Friday, June 9, 2017

For many who are interested in creating community I think this chapter of Have You Lost Your  Tribe? is very helpful so I copy it to you here.

The Heart of our Sacred Mother

“You already possess everything necessary to become great” -Crow

It is time for the autumn equinox, and as we look about the forest surrounding our meadow at the first leaves that have begun to be transformed into the colors that will next month be a blaze, a flaming riot of tints that will bring droves of people out from the cities to drive the curving roads of our hills and gasp with every turn at the splendor of fall in its brilliant foliage.   It was here, in this very place, by a fire of purification that we came to New Hampshire to make a healing ceremony in 1978 and planted the seed that would grow into a new community where we could make a better life for our children and help others who wished to change the world into a more human-friendly place.
So let us make our fire here in the same place and connect ourselves with that history and see what we may learn.  By that time, in 1978, we had experienced  seven Rainbow Gatherings, learning together for a month every summer how we might live together in a way that supported all our dreams and took better care of the Earth. 
Beginning in 1972, after every Rainbow Gathering there would be people reluctant to leave this glimpse of a possible world, this stumbling, funny return to a tribal way.  A tribe like none ever seen before, but powerful in its liberating force, its freedom and fellowship and love.  And some would gather after the clean-up and try to figure out ways to stay together.  In 1973 a group of us bought an old school bus and began to tour the west coast of America to spread the word about what had happened and what we had learned at Rainbow.  The question being considered was, “How can we live this way, not just for a week or a month, but forever?  Many groups explored that idea together, found land somewhere, and settled down to make new communities.  New little tribes began to form, to meet in regional gatherings sometimes and once a year return to the big national gathering where the tribe was born.  Since then gatherings have spread to Europe, South America, Australia, even Africa and Asia.
Let me share a story with you.
Three decades ago I was a storyteller in the craft of drama, as a playwright, director, and performer.  I thought if I could make people laugh at the follies of humankind, it would help people change society to be more rational and humane.  I had no idea of the complexity of the situation and why things were so wrong.  I knew I must learn, and I felt that the knowledge must exist somewhere.  I traveled and learned from many cultures, but it wasn't until I began to discover the ancient wisdom in my own native heritage that all of that knowledge began to come together and make sense.  At the first Rainbow Gathering I could connect the teaching of my elders about the instruction to live in circles with the yearning of young people for a more free society living with love and closeness and support for one another and closer to the Earth and all nature. The answer was right there in Creation.  It was already in me, and as I touched others, heart to heart, I saw it was there, in all of us, behind the armor, behind the scars and the fears, in that place of the spirit that cannot be harmed or destroyed.
Soon I found a woman partner that shared this tribal vision, Emmy Rainwalker.  Her innate wisdom guided me as we thought and planned together to create a better world for our child.  We knew that human beings are innately cooperative, loving, and tribal, but there was no form for that expression in the society around us.  We saw that many felt this way as well. It was time for us to commit ourselves to creating our common dream of a loving society.   
When I connected with my own people after years of learning from elders throughout North America I brought one of those teachers, Chief Beeman Logan of the Seneca to the unity gatherings we organized in Mashpee, and soon we began ceremonies on our new reservation in the Freetown State Forest.  My closest Wampanoag friend gesedtanamoogk and I would stay up late there, sharing our similar dreams of creating a traditional community along the lines of Chief Smallboy in Alberta or Ganienkah in New York.  We soon realized we were alone in that vision here, and eventually he married a Micmac woman and went to New Brunswick to raise a family and create a ceremonial life there.  He has written a fine book called Ceremony is Life Itself.
And Emmy and I realized that if we wanted a tribal community in which to live and raise our children we need to find others who felt the same and begin to create it with each other.
Our first step was to find a place where people could come together to share their hopes and dreams.  We saw a notice of a gathering of people who sought to heal each other.  We went there and talked to many people and found some who also wanted a loving tribal community
Together we arranged a time for a gathering in this place.  We printed posters and put them up all over the region.  The posters said:


On the date of the gathering over fifty people arrived, eager to explore the idea of creating a community.  We knew that human beings had developed a good social system over millions of years, evolving slowly and naturally, a system of cooperation and equality that cared for all its members.  The social system we now contend with was not working for us.  It had not evolved, it was forced across the world with violence and conquest.  We all wanted to return to a system of living together based upon trust rather than fear.
We began with a prayer, giving greetings and thanksgivings to all our relations, to all Creation.
Then we began to lay a foundation of trust.  We put a banner up –


