Communities Magazine is the Best

I did it. I read all of them. Okay, I looked through all the free ones that come with a membership of Foundation of Intentional communities and then bought some interesting ones after that.  It is an actual trip down commune lane in the 70s through cartoon drawings over all liberal publications in the 80s to the 90s settling into the new century.   Some of the articles are horrifying in today’s standards but reflect life back then.  But they all talk honestly about building community and the real bumps in that road.

Here are some of the things I read and made notes about (I will share my notes to self with you):

Communities magazine issue Number 59 wonders if you should get a computer for your group.  I think we now know the answer.

Communities Magazine  issue 14 talks about tension building and people not trusting each other.

 “Remember people not trusting each other will not trust a technique or resolve their disputes”

Communities Magazine Issue 28 has an article where they interview a few people  leaving Twin Oaks (a Walden based commune). Some felt it was too chaotic but since  it is the longest running commune that is probably not true anymore. One woman was criticized for breastfeeding back then, saying that wasn’t good for the parent/child relationship. The opposite peer pressure would be today.  Back in the days of the issue, they said that bottle feeding would be better so babies are not attached to one person (must’ve been popular since kibbutz were like that too).  The people they interviewed left and started forming their own commune (a smaller one). They didn’t say which one but there is one near Twin Oaks still to this day.

One person said,

“Now I feel a little sad about new people coming in all bright eyed and bushy because I think they are going to go through the painful process of disillusionment”.

That’s how I feel. I see newcomers come in with stars in their eyes and in my community, some didn’t even last a year.  Even those that stay, start to change their attitudes and become more practical, less enthusiastic than the honeymoon phase. 

Another issue reflects that those building communities are too busy to write articles.  So the editors do interviews over the phone to get their full issues. I find that funny but so true.  Only a small few take pen to paper and you’ll see the same voices. Even I barely had time to blog or podcast at all when I lived in cohousing.  Leaving gave me more time, and lots more motivation.

One issue has some good advice to see if your forming group will be a good fit with each other.  Take a vacation together. Have some retreats.  

Another is practical and says that you should consider what a child wants. No one really asks kids if they want to be there. It can be heaven, but it may not be and some real social issues do come up.  A few issues mentioned incidents of child sexual abuse and domestic violence. The level of trust in cohousing makes it easy for predators to find victims.  Other articles talk about how the turnover of people is especially hard on children.  Some families leave because they don’t want to raise their children in a turbulent atmosphere  Most people who do leave communities state that it is because they couldn’t work through conflict that has to do with children.  (according to one article) There are even memoirs published now by kids who have grown up, and not all of them appreciated the commune lifestyle for various reasons.

Ironically, as I moved into cohousing in the Fall of 2019 I bought a hard copy of the current issue called the Shadow Side of Community. It was all there – how conflict happens and can affect communities and it all happened to me and I didn’t understand what I was reading. I suggest everyone buy this issue and read it every month until it sinks in.  These writers know what they are talking about. They have been living in a community for a long time!

One writer says to touch the shadow.  Conflict is part of community life. They discuss how it plays out for those who choose to leave and those who stay. There are many examples of things that have gone on in many different types of communities.

Communities Magazine Issue 74 has a timeline of communes from the beginning of time.

There is a magazine dedicated to cults but I’ll review that later. It is a whole other can of worms but, don’t worry, I’ve learned a lot about cults since I saw first hand how scary groups can be and groupthink is real.

In general, everyone should read all of these magazines!  They’ve done it all – formed therapeutic communes, 12 step communities, everything people still dream of starting today.  You can learn from the words in these pages.  The artwork and covers are great!  I can taste the acid on the pages.

About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
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15 Responses to Communities Magazine is the Best

  1. Flower says:

    I found this quote which was at the end of an article written about thoughts from a longtime cohousing resident. They’ve allegedly lived in a few cohousing situations–one large rural and one small urban for 18 years in Boulder County, which is not a surprising revelation.

    “And as we weave our way through the Great Transition, this will become more and more important.”

    That’s quite a declarative statement. I had to look up what the “Great Transition” was, however when I hear comments like that it’s an instant red flag. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not.

    They also made the following negative statements about existing mainstream culture, which I find is typical in articles about cohousing. They spoke of “isolation” and “artificially independent society”. As if no one could experience isolation or artificiality in cohousing situations. The quotes are below.

    “…it is far better than living isolated in either a large city or in the suburbs.”

