By: Jessica Plancich Shinners, Co-founder of Emerald Village Organization
We started off as veteran Burning Man friends and we ended up as neighbors, chosen family members, business partners, co-parents and partners in the process of life. Little did we know that there was a grand design at work when years before, many of us came together to do a deep dive into a profound spiritual work. With the aid of a trusted guide and teacher, we witnessed each other shed layers of fear, persona and ego. It was gritty, gut wrenching, and sometimes, very entertaining.
Through this process, we were willing to let go of the comfortable, yet limiting, disconnected lives we were living and were able to get honest about our lives and where we really wanted to be living: in a communal village where we could raise humans into integral beings. Many of us held the vision of community in various iterations for quite some time and had organized meetings and facilitated discussions around how this could actually come about in a place as independent and narcissistic as Southern California.
What we learned is that it wasn’t enough to gather people against something like “The Man” or “Capitalism”. We had to unite for higher values we believed in, while being guided by heart based wisdom, service, integrity, unconditional love, collaboration, and childlike play. It wasn’t even enough to agree on a set of values; we came together because we were already in the process of living those values. From there, it was almost as if we were chosen by invisible forces to cultivate ourselves, our children, our relationships, and the earth. We had little to no blueprint of how to go about this behemoth task, so we called upon our collective skill set to find our way in the dark, guided mostly by faith and trust.
Our village was born with a diverse group with backgrounds in construction, education, permaculture, property management, real estate, performance art, furniture design, acupuncture, psychology and the armed forces. It involved long meetings that asked us to deepen our frustration tolerance, find levity and ultimately, chose love.
I can see now why few communities actually make it, for a functioning village involves incredible amounts of emotional intelligence, personal awareness, maturity, and a profound willingness to evolve. Unlike a quaint suburban existence, where habits and peccadillos can be scrupulously concealed, there is no hiding amidst the reflection of 10 people who are equally aware and committed to growth.
In the past four and a half years, we have learned many lessons about the stickiness of power distribution, the tribulations of consensus-based decision making, the downsides of overly ambitious plans and projects, the importance of personal integrity and boundaries, the necessity of non-violent, heart based communication, the beauty of sharing meals, the frustration (and awesomeness) of sharing resources, the benefit of regular emotional clearings, the challenge of keeping communal kitchens clean and perhaps most importantly, the importance of doing our own personal work to remove the barriers to our own connections with truth.
Though at times, I reflect on the massive amount of energy that has gone into these 9 acres we call home and I think about what I could be doing with all that life force. I could be saving the rainforests, educating the world’s children, aiding the reduction of the global carbon imprint, or healing the masses. Then I realize, that’s exactly what we are doing in our own backyard, and if we can practice integrity from the inside out at home, then maybe our practice can inspire others to cultivate their own version of family in their own humble, yet deeply meaningful way.
No matter where you are or where you come from, we all need to feel connected to a sense of belonging, a sense of family. It takes many hands and hearts to raise beings into caring global citizens!
NuMundo is a network connecting people to transformational travel experiences around the world. We’re running a crowdfunding campaign right now and need your support! We want to spread access to communities like this here: igg.me/at/numundo/
Article By: Jessica Plancich Shinners, Co-founder of Emerald Village Organization
Good post, but living in this environment would be my worst nightmare.
Sounds very much like “the Farm” in summertown Tn. We accumulated a lot of experience in our initial decade (1970s) before economic conditions forced the dissolution of the commune – 90% had to leave, but those remaining maintain the land to this day.
Biggest lesson for me? People change.
Good luck and enjoy what you have going *
Congrats on your evolution and learnings. It’s a pity I can’t join you because it looks like loads of fun. You may have to make it a month of celebrations to accomodate all takers 🙂
Sounds like a beautiful euphoria !
Seems cool. My thoughts went towards this as I read the site, largely from my own experiences at other intentional communities and aren’t intended personally because I don’t really know anything about you. When I see a lot of similar places I notice a lot of power words. Sacred, meaningful, higher, resonant and such. I’m feeling like these titles create a sense of expectation within ourselves and others for how it’s supposed to go, which never exactly matches reality. There isn’t any standard of perfection to compare our lives to so maybe we can chill instead of working hard to fulfill our own expectations of how we should be. I’m sure you guys do that too, we’re all mixtures of lots of patterns. It’s just what came to mind
I belong to a voluntary community in Costa Rica since 2001, and the original 19 members are now down to 8. I think the biggest plus is sharing sex partners, but that has also led to conflict and people to leave.
Out of interest, what is it about your “sacred fires” that makes them sacred? Sounds like a load of hippy woo to me. What you’re doing does seem like a commendable exercise in sustainable living though.
Wow, this is a beautiful story! I really appreciate what you all our doing. It is my life goal to achieve being part of a community just like this. I love it. If you know of anyone in Oregon who is on this level, please let me know! Thank you!
Your page here struck a chord! Just yesterday, within sight of “the farm” in Tennessee a plan was hatched to create something similar to what you have done. We have the land (30 ac.), amazing water, the surrounding farm and border community and just need focused PEOPLE to pull it together. Good work on what you have done!
Thanks for sharing! Fantastic and inspirational. I believe this is so healing and necessary. <3
My partner and I met at Burning Man 4 years ago. We have been going ever since, we’ve done loads of long distance and now were trying to figure out how in the world we can generate a community lifestyle that goes beyond 5 people renting a house. We want and LOVE what you have created together. My partner and I have been in deep conversation about why communes don’t work, how they do and what we have to do to get there. I so wish I were in California to experience this knowledge sharing event. All the best to you all. See you in the future and burn on;)
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Great article! I really enjoyed your writing style. So I’m curious: do you have some kind of leadership structure or is it all consensus based? I think community living could be awesome, with the right people.