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Becoming a Steward of the Commons Podcast Interview of Lee Warren on Inside Community Podcast




Rebecca Mesritz 0:00
The inside community podcast is sponsored by the Foundation for intentional community. The FIC has been working to promote the community’s movement for over 35 years with educational programs, publications and videos and incredible communities directories, scholarships, and more. If you’d like to learn more about the FDIC, or this podcast, please visit And while you’re there, I hope you’ll consider making a donation to the show so that we can continue to bring you along for an inside look at the beautiful and messy realities of community.

Rebecca Mesritz 0:43
Greetings and welcome to the Inside community Podcast. I’m Rebecca Mesritz. In today’s episode, we are going to begin to explore finding your people locating and connecting with the folks that you will be building community with. Now there are so many incredible communities out there that are looking for capable and eager new members to become a part of their project and help build their vision. Today we are going to focus on how you might best approach those communities, how to prepare yourself for community life and how to find the community that best matches your personal vision. To talk with me about this today. I have Lea Warren, Lee Warren is reclaiming wisdom through conscious relating with self, land and others. She has 25 years of experience and visioning, designing and living innovative solutions to mutually empowered relationships, land based food systems, residential community nonviolent communication and sustainable education. She is the principal and founder of reclaiming wisdom, a co founder of soil, the School of Integrated living, and a proponent of regenerative systems, consent culture and authentic living. Lee is a writer, teacher and activist with a passion for embodiment practices, rural wisdom, sustainable economics, conscious dying, and community of all kinds. I am so excited to have Lea Warren, join us today on the show. She is a powerhouse of information and knowledge. And thank you so much for being here. Lea, welcome to the show.

Unknown Speaker 2:22
It is such a pleasure, Rebecca, thank you for having me.

Rebecca Mesritz 2:25
It’s so good to have you. So I love to start with my guests by just asking them to give a brief snapshot of the community that you live in, it doesn’t have to be a lot, just sort of a picture in the life of and maybe tell us what brought you to community living.

Lee Warren 2:41
Mm hmm. So I live in a community in western North Carolina, called Earth Haven eco village. And it was founded in 1994, on about 300 acres of land. It’s about an hour southeast of Asheville, North Carolina, we occupy the traditional and unceded lands of the Catawba and Cherokee people. And we’re about 2000 feet elevation was about 100, folks. And we really designed the village with ecological design systems, also known as permaculture and the I’ve been there since the late 90s. And the mission of the of the Eco village is to create a living laboratory and educational seed bank for a sustainable human future. So you know, I love that mission, because it’s steeped in a sense of humility, that we don’t really know what we’re doing. And we’re going to experiment. And the whole project is basically an experiment. So that’s a little about Earth Haven and what brought me there was just an ongoing quest to find, I would say some kind of authentic way of living, you know, I think I looked around at the culture in my early adulthood and thought this is insane. And what on earth are we gonna do about this insanity? You know, and I had discovered sort of radical politics and sort of a spiritual path based on yoga, and my life was very compartmentalized. I was working in the corporate world. And I was, I was subscribing to an e reader, which is this old magazine in print and communities directory was in the back and I thought, Oh, what is this communities and then it just opened my whole world to the FDIC, which is the foundation for intentional communities. And at that time, a printed a printed book, big old book of communities, which is now a really robust online database. But it just opened to this whole world of how people are doing this collectively, and I want to be a part of that.

Rebecca Mesritz 4:53
That’s great. That’s awesome. So can you share a little bit about I mean, this episode is really about Finding your people. And I’m hoping you can just sort of share what that search looked like for you and and what you learned in those early days. I mean, obviously, you’ve been there now for I think you said 25 years, which is amazing. And, you know, so this is a while ago, but what was it like when you were trying to figure out where you want to put your your roots and your lifeforce?

Unknown Speaker 5:21
Yeah, well, I’ve been at Earth even a little over 20 years 22 ish. And I was in another community in Virginia before that part of this sort of Twin Oaks acorn system of communities. And the communities directory really did light a fire for me, because it lists all of the things people are doing and what their belief systems are, and how often they eat together and what kind of structures they live in. But I think how I would have framed it at the time as I’m looking to sort of holistically integrate the systems of life economic systems, social systems, cultural systems, environmental systems, and do this in a way that’s mindful and an infused with integrity. I think I would have said something along those lines. How I would say it now is, can we choose? Can we choose to live in a way that can regenerate repair and renew and move towards cultural integration, right, so similar, but it you know, we’re looking at repair right now, these days. And then in terms of how for people to find those places, I think, you know, it’s like, maybe sounds trite or overplayed, but I guess I would say, Follow your heart right there. Our culture produces so much loneliness and disconnection and toxicity, that if we start to really follow our heart, or soul or spirit, or whatever word people are looking for, I think it takes us step by step, right stepping stone by stepping stone towards the things that make us more whole. And that may or may not look like residential, intentional community, I think that there’s as many people as there are in the planet, there are that many ways to create community. So I have a lot of hopefulness that, that the longing, and the Sufi way, and the Sufi way of thinking about longing and desire for a more holistic way to be together as humans is going to lead people where they need to be.