We said the foundation of community is secure in the strength of trust.  We can trust ourselves and each other.  That means we are all leaders, and our form is the circle, where all are equal.
We separated into smaller circles, shared our visions of community, and came together again to share the images of the smaller circles.  Within a few hours we felt heard, appreciated and safe.  By the second day we were all pretty much in love with each other.
On that day I reported to the circle a dream I had a week before.  In the dream I was living in a tribal village of about five hundred people.  The name of the tribe in that dream was Mettanokit.  That means "Our Mother Earth", or quite literally, "the Heart of our Sacred Mother," in the old language of my people.
The circle decided that Mettanokit should be the name of our new tribal community.
From our discussions I wrote a simple formulation of our agreement, which then became and remains our covenant with each other.
We kept coming together in different places all over the region, eventually having a gathering once a month for several years.  Some of us began living together in small groups.  The larger circle agreed on many things, but not on where we should settle.  It seemed we were creating a nation that might one day have many villages throughout the region.
One of our powerful images had been to create a large tribal village, one that had enough diversity to satisfy needs for creativity and cultural expression.  But we saw that since we had been living isolated for so long we needed to learn how to live together.  We saw that what had happened to so many other communities was that, even though each member had a lot of love, wanted to love and be close to others, they just didn't know how to get along with each other.
We saw that communities reflected the patterns of the larger society.  Women were often relegated to domestic drudgery, sometimes abused.  Children were not allowed the power to make choices that affect their lives.  Income and resources were unequal.  Some people had more influence and power than others.  People did not feel safe to express their feelings.  They were still isolated from each other.  Hostility and resentment grew and tore communities apart.  People did not feel secure, valued, and supported.  Even when competition had seemingly been removed and people agreed to share equally, the patterns of fear and alienation did not just go away.  They were too deeply imbedded in everyone's early experience of life
A few of us decided that we needed to build a strong close family of a few people who felt committed to each other.  From that family we would learn how to live together, and we would be a model of an extended family upon which a village or a nation could be based.
Three years later that small group of us settled into the conference center in New Hampshire where we had held our first gathering.  We brought new businesses, continued the conference business, and began to create other businesses, operating them cooperatively and sharing all income equally.  We were from many backgrounds, several nationalities, various ages, races, life styles, sexual preferences, but we had a feeling we were a new tribe.  We had shared values, we had many differences, and we had the will to work through them.  We were a little scared, a little bold, and a lot hopeful.
But the most important work would be in learning how to live together in love.
I was filled with great joy and pride when visitors came and reported back to us their impressions.  The most important and unusual aspect of our community, they told us, was the strong bond of love they noticed among us, which usually radiated outward and enveloped the visitors as well.  I say "usually" because of course we weren't perfect, and like any group or person we had our lapses.  And occasionally visitors may have had such personal problems that they were unable to receive or even recognize that love.  
Even before I had children of my own I knew I did not want them to spend their precious childhood years in this oppressive and inhuman environment of competition and alienation.  Emmy Rainwalker and I sought allies who believed as we did, and together we began to build the community in which our two sons were raised and which supplied the base for my outreach into the world.  Now, when I teach or lecture or engage in dialogue with others, I can tell them that I helped to create and sustain successfully for twenty years a community that worked for us all very well and through that community actively engaged in the work of transforming society.
The first thing we did together when we moved to New Hampshire was to learn a system to help us get closer to one another, deal with our feelings and our relationships, help us in our group process and to relate to the larger society.  Emmy and I had taken a course in the fundamental of co-counseling .  When we told the others about it they agreed it could be a useful tool for us all to have in common, so we invited a teacher to come over the mountain to us and give the whole community a class one week for sixteen weeks.  That proved to be the, smartest and most important thing we could have done.  From then on, whenever anyone had problems in relationships we had a very workable tool we all knew to help each other.  It was wonderful for the children, affording them equal respect and ways to play and work out things together that empowered them and all of us.  When Emmy and I eventually went through the tricky process of dissolving our marriage but keeping our family together and supporting each other continue to be friends, it was so wonderful to have a whole community who could counsel us and help us through the rough parts.  And co-counseling gave us a lot of good information about the oppressions we all face in society and a guide to our liberation.
In what ways did our community seek to effect world change?  First of all, by changing ourselves.  By noticing the patterns of sexism, ageism, classism and other oppressive attitudes that have been instilled in us and supporting each other in eliminating them.
We contradicted the alienation of society by reaching out to each other across the barriers of isolation that keep us from being really close and loving.
Our community was centered in our children. In providing a nurturing, appreciative, supportive and attentive extended family where they could know their worth, be powerful, creative and caring, we did our best to insure a hopeful future for this planet.
We also tried to think of ways in which we could relate in a positive way to the larger community around us in our little New Hampshire town.  We had regular open house weekends and weekly open dinners.  We contributed to the town's Fourth of July ceremonies and were active in many of the town's political issues.  Also we were active in the environmental and peace movements of our state and region.  Our community belonged to the Federation of Egalitarian Communities and network through the Natural Organic Farmers Association, Dance New England, Coop America, the Network of Light, the Association for Humanistic Psychology, the annual Rainbow World Family Gatherings, and other networks.  We held conferences and other events of public service there and were host to thousands of visitors over the years.  We held the New England Healing Arts Fair, the Northeast Communities Conference, conferences in Home Birth, Home Education, Childraising and Family Workshops, Permaculture, Composting and Recycling, Herbal Medicine, Drum and Flute Making, and Massage (perhaps the most popular).  Some of the many teachers who came to share included Wallace Black Elk, Eagle Man Ed McGaa, Sun Bear, Grandfather Hollis Littlecreek, Slow Turtle John Peters, Rabbi Schlomo Carlbach, Starhawk, Molly Scott and Sarah Benson, and Jim Scott, By the letters we received and the personal comments given to us as we traveled, we knew our community affected thought, hope, empowerment and made a real difference in the lives of many people in many places.

Even though love is the most natural of feelings, this closeness is not something that just happened naturally among all members of the community.  It took a lot of care, and lot of exploration of feelings together, a lot of thinking about how to get past the barriers to intimacy we have all erected defensively in our lives.
When we first came together there was that process of falling in love with each other that always happens when trust is high.  Love is natural.  We need to love and be loved.  When we tender those feelings to each other we are stimulated and elated.  Then, as anyone who has ever had a relationship of living and working together will recognize, there came the inevitable conflicts and the cooling of ardor in the stress of daily life.
That's when our old patterns emerged.  We retreated into our private, safe worlds and kept our thoughts and feelings to ourselves.  But the pain of that isolation emerging to spoil our joy in each other made us begin to find forms to share our feelings and reinforce our commitment to each other  
There was a lot of trial and error.  At first, for instance, we fell in love very easily with anyone who fell in love with us and thought that was a good reason for each of them to come and live with us.  We didn't realize how desperate for love everyone is, how compelling is the need to belong.  We didn't realize that though love is the natural way we all would react to everyone if fear wasn't in the way, falling in love is not a good reason to want to live with someone.

Probably that should be repeated:  Falling in love is not a good reason to live with someone.

