate perspective of this journey!), a large component of this trip for her is the connecting with people in community, particularly if they are living out a Christ-centred spirituality in that community. kito-ponderingShe too is interested in environmentally-focused teachings but Heidi is more of a people-person than me. And for little Kito, this will either be the doggie adventure of a lifetime (Kito is extremely gregarious and will lap up the attention) or it will be a struggle for him as – like with many dogs – they like home and some regularity –something he won’t be getting much of with all of our moving around. Still, it’ll be great to be able to share the adventure with him and it’ll give him some great stories for sharing with the other dogs around the water bowl at the park.

For now, there is a bit more prep as we shift our lives of relative comfort (where we are house-sitting at the moment has a giant HDTV, all the mod-cons you get with houses these days, is close to North Adelaide’s shops and abundant restaurants, and is great for “lifestyle living”), to bringing only enough to get by, while the rest of everything we own is crammed into a storage locker. It’s a healthy thing to do…I recommend it to anyone. It certainly forces you out of your comfort zone, forces you to assess all the accumulated “stuff” in your life and purge, and gets you realising that life should be about the people (or animals) and experiences that you care about, and not really about how much you have accumulated. You’ll be remembered for what you said and did, not what you bought. In my opinion, life should definitely be about exploring, learning, creating, connecting and sharing….with a freedom from the shackles that either society, government or advertisers would like to lead you to believe you should be living.

So, starting in early April, I’ll be aiming to jot down experiences and share some photos from each of the dozen or so places we intend on visiting. Some places will be day visits and some will be week-long journeys embedding ourselves into an existing community. Follow this blog by subscribing >> or through Facebook with links to entries when I post them!

 

Glossary:
Here’s a couple of the terms I mentioned above; some of you will be well-acquainted with these already, but I have had a fair number of quizzical expressions with WWOOFing and intentional communities, so I thought I’d put my definition of them here!

* WWOOFing – technically comes from “Willing Workers on Organic Farms” which really means that this is a pure trade of skills/labour for food and accommodation. We’ll help folks out with whatever they need on their property and they’ll put us up. Good deal for everyone!

** intentional communities: a group of people or families who often have a like-minded series of beliefs or interests often to do with living simply, sharing resources, spiritual orientation or other lifestyle desires. Many times they are seeking for “true” community which is something that has often been lost in modern society. I wrote this previous full-length entry on intentional living as well.

*** off-grid refers to complete disconnect from city/council services (which are often tied to environmentally-damaging or expensive services that don’t take advantage of natural alternatives). Someone off-grid would have a total reliance on things like the sun, wind, hydro-power, etc. to provide power, composting toilets, harvested rainwater or other freshwater source and would ultimately be a very thrifty user of resources.

 

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Mike and Heidi, as seen before embarking on this journey ~ Mar 2015

 

Lifestyle Report – as of Mar 2013

This is my third Report (since 2011…oops! I’ve been busy) as a way of assessing my successes, targets, improvements and areas I need to be more vigilant with when it comes to simple, ethical, environmentally sustainable and community living.

It might not be an interesting entry to read but it’s a way to keep myself accountable and constantly improving my lifestyle. NEW to this installment is the addition of my recent vegan ways.

I’ve highlighted positive changes in green and backwards steps red. So, as of today:

ETHICAL/SUSTAINABLE LIVING

• grocery shopping (with % of how often I do it)
became a vegan (Feb 2013)
— local green grocer for veg (75%)
— leftover bread free at end of baker business day (10% – eating less bread but not near bakery anymore);
— skip-dipping/dumpster diving (0% – slack but they are hard to find and I’m not really looking)
— major supermarket for all else (80%);
— Fair Trade where possible (tea, chocolate, recent clothing)
— organic where possible/affordable (25% – food, soap & shampoo)
— use Ethical Guide to boycott bad companies, GM food (50% – need more vigilance here);
— boycott food with known cruel processes (100% where known)
— food miles, locally produced (50%)
— meat consumption (0% of meals)
— dairy consumption (5% – just a couple of slips)

• grow own food (5-10% – tomatoes, eggplant, herbs)

• household shopping: I only buy new from store if I can’t get from op shop or build myself;
— purchased new in past year:
—– furniture (0%)
—– clothes (10%)
—–accessories (15%)
—– car (0%)

