Friday, August 21, 2009

Shifting Consciousness — Elizabeth Garber

Good morning, Arielle. I woke up thinking about your dream and wanted to tell you how this first year of being involved in the Cohousing community has been for my urgent self, like yours in the dream.

I, too, had very headstrong parts of me that were quite nervous about joining a group that would be designing and creating a place where I would live. What if something that was really important to me didn’t happen? Would I have to work hard to “make” something happen? What if it didn’t go the way I wanted? I think of the wise statement about a new relationship that we bring our old patterns but we have the possibility to heal ourselves or we can harm ourselves. I came to cohousing with my old patterns on alert from being in groups, which are certainly complex layering of many relationships. I remembered arduous discussions of Robert’s rules at Berkeley Free Clinic meetings in the 70’s, and exhausting board meetings for the parent-run Toddy Pond School in the 90’s. After a year with Belfast Cohousing, I can say this has been a remarkably healing year where I have come to trust the wisdom and magic that happens with this mature group of individuals working skillfully in the process of creating community together.

I think I have experienced a major shift in my consciousness as I have come to trust our group decision making process. I hear other members repeatedly remarking on this happening for them as well. So many times we have come in with a strongly held belief, and then over the space of the meeting and discussion, so much information and many points of view are expressed and heard. Somehow a common understanding and resolution seems to arise out of our talking together; a consensus agreement becomes almost effortless, taking most of us to a decision we might never having imagined making. We sometimes talk with wonder about what happened afterwards. I sometimes feel like we come to a river with all our personal little boats of different ideas, yet something happens when we get into the river and begin sailing together. In this process of coming to understanding every aspect of a decision, we often end up in a beautiful schooner all sailing together.

There are so many stories of particular moments I could tell. We could sit around talking for hours to do that. But for now, here is a glimpse of the astounding day we realized we could live wisely, better economically, with more energy efficiency, and with less impact on the land, if our homes were duplexes. Most of our members have been living in individual houses, many on vast farms with no other houses in sight, and at the beginning of the meeting duplexes seemed unimaginable. But by the end, something had shifted in us so much that it was as if we were breathing differently, yes, as if we breathed together, yes, we can do this because it makes the best sense for the whole project, for the whole community. Other decisions, like the pet policy, we are developing slowly, with many discussions so that we can come to something we can all live with, seeing our pets in the context of a whole community as well as in terms of the impact on the land and wild animals.

I think of Coleen talking about how we are going to have to make a shift in consciousness in this millennium, in how we think about living in groups and to create small households. We have to shift in our attachments to our ‘stuff’ and expand in how we are with each other. We have to become aware of the arrogance of our expectations from the privilege that we assume as Americans. I am aware of the process that is unfolding as I am involved with this group. I came in a year ago as an individual thinking about how I want My House, and My Gardens, and I now think about what I want to share and bring to the Common House and Common Gardens before I think my cozy little house.

I know there will be many thresholds of developing trust. I know there will be honeymoon periods and other times in the trenches of hard work together. I know the shadow sides of all of us will rear, and hopefully our dreams will help us understand those sides. But in the meantime, I see how I am healing from this journey. I am trusting the skills and willingness to learn and grow together that is happening in our community.


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