Love is really a series of choices.  We choose to follow the love feelings we are recognizing.  We make a choice to move closer or to walk away.  When we choose to follow the love, we choose to come closer, to stay close, stay to learn about each other and how to serve and be served by this relationship.  With continued choices to stay close, stay open, share our feelings and think about each other, love grows.  And we grow, because we are changing each other.  By choice.  We knew we had no real experience of tribal life in the old ways, but we felt that coming together as we proposed was like getting married.  We were creating a family.  We wanted to get closer and keep the love we had found.
In order to learn how to do all of that together, we decided as a family we would all learn the tool that a few of us had already learned, a method of helping each other known as co-counseling.  For four months a teacher of co-counseling (officially known as Re-evaluation Counseling) drove over the mountain from Keene to give the whole community a class in the fundamentals of the method.  That tool, with the philosophy of human nature that makes it function so well, made a tremendous difference to the success of our community and the quality of our lives and relationships in it, and it continues to be central in our teaching about the circle and the building of community.
It gave us a truly effective method for helping each other to work on the places where we wanted to grow, where we got stuck or confused.  Not by supplying answers or advice or analysis, but by listening, supporting, encouraging each other as we probe our way through the things that block our natural creative intelligence and clear thinking.  It gave us insights into our relationships with each other and helped us get closer.  It gave us ways to come closer to all the children and help them in their relationships with each other.  It gave us tools to make our meetings more fun and more efficient.  It gave us, in short, tools to deal with all the personal and emotional issues that often become so difficult in families and communities.  Over the years those tools served us very well when we stuck to them.  So that soon we found ourselves in demand to teach them.
We had family workshop weekends at our conference center (called Another Place) and we were asked to travel to other communities to teach them.  We organized the child care at the Rainbow Gatherings and taught about playing with children and listening to and empowering them.  Meeting Ellika in 1984 I was happy to find she also knew co-counseling and fit right away into the ways that our community had to work together.  When Ellika and I began our international summer camps for people of all ages, the teaching of co-counseling was the central tool that all could learn quickly in order to get close to each other right away in small support groups.  It was important in supporting parents, teaching how to counsel children by playing with them, and the play time with young people is right at the heart of our camps.  As we move forward in our desire to create new communities and assist others, this tool, which we call the Art of Listening, is a unique gift that fills a great need.
Having this tool did not mean all our problems got immediately solved.  We had to learn to use it well, and to stick to it – not always so easy.  With the gift of hindsight, however, I can now understand that those few instances when we did not solve a problem in the best way were because we were not holding to all we had learned.  I know I didn’t.  I got lost a couple of times, abandoned what I knew, didn’t counsel my way to clarity and understanding, and let my patterns confuse me.  I would not do the same today.  I am committed to holding to our complete goodness and helpfulness and never giving up!
A few times we accepted people who did not really share the same goals for our community.  Some did not have the same political understanding.  Some believed in our vision but were not committed to it.  They were usually young people for whom this community was a school, a place to learn while they were still figuring out what they wanted in life.  For some it was only a refuge, a shelter from the economic and emotional wars of the outside world.
These people all contributed to our learning and growing together and helped us understand and formulate our direction and our process.  Sometimes when they left we all knew it was time for them to go.  Sometimes we felt sad and sorry for the parting.  In a few instances the community insisted on people leaving who did not wish to go.  Those were very hard for all of us.  Like divorcing someone you love because living together just isn't fun and takes too much energy from everyone.
In the first of those instances that happened long ago, I was not and am not happy with either the process or the result.  I know if it were to happen today I would handle it differently.  Because I have much more understanding, and I would not allow a process that I could not fully support.  All of us know a lot more, so I would not feel so isolated.  But even if I were, I would have the confidence to insist on a better course from all of us.  I would trust my own clear thinking.  Because the man who was asked to leave was my friend, I let myself be convinced that I was biased and should not oppose the group.  Even though I personally enjoyed living with this wonderful man, it seemed that others did not.  Later it became clear that the most adamant members of the community were acting out of confused feelings that distorted their best thinking.  Within a short time these members had left the community themselves, and the one whom they had forced out continued to be my neighbor and my friend and ally in world change.  That taught me a lot.
There are times when the best we can come up with doesn't seem good enough.  In one case we had meeting after meeting with a person who lived with us for a time and was eventually asked to leave.  Every meeting had shown us clearly that he did not believe or support our vision or our process.  That was not important to him.  He wanted to live among us following a process and a vision of his own that often conflicted with ours.  He could not understand why we should object to that, and we could not explain it to his satisfaction.  So he went on feeling hurt and rejected and angry.  That is a pity.
To avoid that happening again we became much more careful and selective in admitting people to membership.  People came as visitors at first, and we asked that they make a firm agreement about the length of their visit.  Usually that was for a day or two, but if someone was coming a long distance it might be as much as a week. 
If the people were interested in staying longer to explore possible membership in the community, they requested a community meeting.  This was the first attune-up, a meeting where a person would say how she was doing, what she had been feeling and thinking, how life in the community was working for her, what she had achieved, what she envisioned, the ways in which she would like to grow, and how others might support her better.  Each community member gave her feedback, and if it seemed that it would be appropriate for her to extend the visit, a date for another attune-up was set.  This process was repeated at every attune-up.  The first date would probably be set for the following week, then two or three weeks, then a month, two months, extending to as much as six months.  By that time it would be clear that the new person had become a permanent member, because if not we would all have recognized that this is not the right time and place for us to work together.  In the past we had often been too lax in facing that and addressing it and have allowed visits to stretch into an undefined period in which the person began to feel like a member and then felt rejected when she learned it would not work out.
This was the place where we had the most difficulty.  It did not happened often, and each time we learned from it.  The reason why it is so emotionally charged is the reason why loving communities are so powerful: everyone has a desperate need to belong.
We need to think about that..
We all have a deep need for love, to give it and to receive it.  And we all have a profound need to belong.
The need to belong.
That is something we do not consider enough perhaps in our estimation of human need.  It is part of our Original Instructions.  When that need is frustrated we become desperate.  The need is so strong that people make and cling to bad marriages and relationships, support oppressive organizations that do not really serve them well, and become disoriented and desperate when rejected from those relationships and organizations.
Some people try to satisfy that need by joining a church or a social club.  People seek to satisfy it by rooting for their school or local sports team.  People seem to need to identify themselves with a group, political, racial, ethnic, gender, and others.  It is the basis of all chauvinism, and its roots are in fear.
But the belonging instilled by the Creator is one that begins where you are and proceeds outward through the web of all our relations to the whole of Creation.
If you have a good relationship with yourself, you always have that sense of belonging wherever you are.  You belong to the earth.  You belong especially to that part of the earth that sustains and supports you.  It is a family relationship.  Your love demands your care.  You take responsibility to love and care for that part of the earth.
That is why so many of the uprooted people moving from city to city feel so strongly about North American native people.  They associate us with a closeness to the earth and to all of nature, and they miss that in their lives.  When I bring them together in circles they realize that other part of the Original Instructions that they have been missing: the warm and caring support of a nurturing community.  That feeling of belonging is stirred, and it is so strong that people often do not want the circle to end.  So there are more and more circles that decide to keep on coming together and supporting each other.
Supporting each other.  There is great wisdom in that concept.
