Intentional community life at Gaia Ashram in Thailand

How’s life in an intentional community? Life at Gaia Ashram in Thailand

After coming back to Germany and answering a lot of questions about our new life we were lucky enough to be invited by Contigo Hannover to share our stories and pictures. More than 25 people joined our talk and we had a great interactive evening. We had the great chance to reconnect with two former community members and invited others to experience this alternative way of living.  We are sharing our experiences after three month living in community. Gaia Ashram อาศรม ธรรมชาติ is a community for all living beings in northeastern Thailand. We tell you 8 things you might wanna know!

Author: Lars Blume

The sala is the place at Gaia Ashram where we eat, meet and learn. It is the main community place and everything else is structured around it.  Photo credit:    Ramona Luca

The sala is the place at Gaia Ashram where we eat, meet and learn. It is the main community place and everything else is structured around it.
Photo credit: Ramona Luca

Gaia Ashram is a vegetarian community that is aiming to produce more food from the land and increase food self-reliance.  Photo credit:    Roxane Roses

Gaia Ashram is a vegetarian community that is aiming to produce more food from the land and increase food self-reliance.
Photo credit: Roxane Roses

What kind of a community is Gaia Ashram?

Gaia Ashram is located in the Northeast of Thailand close to the Mekong and the boarder to Laos. It is part of the region Isan, one of the poorer regions in Thailand. The land size is over 6 hectares of former rice paddies.

Gaia Ashram literally means a place to serve (Ashram) Mother Earth (Gaia). It is a place to serve for the greater good separated from your personal needs. Sounds good, but what does this mean? Gaia Ashram is a living community, education center and a lab for alternative ways of living and acting. It is following a vegetarian and so far not fully organic diet but we are on the way to produce more and more organic food.

Spirituality and land restoration are going hand in hand at Gaia Ashram.  Photo credit:    Roxane Roses

Spirituality and land restoration are going hand in hand at Gaia Ashram.
Photo credit: Roxane Roses

That's us! The 2018 group of residents at Gaia Ashram.  Photo credit:    Roxane Roses

That's us! The 2018 group of residents at Gaia Ashram.
Photo credit: Roxane Roses

Spirituality and reconnecting with nature are two main focuses of Gaia Ashram. We encourage every community member to take time for spiritual practices and include it on a regular basis in our daily schedule. We start and end every day with mediation practice and have some weekly routines that supports us to stay in the present moment.

Gaia Ashram follows the Ecovillage Design approach that is based on the four dimensions of sustainability. Gaia Ashram is part of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) and is an active member in the regional network GENOA (Global Ecovillage Network Oceania and Asia) as well. Wanna learn more about the ecovillage design approach? There are some places left for the upcoming Ecovillage Design course at Gaia. 

Gaia Ashram is half way between Hanoi, Vietnam and Bangkok, Thailand, pretty close to the Mekong River.

Gaia Ashram is half way between Hanoi, Vietnam and Bangkok, Thailand, pretty close to the Mekong River.

Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and Udon Thani, Thailand are the next bigger cities around Gaia Ashram.

Vientiane, the capital of Laos, and Udon Thani, Thailand are the next bigger cities around Gaia Ashram.

Restoration of the land and giving back

Over the last 7 years, the founders of Gaia Ashram Om and Tom gave this land back to Mother Earth to allow nature to take over. Today, the former degraded soil and the rough and little vegetation turned itself into an oasis with an abundance of plants and species. It is incredible with what speed nature was able to restore itself and how quick diversity cam back. Now, after nearly seven years of allowing nature to take over again, it is time to cultivate some parts of the land in a sustainable and gentle way to increase the yield and harvest some of the surplus. Natural farming methods and permaculture tools are used to keep the regeneration of the land. Some permaculture elements and techniques like the food forest, alley cropping or sheet mulching are already in place and the entire circle of goods is designed in order to create no waste.

Gaia Ashram is a green oasis within rice paddy fields.

Gaia Ashram is a green oasis within rice paddy fields.

After years of soil degradation, nature is taking over again and is providing a wide range of plants and other living beings.

After years of soil degradation, nature is taking over again and is providing a wide range of plants and other living beings.