• home energy:
— electricity:
—– solar/renewable = no
—– aircon/heating (15%)
—– computer (off at night)
—– fridge (2/5 star rating)
—– dryer (0%);
— water:
—– rainwater tank (0% – no longer have one)
—– grey water for garden (15% – washing machine only)
—– shower avg. duration (5 mins)
—– garden (10%)
—– dishwasher (0%)
—– washing machine (top loader 2/5 star rating)

• waste:
— food scraps (100% goes to compost);
— wasted food (5%);
— recyclables like glass, paper, aluminium cans (95% to recycle bin, 5% kept for food/household storage);
— wasted paper (minimal use of printer, kitchen & recycled toilet paper)
— wood (90% saved for building material); haven’t built much now that I have what I need!
— white goods, electronics, equipment (10% – new stereo receiver);

Areas to Improve: fewer food miles; support local; buy organic if it makes sense & affordable; grow more of our own food; continue to consume less energy & town water. As it gets colder, it is tempting to use more heating but I’ll just have to be as resolute as possible and put on more clothes! Press onwards with vegan lifestyle.

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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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SIMPLE LIVING
• build most of my own furniture (lounge daybeds, coffee table, office desk, outdoor tables & seats)
• other furnishings have been donated (bed, futon, tv & DVD) or secondhand (kitchen table & chairs, office chair, rug);
• buy nothing that isn’t essential to the household or work
had to move stored furniture from Queensland to South Australia
• work less, spend more time connecting with friends & family; (has been a very busy past 3 years. Trying to find that work-life balance again)
• spend money on essentials, friends, charities;

Areas to Improve: connect more with real (not virtual) people

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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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ENVIRONMENTAL
• approx. annual carbon footprint (avg. based on lifestyle as of today): 7 tonnes of CO2 (Aus avg. 16 tonnes; world avg. 4 tonnes). This is not including my poor flight behavior below 😦
• car usage per month – approx 400kms ; mileage (approx 10kms/L)
• bus instead of drive (15%)
• ride/walk/skate instead of motor transport (10% – 15min walk to shops)
• return flights in past year – domestic (6), international (1); Unfortunately, the past couple of years have been baaad. Last year was mostly the flights during our tour around the country for our documentary film.

Areas to Improve: take fewer flights; walk/skate/bus more rather than car; use less electricity; aim for 7-8 tonnes/yr CO2

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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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COMMUNITY
• I now live with my wife so no more commuting to see one another; most friends are the same distance or closer now though
• intentional community living (share house or close living) = no
• share property or resources with community (some household items, driving, food with my wife’s best friend; borrow from other friends occasionally)
• collect hard rubbish from neighbourhood
• engage in conversation or help with mentally/physically challenged people in neighbourhood (0%)
• give to charities (monthly to: 1 x global aid, 1 x animal, 1 x activism organisation, 1 x community fund )
• volunteer with some friends’ and charitable projects
community gatherings for shared weekly meals and social activities

Areas to Improve: aim to achieve closer and more intentional community; share more resources; be more accepting of minority/disadvantaged; give more to charities; get more involved with meaningful & helpful projects

MARCH 2013 SUMMARY: overall, doing the right things still but still not socialising much due to workload. Some areas I can still be a bit more green. Would love to get more friends to jump onboard different aspects of sustainable, ethical or green living but am still trying to take the approach of “be the change you want to see in the world” however it is not always easy not to promote/preach, be judgmental or not be hypocritical…

Lifestyle Report – as of May 2011

This is my second Report (since January’s) as a way of assessing my successes, targets, improvements and areas I need to be more vigilant with when it comes to simple, ethical, environmentally sustainable and community living.

It might not be an interesting entry to read but it’s a way to keep myself accountable and constantly improving my lifestyle.

I’ve highlighted positive changes in green and backwards steps red. So, as of today:

ETHICAL/SUSTAINABLE LIVING

• grocery shopping (with % of how often I do it)
— local green grocer for veg (60%)
— leftover bread free at end of baker business day (100%);
— skip-dipping/dumpster diving (0% but aiming to re-introduce it;
May: have been looking , but it’s hard to find anything in Adelaide)
— major supermarket for all else (100%);
— Fair Trade where possible (tea, chocolate, recent clothing)
— some organic (10% – food, soap & shampoo)
— use Ethical Guide to boycott bad companies, GM food (95%);
— boycott food with known cruel processes eg. veal (100% where known)
— food miles, locally produced (25%)
— meat consumption (15% of meals; May: this is mostly due to being poor)

