It has been an honor and a joy to call Breitenbush home for the last two and a half years. I have lived at Breitenbush for numerous shorter periods over the last eight and a half years. This time, however, I decided to stay for at least a three year period. One of the biggest factors contributing to my desire to stay longer this time is how harmonious the community feels now. Throughout several years I have witnessed an evolution in the community. In my eyes the community as a whole is growing up, maturing, and overcoming unhealthy dynamics. I believe healthier communication has been a main driving force for our more cohesive community.
At this year’s summer solstice event hosted at Breitenbush there was a workshop on “relationship issues.” In a group of about 25 people we moved through the myriad of conflicts and struggles that come up throughout all the stages of relationships. It was an interesting, but not so surprising, revelation to see how we distilled almost all hardships in relationships down to communication issues. It was clear that miscommunication, a lack of communication, or manipulative and violent communication was at the root of many unhealthy relationship problems and dynamics.
Be it a romantic relationship, a close friendship, a co-worker, a new acquaintance, or a community member, a relationship of some kind is established. In order for any healthy relationship to be maintained and kindled, healthy communication seems to be the key. The Breitenbush community has a long established credo that inspires our lives here. One of my favorite parts of the credo lays out precepts for self growth that include: personal accountability, honest communication, and and awareness of our actions and the quality of their results. I feel the current incarnation of the Breitenbush community is the furthest along in its growth in terms of these precepts. Living and working together in the close confines of an isolated rural environment demands constant work on communication for a harmonious existence here.
I have been amazed at how frequently I have seen current community members working on improving communication together. I have witnessed people calling each other out when certain toxic dialogue begins to creep out and point out ways to improve. Although it is somewhat natural, gossip can be destructive for communal relations and I have seen an awareness of it that has frequently put a quick stop to it. When interpersonal problems are being discussed it is common to see people urging for direct communication between the people involved. Even though it is not institutionalized in any way, I have seen many concepts of Marshall Rosenberg’s “Non-Violent” communication employed. It has also been refreshing to experience an overall heightened awareness to listen well and work towards letting each other know how they’re being heard.
Living in an intentional community is unfortunately considered a “social experiment” rather than the norm. I am extremely grateful for my experiences in community and its readily accessible collective wisdom. The Breitenbush Mission Statement is “to provide a safe and potent environment where people can renew and evolve in ways they never imagined.” The community is indeed a potent environment to evolve in ways never imagined. For me, the community has been a teacher, a nurturer, a healer, and an agent of humbleness. One of the biggest ways I have evolved from community living has been my awareness and intention around communication. It brings me great happiness to see the community evolving similarly with healthier and more aware communication as well. To communicate in a way that fosters healthy relations takes work, and it is such good work. In community doing this work together brings us closer together.