Living in a community… always the same story !!!

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My major learning during my month at Gaia ashram

When I try to think about it, it seems that my main discovery has nothing to do with gardening, permaculture or natural building. I learned about the society and the persons making it. And I’m still very surprised to realize that we’ve been able to recreate a small society with only 23 persons and in only 4 weeks where no one was very happy, satisfied or felt independent and empowered enough to think he/she could make the difference.

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Like in the “real” society, we had 2 bosses, the owners. These owners were taking the decisions for us, they would lead the discussions, the activities and even solve the conflicts. They didn’t live with us which gave them a way to step out of the community whenever they wanted to. They had facilitators to help them and these facilitators were half managers, half community members. they had privileges like a private room to sleep or the fact that they didn’t have to help us with the duties (dishes, compost…). And at the end of the chain there were the community members who were asked to pay 550 € for a month, to sleep in a dormitory of 17 or in a tent, to follow a very strict planning (without always being asked before changing an activity) and to participate to the community in exchange of the knowledge of the owners and facilitators. But this was mostly what we agreed for when we decided to join the internship, we therefore all accepted the terms as is.

But the consequences of the terms were the following : The community members had to share their feelings when they were asked to, give energy when it was written “natural building” or “gardening” on the board, do their duties whenever the group decided it was time to do so, take care of themselves whenever it wouldn’t disturb the group, the activities and the planning and do everything with a huge smile to avoid being called “complainer”. Very quickly they’ve all adopted a “status” within the group that allowed them to wear a mask and gave them a ful set of attitudes that were much easier to handle than going against the flow or the rules. Meanwhile, to avoid taking care of any impact of such a system on the community members’ well being, the owners and facilitators would ask them to “be mindful of their own body and mind”… but also they would ask them to be punctual, not avoid team work, be present for the “tune in” etc, don’t neglect the meditation… And this is exactly where I’m going : the objectives were not realistic and were contradictory.

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If I agree to say that one month was not enough to build a full system without managers and persons in charge, imposing rules and planning in advance, I also agree to say that imposing an hybrid system without taking responsability for it, is not a viable solution. And I discovered that this conclusion is exactly the reason why I want to change myself and allow me to live in a different system/world :

Because I don’t believe in a system imposing strict rules whith no one taking responsability for them, I believe in a fair system where everyone is responsible for his own actions and future.  If you don’t allow men to be actors of their own lives, you have to give them an easy, “ready to use” system with clear rules that can’t be avoided or interpreted by anyone (which means : NO EXCEPTIONS !!!!).

And this is exactly what happened at Gaia ashram, slowly, people started to take whatever they wanted to take and stopped doing the “annoying things”. And this left the ones who were fully playing the game with a lot of frustrations and the feeling of loosing their time or to not have enough time for themselves.

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To be honest I enjoyed, learned and laughed much more than I suffered from a potential social pressure but this special discovery made me think a lot about my personnal story and opened my eyes on my values and the values of the society where I grew up. And this experience and learning especially helped me understand the world I was willing to work for and contribute to, a world of a 100 % equality in which everyone would be able to be his/herself, contribute their very own way at their own rythme and without receiving a positive or negative label to reward or punich their difference. A system where people would finally have the chance to be true and where no one would wear a mask (doesn’t matter if it’s a mask of zoro, cinderella or any evil monster) and no one would need to suffer any label.

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