• grow own food (not yet 0% but get some from friend 3%)

• household shopping: I only buy new from store if I can’t get from op shop or build myself;
— purchased new in past year:
—– furniture (0%)
—– clothes (10%)
—–accessories (15%)
—– car ( 0%)

• home energy:
— electricity:
—– solar/renewable = no
—– aircon/heating (10%)
—– computer (on 24/7, asleep when away & at night)
—– fridge (2/5 star rating)
—– dryer (0%)
—– water pump (everytime the tap is turned on);
— water:
—– rainwater tank (90%)
—– shower grey water for garden (0% May: stopped when I realised I didn’t have time to deal
with the garden and water is from tank anyway)
—– shower avg. duration (5 mins)
—– garden (0%)
—– dishwasher (0%)
—– washing machine (top loader 2/5 star rating)

• waste:
— food scraps (90%; goes to compost);
— wasted food (5%);
— recyclables like glass, paper, aluminium cans (95% to recycle bin, 5% kept for food/household storage);
— wasted paper (minimal use of printer, kitchen & recycled toilet paper)
— wood (90% saved for building material); May: haven’t built much now that I have what I need!
— white goods, electronics, equipment (0%);

Areas to Improve: fewer food miles; support local; buy organic if it makes sense & affordable (May: been very tight on cash the past few months so it’s hard to justify extra costs for organic sometimes); grow some own food; continue to consume less energy & town water. As it gets colder, it is tempting to use more heating but I’ll just have to be as resolute as possible and put on more clothes!

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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

.

SIMPLE LIVING
• build most of my own furniture (lounge daybeds, coffee table, office desk, outdoor tables & seats)
• other furnishings have been donated (bed, futon, tv & DVD) or secondhand (kitchen table & chairs, office chair, rug); May: acquired two wooden trestle tables and some deck chairs i hard rubbish
• buy nothing that isn’t essential to the household or work
• work less, spend more time connecting with friends & family; May: disappointed as work has been all-consuming for the last 3 months; on the positive side, a chunk of that is due to a doco I’ll be shooting soon which is about helping people in need, so I think that’s good.
• spend money on essentials, friends, charities; May: out of necessity, been spending very little on me

Areas to Improve: connect more with real (not virtual) people

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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

.

ENVIRONMENTAL
• approx. annual carbon footprint (avg. based on lifestyle as of today): 9.1 tonnes of CO2 (Aus avg. 16 tonnes; world avg. 4 tonnes)
• car usage per month – approx 300kms ; mileage (approx 10kms/L)
• bus instead of drive (15%)
• ride/walk/skate instead of motor transport (15% – 20min walk to shops)
• return flights in past year – domestic (3), international (0); May: about to embark on massive trip for doco for which I will be shedding environmental tears…26,000kms planned. This will blow my current Carbon Footprint figure out of the water 😦

Areas to Improve: take fewer flights; walk/skate/bus more rather than car; use less electricity; aim for 7-8 tonnes/yr CO2

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– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

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COMMUNITY
• I live walking distance to my girlfriend and a couple of other friends; 5 minute drive to a couple more
• intentional community living (share house or close living) = no
• share property or resources with community (some household items, driving, food with girlfriend & her housemate; borrow from other friends occasionally)
• collect hard rubbish from neighbourhood
• engage in conversation or help with mentally/physically challenged people in neighbourhood (30%)
• give to charities (monthly to: 1 x global aid, 1 x animal, 1 x heart foundation, 1 x activism organisation )
• volunteer with some friends’ and charitable projects

Areas to Improve: aim to achieve closer and more intentional community; share more resources; be more accepting of minority/disadvantaged; give more to charities; get more involved with meaningful & helpful projects

MAY SUMMARY: overall, doing the right things still but not socialising much due to workload which is not a routine I want to get stuck in. That said, I still work from home and can shuffle my schedule around. In addition, I don’t commute which saves on time, carbon pollution and gives me more opportunity to be social. Some areas I can still be a bit more green.

Being poor is good practice

Boy have I been cash-strapped of late; work has been dribbling in at a pace that is slower than my consumption no matter how much I try to make that output as small as possible. There’s some work on the horizon but it’s always just at arm’s reach when I need it in close. Admittedly though, it has been a good challenge and excellent practice at being stingy, creative and disciplined.