    “Successful community living requires a level of tolerance beyond what is typically needed in our artificially independent society.”

    Sometimes “high minded” folk can come across as smug, elitist and condescending and it raises a lot of red flags.

  2. Flower says:

    “The artwork and covers are great! I can taste the acid on the pages.”

    I’ve done a lot of research on communes too, Timothy Leary and all of the 60s hippie movement. I found an interesting article last week, but now I can’t seem to find it. A lot of communes from the 60s and 70s were centered on drug use and people wanting to escape mainstream life for “utopia”. A few years ago I did find a link to a video and it was about two women being interviewed about LSD. I can’t access it now, so I don’t know if it’s still up. I think the year was 1969 and they were talking about dropping acid and tripping. The thing that gets me is that there is NEVER any follow up years later, so you don’t know how their lives turned out or if they became addicted to other drugs. It’s just a moment in time that offers little perspective about personal growth. You’ll never know if they experienced any regrets about the choices they made in their earlier lives. There’s never any question about any change in perspective that happens as people mature, if they do embrace emotional maturity. I would find that far more compelling than the glowing haze of nostalgia.

  3. CJ says:

    I have no idea what the Great Transition is. I have never heard of it, in cohousing circles or anywhere. Yes, there is a sense of we are better than others because we live in cohousing. I thought cohousing would be better than communes since it wasn’t focused on drugs but like anywhere, substance abuse comes up – some neighbors seemed to drink more than others. And, as far as regrets, there are books and stories from the children who liked the freedom but also saw how sometimes that led to neglect and/or abuse.

    • Flower says:

      I can understand that given the marketing focus. Whenever people are trying to persuade or recruit others they always gloss over the negatives and extol the positives.

      I’m also really not surprised about substance abuse or other problems because people are the same wherever you go. I know many of the stated desires of cohousing is “like-minded” people and their goals seem aspirational, but I wouldn’t assume that people are like-minded in all ways. You may have an interest in permaculture and the environment, but dislike and don’t agree with their permissive parenting. At one time I was told that I was an idealist and also naive and that hurt–long stories. I guess I learned those hard lessons early on and had a much different reality. I know how toxic groups can be given harsh experiences. It’s not a bad thing to be wary and skeptical.

  4. Flower says:

    I’m really not surprised about substance abuse or other problems because people are the same wherever you go. I know many of the stated desires of cohousing is like-minded people, but I wouldn’t assume that people are like-minded in all ways. You may have an interest in permaculture and the environment, but dislike and don’t agree with their permissive parenting. At one time I was told that I was an idealist and also naive and that hurt–long stories. I guess I learned those hard lessons early on and had a much different reality. I know how toxic groups can be given harsh experiences. It’s not a bad thing to be wary and skeptical.

    I also know about the books though mainly from articles that are usually excerpts. I’ve read many of them. My point was more about the media and the lack of follow up, but then I’m certain that isn’t too easy to find. Actually it could open up an ugly can of worms. Follow up is helpful, but only if people are more truthful about their experiences and they don’t try to spin it in a dismissive and simplistic way. An example would be these retrospectives about Woodstock–it’s been 20, 30, 40 years blah, blah, blah. The writers always seem to find people who talk positively about the experience. One seldom hears a different viewpoint. Maybe they have heard less than positive experiences and then decided not to run it. I mean I doubt I’ve ever heard someone say that the experienced SUCKED big time. I’ll try to link an article that I found though I don’t know if it will work. https://www.gawker.com/5336084/a-retrospective-of-woodstock-retrospectives.

  5. CJ says:

    I hear the like minded people argument a lot and it makes me shutter. Sounds very exclusive. I don’t mind being around different people and opinions. But I thought the emphasis on being an intentional community meant we would try to find ways to get along. Groups are the same no matter what ideals they spew out. On another note, if you look up “hippies use the side door” there is a lot of interesting material from buying the sign for nostalgia to double entendre. Oh, the times they are a changin!

    • Flower says:

      The last line you wrote about tasting acid made me think of this article by Mike Wise called, The ’60s tore my family apart. Acid made it worse. We paid a price for all that indulgence and experimentation

      It’s not a feel good retrospective of the glory days of the ’60s and its aftermath. I know “drug culture” existed prior to the 60s, but I do feel that the cultural mores of the day fostered a widespread attitude that it was “experimental” and “cool”, etc. and that in turn helped to usher in rampant drug use in future generations.

