I have been oriented towards community living as a dream for over ten years, long before I started my NVC journey. In fact, part of my motivation for working to learn and integrate NVC was so that I could one day, when I eventually live in community, use it. I wanted to live in community and didnt know how to get there, so I thought I could at least upskill in NVC. So that when the opportunity finally came, I NVC would be the contribution I could give to my much longed for community.
In recent years, I have oriented towards community living a little differently, through the needs-paradigm underpinning NVC. At first, the motivations behind my interest in community living was unclear. When I heard that “community” is one of the Universal Human Needs, I felt an “ah-ha”, this is why!
It made sense finally. As a lonely child, “community” was a long-term unmet need. A need that frequently, for stretches of years, when unmet. One of my NVC teachers, Yoram Mosenson talks about the “Life Project”, that one particular need that is so alive in us that attending to it becomes the project of our lives. When I first heard that it was easy for me to name “community” as the “life project” for me.
So, I began orienting towards it, determined to “meet” this need, finally; utterly unclear as to how.
I used to rant about people using the word "incorrectly". I was so frustrated in NVC workshops, when at the close of the workshop, we went around the circle naming which needs had been “met” by the workshop, learning, understanding, connection,... community. And hearing this word used in this way stimulated me. I would rant the whole car ride home, about how people are so disconnected from community that they don't even know what it is. That because they have a weekend experiencing intimacy and connection it must be community. “They are not going to see these people ever again! We don't have long term connections or shared work! This is not a community, this is a group of people that paid money to learn something and they had a nice time so they are calling it a community. It's not a community stop calling it that!”
When the pandemic started, I circled back to this need for community, and this time, the judgements went inward. What the fuck are you doing Selene? You KNOW this kind of stuff is just going to keep happening and getting worse as climate change intensifies. You have been wanting to live in community for so long and still you aren’t. You never do anything, you have no one to blame but yourself for this.
So when the opportunity came to move to a community on farm land, I jumped at it without hesitation. I lived there for about 3 months, give or take a week. And just this week, I decided to pause living there, to rest and prepare for another community living experiment coming up in April.
What happened that I could go from insisting on living in community no matter what to choosing to step out of that community for a 2 month break?
Well, if you read back the way I was orienting towards community as a human need, community as a thing that I desperately wanted for, you may notice that I was orienting from the scarcity of the need. I was making choices, forming judgements, and seeing the world through my lens of the LACK of community. Of community as being impossible, something I (and everyone else) definitively DONT HAVE.
The strategies that come to mind as we attempt to attend to a need, when we are standing in a place of scarcity are less likely to bring us to the world we actually want.
While the judgements that were raging in my head may or may not have been “accurate”, they were expressions of my pain and fear and loss. They were unexpressed mourning.
After a few months of actually experiencing living in community, and actively shifting almost 100% of my work energy towards supporting community living in the world, my orientation to this is different. I’ve had a taste of what this need may feel like, when in abundance. What this need can feel like, when it is frequently nourished. What life can feel like, when I am surrounded by “community”. What the world might look like, if we all “had” it.
Separate from this need being met or not, in scarcity or in abundance, I am now in contact with the essence of the life energy which we sometimes name “community”.* This essence lives in me and speaks through me.
And now, when I connect to that essence, the strategies that come to me to fill my days and use my energy are different. The lens I see the world through has shifted. And it is this difference, this essence, that I hope to share with you all, in the coming blog posts, in my workshops, in my own community living and consulting.
*This understanding of needs comes to me through Robert Gonzales, whom I strongly recommend learning from.
Selene Aswell is a coach, facilitator and community living consultant.