In the Oxford Dictionary 'community' is defined as 'A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.' A very simple and maybe out-dated description of how to describe a community, but one nonetheless that sums it up briefly.
If the lens is zoomed out far enough, the whole human race can be a community, unifying the world and co-creating in our existence. Zoom in a little, we can define each continent as a community, sub-dividing it into 7 communities. Zoom in closer, and in the 7 continents, we can call each country a community; where governing laws create order, common likes and dislikes are of regular discussion, public holidays are organised, celebrations bring people together, news articles circulate, and day to day life exists. Zoom in even closer and state and county lines create even smaller communities. And within these lines are families, work places, schools and differing forms of existing communities.
The earliest and most accessible example of a community is family. The family we are born into is a community, and later on, its maybe something we create with a loved one. Either way, this is where community is easiest to see working. It's one full of support, unconditional love, constant struggles and triumphs, and one that we are (for the simple fact that we are related) in for the entirety of our lives. We have grandparents, parents, children, cousins, aunts & uncles, all playing their necessary roles. If the community is close and in full support of each member, there are gatherings to celebrate being a family; often for birthdays, Christmas's, new births & old age goodbyes. With an array of our favourite foods, music, dance, laughter and well wishes.
But what about a different way of life? Where people gather in a land where there is no particular tie except for just being there? How would a community flourish in this instance? This has been tried and tested over the years but in this modern day, as the world has become a lot smaller to move around in and the idea of living has been adapted to sharing space with different cultures, different religions and different nationalities, the notion of a community has adapted too.
In my experience, its been enriched with learning new languages, trying an array of different foods, dancing to sounds from every corner of the world, praying to the different gods, goddesses and dieties and seeing in each person that comes across my path, that we all seeking a deeper meaning to our existence. Communities offer such an experience. It often starts with an individual having a feeling for more or travelling the world and finding an alternative way of living, or quite simply, feeling an inner peace of finding a new home. For this, in this new time, communities are forming all over the world, coming together to create a new way of living; communal living, sharing, creating, finding their purpose and living it out.
To quote from an ancient teaching of Taoism, the peaceful masters who lived in community in China. One extract touches upon the full spectrum of community living, from the individual to the world itself.
"If there is light in the soul,
There will be beauty in the person.
If there is beauty in the person,
There will be harmony in the house.
If there is harmony in the house,
There will be order in the nation.
If there is order in the nation,
There will be peace in the world."
Life in the community starts with having that light shine within. It is what creates beauty in the individual, creates harmony and order in the space and which leads to the beautiful feeling of peace in every moment.
In the heart of Guatemala is Lake Atitlan, where many of these different communities are living, growing, and experimenting in a different way to the "normal" life.
This isn't new around these parts, the Mayan culture and other Native American cultures have been doing this beautifully for thousands of years, on this very land. Developing a deep understanding, wisdom and knowledge. Coming to learn and now share their knowledge and wisdom of plant medicines, fire ceremonies, and peaceful acceptance of the circles of life with new generations and now the ever infused people of the world who call this land home. We feel very blessed to be able to fuse the different cultures in our own version of whats been before and what co-exists around us.
3 years ago, El Castillo (The Castle in English) opened up to travellers, seekers, artists, food enthusiasts, and anyone with an open mind and an open heart. Its slowly been refining its purpose and now it's an established community with 15 residents, 2 babies (and 2 more on the way!), 5 dogs, 3 cats, 9 chickens and a small but growing garden.
Community life always brings its challenges. Like our very own families, there are disagreements, struggles of living so closely with the people we love most. For me, the most beautiful part of this "human experiment" is that, unlike our blood families, none of us are tied here yet we all stay. We stay and discuss the struggles, the teething problems that occur with finances, food market runs, building projects, living harmoniously in a space. Often sitting and discussing until we find solutions, or at least raising the issues for us to think about in our own time to bring forward the next time we gather.
We are a community living in a castle in the sky, on the rim of an ancient volcano. We have a fresh water spring nourishing us and the land, spread daily between our crops and the needs of the community. There's a small but functioning garden with our own supply of lettuce, beetroot, courgettes, tomatoes, strawberries, papaya, avocados, kale, and herbs and spices for teas and dressings. With this being highest on the priority list to plant more fruits and vegetables for us to enjoy!
We are an off the grid community powered by solar panels, living our days with the rise and fall of the sun. Its early starts with the frosty mornings, embracing the sun as it brings everything to life for the day. And often ends with a big family meal gathered around candle light, sharing our days events, before starting a little fire where tea, chess games, music, laughter and stories take place.
Currently, we have space for 25 people but with room for expansion we hope to host more like-minded people as time moves forward. At the moment, we have a converted school bus that sleeps 6. In the castle itself we have 4 dorm beds, a double bed and a family room next to the communal kitchen. There is a newly constructed family home (awaiting its new arrival!), and camping spaces around the land.
Many people have their own version of community life. For some, its simply being apart of a school, a work place, a family, a county/state or country. For us, there's one special added extra, and that's El Castillo.
That supports each member and co-creates in the space, that tends to the land, the animals and each other. A place that is focused on raising each other to be the highest version of themselves. Celebrating delicious foods, stories and future events. Its a place where the children's attention is cared for by the whole community, where the daily tasks are split equally and where conscious communication is practised to bring about a peaceful, harmonious way of life.
Its an elaborate definition I guess. To simplify it, a community for me, is home.
It takes nurturing and nourishment but with enough love, we watch it grow. Without expectation, without judgement. And we surrender to the magical feelings of being held by people who love us.
If you want to see and hear more of our community, you can check out our Facebook Page or if you want to share other communities around the world, your projects, your ideas, your truth, lets connect.