Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Communal Living at Newbold House

Newbold House is our first communal living experience.  A winding path lined with rhododendrons that are a riot of colour have lead us to this incredible Victorian Mansion, a wonderful sanctuary set in a garden that is also in bloom. 

We have been here a few days now and are starting to get a sense of this place.  The house is a community of people from different walks of life, a group of core staff, long-term volunteers, and paying guests from around the world.  The community have pledged to tread lightly on the land and believe that global sustainability starts at home.  Their common vision is:  "To develop, practise and teach skills for sustainable living in harmony with ourselves, each other and the Earth."

They have adopted the nearby Findhorn Foundations’ core principles, which informs and inspires everything they do.
  • deep inner listening
  • co-creation with the intelligence of nature
  • love in action through service to the human and natural world
A more detailed set of guidelines spell out how they are meant to live and interact with each other.  They include having an active spiritual practice, to personal growth, respecting others, using clear and honest communication, practicing non-violence and making an effort to resolve disputes. 

We have been chatting to a number of the long-term community members here and getting a sense for what it means to live and work in a community.   While the volunteers live in the house many of the community live in the caravans and yurts scattered outside, which gives them a little more privacy on their days off

Members in the house take it in turns to cook, clean-up, work in the garden and do home care but many have fixed roles such as working in the front office.  You get free room and board in exchange for 6 shifts a week.  The long-term volunteers are not paid but those that have core duties are.  While this is a great escape from the stress of life in the corporate world, it also comes with a certain degree of intensity because you are living and working with your colleagues.  A reciprocal arrangement with another community in the west coast allows members to have time off and recuperate.

Steve and I contemplate if we could live in this sort of arrangement.  In my twenties as a student at Berkeley, I had lived in a communal house but I think it would be far more challenging to contemplate as a couple.  While the flow of guests and volunteers brings with it a fresh energy, sharing your story constantly with new people could also be tiring.  The meals here are also vegetarian.  I think if I were to stay here on a long-term basis I would miss the diversity of food I am used to. 

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