Joining an existing intentional community Gaia Ashram in Isan, Thailand

Joining an existing intentional community & Finding the new equilibrium

You think about moving to an existing intentional community? You are wondering about the challenges, hardships and opportunities of living in a community? You wanna know how easy (or how hard) it is to move from a single, couple or even small family life into an existing intentional community or ecovillage? Well, that’s what we did and that’s why we wanna share our reflection and first lessons learned with you. Finding the new equilibrium - A recap after 10 month.

Author: Lars Blume

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

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

After years of following the current western lifestyle, we had a strong need to change something and bring community back into our life. Before, we lived in an urban and highly populated city in Asia and recognized that we are more and more losing the connection to people and our surrounding environment. Following the need of more freedom and less dependence we somehow started separating and isolating ourselves, while focusing mainly on us. We identified this behavior as a normal result that is happening in cities that are not designed to make social interactions and connection with nature happening easily. We were looking for something different. Something with a deeper connection and social care. On the lookout for a small intentional community, we found Gaia Ashram in the Northeast of Thailand and felt that this place is right for us. After 10 months of living in the ecovillage Gaia Ashram we look back and reflect to find out our first lessons learned.  


 

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Joining an existing intentional community - Learning everyday

We are learning every single day. First we had to understand the routines, the roles within, the culture of the place, and feel the energy of the existing group. We had to understand the fears, hopes and problems, and with all that understanding, the values and history of every single person that is part of the intentional community. While trying to learn about the visible and invisible connections and coalitions between people, we had to learn about the daily chores, routines and the schedule. We had to learn (and are still learning) about gardening, the growing habits of plants and about just being in community. We further jumped right away into a totally new topic, natural building, and put a lot of our energy in understanding the key functions of a house that is built out of natural material. We had to learn to accept and feel our limits, our own restrictions, and how to set boundaries. Coming all the way from a separate lifestyle into an existing intentional community is a challenge but most of all it’s a beautiful thing that allows us to get to connect deeply with yourself, others, and energies. You never stop learning in community.

Understanding where your comfort zone ends and where your panic zones starts is essential in order to grow in the community without freaking out. We’ve learned that it is essential to allow yourself some transition time and to not push yourself to hard. This is about learning to get to know yourself in deeply and in detail and at the same time trying to understand the new framework conditions and people around you.


 

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Joining a newly opened intentional community – Shifting the equilibrium

We visited Gaia Ashram before we decided to become part of the community. It is an asset to experience the infrastructure, values and the spirt or heartbeat of the community for a while. While the core culture of a place is stable, new people coming and others leaving is creating new situations that makes the group spirit and energy changing simultaneously. For me, this was kind of hard to understand in the first place but after a few weeks things get clearer and the strong community spirit helped to understand and experience the existing equilibrium and roles within the group of people. Gaia Ashram is an open intentional community, accepting short-term volunteers (from two weeks onwards) and long-term residents. Having people for short periods joining your community is super refreshing and exciting. However, when you just became part of a community, you are suddenly facing two layers at the same time: the short-term volunteers and the group equilibrium of the intentional community.

It is important understand the bigger picture and find your place in the existing community. That makes you grounded and stable for energy shifts that can occur through short-term visitors and volunteers. Only a stable equilibrium between the residents can ensure a smooth and welcoming atmosphere for short-term members. Again, it might sound complicated but as long as you are you and you behave like you are, things will sort out easily.

Community means working and learning together. Here we're making biochar.  Foto: Somdutta Pal

Community means working and learning together. Here we're making biochar. Foto: Somdutta Pal

Steping out of your comfort zone. Compost toilets are a hygienic solution in nature, create soil, and reduce water pollution.

Steping out of your comfort zone. Compost toilets are a hygienic solution in nature, create soil, and reduce water pollution.

An intentional community – Defining your long-term equilibrium

YOf course we are changing routines, roles and established structures, sometimes just because we’re just there. This is normal and a good thing. But it is something that we are aware of as changes are good and needed but sometimes smaller and slower changes are more effective. When we talked with the people of Gaia Ashram about joining the community we all felt a deep connection to each other. We already experienced the Gaia Ashram way of community living and decided that we like it and that we would love to join. This means we are not aiming for changes but they happened naturally and will continue to happen with us being part of the community.

For Gaia Ashram it is a special situation as well. Long-term residents are a new thing and all structures and routines used to work perfect for short term residents. Less than a year ago the first long-term resident joined the community and pioneered this new way of community life. A month before we arrived a second person joined the long-term community. For people joining an existing community it is easy as they do not know how things where before and they do not need to change roles or responsibilities. We were just gaining new thoughts, new inspiration and new experience. We were just asked to take over things whenever we had the feeling to be ready. For the people already living in a community things are slightly different. For the existing community new people joining means a change and a shift in responsibility. New people coming with new ideas, new visions and new personalities, they are arriving with their own historical backpacks and stories, and that’s great and (mostly) beneficiary for a diverse community. The existing community needs to give space, give up roles and reorganize based on the new expertise and characters that are suddenly around.

Becoming an intentional community- Dream together

Now we are 8 people (and 2 kids) living at Gaia Ashram for a longer period of time. We all have our dreams and we all have our visions, for us and for Gaia Ashram. We all know why we are here and have an idea of what role we want to play. This is already a super important step on the way to establish the new community spirit. Of course, we partly know the dreams and visions of the people surrounding us. But so far we just know fractions. We don’t know all the different dreams that are around and how they are interacting, benefitting and supporting each other. With having everyone on board for now, we started our dreaming and (re-)visioning process a month ago. Dreaming together will help us to understand better, come closer and grow as an intentional community. It is a step that is super important and needs to be done at some point but everyone needs some time to see and explore one’s dream before a joint dream can exist.

Bringing all our visions together and creating a common dream.  Foto: Somdutta Pal

Bringing all our visions together and creating a common dream. Foto: Somdutta Pal

Planting the sprouting seed of a new community vision.

Planting the sprouting seed of a new community vision.

Experience life at Gaia Ashram

If you wanna join Gaia Ashram as a volunteer or join one of the educational events 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. Check out the great read of one of our volunteers at Medium.

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.

If you want to experience a design process join one of our workshops or invite us to your property and become the host for the next workshop. Just drop us a mail for further information. Or just subscribe for our monthly newsletter.