The greatest part of my discipline comes into play when it comes to my credit card; it is a necessary evil as I have a great deal of automatic payments that come from it, which is rather thankful as I would be scrambling much more otherwise. However, I have used it exceedingly rarely when it comes to anything that is not a necessity (ie. going out to restaurants, “impulse” buys, “stuff”) which I find is my biggest success during this period of moneylessness. The challenge of course is to maintain this stingy behavior when the cash does start rolling in, and for that I see this period as great practice. For example, I know there are a couple of job-related things coming up that I could use some new gear for, but I have been resisting and looking at DIY alternatives that I can build for much less in some cases. When I have the money, I have to resist just going out and buying those things new and keep on the DIY way of thinking.

Being stingy is actually quite satisfying if it is confined to personal wants and desires but not relegating yourself to never going outside or being sociable. I’ve been guilty of the latter in the past, saying “oh, I can’t go visit friends cuz they’ll all just want to go out and spend money so I may as well just stay at home.” Luckily, I now have a lot more like-minded friends when it comes to living simply and saving money, so it’s easy to just hang out at someone’s place or do something with the deliberate intent on not spending money. My thrifty/stingy attitude extends to groceries and just getting the basics (while trying to remain healthy), driving less and taking the bus or walking more, scraping every last little bit of food from a jar/bottle/box and being more liberal with use-by dates (while not giving myself food-poisoning!). I’m only drinking cask wine and looking for 2-for-1 deals on big boxes which thankfully come along regularly (if I have nothing else, at least I have my grog!). I’m also conscious of things like excess toilet-paper usage, excess shampoo and toothpaste usage, wearing more clothes instead of turning on the heat (it’s been very cold in this house just lately) and feeding the dog slightly smaller portions of bulk-bought food to save a bit (no, I am not under-feeding my beloved pup!)

Creatively, I am managing to look at the cupboard and use what I see rather than just what I want (I know, a lot of my thoughts have to do with food! I do love my food…). This naturally results in eating a lot of rice-based dishes (from my 10kg sack of rice persistently offering itself to me from the corner of my kitchen); a surprisingly tasty dish is just steamed rice, a tin of chili-infused salmon or tuna, some green veg like zucchini or bok choy, and a bit of soy & sweet chili sauce. That’s about $2.50 for a big, tummy-filling bowl, and is pretty healthy too. In addition to food, I am rotating my clothing usage more consciously to get maximum wear requiring minimal washing frequency.

Anyway, tightening the old belt, as they used to say, is not so bad. I like having a few extra frills to make life a little less banal but it really is a good challenge to deprive yourself every once in a while, even if you aren’t financially hard-up. I reckon everyone should sacrifice something regularly if only to prove to yourself that you can, plus maybe save a bit of money/be healthier in the process. It also makes you appreciate all those little things that we all love in life that you tend to take for granted!

Struggling, but kinda not…

Just a quick note on simple living when you’re a freelance artist and always kind of broke: it’s better than being kind of broke but with a mortgage, kids, a massive credit card debt and other sizable monthly expenses! That’s what I’ve been telling myself of late as I struggle to find work and am just getting by financially. If I had any lifestyle other than a simple one, I’d be forced to get a job I didn’t want, working too many hours and becoming a slave to my work and my debt. I might get myself out of debt, but then I’d be working too much, lured into spending frivolously, and then so the snowball grows…

Anyone reading this who makes a decent living financially is probably thinking I’m an idiot, suffering when I could be working in order to pay for the “good things” in life. There are times when the idea of greater financial security sounds appealing, and perhaps I just need to organise myself a bit better still, but the hardest part I struggle with that scenario is the working/commuting for 1/3rd of your life (plus sleeping the equivalent) and just squeezing in the real living we should all be doing. And by “living” I don’t mean shopping, I mean spending time with family and friends, following hobbies and creative pursuits, being altruistic and helping the needy or at least people around your community, being healthy with lower stress and greater chance to be relaxing and enjoying life – the real good life.

The great thing I’ve learned about my new lifestyle is when I get in a financial pickle, getting myself out of it is 10 times easier when the hill is not so insurmountable, like it was in the past. I’ll admit that sometimes I just want to go out and have a nice meal or just not have to think so carefully about my cash-flow, but when I think about the sheer number of things I have on my list of hobbies that I’d like to achieve/finish, I could never go out again and still not get through half of them! On top of that, I want to be able to spend time with my girlfriend or other friends at the drop of a hat and not be stuck at work, only fitting people in in evenings or weekends. I live for flexibility in my life!