For instance, people often tell me, "I would love to live in a community, but I don't think I could limit my freedom.  I couldn't get all the things I want in a community."  But if the members of your community are there to support each other, then you will be supported in getting what you want just as you support the others in getting what they want.  That may sound over-simple, but it really is true that together we can figure out how to do anything we want.
All relationships, friendships, marriages, families, or communities are strong to the extent there is a sense of belonging, a sense of mutual support, and a sense of commitment.  In our community this did not have to be a commitment for life.  If another path called to any of our members, we parted with the same support we always felt, for everyone to have what she wants.  But while we were together we were committed to the land we share, to each other, and to the processes of interaction we devised together.
That is why even permanent members chose to ask for an attune-up at least every six months, in order to stay close and renew that sense of commitment.  Often in those meetings we told the other members the ways in which we sought more support and asked the other members how we could support them better.
I am speaking a lot about belonging and supporting each other because I think these are central in understanding the dynamics of relationship.  So many relationships and communities have disintegrated because the members failed to understand this.  Our ancestors, yours and mine, had that same sense of belonging all their lives.  Their identity lay in the tribe into which they were born and which cared for them until they died.
Belonging is a basic human need.  Being free, autonomous, and powerful is also a basic human need.  The one does not preclude the other.
By supporting each other, each member of a group can feel that sense of belonging and also be free and powerful.  There is no need to give up one's individuality and personal desires to be part of an intimate and loving relationship, whether that be a marriage, a family, or a community.
So in our coming together we devise forms to enhance our support not only of the group's needs, but also of each individual's needs.  We encourage each other to speak up for what we want and to express how others can support us better.
Looking at the negative side, none of us have been as supported by our relationships in the past as we would have liked to have been.  Our families and friends were always doing the best they knew how, but they had their own problems in the way of seeing how to support us really well.  So no one has had as much acceptance and appreciation as she deserved to have in her growing up.  No one has been treated with universal respect and accorded full dignity as a child.  No one has been really listened to and given full attention by the significant others of her life.  On the contrary, most of our growing up has been filled with inattention, neglect, criticism, non-acceptance, depreciation, and often hostility and abuse.
This is very important.  If we are going to change ourselves and the world this is the most important issue of all.  It goes to the very heart of love and belonging.
People blossom and flourish with love.  With attention.  With appreciation.  With acceptance.
People choke and wither with neglect.  With disrespect.  With criticism.  With depreciation.
To appreciate is to add to.  It gives to the appreciated and to the appreciator.
To depreciate is to take from.  It lessens the depreciated and the depreciator.
The whole secret of happiness and love is right there.
It has been seen that learning flourishes with appreciation and withers with criticism.  Whatever critical appraisals are needed should be made in the context of a thorough appreciation of the learner and her efforts.
Creativity flourishes with appreciation.  Artists in the dominant culture generally isolate themselves to ignore the assaults of the critics.
In group problem solving processes it has been found that during the period of generation of new ideas there should be no evaluation at all, since that immediately stifles the creative juices.  When the time for evaluation comes, it has been found that clarity and efficiency are enhanced by having each member begin evaluating each suggestion by saying what she likes about it.
In the Mettanokit Community we learned from that process, and we encouraged its use in everyday situations.  For instance, you see someone doing something all wrong and making a mess of it.  Instead of pointing out all the errors and perhaps embarrassing the person (who is, after all, doing her best), we might first appreciate the initiative and the thought that she has shown in tackling this job.  Then we might evaluate the problems that are coming up for her and offer to confer with her about ways to make it easier or better.
Ideally we should all be able to hear rational criticism and make rational adjustments from it.  But we have been so hurt and demeaned when we have received criticisms in the past, that most people just get restimulated and defensive when their actions are criticized because it feels like another personal attack, another humiliation and degradation.
The hurt that everyone walks around with to a greater or lesser degree is of not feeling that she or he is a good and loveable person.  That is why it is so hard for so many people to accept love, or to give it.
And that is why I believe the very biggest priority of all relationships, including community, is to encourage self-appreciation.  We build self-appreciation into many of our circles together.  We take turns appreciating ourselves.  Sometimes just in general, sometimes with a specific slant: appreciate how good a parent you are, appreciate the success you had today, appreciate the ways in which you show your love, appreciate your brilliant creativity, your dynamic leadership, your elegant body, your radiant goodness....
Because we have been taught that we are not really very nice unless we are humble and never talk about ourselves, this is not easy for us to do at first.  But if we accept that we cannot truly love unless we love ourselves, then we must learn to appreciate ourselves aloud in a supportive setting.  After all, if you had just fallen in love you could tell all your friends all the wonderful things about you beloved for hours on end.  Should you not be able to do as much for yourself, if you really like yourself?
Because the appreciation of your total self has been cut off by criticism and depreciation in the past, it helps to have our friends contradict those by appreciating us thoroughly and enthusiastically.  So sometimes in our circles we will all appreciate the person to our right, or the people on each side of us.  Or we might have a time when we all appreciate one person.  This happens ritually at birthday celebrations, and spontaneously at attune-ups.  Sometimes we have circles where everyone gets appreciated by everyone else.  You can imagine how that enhances our sense of love and belonging!
For anyone trying to live well with other human beings, with parents, children, marital partners, friends, co-workers, or any other kind of community, the most important thing for us to learn is not to blame each other.  It is always possible to realize that no matter what stupid or destructive things a person may do he was doing the best he knew at the time.  If he had the right information and no hurt was distorting his perceptions, he would always do the most loving, and intelligent thing.  As we all would.  Blaming him is not going to help.  It will not help him see the situation more clearly to feel badly about himself.  His survival instinct will make him defensive and cloud the climate of learning.
Everyone has been blamed and criticized too much already.  It is humiliating and demeaning.  But we would never treat each other in that way if we felt totally good about ourselves.  That is why it is good for us to make a habit of appreciating each other.  Few people have been completely appreciated in growing up.  Most people go around with a wistful realization that no one has ever appreciated them.  There is no problem among people on this planet that wouldn't be solved with enthusiasm and elegance if people totally loved and appreciated themselves.
There is another aspect of our process which I think is vital to a strong community.  This is the confidence that there is no conflict which cannot be worked out in a way in which no one loses.  When we stick to that process it always works.  The times when it has not worked, when someone seemed to take a "lose", have been times when we have lost our trust and abandoned our process.  Our community is founded, as I said, on trust.  When we remember to trust ourselves, to trust each other, and to trust the processes that re-enforce the best in us, it all works wonderfully well.  And for those processes to work, a good, open communication is essential. 
We taught and used no-lose conflict resolution at Mettanokit.  We also taught and used this process with our children, and they used it with each other.  When a visitor who did not understand our ways would try to boss our young people and tell them what to do, they were treated to a lesson by the children themselves.  They would politely inform them that was not the way we did things around here.  They would say tell them that here we have to ‘work it out,’ and they would be very able and willing to teach them how the process worked. 
The steps are simple.  First the participants must agree as to what the problem is.  Most often people who have a conflict have very different ideas on that, and those need to be understood and resolved so everyone is working on the same problem.  Then we have a stage of everyone making suggestions and responding to them, trying to find in them a solution which all will accept.  The more you do it, especially in community where everyone knows each other well, the easier it becomes and the quicker issues are resolved.
The quality of our attention, compassion, and appreciation for each other affects the level of trust and the openness of communication in our community.
When we began the Mettanokit Community we made an important decision.  We decided that the quality of our relationships with each other was more important than our material welfare.  So instead of working at getting land or money we worked on our personal growth and our communications.
Here is how we described ourselves in response to inquiries:

"Mettanokit is a group of people living together intentionally, creating a society which mirrors our true human nature as loving, cooperative, zestful, intelligent, creative beings.
"We live on 15 acres of land in southern New Hampshire.  While we have no organized religious creed or affiliation, we hold a strong vision of peace and work towards ending oppression of human beings by human beings....
"Parenting is shared by all....We work with local school authorities to homeschool our children and consider the attention they get carefully.  We believe that all the 'isms' we live with (sexism, racism, class oppression) are built on ageism, and we work constantly to uplevel the quality of our time with young people.
""We support ourselves with various community owned businesses.  All members are expected to work about 50 hours a week, with a flexible guideline of 30 hours on income-producing projects and 20 hours of domestic work, including childcare, cooking, cleaning, family meetings.  All income is shared by all members of the family.
"Our community businesses include:
"Another Place Conference Center - our educational arm, produces wholistic conferences.  We also maintain a center which is rented to other organizations whose philosophies are similar to ours.  A whole foods catering service works to provide quality vegetarian food to groups outside the community and caters our own events.
"Mettanokit Outreach - a lecture, workshop, and storytelling service which travels world-wide.
"Story Stone - producing a quarterly cassette magazine of children's stories.
"Bell Studio - a sophisticated recording studio and producing unit available to musicians and storytellers.
"Fantasy Futons - distributing 100% cotton hand-made mattresses and bed furniture."
"Play is important to us.  We often learn new games, sing and dance together.  Visitors tell us we are among the silliest people they have met, and we are very proud of that distinction.  We realize that as adults, playing is partly a relearning, and we are fortunate to have young people here who help us recover our playspirit.
"Major decisions are made by consensus at weekly family meetings or at specially called meetings.  Minor decisions are made by individuals and responsibility for various aspects of the businesses and community is delegated at family meetings.
"Although we are not in a hurry to grow, we welcome meeting new folks and are open to the possibility of new members.  Interested persons are encouraged to schedule an initial visit of no more than a week to get a sense of the community.  If they continue to be interested, a longer visit is planned, and they are encouraged and expected to participate fully in the work, meetings, and fun.  At the end of this visit they are assisted by a member of the community to call a meeting and propose the length of their next stay.  Each person is treated in a unique way in keeping with her or his circumstances.  Feedback is given to the proposal until it is modified to everyone's satisfaction (or refused).  Community consensus is required.
"The most important requirement is that a potential member understand and be in agreement with our covenant, especially around what we call 'working things out'.  Conflicts, problems and disagreements are expected to be worked out with good will to a 'no lose' solution, which means that all parties are willing to live with the solution.  This assumes a certain level of communication skill and self-empowerment.  All members must agree to work by consensus, share cooking, childcare, housecleaning, and take responsibility for the ongoing welfare of the community...."