Rebecca Mesritz 7:27
Love that. I’m wondering, you know, as you started to, you know, fall into those people and fallen with those people and follow your heart. You know, was there a moment when you were like, oh, yeah, this is this is a good fit. Like, these are these are my people. These are the people that I meant to do this with? Or was it? Yeah, were there questions? Or, I mean, of course, there’s going to be doubts along the way, you’re in doubts with any relationship that you’re in, I’m with, you know, the people at endeavor to be in, but just sort of wondering, like, what that process was like for you? Yeah, that’s

Unknown Speaker 8:01
beautiful. I mean, I like in the community exploration journey as a dating process. And like with dating, there is no perfect person, but some are more resonant than others. And also, timing is, you know, can be part of the equation. So if I was looking for community for a number of years, traveled and visited communities, and then got to a point where I said, you know, I’m just going to pick something that is as resonant as possible, and settle in and just do it. And in some, some ways, that’s what we do in our marriages, or in our long term relationships, we just find ways that are, we just find a time where we’re ready. We’re ready to work on something. I was particularly drawn to Earth Haven, because it’s a land based community. And I’m, that really lights me up this idea of place based ways of engaging so I think what we’re, we’re sort of at an end point in our civilization, and I think we’re looking for bio regional solutions. So ways that that are life giving, and place based How can we sort of return to being deeply connected to the land in ways that our ancestors were. So that was a really appealing place for me to belong to a piece of land to belong to a project that was very all encompassing downside of that it’s overly ambitious, but that was what was appealing to me. Now other people visit Earth Haven and decide it’s not for them. So it really has to sort of fit. And I do think the metaphor of finding of dating and then finding a partner that we want to invest in is very similar.

Rebecca Mesritz 9:47
Did you feel when you landed there, like did you feel received? Or what was that process on the other end? And how did you embody that experience of landing there and being with a new group of people? Because you were there at the beginning, but you weren’t a founder? You weren’t like, would? Or would you consider yourself a founder? My understanding is that you weren’t a founder, but you were there pretty early on. And so there was already kind of a bit of a momentum. So I’m wondering how you felt as you started to come into that thing that already had a little bit of momentum going?

Unknown Speaker 10:28
Yeah, that’s a very nuanced question. Yeah. I was not a founder, initial founder of of the project. But I came in in one of the first few waves of people and I am a founder of my neighborhood. So Earth Haven eco villages, split up into about 13 different neighborhoods. And I am one of the co founders, along with four other folks of my neighborhood cohousing. And so your question is, how was I received? And I and I do think that’s a really interesting question. Because I think there’s a notion when people stumble on community that, you know, this is going to be their nirvana or their paradise, they’re going to step into this place and be seen in ways that they haven’t been seen, or a lot of their needs are going to get met. And it’s a bit of a projection, right? And I think this leads into just such a much bigger conversation, which is what are the best attitudes to have when coming into community, what kind of what kind of behaviors really does do communities embrace versus what really hurts them, I call it what floats the ship and what sinks the ship. So like any relationship, and we are social creatures, so when new people come into an already formed group, there’s a testing process, there’s a period of feeling into that person are all parts of our brains get involved the reptilian brain, the mammalian brain, the frontal cortex, the prefrontal cortex, and we’re assessing people for their level of fit. So that certainly went on with me. And that certainly has gone on with every single person that ever joins community, a lot of that is unconscious. But I think if we can learn a little more about the nervous system, and the way we work as social creatures, we can make that process more and more conscious. So for me, when I entered an Earth, even I already had been living in community for about five years. So I was savvy to some of the ways in which I would be easy on people’s nervous systems like offering to help them out if I wanted to, to meet them or take some of their time, Hey, can I help you out in the garden, and we can talk and get to know each other? Or, hey, let’s make a date and go for a walk. I’d really like to hear your perspective about the community, or is there a way that I can support what’s happening here. So these are the kinds of humble ways to enter into community that make that lower people’s defensiveness and guard and this is a certain form of interpersonal intelligence that doesn’t always come equipped in every human. So it’s one of the things I teach about when we when I talk about becoming a communitarian is how to tune into the interpersonal sensitivity that’s needed when we move to community.

