Whether you never leave your hometown or you are a digital nomad, the fast pace of modern relationships is likely to confront us with the feeling of loneliness. Although understanding the roots of loneliness may lead to a more fulfilling chapter in our lives, we all know that society does not approve of solitude. One way to combat loneliness in a safe and understanding environment is visiting an intentional community. But is it right for you? Here are a few questions to ask when deciding to make the leap:
What exactly is an intentional community?
It is a group of people that share the same values, coming together in a place they create to achieve certain goals. There is a wide array of interests that may have brought the group together, but in general people living in intentional communities have a strong sense of purpose, and work cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values. Many of these communities offer programs for visitors interested in getting to know how is it like to live and work in a communal setting. The basic programs typically range between one-day to one-week visits.
Where can you find intentional communities?
The good news is that there are intentional communities all over the world, varying in size and interests. This offers the possibility of organizing a week-end visit to a community near your home or, for the more adventurous, combine a one-week program at a community abroad with a few more days of vacation. Some examples are the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland; Esalen and Mount Shasta in California, Tamera in Portugal, Damanhur in Italy or Auroville in India, to mention just a few that have a successful record. At a time when I needed to heal a difficult emotional moment, I combined a one-week program at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland with a few more weeks of travel in the area, and I could not have made a better choice.
What is the best community for you?
A lot has to do with which are your main areas of interests. Larger communities offer programs that, while gently introducing you to the values of communal living, have an additional educational purpose. This can range from Yoga and Qi Gong, through Mindfulness and deepening into meditation, to permaculture and organic farming. An essential part of understanding how a community works is contributing to it. In Findhorn they call it [love in action] and, depending on the program that you join, you may have the opportunity to help in the kitchen, the farm, the garden or do maintenance work at the communal building. It is surprising how well you can get to know a stranger with whom you spend a couple of hours weeding or preparing a meal, and how satisfying it can be to achieve a purpose together.
Do you need to be a religious or spiritual person?
The answer is no. Although some of the communities are religious, many others are non-confessional. The latter may offer the possibility of joining multicultural or ecumenical activities that run parallel to the programs, though generally these activities are optional. Intentional communities tend to accept and integrate diverging views on religious and spiritual matters, and for that same reason they can be great place to learn from people that have a different perspective.
Will I still have time for myself?
In these types of communities many activities are carried out in a group, but there are also certain times and especially dedicated spaces for you to be on your own if you wish so. Be it to do a meditation practice, or just to spend a quiet moment, the fact that you are at an intentional community does not mean that you will not have time on your own. After a full day of Qi Gong practice, a talk about life purpose and planting seeds at the nursery, you may wish to find a quiet moment before dinner to appreciate the silence and experience gratitude.
So if you are in a relationship rut, or feeling like you could use some fresh, genuine human connection, check out the option of visiting an intentional community. Who knows -- from such higher perspective, maybe loneliness transforms itself into a rich, fertile garden that shall nourish your soul's calling.