Many people visited us each year.  It was good to meet and share with others who were searching for their ways.  From the letters of thanks they sent when they left, it seemed that they each learned something of value in their brief time with us.  Some stayed on for years, continuing to learn and grow with us, and then went on to learn of other paths.  These stay close to us and return often. They are part of our family still.  I think of them as traveling teachers, a part of our outreach in the world, for we learned something precious together that we all now carry to others.

At Mettanokit we were trying to re-learn what it is to be a tribal being.  Most of us had no experience of that.  A few of us had observed it in older traditional communities or grew up where the extended family was still pretty much intact and have some idea of how it could be.  But mostly we relied on the deep inner wisdom that is still there for all of us if we seek it.  That is the Original Instructions in the heart of every human being, no matter how buried under the misinformation and mistreatment.
We understood that if we have a good relationship with ourselves, are comfortable with ourselves, then we can have a good relationship and be comfortable with the earth and our environment, and all our relatives, the beings of earth, water, and air, including all others of our own kind.  When we are right with ourselves, our natural world, and all the beings in it, we become a model, not only for our children, but for all people who are seeking a better way.  If we want a more human, a more loving, creative and rational society, we must also create a model of what that would be like. 
Now when I travel and I speak of living in a sacred manner, I have a concrete example of what I mean.  When people are dubious and say it can't work, I can tell them that it works very well.  It seems to be working well in thousands of small unknown and unsung communities around the world, but I can only speak with authority of my own.  At Mettanokit I had the best life that I had known, our children had richer lives than the wealthiest of the wealthy, and all of us had more love in our lives and grew faster through our closeness than ever before in our lives.
Because Mettanokit was an international community I could recommend it for all human beings.  All people are native people, indigenous people - we all belong to the earth.  The Original Instructions are not for one race or nation of people, but for all human beings.  This is how we are all supposed to live on this planet.  With love for each other.  With respect for all beings.  With enthusiasm for every moment of consciousness.  With joy in our curiosity and creativity.
Here are some ideas about us from the brochure that we sent to prospective visitors:

Ideas of One Small Family

The philosophy and workings of an intentional egalitarian community

The Mettanokit Community

at Another Place, Greenville, NH, USA
We are an intentional community.  This means we choose to live together.  We also strive to be egalitarian, which mean we try to give all community members equal access to resources according to need.  The structure we have chosen for our community is that of a large family.  We draw inspiration from many sources, noting that the recent historical trend towards “nuclear” families does not suit us.  We look back to societal configurations such as extended families and tribes.
We want to orient those who are considering community so that when you visit here you might understand better some of the things you see and feel.  The second is to inspire those of you who hold the idea that people can live together well.  We feel we are doing this.  We have come to understand that getting close to each other is both a joy and a struggle and we welcome both, understanding that it is our choice to use every occurrence to our advantage and for our greater comprehension of what it means to be fully human. 
Since we believe that all beings are benign, including human beings, you will perhaps perceive that our philosophies, systems and structures are built on that simple assumption.

What Makes Us Different?

We have looked at some of the way society is organized to support people, and some of the way that society is organized to oppress people.
Pooled Resources: Realizing that only a very small percentage of the world’s population controls most of the world’s land (including its resource and technology) we choose to put our assets together so that we can explore a more equitable method of distribution of assets.  The land we caretake is owned by a non-profit corporation, Another Place Inc, a center for wholistic education and living since 1976.
Child-raising:  Realizing that in our culture the task of raising children falls to a very few people who are not paid, or are paid very poorly for the immense and great work, we have chosen to require all adult members of our community to be actively involved with the growing of the next generation.
Work: Realizing that certain kinds of work, which are necessary for the continuance of healthy communities are not compensated or are poorly compensated (e.g. childcare, cooking, cleaning, house maintenance, car maintenance, personal healing, studying) we have chosen to compensate ourselves equally for all work, regardless of the societal norms.
Art: Realizing that art is vital to life, we have chosen to encourage each other to pursue our creativity by supporting these activities in every way we can.
Creative Process: We recognize that or goals and aspirations are a process, that they are constantly changing and that we are always reaching for better lives together.  We also recognize that we are “swimming upstream” in many ways since the larger society we live in does not always understand or support our efforts.  We are cultivating a spirit of tolerance, understanding,          persistence, honesty, and humor.

How Does It All Work?

Let’s take it from the top.  You decide you might want to live here.  What happens?  Success in becoming a consensus member of this community takes you through several steps: Visitor, Provisional 3-Month Member, Provisional On Year Member, Consensus Member.


The status of visitor is broad.  Some visitors are doing term papers for college or high school studies and are interested in community, some folks are curious, some folks come because they had a good connection with one of our members and want to experience more, some visitors are interested in joining a community.
We welcome visitors.  All visits must be planned in advance with our visitor coordinator.  Pleas plan you visit to happen during the first week of the month.  This is generally our “visitor time”.  If that time is impossible for you, please discuss this in a letter of by phone with the visitor coordinator.

We ask visitors to

Be clear about how long you would like to stay when you contact us.  Usually initial visits          are from one day to one week long.  If, after you arrive, you want to extend your visit beyond the agreed upon time, we will discuss it with you as a family.

Volunteer to help us with our work while you are here.  Ask what there is to be done.  Take the time to discuss your visions and history with us.

Contribute financially as you are able. (We suggest $10 per night per adult, more or less as you can afford.)

