Vision for Conscious Community

In considering the ecological, political, economic, and social state of the world, I regularly find myself asking three questions:

  • How can I, and all people, protect and care for the Earth and its ecosystems?
  • How can I, and we, live in ways that contribute to the well-being, health, and happiness of all people?
  • How can I, and we, experience joy, aliveness, fulfillment and love?
Time and again, the response that comes to me is “community.” Even with the challenges of shared living, I find intentional communities to offer one of the most compelling and comprehensive responses to humanity’s urgent need for health, happiness, peace, justice, and sustainability.

With this inspiration, I have spent much of the past 15 years living and working in, visiting and learning from intentional communities and ecovillages around the world – from Findhorn to Auroville, from the Possibility Alliance to Hummingbird Community. Inspired by many aspects of these communities, friends and I have then experimented with various community prototypes, from community houses to year-long learning communities.

Having experienced both the strengths and challenges of these various communities, I have been inspired to dream into what might make the next generation of intentional communities even more fulfilling and sustainable, more supportive of personal and cultural development, and more appealing and accessible to all kinds of people on Earth.

The following is a draft vision for a multi-faceted conscious community that I am in the early stages of co-creating with a group of friends and colleagues. I invite you to explore this vision, to see what resonates with you, and to join in a collaborative dialogue by commenting below (at the end of the post) and/or emailing me. I would also love to know what you are inspired by and involved with yourself. There are some questions at the end of the post to invite further dialogue.

Thank you for dreaming into ways that humanity can embody sustainability, peace, and justice on Earth!

With gratitude,
Karl Steyaert

A Vision for Conscious Community

It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual.
The next Buddha may take the form of a community --
a community practicing understanding and loving kindness,
a community practicing mindful living.
This may be the most important thing we can do for the earth.
- Thich Nhat Hanh

Picture a community in which you and your friends: live within a five minute walk of each other; collaborate joyfully on world service projects; have a vegetable garden & fruit trees out your back door; have a small ecological & social footprint; have time & space for being alone & still; support each other to be your highest selves; spend lots of time outside; can walk or bicycle to most places you want to go; take action to help those in need; play often; hold each other when you want comfort; have your basic needs met locally; make music, dance, & sing together; embody evolution of consciousness; meditate & practice yoga; live passionately; develop ever-more elegantly good, true, and beautiful ways for people to live; tell each other stories by the fireside; heal conflicts in circles; allow yourselves to cry & laugh freely; celebrate regularly; inspire & uplift each other; create beautiful, natural homes; raise free-spirited & well-loved children; let them play outside by themselves & be looked after by the whole community; dream big dreams; and live your dreams.

I believe that the Earth can be a place where all human beings can live such a life, and that some version of such a community, whether urban or rural, could be a desirable place for most, and perhaps all, of humanity to live.

What follows is a vision for a multi-faceted conscious community with the mission to support individuals to live joyful lives in service to the well-being of all life.
This vision for conscious community consists of a number of interconnected initiatives:

Eco-Village Community
Transformational Living Learning Center
  • Integral Sangha
  • Young Adult Leadership Program
Other Initiatives
  • Collaboration Incubator
  • Transformation Teams
  • Retreat Center & Café
  • Declaration of Interdependence
  • Conscious Community Network
Following brief descriptions of these initiatives, there is an articulation of core values which all of these initiatives share.

Eco-Village Community
The foundation for this vision is an integral eco-village/sustainable community that will serve as home for an extended family of friends and collaborators who share life, learning, and laughter. In addition to offering a nourishing home environment, this community is intended to support community members to live in a way that is in harmony with and in service to the local and global community of life, as well as serving the wider society as a demonstration site and model for conscious, sustainable human habitat.

The community will practice diverse and flexible approaches to:
  • Sustainable living (ie. green design, renewable energy, material re-use, etc.);
  • Dynamic governance (ie. Holacracy);
  • Permaculture;
  • Alternative economics (ie. local currency, community land trust, etc.); and
  • Spiritual practice (ie. meditation, moment-to-moment awareness, dance, etc.).