Rebecca Mesritz 13:17
Yes. Thank you so much for that. I Yeah. I think that that’s a big piece of why I was so excited to have you talking on this subject. And I would do definitely want to ask you about those behaviors and attitudes. But I’m, I like to envision this podcast for someone who hasn’t lived in community yet and may have a lot of ideas and fantasies about what it’s going to be like. And I think that that’s part of the wisdom that I know that you carry is developing and honing that that interpersonal skill and that yeah, ability to show up as a communitarian and not as a an individual looking to get their needs met. And there’s a difference there. And I know that you have an upcoming course that you’re going to be teaching through the FDIC called Becoming an communitarian that you’ve you’ve taught before. And in that description for the class, you say your journey as an agent of change begins with the transition from toxic individualism into holistic community building, becoming a mature engaged, an embodied steward of the Commons provides you with profound meaning and contributes to much needed cultural transformation. And, and I just love that in bedded in this statement is a naming of the personal growth required to succeed in a cooperative culture and I was really hoping that you might be able to elaborate on that process a bit for us.

Unknown Speaker 14:50
Yeah. Yeah, the idea that we need to have a strong sense of self in order to have healthy relief Asian ships, right? I think our culture can boil down this idea of selfishness, or selflessness. But really, one has to develop a really strong sense of the self, which is called intra personal intelligence, in order to then therefore be able to relate in mature ways. It’s sort of like, I liken it to dance, if anybody’s ever done any partner dancing, ballroom dancing, or contra dancing, square dancing, you have to be really strong in your own frame, you know, good, strong core and giving weight to your partner, right? This is what makes the best dance partner when you’re strong in yourself, and also able to give and take and be flexible, like this is the perfect metaphor. Like if we want to be in community, we actually have to be very mature, we have not only the relationship with ourselves, but potentially a relationship with dozens or hundreds or more other people that require us to be present and awake and embodied and alive and authentic, and honest and transparent. And this is advanced work, right. And if we aren’t those things, just like in our marriages, or our relationship with friends, or extended family, the more we bring to it, the more we get out of the relationships. And that is true for community as well. The more mature and integrated of a human we are, the more we’re able to offer community and the more we’re able to get from community this is just sort of a social law. It’s it’s the same inside community as it is outside community.

Rebecca Mesritz 16:42
Know about this idea of maturity. I know you did a an interview with Cynthia Tina, it’s on your on your website. And one of the things that you talk about in there is the adolescence of our current culture. And I mean, kind of what this comes back to in the statement about your, your course, your upcoming course, is the sort of beautiful assumption that I that I hope is real for everyone, that part of why we become communitarians. And why part of our why and living this way is to contribute to cultural transformation, and to bring a new way of relating into reality. And when you talk about the adolescent, I’ve heard you talk about the adolescence of our current culture, as opposed to the maturity that’s going to be required to be the steward of the commons. And I’m wondering if you could name a little bit what you mean by the adolescence of our current culture like what what are the aspects that you are attuning to?

Unknown Speaker 17:51
Yeah, I mean, adolescence, in some ways is a generous way of putting it I mean, I might say a pathological or toxic culture. You know, where do we start? Right? oligarchy, where 1% of the population of masses 99% of the wealth, systemic injustice, centering capitalism, ecocide, which is a destruction of the natural world, slavery the world over to satisfy our, you know, ongoing needs as first world peoples. So you know, when the culture centralizes systems like this, then what becomes the center of life is destructive, right? Instead of consumeristic. Right? And, and destructive instead of the soul as the animating or driving force of our lives or the self soul or the community soul. Right? It focuses on short term profits for the few and really doesn’t look at what’s best for the whole. So we’ve lost I mean, we could talk for hours about how we got here. But here we are, right? A quarter to a half of Americans are on some sort of psychiatric drugs, right for, for first into for depression, for mood for for other neurological challenges. And then I think the statistic is something like 75% of Americans are self medicating, right, physical and emotional pain. So whatever we’ve been doing over the past hundreds or 1000s of years is sort of producing what what James Hillman would call a sick world. And it seems to be at odds with our very tender biological programming, which is we have really sensitive nervous systems and really tuned in social sensors, right? And then we do this thing where boys aren’t allowed to cry or feel emotions and sort of amputate this beautiful part of them and then we have a lot of violence and entitlement and unrelated newness. And then women are told to not be to not you know, not be too smart or too big. are too loud, right? And then this results in a self hatred process and small mindedness in all these ways. So, I mean, we could go on and on. But really what is the what is the core here we have a paradigm that’s extractive, that’s consumer focused, that’s domination focused, and we’re really missing out on the beautiful opportunity to have a partnership based rest, reciprocal based, equity based sense of belonging. I mean, can you imagine if we were deeply embodied individually and collectively the kind of paradise that we could create in this world, and we’re in transition. I mean, we’re, you know, I’m not sure how, how deep the destruction or how far the destruction is going to go, we will have to see, but I think those of us who are trying to remake the world are in significant transition. And one of the things that we’re committed to, I believe, as pioneers of this is getting fully embodied, and getting fully in reverence for this life we’ve been given. And the idea that the definition of communitarian is a steward of the comments or one other way, I might say it is a steward of the sacred and what’s not sacred, everything is sacred, every breath we take is sacred. So how is it that we get healthy enough to steward the collective gifts that we’ve been given our air our water our land, or communities, or people or villages, all of it? How do we get healthy enough to say, you know, we want we want something way more holistic than what we’ve been handed?

