by Nikki Starr Noce M.D:“Why would anyone want to live in community?”
some of you may be thinking. “Seems kind of hippy dippy.” others may be thinking.
Personal space versus shared space. Pros, cons? Well, it really depends on your purpose in life.
Do I think community is beneficial for everyone? Yes. Do I think it’s challenging? Yes.
The pros to community living:
- People to share your life and dreams with.
- Another family–a chosen family.
- A place to always feel loved and accepted–a sense of belonging.
- People to help when things arise–a support system.
- Sharing with like minded individuals to feed innovation, creativity and collaboration.
- A safe space to share affection, hugs, a pat on the shoulder. Touch is so essential to our health, happiness and well being.
- Less time spent cooking and cleaning around the house (when the proper systems are in place).
- Opportunity to grow food (below we harvested 295 kilos of potatoes in a few hours!)
- A spiritual gym (see more below).
After choosing a more “spiritual” life several years ago, a thought popped into my mind, “ I will live in community someday. Or at least be connected to one so that my children can attend an innovative, alternative school.” Kind of strange because I was a New Yorker and it came out of nowhere. It felt real and good.
Then I attracted a community of people that did many fun things together but lived all over the world. Then I was on Utopia, which was not the ideal community, but it was a start and the perfect spiritual gym. Then I shared a home with friends. And most recently, I found Damanhur.
Living in Damanhur these past three months really allowed me to understand the purpose of community.
Living in community is a spiritual gym.
What better way to put spiritual practice into action than by living every day and many moments with others?!
It’s easy to be the guru, all enlightened in a cave or sitting at the front of a class teaching, but the real test of one’s spiritual development appears during interactions with others. How compassionate, loving, kind, understanding, authentic, honest, caring and generous can you be (when someone eats your last banana you’ve been thinking about since you woke up)? Living with people day in and day out really reveals to us our true nature and the parts of us that need more love, more healing.
Living in community is the fast track to spiritual growth and enlightenment.
Personally I feel one of the fastest ways to evolve spiritually is to choose to live with other people. It allows us to grow beyond the small stuff.
Let’s Imagine a scenario:
I wake up excited to eat my last banana for breakfast. I go into the kitchen and become upset when someone eats my last breakfast banana. “Whaaa! Who ate my banana! Whaaa” I meditate on it, I find some peace and continue my daily spiritual practice. Then a week the same exact thing happens. I wait to become upset but I don’t. Instead I feel compassion and generosity thinking with a smile, “I’m so happy I could provide that banana for someone who really needed it. I’ll go buy another one before my morning meeting.”
Perceptions change and love grows quickly in community.
In community we really begin to feel connection and oneness to all of humanity while still honoring and highlighting the uniqueness of each individual.
Work becomes fun in community too. Planting seeds, harvesting food, stacking wood all become even more exciting in community. Art can be supported and becomes an essential ingredient too.
We learn to care for others instead of always thinking about ourselves. When it’s our turn to cook we make vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free options too to be sure everyone feels seen, nourished and cared for.
Mealtimes are rich with people from all different backgrounds and people from all over the world depending where this community is.
In community there are communal spaces and there are spaces to be alone (your bedroom or out in nature and common spaces), each deciding the perfect balance.
A community with a spiritual foundation and shared dream is key, keeping everyone focused on the big picture when small details arise.
So after returning to Los Angeles I was tested. I put out to the universe that I needed a place to live. I was thinking on the westside near the beach or the mountains of Topanga. Both are beautiful options. Of course both options presented the evening after I arrived.
The Venice Beach space was a feng shui studio with ocean views from the porch. The exact apartment I had imagined I would have in Los Angeles someday. A great space to write, hermit and connect with the sea.
The Topanga option was the exact kind of community house I imagined. Women and men with different interests and talents cohabiting in a space connected to Nature that is warm inviting and fun.
Both places were the same price. Which would I choose?
Of course I chose community. I’ve taken the red pill of community. I can’t go back now!
Just to put it out there… For me, the physical structure of an ideal community setting is a piece of land full of Nature’s beauty, containing many small homes (enough to fit a bedroom, living/working space and a bathroom) with a central communal gathering and eating space. This layout provides the perfect personal and social balance in my opinion. I will hold the vision for that.
For some of you this all may seem really extreme and I understand that. Maybe you’re interested but not ready to jump into community life. That’s ok! Baby steps!
How to begin creating community:
- Create a regular (weekly) gathering of people with similar interests. Discuss, share, expand.
- Choose to live near those you wish to create more community with. Take turns cooking meals and eating together several times a week.
- Do some of your spiritual practice with others. Meet for meditation, yoga or a group experience and hold space for a group discussions.
- Start a dream project with some people who share the same vision as you.
Will you be triggered by the actions and comments of others? Of course. When you observe this happening breathe and go deeper into understanding why it is happening.
Remember, we are all mirrors for each other. What we see in another that is triggering, may be something that we do too. It may also represent something we want to be doing. Go deeper to discover why you are feeling triggered.
The more we grow and connect with the true essence of who we are–the divinity within us, the love that we are–the less we are affected by others. We can measure our progress by how often, and to what degree, our feathers get ruffled.