As much as I LOVE Vancouver in so many ways, I cannot see myself living in this city for the rest of my life. I'd like to stay relatively close by, close enough to be able to drop in to see my parents and friends on a couple of hours notice, but far away enough that there's no hint of lingering smog, traffic jams or trucking noise.
So, when a dear friend who is setting out to buying a giant piece of land with the purpose of creating focused, intentional community asked me the other day:
What is my highest vision for off-the-grid life on shared land?
I had to consider deeply. Or rather, reconsider; it's something I've thought about deeply and consistently over the last 6 years. In fact, I was on the board of a project on the Sunshine Coast a couple of years back for which we had put a big downpayment on a 99-acre parcel of land surrounding a lake, with cabins, a restaurant, amphitheatre, safari tents, a spa, cafe and old growth trees up a sloping mountainside...It was set to be an incredible endeavour, a space for people to come and be in themselves, focused on personal and societal growth, expressive arts and fostering community. Alas, we ran it as a hotel for 2 years while we waiting for zoning approval and worked on sorting out all sorts of other mundane/complicated pieces, only to have it come apart at the seams due to circumstances (and people) beyond our control.
All was not lost, however! In this experience, we all experienced tremendous growth, growth that would prepare us for the next iteration, for the opportunity that would be the one to take hold. We spent days visioning together, developing business plans, structure and governance protocols and to planting seeds. We really reached deep below the surface of what we thought we wanted to learn deeper aspects of our selves and of our collective. We also came to realise what is involved in running a retreat centre, and that was eye-opening indeed.
None of the hardships have dissuaded those of us who truly believe in the manifestation of this vision. A lot of people talk a lot about this kind of thing; this group is the sort that makes it happen. Recently, it seems as though that those who really want to return to such a vision, to make it a reality, are coalescing. Clearer and more experienced than before. Opportunities are popping up. It's time to reconsider the original vision.
And so, here is my reply to the question, "What is your highest vision" for a shared, off-the-grid project?
My overall vision is of an 'educational' retreat centre that is deeply connected to the land and seasons in every possible way, where those in residence are the living example of what we collectively hope for in our holistic evolution: grow our own food by permacultural principles, live off the grid in sustainable homes of all kinds (earth ships, tiny homes, etc), support each other's physical/emotional/spiritual health and well-being and embody the healthiest organising principles of community in terms of communication, work-play balance, etc. Our community is founded in a solid group of committed beings who resonate with the same dream frequency, AND we welcome anyone who wants to participate through various day/week/month-long hosting/exchange programs. We work hard and play hard, supporting each other to be free to come and go, travel the world, etc, without feeling overly 'tied' to commitments on the land. Freedom, mutual support and respect are the cornerstones of our thriving community.
As for the function of this community of my dreams...
I would love to have and to lovingly hold a beautiful space where teachers and luminaries come to offer teachings in any realm that will enhance health, wellness, creativity and connection. This could look like many things (retreats, workshops, seminars, nature excursions, vision quests...) and could take many angles (artistic, scientific, embodied, spiritual, holistic...). Hollyhock springs to mind. We have an artists/writers/creatives-in-residence program that welcomes those from around the world to escape into solace of their deep practice.
The property is heavily forested and features a water body, perhaps a lake and a river, or is oceanfront. It is anchored around a large, central fire pit (which we would keep lit for duration of all ceremonies and big events on the land. I see communal areas for food prep, meals, movement and some creative practices. I see private dwellings for residents and designated quiet spaces for meditation and silent practice, perhaps deep in the woods as well as by the water.
As embodied movement and physicality are key to holistic health, I'd love to see regular (attendance-optional) weekly offerings by us for us (and guests) too. For example, morning yoga/qi gong/meditations, breathwork, cycling excursions, Sunday morning ecstatic 'dance church' (a personal favorite of mine!), silent forest walks, circus arts class, martial arts training, etc. Creativity is also central, so music jams, song circles, painting parties, etc would be included i the optional programming. Seasonal foraging and cookery are others that spring to mind. All kinds of things that people can choose to do, or not, as part of their weekly routines on the land. I think a potluck+music jam once a week (Friday night?) could be a lovely offering and an excellent reason to for everyone to gather together in the spirit of just plain fun!
I would also love to build a big, open creative space, equipped with easels, art supplies, maybe even a pottery wheel... we could do weekly painting/art classes and group creative process there. It could be a space where high-level artists/creatives-in-residence who are holding retreats on the land come to do their own craft, and possibly teach a private class for residents of the land.
Personally, I'm passionate about helping people reconnect with their inner creative fire, deeper aspects of themselves (and thereby others) and to nature. In my 36 years, I've already had a tremendous journey in terms of reconnection with my self/spirit/my creative. I'm currently weaving together a workshop series that combines the art and science of 'flow states' as a route to creativity, embodiment and in dissolving the illusion of separateness (on all levels). I would love a space that can easily accommodate groups of 20 (and up 50?) so that I may offer these teachings, as well as create art, write, work the land, dance, sing, play, hike, cook, build and connect with others, my self and the public. I see spaces for creatives and spiritualists in residence, areas of deep, uninterrupted silence and spaces for connection. I see a place where we can ALL live with the diurnal rhythm of the earth, where we can choose not to engage with lifestyle habits that dissuade us from living as nature intended. No watches, no shoes, no urgency, no pesticides, no TV, no waste...no problem.