Rebecca Mesritz 21:52
Yeah, I mean, I guess that’s kind of like, I feel like I’m setting you up, because now I want the answer. Now, I want to know, you know, when you talk about being an emotional adult, and and I get the deep sense that you see that as being the answer to all of this. So now, tell us tell us what you think about who is this? Who is this emotional adult? What are they like? How do they act? And and how is that going to make a difference?

Unknown Speaker 22:22
Well, I love that question. And I love the excitement in your voice when you ask the question. And where I go to is, let’s keep asking that question. Right, like that is the question to be answering. How do we get there? How do we get to the world we want? How do we become the people to create the world we want? I mean, I think that’s the ongoing thing that we really need to live into. I mean, I have some, you know, let’s say, pieces of the quilt or the puzzle or patterns, right. But I don’t have all the answers. Certainly doing our trauma work right at it at a core level, we’re all deeply deeply traumatized by this culture. And so how do we do the individual and collective trauma work to get more present to our existence? Right? How do we become more embodied? How do we teach ourselves and our children and others two systems think to think in terms of the big picture, the long term, the deep time? That is a whole thing that I fear we’re losing in our culture? How do we have community mindedness this idea that I am embedded in a place and I am imbedded with a people? And I, there is a history and there is a future? And I am a link in that chain? And how does that be part of the reverence? I think that those of us who are living in community in this way are living into those questions. And, you know, again, I think there’s 1001 answers, and all of them are really exciting. But again, repairing, regenerating and relieving. And that is, that is the task at hand.

Rebecca Mesritz 24:10
Do you so I mean, it kind of brings me back to this idea about what you were talking about earlier around the behaviors that are going to be helpful inside of community, you know, in terms of brass tacks, you know, I think for someone who maybe hasn’t lived in community before is new to this era, new the to this arena. You can see look around and see that there’s problems in the world and see that the world is sick. But sometimes it’s hard to really call into yourself like Oh, my personal actions in XY and Z way can make a difference in that big outer problem that seems so far away. I mean, this idea that we are so separate from nature, that nature, something thing that’s outside the window, and I’m right here and all that out there is beyond my control. And I for one part of what brings me to community is I believe that what we do in our, in our little communities actually does make a huge impact on the world out there. And so I guess I come back to this question about the behaviors and these things that we can do both in community or even not living in community, just at the grocery store or with our neighbors in our regular suburban villages or suburban communities. You know, what are those? What are those things that you see that could be actionable steps right now for people? Yeah. Yeah,

Unknown Speaker 25:43
I think that we need to recreate the village everywhere, in every context, we need urban villages, suburban villages, rural villages. We need resolute resolute residential villages and non residential villages, I think we need to be as creative as we possibly can. And part of that is following our creative source, creative impulses. And, you know, hopefully not dumbing those down or drowning those out too, in order to conform to the toxic culture, but finding ways to let those sprout and grow within us. And, you know, I often talk about writing a book about, you know, building an eco village and what not to do all the mistakes that we made, which which might actually be a valuable book. But the truth is, we need to make lots of mistakes, because we’re kind of illiterate about. We’ve been separated and isolated. And we’re very illiterate about what it means to love a place, what it means to love each other, and what it means to love ourselves into wholeness. And so, because we’ve lost so much of that, I’d say traditional knowledge, ancestral knowledge, indigenous knowledge, ways of being that are saying, in whole, we had to make a lot of mistakes in order to find our way. And so we need lots of people to write lots of books about what’s working and what’s not working, because we’re, we’re sort of the blind leading the blind at this time. So you know, the attitudes, you know, I can talk to you about what what attitudes are helpful when joining intentional community, those, I have those at the ready, because I’ve, you know, sort of worked and lived in that culture and developed those attitudes and helpful with frameworks over a long period of time. But I think, you know, even like you’re saying, for someone to invest in their local Co Op, or create a block party on their street, or be part of a childcare Co Op, or a carpool Co Op, any of these things are steps steps towards out of the toxicity and towards the cohesion. So yes, I’m saying yes, to all of that every creative impulse that emerges, we need to say yes to

Rebecca Mesritz 28:07
Yes. Yes, absolutely. It’s true. There’s, it’s a huge learning curve, and we haven’t had it mean, we can kind of look historically at things, but we haven’t really had it modeled for us very well. And there are communities out there Earth Haven being one of them, who are endeavoring to create living models for new ways of being in right relation. But in terms of what’s portrayed in the media, on the news, and TV shows, I mean, this movies, there’s really, if there’s a community, it’s a joke, it’s like a, you know, a commune or some kind of cult or something like that. But yeah, this way of being more responsible for your life and, and the lives around you is not portrayed in a culture that is really in favor of staunch individualism, and as long as I can get my way, and, you know, convention be damned, and all of that kind of mentality. So this is a really deep retraining for all of us. And one of the things that we’ve even talked about here with our new project is calling it both a learning center and an unlearning center center because it seems so important to unlearn these toxic pathways that are really insidious, you know, and we know we know what they are. We know about dominant culture and patriarchy and ableism, classism, sexism, all of those things. But we don’t always realize how deeply they are inside of us inside of our belief systems. And I’m seeing We’re grateful for one to be living in a time like right now. Because a lot of this stuff is seems like it’s percolating in the mainstream, and people are really having it brought to their attention and just gratitude to you for your work in this arena as well.

