Breitenbush Hot Springs logo
Breitenbush Hot Springs logo

Breitenbush University by Mona Nicholson

Published May 10th, 2017 in Community Perspectives

My first visit to Breitenbush was in 1981.  Being here evolved…from day use, while camping at Detroit Lake with my family…to personal retreats and workshops.  Breitenbush was a place I returned to over the years to bring my life, as we say, ‘back into balance.’ 

After retiring from being a teacher and a principal, the doors opened for me to join the Breitenbush community and business.  The continuation of my spiritual pilgrimage on this sacred land now continues daily.

This month, it will be 6 years since first coming to live and work at Breitenbush.  I’m loved, accepted, cared for…and corrected, at times.  Mostly, I’m allowed to simply be me…here…now. 

Over the years, I’ve searched for a path; a credo on which I could “stand.”  The Breitenbush Credo is the closest I’ve come.  The river, mountains, trees, stones and healing waters are my church….every night and day.

A long time ago, I went to a Buckminster Fuller lecture.  The auditorium was packed with standing room only.  He spoke on how the universe is synergetic and how life is synergetic.  I remember him saying that if everyone took care of their neighbor, everyone would be taken care of.  The words were branded on me…an awakening happened and I’ve tried to live up to these words since that 1969 university lecture.  Now, I attend B.U….get it? ”Be You”….Breitenbush University… where we take care of one another, learn, grow and celebrate with our neighbors.

Breitenbush did not begin accidentally….it was a social experiment in creating an intentional community that continues to thrive through continued hard work and service. 

What exactly is an intentional community, you might ask?  It’s not a naked hippie commune like my 87-year-old mother believes it to be.  According to the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC), an intentional community refers to any custom-made community.  An “intentional community” is a group of people who have chosen to live together with a common purpose, working cooperatively to create a lifestyle that reflects their shared core values.  Wikipedia’s definition is: “a residential community designed from the start to have a high degree of social cohesion and teamwork. [Members] typically share responsibilities and resources.”

I’m grateful to live and work in this Breitenbush experiment…that began 40 years ago…this year…that others initiated and many of us continue to care for and nurture.  Living and working at Breitenbush, I experience the possibility of living more sustainably in the face of overwhelming scientific and economic realities.

Would I recommend this lifestyle?  Yes…after carefully considering the following:

  • What’s important to you?  As Peter Moore, our Business Director, said to me when I first arrived, “Be ready to stand for what you believe in.”
  • Research intentional communities i.e., location, community/business agreements and practices. (The Fellowship of Intentional Communities’ Directory will be a great help.)
  • A good way to find out more about the Breitenbush community and business is to sign up for one of our Service Week Retreats where you work alongside community members.
  • Know yourself. Do you get along with people who annoy you?  How does change affect you?  Are you able to receive feedback?  Are you willing to cooperate for the good of the whole?

Last week, at our Community Renewal Days, I asked several in our Community to write an intention for Breitenbush.  Here is a sampling of our intentions:

  • Home, livelihood and relations in balance
  • Let go and trust the process
  • Ground in wholeness & trust; listening to hearts expressed
  • To become truly self-sustainable; growing together
  • Celebrate regularly
  • Inspire courageous transformation
  • Art in public places
  • Be fully present
  • Find a deeper respect & honoring of the Land
  • Co-create a lil slice of heaven on earth with love, depth, compassion, wisdom and service to each other, the Land, our guests…with laughter, growth and playfulness
  • Synergistic magic

You may have spoken to me on the phone, interacted with me in the Store or been greeted by me at the Gate.  I work in Guest Services and Events.  Last week a guest came into the Gate House before leaving.  I could tell she wanted to share something with me and so I asked her how her stay had been.  In tears, she replied, “I wish the world could be like Breitenbush.”  I replied, “I know.”