Exploring Community & Sustainability — Warning; Growth Ahead — Dealing With Feelings


May 2017 I found myself taking a pause from my community explorations reconnecting and staying with family (the biological ones that is) in Calgary, Alberta. The ones that I never felt a part of and always the black sheep or foreign entity. My “heart call” sent me back home. It had been quite a few years since we have been all together.”How long are you planning to stay?” I had no idea and my answer was a few weeks. A few weeks lead to almost 2 months and the query changed to “Where are you going next?” I found myself saying that I am going to a microgreen community farm to learn how to grow microgreens. (preconceived notion maybe)

The first time I tried microgreens was 2015 while in Malta at an off grid farm learning about green living for sustainability. I had never heard of them before; sunflower sprouts and they were so delicious. Microgreens popped back into my awareness. As so did Chuckleberry Community Farm post on Greenwork for an intern with one year commitment. My mind said “one year, no way”. My “heart call” nudged me to contact Jon at the farm to see if he would be open to having me volunteer for one month. I experienced “seemingly synchronicity ” first hand as everything seem to magically unfold. Jon & I had a wonderful conversation and he agreed to have me and arriving the following week. I was Kootenay bound. I had passed through Nelson a few years back and thought to myself it would be great to come back someday to spend more time there. The time had come …

Chuckleberry likes to have volunteers commit to at least 3 months. Having been here at the farm as a now long term temporary resident can see why. My plan was one month with an option to extend (since I did not have anything lined up anyway) and ended up organically extending in short increments that became 15 months.

“Warning — Growth Ahead”. Living in community should come with warning labels: This type of experiential self growth opportunity comes with being here longer term. I have observed over time there seems to be a “honeymoon phase” with volunteers coming in all wide-dreamy-eyed (I was one of them) with predetermined notions of what community is. Newness — A new adventure, new surroundings, new people, freshly landed with feet not quite on the ground …. yet. 2 weeks, one month is not enough time to fully land and be in the now/in curious inquiry without projecting forward to what is next. The next adventure fix. The juicy bits and what is commonly judged as not so nice emotions; crossed or lack of boundaries, conflict, irritation, disrespect, hurt, sadness take time to surface and sit with, ponder, transcend … The idea of being just a volunteer on a farm is one way of looking at it. Dealing with feelings — “What ?!? – Hey I did not expect that”.

Me verses We — My first challenge living in community was finding a healthy balance of me vs. we. I came from living alone for 13 years having lots of “me” time to land in what seemed the other extreme of lots of “we” time. I was volunteering, yes, embracing a new lifestyle of working together, team work, both during work times and off times. Private space was not common. Sleeping spaces are usually shared with one to two roommates and co-ed. When I first arrived I had taken the space of a volunteer that just left in what is called upper Chuckleberry sharing a trailer in the woods. This was my living space for the first 10 months. We had several times where a 3rd person was added temporarily.

Work days are 6 hours per day and each morning begins with a group check-in. The table in the kitchen is round which kinda gives me the sense of King Arthur and the knights of the round table vibe. Community and circles seem synonymous. We sit in a circle together and tune inside to give a inner weather report on “how we feel in the moment” — trying to stay out of “the stories”. Needless to say there is a lot of resistance for most in the beginning. There is the option to pass. How much you want to share is up to you. This is also an opportunity to be authentic, vulnerable and transparent. It also helps the group get a sense of where others are at for the day.

Where Chuckleberry deviates from most volunteer/wwoofing opportunities: Enter; Conscious Relating.

“A highly relational community environment can be rich, stimulating and delightful as well as catalyze a strong internal process that is not always comfortable..People come to Chuckleberry not just to learn about sustainability and organic food production. At Chuckleberry, people learn how to relax into more of who they genuinely are by attending to what they are feeling moment to moment.”

This is supported weekly by a facilitated Emotional Intelligence (EI) group for exploration. Deeply being seen and heard by another creates a closer bond with each other.

Living closely with and working with others, you will naturally get *triggered at times. We welcome your human process of self-discovery. We will support you to practice honest, skillful, self-disclosure of your insight into what is happening for you and what your needs are at the time.”

Dealing with feelings & growth. What was it like you may wonder? Short version. This dreamy-wide-eyed girl thinking she had it all together landed in a world that challenged everything I thought I was, realizing I wasn’t. A wild roller coaster ride with many twists and turns and upside down collapsing of reality. Some descriptive words come to mind around the theme of being discombobulated to the core; amazed, astonished, dumpfounded, startled, stunned, dazed, unnerved, disconcerted, flabbergasted, perplexed, puzzled, as well conflict, sadness, sea of tears, hurt, disrespect, and irritation. Don’t let my sweet innocent face fool you. There was a lot going on behind the scenes.

The land that Chuckleberry resides on feels magical and ancient. There is a feel of ancestral sacredness. Legend has it that the native peoples of this area would not live here. Energies are too powerful and not conducive for habitation.

All I can say is that I am not the same person that arrived here 15 months ago. At times it felt like parts of me “died”. The old programming and conditioning that is. My being has been reprogrammed with a new operating system. Stillness and peace with a deeper connection to my heart and authentic being. Thank you Chuckleberry for leaving me better than before. Worth it? Hell yes! …

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Muktaali Ananda; Lover of life and its many mysteries — catalyst for change. Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.”― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland — I invite you to jump into the rabbit hole a great metaphor for an adventure into the unknown .. the hidden and unseen. Just like Alice whose curiosity took her into a new realm beyond her understanding. Stepping out of our comfort zone and taking that leap.