Unknown Speaker 30:15
Yeah, bravo to the learning and unlearning, I think that’s a really important piece. And how do we support ourselves, in the imperfection of the unlearning process? And the learning process? How do we be tender with ourselves as humans, it’s such a vulnerable thing to incarnate and have the limitations we have, and, and the culture we have. So yeah, that’s another big question to live into, as well. And I think, you know, going back to like, the models and mentors, I think, if we weren’t, I mean, really, were the models are with indigenous people. And if we hadn’t genocided their cultures, and, you know, continue to oppress them. And if we were able to pay the kind of reparations and, again, reverence for what they carry, I think that they hold so much of what we’re looking for. And as a white person, and in a mostly white community, I think that’s one of the biggest challenges is that we’re separated from traditional peoples and indigenous peoples who hold a lot of this wisdom. And we are starting from, you know, a minus point we have, like, we have so much that we’ve lost. So you know, just a shout out to that to that cultural people who are carrying cultural wisdom, and maybe getting some of those folks on your show and weaving those folks into the FDIC, if they’re, if they’re able to be able to share some of that, because I think that people who have that in their genetic line and in their ancestry and who’ve grown up with that, embody these attitudes and belief systems out of an a deeper level than I can ever imagine. Right? I’ve lived it for close to 30 years, but this I, my ancestry has been separated from it for a long time. So yeah, some of the attitudes that I the three, I have three that I teach in the becoming a communitarian course, and one is called I call the 400 year Cathedral, which is this idea that the great cathedrals of Europe like the notre DOM and other cathedrals took hundreds of years to build, there was a vision for these that started somewhere. And then generations and generations and generations of people worked. On this, for example, if a sculptor was working on one panel, it might be, you know, seven, or 12, or 20 generations of that family that were working to complete that particular panel. And so how do we look at building the communities movement as like, great cathedral, right? We’re starting from this place we’re starting from and it looks a little bleak. But we are just beginning, we’re just beginning to reweave. And so how do we have the long term view of like, we’re putting the pieces we’re putting into place, and then hopefully, we can create enough of a compelling culture that the next generation can pick up from where we left off, and then take it forward. So that’s one of the helpful attitudes.

Rebecca Mesritz 33:29
I love that. I really appreciate that. I feel like it, you know, there’s so many in so many ways, our I mean, my God, if Amazon isn’t just the polar opposite of that mentality, it’s like, I want this thing and I want it now. And it’s going to be here in my, in my hands tomorrow, or maybe even by the end of the day. You know, we’re so not used to thinking in that, like seven generations mindset, which I think you’re really speaking to, in this moment, coming back to that indigenous wisdom. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker 34:02
Yeah. And I don’t want to, in any way, shape or form suggest that I’m not an impatient person. I mean, I am one of the most impatient people I know. And I, you know, I came to community in my 20s thinking, Oh, God will solve all these problems in three years. No problem. We’ll figure it out, you know, and the, and the disappointment and the disillusionment as a result of that, which is that attitude filled with so much hubris and arrogance, and cluelessness and the lack of context of what we’re dealing with. I mean, I felt broken. By the time I got to midlife and 20 years into community, I felt broken by it until I would have been able to integrate this idea of like, what what do you think you’re going to repair this? You’re going to bear this in your lifetime. You’re going to get to this place of the community you envision in your highest ideals in your lifetime. Like that. It’s taken so much integration for me, so I don’t you know, this, these attitudes or ideals, and I don’t always remember them. So I just want to be really clear about that,

Rebecca Mesritz 35:10
that is hitting me so deeply that is hitting me so deeply. I mean, I, similarly, when we started our last community, the Emerald village, we were kind of like, alright, you know, in like three years time, we’re gonna have all this, I mean, literally in three years time, and then 10 years in, at the 10, we, at the 10 year point. We’re like, wow, okay, it feels like we’re finally in stride. Like we it took us that much time and learning and, and I mean, we were all in our late 20s. And so that much time just to get in the flow of agreement fields and working through multiple types of governance and multiple types of proposal forming and agreement structures. And I mean, so many ups and downs to finally reach stasis, much less the big vision. And then of course, now we’re part some of us have broken off, and we’re up here starting over again. And I will say, at least we’ve thought, you know, this is at least a 20 year project, like minimum to get it just to part a, just to finish Phase One will be about probably 20 years. But it’s so humbling to think about, well, what are you really building though? Like, what are you? What are you really doing this for? Who are you really doing this for? And coming back to this idea of the, you know, of the comments. You know, this isn’t just right here right now this is, you know, really the future?