  6. Flower says:

    Somehow before I read this topic on your blog I found the article, the Shadow Side of Community, but forgot to bookmark it. She wrote, “I look for people to propose that we take onto our team, I look for emotional intelligence as well as practical skills which are necessary to navigate the difficult situations that can come up in the community from time to time.”

    That made me think of a book I read called, Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. I’m an avid reader and when I read it I thought it a good book at the time and I’d recommend it if you haven’t heard of it.

    Also I note that the woman who wrote that article is no longer living in the community and resides in LA. I do see even in established cohousing that people leave. I often wonder why, but it seems that information is hard to get.

  7. CJ says:

    I love this article. I’ve read it a few times. I would love to have the numbers of how many people leave ICs and I think for cohousing it could be as simple as a check in every year – how many left, why, how many new people moved in. Then we’d have real research instead of hyperbole. But getting the “real” reason can be hard. I’ve done my best to share what I know of my and other people’s stories here on this blog. That’s why I’m still doing this blog – trying to put stuff out there that seems impossible to find elsewhere. Have you read the guest blog post? Her story is interesting and tells how she moved in and then out. I’d love to know what you think. She was nice enough to share her honest story of why she left. Most just leave and never look back, which is fine. However it would be nice if somewhere, someone would talk about why people leave (and how to prevent that). Actually, the next Communities magazine is asking for submissions about that. I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

  8. Flower says:

    I don’t know where else to put this, so I’ll write here.

    I read an article about a woman who was part of a commune when she was a toddler. Both parents were members. As the story goes her mother disappeared when she was a toddler. Her father eventually disappeared from her life too. While she had some exposure to him it was limited and became non-existent as she got older. She basically was adopted and raised by another commune member, although she eventually left and relocated to California to raise the children there. As she got older the author desired to find out more about her bio parents. Turns out the father was the son of a prominent New York family and had murdered her mother. Her father became submersed in the “spiritual communities” in India. She eventually was able to locate her living relatives in Mexico City. Wish I could find the article to share, although I can’t seem to locate it. I do know that it was within the past few years and it was in a women’s magazine that I happened to peruse at the Dr.’s office. The story stuck with me because I feel the communes tend to attract mentally unstable people as well as some spiritual communities with the open door policy.

  9. CJ says:

    Wow, what a story. I have wondered on how ICs deal with murder. My community made the message loud and clear that they wanted to take care of everything internally and I was like, even murder? But even IC people know that it can attract people trying to process some hard things or may need some help with their mental health at that time. One community struggled for years with someone who acted out and eventually did have to be taken away by force. It’s that balance again – how much can lay people really do versus asking for/or demanding outside help.

  10. Flower says:

    They wanted to take care of it internally? For me that would be a red flag.

    “But even IC people know that it can attract people trying to process some hard things or may need some help with their mental health at that time.” Another huge red flag for me.

    I’ve experienced being scapegoated many times, so those two examples that you provided would be a massive red flag. I would not want to be accused by some group of not being “emotionally supportive” if I didn’t want to offer “free babysitting” or attend “secret meetings” or if I felt differently about outside help for people struggling with mental health issues. I know how it all plays out and the psychological games that people play. I’ve already dealt with people with mental health issues, drug addictions, addictive personalities and on and on. It’s toxic behavior that is hard to cope with and those behaviors are deeply destructive which spreads to everyone around them. I’ve already dealt with people time and time again who want me to play the role of Mother Theresa. NO THANKS. People despite what they may say are not so open and can be deceitful and the biggest lies they often tell are to themselves.

    Some people would label me a cynic others would try to manipulative or convince me to change to their way of thinking or whatever they want me to believe or to pretend to keep the peace. Others would claim that they are “optimists” and see the glass half full while accusing me of seeing the glass half empty when previously they referred to me as a “nice” person or “sweet soul”, etc. I heard it all. I would rather live in a suburban neighborhood in isolation than deal with those types of problems and the people that create them. Talk about “soul sucking”. A lot of people make too many demands of others and expect too much. And living in a conventional neighborhood doesn’t mean that I don’t have to contend with “problematic people”. It’s just not as in-your-face.

  11. CJ says:

    I agree. This horrible Boogey Man of loneliness is worth risking than some of the in your face stuff that happens in cohousing.

  12. CJ says:

    Thanks for the Washington Post Link – I can”t wait to read it.

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