Existing infrastructure at Gaia Ashram

Tom and Om just recently decided to open their place for long-termers and so the existing community hosts 6 people and two kids. We are open for long-term and short-term community members who want to experience community life and want to give some energy to Mother Earth. To allow short-term members to gain the full community experience we ask for a minimum stay of two weeks. (Here’s the link to Gaia Ashram for detailed information).

At the moment there is a main building with community space on the ground level and a dormitory on the upper story, a community kitchen, two bamboo guest houses and the so called fairy house, a natural building with several guest rooms. Furthermore, the founders have created their own private house to have a safe space for family life and at the moment we are building our own mud house as well.

There are two shower blocks and a couple of compost toilets on the land. To create no waste and to keep the loop closed, we use our gray water to water the plants and the humanure to create soil

Compost toilets are a hygienic solution in nature. Creating soil plus reducing water pollution and consumption at the same time is a very good feeling.

Compost toilets are a hygienic solution in nature. Creating soil plus reducing water pollution and consumption at the same time is a very good feeling.

Organization of our daily community life

As a community that is open for short-term residents it is important to provide a daily structure to guide people through the first weeks of life and work at Gaia Ashram. Furthermore, it makes life easier for long-termers. Our daily structure is designed to meet the needs of people, the Earth and allows a good balance between privacy and time for community and the land. We follow this daily routine in a flexible way and try to incorporate urgent needs and changes. Usually we come together once a week to design the schedule for the coming week. This way we make sure that we all are on the same page and that the needs of everyone, every area and each plant is incorporated in the weekly schedule.

Starting the day with the sunrise: Daily schedule during course week.

Starting the day with the sunrise: Daily schedule during course week.

Living in and with nature at Gaia Ashram.

Living in and with nature at Gaia Ashram.

Economics behind community living

This definitely is a kind of topic everyone is asking for; but accompanied with the fear to start a hot topic. For Gaia Ashram this is not a hot topic at all. The lump sum for short-term residents is designed to cover food costs and the expenses for cooking and stuff. At the moment the courses are the only service that is bringing additional money into the community. This money is fully reinvested in further infrastructure and tools. Natural products produced one the land and enriched by community members are more an awareness raising campaign than an actual business model. Gaia Ashram does not receive any philanthropic funding and needs to sustain itself through services, incomes or savings. In an ideal world a couple of social enterprises would be able to make some profits to subsidy community life as well as the educational programs.

Courses at Gaia Ashram

The educational part within Gaia Ashram is dedicated to sustainable living and aims to inspire volunteers and visitors along their very own journey towards a sustainable lifestyle. To inspire people to become change makers, Gaia Ashram offers different kinds of courses.

All upcomming other courses are listed here. This year, we also came up with a new format for people with a limited amount of holidays. The next weekend courses will take place soon.

The values of Gaia Ashram

At Gaia we see the Earth as one system where everything and everyone is connected and interacting with each other. We are aware of planetary boundaries and we are looking for ways of living to stay within these boundaries while leaving no one behind. Our values are a very special Gaia Ashram mix of the permaculture principles and the values of deep ecology. We believe that the very first step to create something better starts within each of us and that connecting with your inner self, understanding your needs, listening to yourself and reconnecting with nature, people and all living beings seen or unseen is key. To integrate that believe into our daily schedule and to support us to be aware, we do practices like garden check-ins to feel nature and listen to the needs of Mother Earth, we do weekly wellbeing circles to listen to our needs and the people around us. We take the time it takes to share, to listen, to be empathic with us and the community. To express our gratitude for the beauty and abundance of food that is provided by Mother Earth we come together before every meal to take some time to ground ourselves and to remind us how special it is to be able to eat healthy food with friends in a safe environment.

Experience life at Gaia Ashram

If you wanna join us or join one of our courses check www.gaiaschoolasia.com for further information. You can also check our previous blog posts about our life at Gaia Ashram and our personal journey beyond sustainability. You want to know how Gaia Ashram is from a short term resident perspective check out the great read of one of our 2018 community member at Medium. You can also drop us a message; we’re happy to hear from you. Or just subscribe for our monthly newsletter.

Gaia Ashram together with NextGenoa and flowful will organize a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) COurse between March 30 and April 18 at Gaia Ashram Thailand. You can find more information here or just drop us a message; we’re happy to hear from you.

At the moment we are designing the courses for our summer break (May/June) in Germany. We will have several weekend courses and also a PDC-Course happening. To get more information just write us a message; we will keep you posted.