Transformational Living Learning Center
The eco-village will serve as home for a learning center that will support a range of short- and long-term learning pathways for personal and planetary transformation. This learning center will explore a range of topics essential to the well-being and resilience of humanity and planet Earth in the 21st century, including:

  • Social & Cultural Transformation: community building, conflict facilitation, Nonviolent Communication, Restorative Circles, Dynamic Governance (Holacracy, Sociocracy), transformational learning, grassroots community organizing, deep democracy, nonviolent direct action, action research, activism
  • Personal Development & Conscious Evolution: Integral theory & practice, Nonviolent Communication, co-counseling, intimacy & sexuality, life purpose
  • Sustainability: permaculture, ecovillage design, homesteading skills, green building, simple living, wildcrafting, deep ecology
  • Mind-Body-Spirit: meditation, yoga, aikido, tai chi
  • Wilderness: vision quest, traditional living skills, wildcrafting, tracking
  • Crafts & Creative Expression: folk crafts, art, music, creative writing, dance, 5 Rhythms, contact improv, authentic movement, improv theater
  • Alternative Economics: resource sharing, right livelihood, voluntary simplicity, local economic self-reliance, cooperative economics
In addition to offering a range of range of workshops and short-term courses for the general public, the living learning center will support deeper, longer-term learning communities/programs. For example:

Integral SanghaThe sangha will consist of a committed “community of practice” for individuals dedicated to developing and embodying the internal and external capacity to be transformational global service leaders. The integral sangha’s practices would include a range of practices and approaches to development, including those listed above.

Young Adult Leadership Program
Similar to the Integral Sangha, this transformational learning community will offer young adults a focused and supportive learning community for integrating a range of pathways and practices for personal and planetary transformation. The program center will offer applied learning supporting the development of body, heart, mind, and spirit, as listed above.

Other Initiatives
In addition to the Transformational Living Learning Center, the community will support a number of related transformational initiatives as well:

Collaboration Incubator

There will be a collaborative ‘Hub’ workspace and incubator for synergizing both ‘for profit’ & ‘non-profit’ socially & environmentally responsible initiatives. This incubator will offer individuals and organizations a supportive environment for cultivating professional collaboration, project development, office sharing, mutual inspiration, synergy, economic cooperation, and fun.

Transformation Teams

These mobile teams of skilled transformation agents will catalyze & facilitate conscious, life-serving transformation in settings ranging from neighborhoods to corporations to war zones. In this way, the community will offer individuals and organizations everywhere on-site support for cultivating sustainability, peace, and justice.

Transformation Teams will offer a range of services such as:
  • Integral organizational assessment and strategic design
  • Restorative Circle facilitation and system building
  • Permaculture and ecovillage design
  • Community organizing support
  • Conflict resolution
  • Group process facilitation
Retreat Center & Café
A Retreat Center and Café will offer inviting & lively spaces providing natural, community-sourced food, lodging, meeting spaces, and right livelihood. These will offer varied and rich opportunities for interface and collaboration between the community and the wider public, as well as providing a means of income for other community projects.

Declaration of Interdependence

A Declaration of Interdependence will provide a vision and set of principles, best practices, and aspirational standards supporting individuals and organizations to embody and cultivate global sustainability, peace, justice and consciousness.

Conscious Community Network

A Conscious Community Network will consist of a global network of conscious, transformational, urban and rural communities sharing a core vision, values and commitment to action. This network will facilitate mutual support and learning, as well as allowing community members to travel freely among like-spirited communities.

This vision of conscious community rests upon a core set of values:

Care for Self, Community & Planet
This value consists of attending to the highest order of care for all life, including care for self, community, and planet. One example would be supporting local and global sustainability, peace and justice in a way that is nourishing and fun for individuals. (If it isn’t fun, it isn’t sustainable!) Another example would be designing spaces and systems that support individuals to have private time & space, while at the same time supporting easy social engagement & collaboration.

