Things I’ve Learned From Hummingbird Community

Many people, when they visit an intentional community, arrive with a preconceived notion of what it might be like to live in one. Some imagine that since the members have all agreed to live and work together it must be a sort of utopia, where conflict and challenges never disrupt the peace. Some presume that members must have all healed their childhood wounds, so feelings of separation and pain won’t ever arise.  Some expect internal sustainability to be so automatic that no need remains for energy exchanges between the community and the larger society. The truth will likely disappoint these people. Which is a shame, because when we enter an intentional community while projecting onto it our idea of what we think it ‘should’ look and feel like, we miss the opportunity to explore what it means to really belong to one.

View from the Pasture at Hummingbird 

Intentional communities like Hummingbird (which is focused on supporting the evolution of human consciousness) aren’t places to which people can flee to escape from society. And while intentional communities are designed to explore alternative ways of being, they do so as microcosms within the macrocosm. They too must confront of the same challenges, questions and conflicts that plague society. What, you might then ask, is the difference between an intentional community and the larger society?

It’s not that challenges don’t arise in intentional communities. The difference reveals itself through the ways the members rise to meet their challenges, as compared to society’s normal modes of behavior. How members comport themselves, how they manage their personal relationships, how they handle conflicts, how they overcome the inevitable challenges and problems that are an integral part of what it means to be human – these are what sets such communities apart.

(left to right) Marie & Rich, Prema, Eileen, Dabo,
(Bottom Left to Right) Bill and Mark

As a non-resident supporter and frequent visitor to Hummingbird, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to spend long stretches of time in the community, and to observe – as well as participate in – their social dynamics. I’ve learned so much from each person who lives and works at Hummingbird that it’s hard to condense the wisdom.  Still, I’d like to share a few things I’ve learned:

• It’s possible to live simply and beautifully. Aesthetics can be integrated into infrastructure design using natural and recycled materials. While it takes more patience and knowledge to construct infrastructure with artistic aims in mind, the end result is more pleasing – and personalized – than the mass-produced housing we’re used to.

• The intention through which things get done matters at least as much as does the actual doing. Imbuing meaning and purpose to the smallest and simplest tasks makes their doing more joyful, and increases the odds they’ll be done with skill and grace.

• It’s not better to give than to receive. Giving becomes impossible without a recipient. To be willing to receive with openhearted gratitude paves the way for spirit’s natural generosity to manifest.

• It’s natural to disagree, because we all have diverse perspectives, values and histories. The key to moving through a disagreement is to humbly examine our own behavior and notice when our core wounds have been activated during a disagreement, and then figure out what healing may need to occur within ourselves.

• Teaching others what to do, or telling them how they should be, is pointless. All we can do is embody what works for us, and then make space for others – if they choose – to explore whether what we’re modeling might enhance the quality of their lives as well.

• Truth can’t be decided through community consensus; it can only be realized at the personal level. We come to truth; it isn’t handed to us by external powers.

• Communication works best when the ground of engagement is love, and when we’re open to understanding alternative viewpoints. Only through open-minded listening can we discover if our beliefs are in need of revision.

• Physical violence, intellectual aggression and verbal shaming hamper intimacy.  Clearly stating what one’s own feelings, needs and desires are, without telling the other person what’s “wrong” with them or how they’re being perceived or interpreted, advances intimacy.

• Suppressing conflict for any reason guarantees that the conflict will continue to fester, perhaps even strengthen and deepen. Shining light on a conflict and granting everyone involved the freedom to express their own feelings and needs is the surest way to clear a conflict and move forward.

• It’s possible to walk gently upon the land and honor life in its many diverse forms, without living in fear or struggling with constant lack.

• Challenges faced together are less daunting than those faced alone.

• Pain, and the physical limitations that arise with aging, are integral parts of life.  Mental and emotional suffering are optional.

• Love, granted freely, binds us more powerfully than do the contracts and obligations we impose upon one another to try and control or direct a particular outcome.

• The greatest gift we can give one another is the freedom to show up as who we are. To nurture and support one another while we continue, with intention, to reconfigure our inner selves and shift our behavioral patterns – because we’re discovering how to align more closely with life and with each other – is what it means to live in community.

These are but a few of the wondrous bits of wisdom I’ve gleaned during my stays at Hummingbird. Each time I leave, I come away feeling that no matter how much of myself I contribute to the community, I always take with me more than I’ve left behind.  What a beautiful testament to love, and to the nature of real abundance.

Article by Eileen Workman, author of “Sacred Economics: The Currency of Life”

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