Unknown Speaker 36:41
Yeah, it’s a multi generational project, there’s just no question, How could it not be? So Right? So how do we hold that again, in front of us, even though we can be petty and impatient and arrogant and all those things that we can be as human? The second attitude is that the project is the child, not the parent. And I’ve seen so many people come to community thinking, why is this rule this way, and I want this, and I want the community to provide this, and I want this to happen. And this is stupid, and I don’t understand this. And I’m like, Well, you are now a parent of this child, that is this eco village project, guess what you can co parent, and you can propose a change. And you can get in there and work at the governance process to change the things you don’t like. And, and it’s a journey, you know, like you are now raising this child for the time that you are involved. So it flips the script, right? We a lot of us have grown up in systems and institutions where someone is the authority, and they’re giving something to us or they’re demanding something from us and we’re pushing against this thing. And I think the script we need to flip is, this is our creation. So what do you want to do with your creation? Let’s you know, I hear you upset about this x y&z Let’s, what are you going to do about it? What creative piece can you bring to shift this? Yeah, so that’s, that’s one. And then the last attitude I talk about is that we’re building the road as we travel. And that sort of speaks to what you were talking about, which is we don’t know what we’re doing. We’re doing great if we can ask good questions. We’re doing great if we can not repeat the same mistakes we’ve made, but it’s clumsy, we’re building the road as we travel the road. So we’re figuring out we’re bumping up against the next challenge, and then we’re having to live through it. So you know, I think that taking these in combination, the 400 year cathedral, that project is the child, not the parent, and we’re building the road as we travel is it’s just a helpful attitude adjustment for people when they come to community, to not to maybe lower their expectations.

Rebecca Mesritz 39:02
Yeah. And allow themselves I mean, not just lower the expectations but allow themselves to be a servant, really a servant of creation, a servant of humanity, a servant of the planet, as opposed to their to be served. And that to me, right, some are, that is one of the major, you know, when you talk about the adolescence of our culture, and the maturity required. That’s really what that speaks to for me. You know, it’s a big, it’s a big, it’s a big shift.

Unknown Speaker 39:37
Yeah, I mean, I think when people are steeped in trauma, the idea of serving is a hot, too high of an ideal. I mean, I think the first step is for people to get to unwind trauma, and then what emerges. You can’t force service. You can’t force yourself to be a steward. You Can’t, those are sort of higher ideals in a way. And so I think when people are just swimming in trauma, which, which you know, is is means they’re more likely to have addictions, they’re more likely to have relationship troubles, they’re more likely to have suicidal ideations are more likely to have abusive relationships, on and on and on and on. Right. So I think that just, you know, having so much compassion for, you know, ideally, people following the breadcrumb trail that can get them out of the acute pain that they’re in. And then once that starts to integrate, then I think people are waking up to the beauty that is relating in holistic ways. And as you’re talking about serving, because they’ve done studies on this stuff, you know, what is the highest brain state, the highest brain state that humans can achieve? They did this on like Buddhist monks, right? Is wishing for the well being of others is the highest brain state that humans can achieve, right, or having gratitude for what we have. But when we’re stuck in so much, you know, toxicity and pathology that, you know, through not always fault of our own, because I think our culture can say, you know, you’re to blame if you’re having problems. But really, the systems are like quicksand. The systems are like a toxic, polluted lagoon, right? You get stuck in that. And so I think the thing to say here is, as people find their way, then yeah, those sort of portals of service and stewardship and thinking about the whole sort of naturally emerge, and living that life is a better feeling life ultimately.

Rebecca Mesritz 41:57
Oh, there’s so much in there, I want to dive into I mean, I definitely want to want to talk about, you know, this idea of trauma that you’re touching on and, you know, clear how I mean, obviously, how to clear trauma is a huge whole other topic. But, you know, do you have some tips or ideas for how people can be aware of that even I mean, it just seems it seems so deep and loaded. And yet I know that it is an important part of, of what shows up. And what really hits us in community is like, oh, that’s someone’s trauma that’s now being triggered, because they weren’t brought soup when they were sick. And now they know, their abandonment issues are stirred up or something like that, you know, it’s like, it’s really easy to kind of see it in the moment, especially when it’s on someone else. It’s really hard to see it on ourselves.