Honoring Body, Heart, Mind & Spirit

This refers to cultivating and engaging the individual and collective body, heart, mind, and spirit. For example, how can all community members be supported to engage in activities that involve hands, heart, and head? (Helen and Scott Nearing’s described a daily balance of “bread labor, civic work, and personal pursuits.”) This also includes honoring the creative arts and play as essential dimensions of human experience and expression.

Compassion, Challenge & Communion

This means honoring all pathways of realization, including the loving embrace of compassion and empathy, the fiery crucible of challenge, and the release into communion with all that is. For example, how can a community support people to access all parts of what David Deida distinguishes as “therapy, yoga, and spiritual practice.”

Being & Doing

This consists of integrating and honoring the complementarity between “being” (state of consciousness) and “doing” (meaningful action). For example, how can we cultivate both compassionate acceptance of “what is” and meaningful action to contribute to the well-being of all life? One approach consists of allowing action to unfold through emergence rather than control or effort, by cultivating action that arises from an open mind, open heart, and open will. (See Otto Scharmer’s Theory U.)

Depth & Lightness

Depth & lightness refers to engaging deeply and truthfully with individual’s and the world’s challenges, while at the same time welcoming abundant lightness, humor, play, and celebration of life!

Co-creation involves alignment and cooperation between people, a higher purpose, and what is arising in the world. On a practical level, this would mean power-sharing, approaches to collective intelligence, and collaborative decision-making designed to serve the higher good (see Holacracy). Also, all individuals would be supported on their personal paths of self-actualization and leadership development.

Inclusion & Discernment

Inclusion and discernment are complementary qualities, such that an open mind and open heart can be integrated with value-based discernment, in relation to people, perspectives, approaches, etc. For example, a community can draw on the depth of various traditions and practices (Buddhism, Nonviolent Communication, etc.), while remaining non-dogmatic, non-denominational, flexible, and open to other perspectives.

Stability & Flexibility

This refers to protecting and caring for basic needs, with flexibility and nonattachment in relation to specific strategies or outcomes.


Integral refers to aspiring to attend to the interior and exterior well-being and development of individuals and collectives. Additionally, an integral approach embodies multiple perspectives and approaches, recognizing both the truth and limitations of them all, while also discerning higher and lower order truths. In this vision, the intention is to embody an integral and developmental approach with humility, recognizing that while “maps of reality” can serve the common good, the reality of each individual and collective is far more beautiful, complex, and gifted than any conceptual framework can adequately represent.

In the comments section below, please offer your feedback on what you have read here. If they are useful, feel free to respond to any of the following questions:
  • What responses, feedback, or suggestions arise for you as you read what is written above? What speaks to you and why? What would make it more clear, inspiring, or inviting for you?
  • What visions for your life, for community, and/or for humanity inspire you? What might an ideal way of life look like for you?
  • Are you aware of any resources that might support the unfolding of this community? Potential locations, collaborators, funding sources, etc.? Are there related communities, people, or projects you are aware of and inspired by, beyond those listed below?

Thank you for taking some time to respond to these questions!
- Karl

Inspiring Examples
The following existing communities and transformational programs offer inspiration and possibilities for collaboration:


  1. Hey karl,
    So I'll try to post thoughts as they come as to not loose them. So one thing that jumps out at me is the young adult leadership program. That seems like your personal interst and passion. However, I dream a bigger more comprehensive dream in which that is just one piece of a much larger offering. I want to have offerings that span from conception to death. How do we support people in every aspect of life at every stage of life? I'm interested in a truly integral and comprehensive aproach to life and community. What is our answer to the conventional models and structures that address areas of eldercare, childcare, etc? Maren for example seems to have a gift for early child education. NVC family camps are another example to be integrated. We are also connected to folks who are passionate about working with teens, adults, etc. And for me the curiousity is how to have all of these different areas working in integrated ways as opposed to isolated, fragmented realms of life as the current system. more to come


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