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A Surprising Journey into Community

Hi.  I’m Mim, and I’m here with my partner Billy.  We’ve been at the Quinta da Mizarela since October, and recently decided to stay a whole year.  And I’m still asking myself, how on earth did we come to be here?

It began with a conversation about washing machines.  That’s when Billy and I were living in London.  It seemed crazy to be living in a row of houses full of washing machines, lawn mowers, and electric drills, when all these things could be shared.  Which took us to the realisation that both of us had been interested in the idea of living in some kind of community for years, but had never done anything about it.

“Community” is a big word, and one that seems to cover a multitude of sins.  We started to think what it was we meant by this word, what we wanted and what the issues were.  We knew we wanted some kind of spiritual basis to the community, as well as a focus on sustainability.  We are both interested in health (I’m a naturopath and Billy studied nutrition).  We’ve both done our share of “self-development”: bits of therapy, group work, tantra, dance, meditation… Much of what’s available on the new-age scene, and both knew that we hadn’t (yet?) found what we were looking for there.

We visited a couple of Eco-villages, and realised that many seem to focus on being “nice neighbourhoods”.  A fine goal, but not what we were after.  We went on a couple of workshops, run along the “Scott Peck” model [see his book The Different Drum], and this seemed to get closer to our dream: we wanted a community where issues didn’t get buried, and where there was enough trust for people to be “real” with each other.  We lived in a shared house with other people who had an interest in community, and tried to be as honest and upfront as possible, and discovered how difficult this can be, and how much our personalities can get in the way.

We also spoke with people who had lived in various communities.  Some seemed to focus heavily on sustainability, with less emphasis on spirituality, and these often seemed to collapse under high levels of conflict.  In others, issues were dealt with in such an intense way that no meal could be eaten without an “atmosphere” of some sort.  Hmmmmm: too stressful!

In a kind of random way we decided to buy an ex-public-transport bus (just a small one), convert it into a mobile home, and travel to look for community and sustainable living.  In an equally random way we chose to start in Portugal:  Neither of us had ever been there.  We liked the sound of it.

We met Pete and Cynthia in yet another random way: they were running a meditation group at a place where we were volunteering, and I decided to go along. Only it wasn’t just meditation, it was also what they call “conscious conversation”, and I found it really powerful.  (Perhaps I’ll write a blog about the meditation group…)

After the group we stood chatting, and so came the invitation: “Come and see us in our place up in the mountains.  It’s beautiful.” So on our day off Billy and I pootled up there for a visit, loved the place (it’s stunning), but even more loved the vision and the way that we communicated with Pete and Cynthia.  So we asked if we could come as volunteers, moved our bus, and fell into a different way of being.

So different in fact, and often so wonderful, that when Pete and Cynthia asked us after three months if we would like to stay a year, we agreed.  It is really exciting to know that we will see a whole year of the development of their vision.  A year of developing the infrastructure – things like new buildings and hydro-electricity.  A year of working with permaculture ideas in the garden – and Pete has some really great plans. But infinitely more important, it also means a year of learning more about being who we really are.

So I’ll try to explain a bit more about why I find it different, living here, from any other experience I’ve ever had:  Pete and Cynthia used to live in a spiritual community with a bloke called Andrew Cohen, and they seem to have a whole heap more understanding than other people I’ve met, about really liberating ourselves from all that “personality” stuff, so that we can really be free.  They have introduced us to a new language, in which talking about egos, about taking things personally or impersonally, about transcending the limitations of personal conditioning  and about conscious evolution, is quite normal.

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However this is not about talking, about words, about language. How did Cynthia put it?  “It’s not about talking about being awake, it’s about being awake and talking.”  We are all really trying to live in a way that supports our individual and collective freedom.  For me, this means saying stuff that bothers me, and trusting that we can talk about it openly until it is sorted.  And we do.  And it works.  The conversations might start with some small issue, around food or the leaking tap.  What is interesting is that by really following all the threads, all the underlying emotions and patterns of behaviour, we really do liberate ourselves.  And at the end we are all buzzing!  This is not about exhausting introspection but about joyful exploration.  Each time we do this I find myself feeling…bigger…more whole…able to give more.  It’s hard to find the words, as I feel so many things.  The really amazing thing is that I know everyone else is feeling it too!

There are four of us doing this at the moment.  There was another volunteer here for a while and she joined in just as readily, so that made five people exploring openness and freedom together.  Then on Monday nights we still go to the “Meditation and Conscious Evolution Group”.  There is also a monthly women’s group, which I go to, and a monthly men’s group – and what a surprise: I’m not allowed to go to that!  So there are a whole group of people connected with this Quinta, who all want to explore this stuff together.

If this sounds over-intense, full of angst and constant soul-searching, it’s not.  We all care enough to take things gently, to allow time for change to happen, and most importantly to have lots of fun.  So the reality is that we all take our evolution incredibly seriously, but at the same time we also take it lightly, or to be more accurate, we don’t make it heavy.

When I first thought about living in a community, I had something much bigger (maybe 20 people?) in mind.  I still hold that dream as a possibility.  But I’m discovering that the skills that I’m learning here, about liberating myself and transcending my personality, are the same skills that I need to live well with other people.  So whether for myself alone or for following my vision of community, staying a year feels like totally the right thing to be doing at the moment.

Mim

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P.S. Tux has been teaching me alot about communion!

One Comment

  1. nico says:

    thank you
    Mim, beautifully written.Loved your earlier posting too.
    Glad to be part of the meditation group,and sorry I live too far away for more regular visits.Nico

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