Unknown Speaker 42:57
Yeah, we we just we have trauma from our families who, you know, didn’t get the support through time that they needed to be the kind of parents that they needed to be the support and information that they needed. We have trauma from our culture, which really denies the whole self and the soul, you know, in order to have efficiency. And, you know, we really have an industrial system to cater to the industrial system, consumer system. And then we sort of repeat that trauma, right, in our relationships and in our own parenting and other things. So, yeah, this is a huge question. I mean, I would point to the Giants in this field, Bessel Vander Kolk, who wrote the Body Keeps the Score, Peter Levine, who has a bunch of books on trauma, Diane Poole Heller, who has, it was sort of the grandmother of attachment theory. And, you know, I think once we realize that the behaviors we don’t love that we’re doing are rooted in trauma, including addiction that we can true. unwinding trauma is a very Somatic Experiencing word, it’s a phrase, but how do we begin to unpack? How do we begin to be present with ourselves? Another system that I really love is internal family systems. So there’s incredible, incredible work out there, you know, there was just a Gabor Ma Tei. And his film crew just did, you know, in 2021, did a huge release of a trauma movie. That’s a really great starting place for people when they’re looking at, gosh, what how do I take responsibility for this? How do I have compassion for myself? How do I take responsibility for this? How do I understand this? Right and how do we start to see destructive behavior as trauma, not as someone’s bad or wrong? So yeah, this there’s a lot to say about this. But I think let’s point to the people that are doing it so well in the world. right now.

Rebecca Mesritz 45:01
Yeah, yeah, and for the people who are listening right now, I will also throw out resume medic Kim’s work, particularly if you’re touching into any kind of diversity or equity work in your own community or in your own life. He’s also a wealth of information on some of this, some of this stuff, too. So, you know, it kind of takes me to another question I wanted to ask you, which, you know, kind of coming back to our topic of finding finding our place and community and who’s going to be in the community. In your interview with Cynthia, you talked about, you know, you want when sort of jokingly said that, maybe one of the benefits of this current sort of crisis world we’re living in with extreme polarization and COVID and environmental events, is that it’s kind of pushing people into the communities movement. And I know I’ve definitely in my years in community run into people who have been coming to community almost as like a safety net, or the last stop, or things aren’t working in their default world life, they can’t keep it together. So maybe they’ll show up. And this kind of touches into this trauma conversation is like, Oh, if I go to community there, I’ll get that family that I never got, or the, you know, get those mother and father needs or the whatever the other things are. And I’m just wondering what advice you might have for communities, and or for those people and navigating that space, because obviously, we want, we would love to have everybody living in community in some way. But there’s also some real hazards to the community when people are coming with a high amount of trauma. And so just kind of wondering if you have advice about how people can navigate that gracefully and, you know, not cause more pain?

Unknown Speaker 47:04
Mm hmm. Gosh, you’re asking really stellar questions, and it would just take so much time to unpack, but I can. Yeah, I mean, I hear you asking that question from both ends, right. But I’m going to speak to it from the community perspective. And I think one of the things that community does is it does develop a lot of compassion for mental illness and for misfits of society, because really, people who live in community are a fringe of society also. So they have, they can have a lot of compassion and understanding for people who are also on the fringe. And nothing will sink the ship for more than a destructive or very out of balance person who comes to community and wrecks havoc, I mean, it will take a community down. And I don’t think we can afford that. Right. So I don’t think that communities are, you know, waystations, or healthy places for the most damaged among us, like, you know, we need safety nets for those people, our culture, you know, doesn’t have We have tons of homeless people, sons of mentally ill people living on the street, like, we need to have those conversations, and what are the solutions to those things, and maybe the communities movement can be an integral part of those conversations. But in terms of being able to take in people who are, you know, really struggling, it’s it, it really does, it really can put the community’s existence at risk. So I sort of have developed this little bit of a list of like, what floats the ship, and what sinks the ship. And just if we go back to the 400 year cathedral, like maybe in 400 years, we will be able to be the kind of places that can take a certain percentage of people who need deeper bail, rehabilitation, but not at this stage of infancy. I mean, we’re just learning to get our own sea legs. So I think what community can really embrace and and what really helps float the ship are people with high emotional intelligence, that is just so helpful, and community, people who are available and present and embodied folks who are eager to help an eagle eager to learn folks who have big picture and long term thinking, right, who are willing to say like, Okay, here’s this community, I’m going to learn about it. And then I’m going to assess whether it’s the right fit. So that dance partner metaphor, again, really standing strong and firm with, you know, core strength and then able to sort of lean in, right. The challenging the folks the kinds of things that that sink the ship are people that do the Drama Triangle, right. So the Drama Triangle is this classic understanding of perpetrator rescuer and victim right anywhere you stand on that thing, you’re not getting anywhere good out of it. So it’s a very narrow short sighted view of human interaction. So anybody who’s thinking from a perspective on the Drama Triangle, anytime someone comes to community, and they have excessive judgment or criticism or blame about the systems or the community or the people in community, it’s it’s just, it doesn’t go well. Generally speaking, folks who need a lot of special accommodations, communities aren’t often equipped at these early stages to make those special accommodations in lots of different categories. People who aren’t able to take feedback or adjust quickly, you know, culturally, personally, that’s pretty tricky. And then, of course, not honoring boundaries, that’ll just get you bumped out of communities quickly, and should get people bumped out of community quickly. So those are just some broad overarching things. I mean, I am so reluctant to talk about, you know, the labels of mental illness or mental disorders, because there was a lot of labeling, but

Rebecca Mesritz 50:58
I mean, I think that’s, that’s so good, what you just did, I mean, I feel like that there’s been so many times as a new found community founding person that we’ve run into people that fall into those descriptions that you’ve just listed. And I feel like you just gave the permission needed to say actually, no, like, I’m sorry, but but that’s actually that won’t work here, right now. We have to keep the ship together. You know, so I think mental illness aside, that’s, that’s fantastic. Thank you for that.

