Bram and I are happy to live with and get to know this growing community now already since six weeks! The time here flied so fast. And we realize that really getting an impression of and a connection to this place, the people and the group as a whole takes time. And we really appreciate the opportunity as their first ever volunteer guests to be able to temporally experience being part of this community. The longer we stay, the more we take each and everyone here to our hearts. And at the same time, our curiosity is growing: How do other communities deal with similar situations? How is it to live in older communities, where the basics are already laid and the structures are clearer?
This is why we intend to drive further in the beginning of May, following the sun (directing south), to explore how other people live together, in connection with each other and all life that surrounds them.
BUT FOR NOW we love to finally share facts, some pictures and of course our experiences and inspirations about this beautiful community lying between hills, forests and tiny German villages.
THE PROPERTY AND THE IDEAS
Gemeinschaft Haus Bierenbach is located in the region of Nümbrecht, 50km east of Cologne. The property is located at the edge of the small village Bierenbachtal and is surrounded by grasslands and forests. The property is 32.000 square meters big. There are three main buildings, from which one is planned to be an education center where courses and workshops can be given, for young and old. The two other buildings will provide room for living in the form of apartments or single rooms for the residents here. The plan is to grow until a stable group of 50 up to 60 people. Currently, the number of people permanently living here are 16.
Besides, there is a cute chapel, where art, culture and music are planned to be shared with the surrounding area. Some concerts were already given there, but due to the corona situation, it could not go on. Part of the property is also an old outdoor pool that is planned to be transformed into a natural swimming pool being filled with fresh spring water. (Small side info: in this spring water just at the edge of this land, I love to jump into in the mornings, for a fresh start in the day 🙂 )
The outside area, that is currently mainly wild grassland, is imagined to be a beautifully designed garden, with places that invite you to linger, with open areas for the whole community as well as areas used for organic farming. During our stay, we had contact with a Permaculture Designer who recommended us how to optimally use these lands’ qualities. Last year, the community already successfully harvested lots of vegetables as big beans, cabbage salad etc. During our stay, we helped planting onions, celery, cabbage, radish and strawberries. And already harvested a lot of lamb’s lettuce.
The community is also planning a café and a farm shop. They want to integrate this consciously created place into the larger village of Bierenbachtal, having the joy of a vivid neighborhood.
The project is inspired by and accompanied by the community Schloss Tempelhof (https://www.schloss-tempelhof.de).
They see themselves as ongoing learners, inviting relational processes as an opportunity to develop their personality and potential. Therefore, they see conflicts as opportunities to redefine their personal limits.
Every Wednesday evening, “Heart-evenings” are organized, where circles are creating for open sharing, rituals are performed in women-or men-circles, or so-called “Ältern-Abende” (Growth-evenings) are offered, where the circles hold space for topics around own (physical) children as well as our inner children.
Attending those evenings is voluntarily. Here, attentive listening and speaking from the heart is practiced.
The adults are responsible themselves for the fulfillment of their own needs. They are financially responsible for themselves.
In our time here at BiBa, we were encouraged again, and again, to stand up for our needs and take room for us when we need it. We learned that this is one of the most difficult topics, not only for us, but for many in the community. And we experienced that saying no and communicating our boundaries is probably most essential for us, and eventually for the whole community.
The community cultivates a personal language and practices non-violent, mindful communication. They aim to openly address what bothers them, with the idea that, if nobody disagrees, everything they do and how they do it is fine with others. This also related with the previous point: everyone is responsible for themselves.
What we personally experience here is that bringing this into practice is sometimes quite difficult. People are stressed and busy with all sorts of things and do not always have the time and energy to always open up in tensed moments. One helpful tool we learned here is to make an appointment for a later conversation about conflicting moments or difficult topics when both parties have mental space for it and can prepare to feel more safe and present in the situation.
The community aims for trust, familiarity, closeness and security, openness and honesty, friendship and love. A network in which they feel supported and a field in which one can show him/herself in his/her strengths, weaknesses vulnerability. In which one can grow and thrive.
The needs of all people living in the community are given equal consideration. They strive for consensus decisions for community issues. This decision process is called “Systemisches Konsensieren”. We were happy to be part of some of such interesting processes, which were also inspired by the community Schloss Tempelhof. I would love to explain this process in more detail, but I rather leave this for another blog.
The Children of the Community
Appreciative, personal communication with one another and with the children is important to the community. Everyone should keep their authenticity and treat the children with it. Everyone is valuable to the children. Adults are aware that children learn according to their example. Everything they do and how they do it serves the children as orientation and inspiration until they are ready to critically question themselves and develop their own style. The adults perceive their responsibility and their rights as such to create a framework for the children in which they can develop their potential in security. This also includes showing personal and general limits and guaranteeing them.
In our time here at BiBa, there arose many questions in us regarding the topic of raising children (in communities). How much freedom does a child need, and when do you set boundaries? How do you communicate them? We experienced the children here as sometimes beautiful and sometimes very confronting mirrors of ourselves. And what we also experienced, especially in those corona times: What a heaven it is for children to live in such a warm, welcoming environment full of nature and wonders. And, of course, always other children and adults to share all sorts of adventures with.
There is still so much more to share about our experiences here. In the upcoming days we will share with you some podcasts with residents to give a deeper insight in how it is to live in the BiBa community and being part of such a living project in process.
For now I hope you have some beautiful easter holidays!