Permaculture, intentional communities and power dynamics

*Trigger warning: this article contains personal recollections which some people may find disturbing

What is an intentional community?

I define intentional community as 2 or more people who decide to live together, this can be in the same building or in separate but nearby buildings or a mixture of both. Sometimes they are also referred to as communes. For the rest of the world you might think of it as a co-living situation in which you get to choose your house or room mates. Almost always they have some shared purpose and shared agreements of how they will live together.

Why would anyone want to live in an intentional community?

This could be answered in a hundred ways but often reasons include the want to live with people who share similar or same ideals / beliefs / religion / spiritual practice / political views etc.

What is power? and why does it matter?

Much of our life is already outside of our control but what I felt happen to me was the total loss of control over my own life. The experience was so overwhelming that I descended into a life threatening kind of mental health state basically depression. The more power I lost the more of my identity I shed and the less me I became until one day I no longer knew the person in the mirror. Not only was she an unknown entity but at her lowest points I hated her with a vengeance because she was an angry hurt despondent child. I was in pain and I blamed myself.

Power matters — but you only realise it when you don’t have any!

As soon as decisions started being made with money instead of consent and you have no money then you quickly realise the bubble has truly burst. Out the window go the ideals and the power imbalance is apparent to everyone.

Would I consider joining or starting a new intentional community again?

Perhaps. But I would certainly be more wary now. I would not join a co-living situation in the same building. I learnt the hard way I need my own little space and a bit of land that is private to me which I don’t have to share at all times. I also know that I am not comfortable with a constantly changing home situation where I have to share my space with transient people I might only get to know for a few days. My advice is to know yourself, your needs and your boundaries.

#permaculture practitioner, teacher and designer — co-founder of #ecohackerfarm