Anyway, I’ll tighten my belt this week, push through a couple of pending jobs to get paid, and then a relatively small sum will carry me through for a couple of weeks. In the past, that same amount would last me half as long or less.

Intentional Community living

“Intentional” and “authentic” community living are a couple of words/phrases I had never heard before about a year or so ago. When you live in a city in our society and follow the rest of the pack, like I did (and still do, to some degree), you are led to believe that we should spread ourselves out – wayyyy out – sprawling our cities to the max, stake out our 400-600 sq metres+ of land, and live at arm’s length from our neighbours and also, effectively, from the problems of the city/world. This “buffer” gives us our private space to stretch our legs, let the kids safely run amok, put in a swimming pool and successfully segregate ourselves from everything that might impinge on our peace and quiet and security. What it is also successfully doing, however, is isolating ourselves increasingly more from other people and their needs, struggles, support, and face-to-face interaction.

I personally tend to batch together the ideas of intentional & authentic community living as I think there are elements that overlap: intentional communities can be defined as a planned residential collective of homes and people who work as a team to see through their common visions and goals together, sharing responsibilities and resources including traditions, beliefs or spirituality. A brilliant article on this idea is at the Intentional Communities website (IC.org). In her book Designing Social Systems in a Changing World, Bela Banathy describes authentic community as “a group of individuals who have developed a deep and meaningful commitment to each other and to a shared meaning or purpose.” These members of the community “feel that they belong together believe that they can make a difference in the world by pursuing their shared vision and purpose, communicate with each other openly, honestly, and creatively”, deliberately avoid a hierarchical or bureaucratic system of organisation, instead “govern[ing] themselves by shared stewardship,” and nurture and practice genuine development of the members of the community, “taking full advantage of their unique and collective potential, knowledge, skills, creativity, and intuition.” There is a tendency for spiritual groups to use authentic community often to describe this coming together, but I think it has many other exciting applications as well.

[ check out our intentional community trip in 2015 ]

What I like about this whole concept is that it starts to knit back together our social networks that have becoming pulled apart and frayed by this suburban sprawl and our thinking that we are better off barricading ourselves from the people around us in the name of security and privacy. The thing is, I reckon the world was a much safer place in general when people lived more communally, with generations of families under the same roof, with “tribes” or communities integrated together with their kids playing safely with each other and people generally having much greater support systems all around them. The only reason we build the walls is because we don’t know our neighbours so we don’t trust them; we don’t let our kids just run off and play down the street unsupervised because we don’t trust anyone; parents take their kids to daycare because they have to pay for the expense of having so much unshared space in their protected private property which they’ve walled off from the neighbours who, had they got to know them better, would be able to communally take care of the kids. And so on. That of course is a minute tip-of-the-iceberg of the snowballing problems of how far our society has strayed from a true sense of community, but you get the idea…

OK, this wasn’t supposed to be a rant! I get that way a bit, don’t I?? 🙂

Getting back to why I like this concept, I think there are so many benefits that would make my life better, not only because of the type of person I am (keep to myself and lazy at making friends but enjoy and need those closer, personal relationships; increasingly environmentally and ethically-oriented lifestyle; need a better support base for struggles and personal growth and understanding), but because there are so many interesting dynamics that come into play when you get similarly-minded people coming together to invigorate and enhance their own lives and those around them. Or as Geoph Kozeny puts it: “a feeling of belonging and mutual support that is increasingly hard to find in mainstream Western society”. A lot of people have some of these networks in place and still live in the segregated lifestyle that I mention above, but they live a distance away from friends and groups that meet occasionally and require a lot of wasteful driving time and energy, and leave big gaps in between. I am increasingly craving the ability to have all those benefits available on tap.

I will outline my “idealistic” (and hopefully not unattainable) vision of intentional/authentic living in a new blog entry which I make as my master wish list, expanding on it as time goes on. Over time, it’ll be interesting to see if this type of community living can be achieved, and if so, if it lives up to the billing that I am giving it! It would be exciting to chronicle the process and see what unexpected challenges and achievements would come of it. I’d still love to hear from anyone living this way!

Quick links:
Bindarri Cohousing and intentional living Australia
Amazing list of all the worldwide IC’s (intentional communities)
Excellent article on what IC’s are