Know that one of our goals is the empowerment of all people.  We solve differences through problem-solving techniques and a lot of loving compassion.  We are dedicated to win-win solutions to problems with other folks who are so dedicated.  Major community decisions are made by consensus of family members..

Be aware that as a family we have all agreed  not to be sexual with visitors.  It is important to us to provide an environment free from even the subtler forms of sexual harassment.  We want people to be able to visit and feel truly safe.

We reserve the right to refuse anyone a visit, or to ask any visitor to leave if we feel their visit is not mutually beneficial for any reason.

Becoming a Member

Throughout the membership process the primary concern of the family is whether or not a new person becomes part of our “family feeling”.  This is an indefinable but very real quality for us.  We have always agreed unanimously on whether a new person is part of this feeling or not.
This feeling is made up of all of the qualities of a person, and we appreciate having great diversity among us in interests, skill levels, and cultural backgrounds.  We an usually tell within one or two days whether this feeling is present and still we insist on living with a person for at least 5 seasons (a year and a quarter) before we accept them as a full consensus family member.  We have found by a long and often painful learning process that preserving this feeling in the family is critical to the community feeling unified and strong.  One of the hardest lessons to learn was separating liking and respecting a person from wanting to live with them.


If you decide that you would like to continue staying here and exploring living in community with us, you will be asked to have an attune-up.  We will all meet together and hear from you whatever you wish to share about why you would like to continue to live here, what is working well, what could work better for you, you hopes, ideals, career plans…anything you want to share with us.
After you have spoken, each family member will speak.  Each of us will share with you how it feels to have you among us so far, your strengths, ways in which you might consider growing and changing, and what help we are willing to offer you.  An anything else we feel is important to say.  At the end of this go-around, we will all decide together either to extend your visit for a specified length of time, or to graduate you to a provisional 3-month membership.  This graduation occurs when everyone feels right about it.  It is a statement of intention to explore more seriously your living in the community.  It is a statement of intention by you and by us.

Extended Visits

Sometimes a visitor is interested in staying for an extended length of time but membership is not a possibility.  In these cases, where it is agree that an extended visit would be mutually beneficial, details on how the visitor will participate in community life will be worked in a unique way to suit the situation.

Provisional 3-Month Member

At this stage you engage in most of the family systems.
You will be on the regular childcare and cooking schedules and will be asked to take on tasks that need to be done according to you skill level and interest.
You will be expected to contribute financially on a sliding scale from $200-$600 a month, depending on your resources.  Income sharing is not appropriate at this point and your own personal expenses will be taken care of by you.  This includes reimbursement to the community for your telephone calls and community cars for your personal use.  It is important that you preserve enough resource to get to your next step if it is decided that this is not an appropriate place for you to live.
Either you or we can decide to terminate the agreement at any time, resulting in your leaving.  Barring very unusual circumstances, this is usually a mutual process where we all realize that the fit is not quite right an where we will be supportive of you in your next step.
You will have monthly attune-ups with the entire family to check I about how it is going on both sides.
Although you will be active in most family meetings, you can be asked to refrain from the consensus process at the request of any family member.  We reserve the right for major decisions which affect our lives to be made only consensus family members.
You can request any visitors or other provisional members not be present at your attune-ups, if you wish.  You cannot exclude consensus family members, however.

Provisional One Year Member

Like the 3 month membership, you will be involved fully in all family systems with the addition of income  sharing.
At this time you will be expected to contribute all your income into the family and get all your personal needs met by the family.
This is a time when we will be looking for your full integration in and involvement with the community.  The feelings of “right fit” are important to us and we consider ourselves deeply committed to each other.
All the aspects of being a 3 month provisional member, except financial, are the same as above.

Consensus Family Member

After you one-year provisional membership you ca be considered to become a full consensus member of this family.  This means we all, you and us, make a commitment to cherish your place here.  This decision to accept you in this capacity is made by all full consensus members
If there is not agreement at this time you can be asked to extend your provisional membership for a specific length of time at the end of which your full membership will be considered again, or you may be asked to leave.
One is only accepted as a full consensus member when it feels right to everyone who has already been through the process.  (Founding and early members who joined the community before this process was in effect are exempt and are expected to have regular attune-ups.)


Since our goal is to maintain as few vehicles as possible, vehicles are shard by all licensed-driver, consensus family members.
Visitors and provisional members will not use family cars except after discussion and decision at a family meeting.  The driving style will be a primary consideration in determining the use of cars.
All drivers are expected to drive safely and carefully respecting life and taking undue risks.  If at any time anyone feels that someone is not acting safely in driving practice they should bring this up at a family meeting for discussion and resolution.
Any new member who owns a care is expected to put his car on the car sign-up sheet at the beginning of their provisional one-year membership she she/he goes on family economy.  This will make the car available for use by other members.  The new member may retain legal ownership and take the car in whatever condition it is in if they decide to leave the community.  The community agrees to maintain all cares within the scope of its resources

Young People

We recognize that people are born good, with vast intelligence, creativity, curiosity and enthusiasm for learning.  We also recognize that the culture is adultist.  That is, it holds a common belief that children are not as important, smart, competent, significant as adults and that they do not deserve as much resource or respect as adults.
We address this by a goal of eliminating adultism, first in our community and then in the world.
We do this by educating ourselves about the real needs of children and dedicating ourselves to providing these needs with love ad high regard for our young people.  W want the to be as powerful as possible in determining the course of their own lives.
We do this also by addressing the ways I which we were mistreated as children and doing whatever it takes to turn around the ancient patterns of perpetrating this mistreatment onto subsequent generations.  This means each of us uses tools at her/his disposal to rid ourselves of the patterns we inherited of mistreatment of children.  Many of these patterns are unconscious so we also point out to each other ways in which we are not clear in this area.  W hold a goal of doing this with loving care and trust that each of us wants to be as clear as possible.
Adultism, we believe, is the keystone of all oppressions.  That is, if we were not mistreated when we were young, we would not stand for mistreatment of ourselves or anyone when we are adults.


