Hot springs draw people like no other place. Wherever they occur, folks have formed communities around them for healing, spiritual renewal, celebration and the pure pleasure of slipping into pools of hot water in remote, beautiful settings. Breitenbush certainly drew me for all those reasons back in 1978 when our “intentional community” was just beginning to form. In 2005, we’ve evolved in so many ways, but the current community at Breitenbush is still service-oriented, eclectic, eccentric, respectful and a little loony—much like the people who started the community at Breitenbush more than a quarter century ago. We’re as dedicated to transparent truthing, organic foods, renewable energy, holistic healing, spiritual growth and authentic individualism as we ever were. That such a nonconformist organization can so thrive is no doubt linked to our pristine hot springs setting, and I remain cautiously optimistic about the future.
Walking the land, I am never far from the feeling of ancestors—those who have dwelled at these hot springs over the past few thousand years. From what I have read of early settlers’ accounts and seen from the archeological record, life has always been good here. People ate well, the healing waters took away pain, people experienced spiritual renewal through ceremony and ritual, and generally enjoyed life, accepting the diverse ways of others whom they encountered in and around the hot waters. I think these ways of being are as much about place as people—it’s what happens here. For myself, I notice that a spontaneous sense of gratitude arises.
The thing that blows my mind about Breitenbush’s current human community is that we, this eclectic group of eccentric people, are able to function so well in so many critical areas. We operate an entire small town in the middle of the wilderness, including making our own electricity and heating our buildings with hot springs. We maintain enormously complex technical systems. We govern ourselves through an enthusiastic democratic process in which the power structure is circular, not pyramidal. We greet and serve 20,000 guests per year, and feed organic vegetarian mega-meals to everybody. At times we’re contentious, but we maintain high standards. It’s a happening scene.
If you’re the kind of person who is drawn to hot springs and successful social experiments, visit this one. I’ll bet you’ll like it.