Unknown Speaker 51:30
Yeah, we have a we have a beautiful image, which I can send you the link and you can put for your listeners. And it’s it’s the journey of a new person when they come into our community. And it’s this six stage journey over two years, which we have labeled the different phases as seeding, germinating, sprouting, rooting, flowering and fruiting, and different things happen at these different phases. And they don’t, you know, they’re different timeframes, they can happen in as soon as 12 months or as long as two years. But you know, we, we suggest the attitudes and the next steps in each phase. And this really helps people who sometimes call or email the community and say, I want to join and live there forever and move in tomorrow. And, you know, whatever story they have about the process, this helps. This helps course correct them to the more realistic, slow process of relationship building and trust building that needs to happen. I mean, we have the same nervous systems that we did 10,000 years ago. And we have this very speeded up amped up culture, but trust building is a process, relationship building is a process. So in order to be in community, one has to invest the time again, like dating, what does it look like to invest the time to build this trust, that that’s needed to become a member of an intentional community?

Rebecca Mesritz 53:02
Oh, that’s beautiful. Thank you for that, you know, I, what I would love to leave our listeners with is really kind of if for someone who is new to community and is listened to all this. And it’s like, you know what, I really feel like, I can check a lot of these boxes, I feel like I’ve done some of this work, I understand my process. I know, I’ve got a ways to go. But I really feel like community is going to be the place for me to take my own personal spiritual, emotional growth to the next level, and I want to contribute in that way. What do you recommend that they do to kind of prepare themselves next? Are there I mean, obviously, they could take your becoming a communitarian course, coming up in February with the FSC. But are there are there books they should read? Are there things that they should have on their community’s resume so that when they go, they can say, look, I, I’m, I’m here, I’m here, and I’m ready to do this.

Unknown Speaker 54:02
Yeah, that’s a sweet question. I mean, the FDIC is a tremendous resource. I send people there all the time. Not only do they have a robust database for searching communities all over the world. They have articles, and they have, you know, recordings that they offer for free and book, they have a bookstore. So it’s a great place to start. And yeah, I mean, I think as with anything, sit at the feet of people who have done this, right, so take some classes from the FDIC, they’re super affordable, they offer scholarships, like they want to be inclusive. So if community is the thing, then yeah, so take in some information, listen to this podcast, other podcasts. And then I think, you know, visiting communities is so important. It’s sort of like if you just join a community, it’s like, it’s like marrying the first person you ever date. Right? Like you don’t know you You don’t have any sense you don’t have any way to compare. So, you know, if you’re working a job or you have kids are just like planted over two or three year period but like go in the summer, go visit some communities, take your vacation, go plan a week trip, and then you know, there’s just what what people will learn in a week’s time living in a community is more than I could ever say to them to prepare, you know, and then some of these things, you know, emotional intelligence, available and present, you know, these things that I said communities love big picture thinking, those can be developed, just, you know, through one’s own process of personal growth. So that that always is is available and working the trauma you know, working out the trauma, finding a good process or therapist or system that you like that is helping, I mean really helping us to get into our bodies, which is where the integrated wisdom lives.

Rebecca Mesritz 56:07
I hope you’ve enjoyed this conversation with Lee Warren. You can learn more about Lee and her work at reclaiming In the shownotes. We’re going to include a 30% discount code that you can use for her upcoming course becoming a communitarian. The course starts on February 19, and there will be a second run of the class in the summer in August. If you’d like to learn more about this show or the FDIC, please visit our website at And as always, if you want to see more about what it’s really like to live inside community, come find me on Instagram at inside community podcast. I would love to hear from you and learn more about how I can inspire you on your journey to live inside community.

communitarians, Foundation for Intentional Communities, intentional communities, stewards of the commons

Lee Warren

Lee Warren is reclaiming wisdom through conscious relating with self, land, and others. She has 25 years of experience envisioning, designing, and living innovative solutions to mutually empowered relationships, land-based food systems, residential community, non-violent communication, and sustainability education. She is the principle and founder of Reclaiming Wisdom, a co-founder of SOIL, School of Integrated Living, and a proponent of regenerative systems, consent culture, and authentic living. Lee is a writer, teacher, and activist, with an passion for embodiment practices, rural wisdom, sustainable economics, conscious dying, and community of all kinds.

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