All adult members take part in childcare, by spending time with all the children together and by having primary time (one on one) with individual children in the community.  All adults are responsible for seeing to it that the children are adequately cared for each day.


We provide a homeschooling program for our young people who desire this.  All adult members take part in this program.  This means that adults share their skills and education with young people.  Living in community provides all of us with a rich variety of skills, talents, philosophies which is especially beneficial to our homeschooling program.
A careful homeshool plan is submitted to our local school board each year with specific goals and curriculum for each child.  We seek to work closely and cooperatively with the local school people while preserving our right to school our children our way.
We hold a goal of eliminating oppression of all groups in our community and in the world.  We do this by educating ourselves about the particular oppression of each group and helping each other understand how we promote these oppressions so that we can eliminate oppressive behavior.  


Since the society has conditioned each of us in various ways around sex, we understand that this is an area which requires careful thinking.  We believe that because people need to be touched with loving care every day, many of us confuse this need with a need for sex.  This is due to the incessant bombardment we get from a very early age with pictures, music and ideas that would convince us that sex is the only way to reach intimacy and that we are incessantly driven to have it in our lives.  We are finding that this is not true and intimacy is unlimited among people who do not engage in sexual activity.  Sex is only one of the many ways to be intimate and it can act against intimacy when performed in patterned or unhealthy ways.
We respect each person’s style of sexual activity with the following guidelines:
Adults will not initiate or engage in any sexual activity with young people, and will refuse to engage in any sexual activity initiated by a child.
Sexual activity that is abusive physically or psychologically is not acceptable in any form.
Members are asked to refrain from sexual activity with new members for at least three months after the arrival of the new member, even if the activity is initiated by the new member.  This will enable new members to get to know all member of the community and avoid bonding strongly with one member to the exclusion of other.  This policy is also meant to protect new members from feeling that their touch heeds must be met I a sexual way and to allow them to become more comfortable with physical touching that is not connected to sexuality.
Members will not engage in sexual activity with visitors or people attending conferences or programs unless they have had an established sexual relationship with that person prior to their visit.
All sexual preferences among consenting adults are to be respected.  The community will not tolerate the mistreatment of any individual based on sexual preferences.


We recognize the goal of eating well to maintain ourselves in a healthy way and of the increasing challenge this presents in the world today.  We do not hold to any particular philosophy of eating and we respect each person’s personal styles.  We also recognize that all human beings at this time in history seem to be addicted to something, often unhealthy food substances, and we seek to support each other in eliminating those addictions.
All adult members share in the cooking of the food in rotation.  Cooks are expected to educate themselves as to the personal needs of the members and guests and attempt to accommodate unusual needs if possible. 
We hold membership in a food coop and buy natural foods as much as possible.  We tend an organic garden and available food from this source varies depending on interest in the garden from year to year.  As much as possible we agree to find creative ways to encourage healthy eating.

An additional idea we concocted for the visitor program was to have one member check in and keep track of each visitor, show how things work, answer questions, stay connected, and that person could let the rest of the family know how the visitor is faring.  As for the childcare and homeschooling programs, I can only say how proud I am of my sons who grew up in that community, did very well in college, and are now two of the most independent, confident, clear-thinking, friendly, sociable, and caring adult men I have had the pleasure to know. 

You who have been with me here through these talks may have learned about as much as you can without actually being there and feeling the human quality of the circle.  You have not learned the difficulties and the hard work, the places where we blunder, the places where we hurt.  That is a part of life everywhere.  But in community you do not face these alone.  You have each other for comfort, support, and reminders of the reality of how good and wonderful we are, how good and wonderful is the Creation we have been given.  You share, not only your material goods, but your tears, your fears, your dreams and your delights.  When we are together each day is a celebration of life.
One part of the work done by that community continues here on this land today.  That is the Mettanokit Outreach program which conducts spiritual circles in many prisons in New England.  These circles provide for the spiritual needs of Native American prisoners, but, following the example of our elders, we do not exclude anyone because of ethnic, racial or religious differences.  Ours is not a religion but a way of life, which our elders said was the way of the Original Instructions for all human beings.  Yesterday I conducted our monthly sweat lodge ceremony for former members of the prison circles and supporters right here at our lodge in the woods where I have been conducting ceremonies for over thirty years, with a feast and a circle after.  Much healing and love was shared by everyone.  A good day for all.
I think we all learned a lot from coming together and living closely for so many years.  We learned about ourselves from each other, about our relationships, about solving problems together, about relating to the town and the state and the nation and the planet.  Since we respected and listened to our children we learned from them also.  I was very pleased to find that both my sons, at different times in their later schooling, wrote essays about how good it was to grow up in our community.  And I see what an important ingredient was the tool of co-counseling that we learned and used together.  It helped us help each other, brought us closer to our hearts, to living in love.
That brochure for visitors, now that I re-read it, sounds like we had a lot of rules, and that was not so.  I guess we thought the guidelines would be clearer if they were there on paper, but we all got along pretty smoothly without recourse to the rules.
I don't believe in a lot of rules and laws.  Rules and laws indicate a low level of trust.  The less you have, the higher is the trust level of your community.  When we came together it was with this simple agreement, which I believe still gives most of what people need to live together well:

"We agree to respect all beings and spirits in the universe as our teachers and to care for our sacred Mother, the Earth.  We trust ourselves.  We trust the process of attunement to solve all problems and conflicts among us.  We accord each other freedom, support, appreciation, respect, and full power without regard to age, sex, race, personality, intelligence, or history.  We seek by living simply and by sharing, to heal the earth, re-create society, and hasten the spiritual transformation of humankind."