10 good reasons why you should live in an intentional community ( and a few reasons why we don't)

By Andrew Plant. Milltown Community. Scotland

Just to be clear – when I use the term ‘intentional communities’ I use it to include communes, communities, eco-villages, co-housing projects and, of course, also Camphill communities. No two communities are the same and so what follows is a lot of generalisations and might reflect aspirations rather than daily reality. Nonetheless, there are hopefully enough general truths here to give a fair picture of what life is like (or at least could be like, or should be like) in intentional communities.

So, why should we all live in a community?

1. Because it’s good for you

It seems that our sense of self-worth and well-being is inextricably linked to the feeling that we belong; that we are part of a group and part of something greater than ourselves. This sense of belonging allows us to feel acknowledged and recognised as who we truly are. This sense of belonging is very much part and parcel of being a member of an intentional community. In an intentional community we can also find meaning and purpose as part of a social setting that is positive and life-affirming. Through sharing lives on a daily basis we can also enjoy mutually supportive relationships that can be more trusting than usual. Intentional communities are busy places and there is a great variety of things to get involved in – socialising, work projects, sharing skills, meetings, and of course also fun and celebrations. And because today’s intentional communities are generally more respectful of private space and time, it is perhaps easier to set personal boundaries and find a balance between the personal and the communal than it would have been previously.

2. Because it makes you a better person

Not necessarily – you will experience as much of the shadow side of yourself and the shadow side of others in any intentional community just as you would anywhere else. But nonetheless, there is an in-built expectation that you will become a better person and, in many cases, this is also the reality. Certainly it can be said that the ideals and values of a community are premised on you becoming a better and more ‘authentic’ person – more in tune with yourself, with others and with the world. This process of personal betterment might come about on hand of a conscious decision to begin to walk a path of inner development, or it might just happen by itself as one of the many benefits of community living.

What makes this easier in an intentional community than elsewhere is that you are living in an environment that encourages talk of spirituality and personal transformation and some communities even run courses on a wide range of themes to do with spiritual, social and ecological, awareness.

And there is a good chance that, when the shadow side of human nature becomes all too obvious, there are other people around to share this with and support you through the process of learning to deal with it in a positive way.

Community is also a great place to learn – not just about yourself but a whole range of skills and knowledge. There are so many other people around with experience and wisdom to share and somehow it can be a safe place to make mistakes and grow in the process. Living in community requires that you develop extraordinary levels of acceptance, empathy and forgiveness. Alongside these trust is perhaps one of the most vital ingredients of communal living and if you don’t experience this - or if you don’t develop it - with those who you share your life with, then your experience of community will never be complete.

3. Because you can live an holistic lifestyle that is in tune with your values

One of the most inspiring things about intentional communities is finding a way of life that makes it possible to live out your ideals and to put your beliefs and values into practice on a daily basis. Not only can you live out your passion but you can do it with a sense of integrity. Through being a member of a group of like-minded people who share the same set of values as you - compassion and co-operation, non-violence, social justice and care of the environment - you can enjoy a sense of wholeness, connectedness and integrity that is not so easily found elsewhere.

And for those fortunate enough to be able to derive a living from working within their own community (when many or most have to find a job outside to bring in the money) it also means that you live a lifestyle that has no real separation between your home, your family and your work. For some people it is almost the case that they find everything they need within their own community.