Priya Mohan and The Convergence Network Core Council: At the Cutting Edge of Intentional Community


 

The following originally appeared in Newtopia Magazine

Imagine a world where abandoned McMansions become sustainable intentional communities where people, by sharing their resources, skills, and work, and renting rooms to like minded but more temporary guests, find not only congenial social lives but the time to work on art, music, inventions, writing, film, whatever dreams drive them.

Amid the universal lament about unemployment and the economic crisis every once in a while a startling statistic shows up about the kids taking the brunt of it. Generation Y the media likes to say.  Though often maligned by elders, Generation Y is rather extraordinary.  Look at the angry rebellion of the baby boomers, and the nihilistic slackers of Generation X.  As Generation Y matured to discover that their elders were handing them a world of water and energy shortages, climate crisis, AIDS, the surveillance state, and disappearing jobs and dwindling wages you might have expected an explosion of anger in the arts and culture, but on the contrary we got Occupy Wall Street, dance festivals and sustainable communities instead.

Media coverage has been minimal, as the first green shoots of a new way of defining the social contract have blossomed, on the Internet and in the brick and mortar world.  Skillshare.com lets you erase the distance between continents so you can learn what you're curious about, and teach someone you might otherwise never have met.  The hippies used to hitchhike but Generation Y has zimride.  Cash only, however, no ass or grass.

Freecycle.org helps members get rid of what they don't want anymore and get something they need for free, through trades moderated by local volunteers.  West Hollywood alone has over two thousand members; Freecycle claims almost ten million worldwide, not bad for a nonprofit grassroots movement.  Gooze lets you trade games and movies you don't want anymore for ones you do.  Couchsurfing.org connects travelers with couches from New York to Nairobi, you can even choose hosts who share your interests, like fellow musicians.  MamaBake helps locals get together and gives them recipes to make big batches of food, saving time and money.  That's just the Internet. Then there are the communities, for example, the Los Angeles Eco-Village Intentional Community three miles from downtown, where forty residents experiment with new ways to make urban living less harmful to our planet and us.

Cohousing.org lists dozens of intentional communities; California leads the way with 39.  Some are really neighborhoods, but community meals bring everyone together a couple times a week.  Seniors are especially drawn to these communities, in a country with a sky high divorce rate dying alone becomes less likely in a long term neighborhood of all generations instead of a retirement facility.  But they are also a way for young families to enjoy the benefits of village life, including shared labor and a safe environment for their children.

Human rights lawyer, Mediator and Sound-Healer Priya Mohan is a member of Core Council with the Convergence Network, going back to the community building practices of ancient cultures, like council circles and principles of conscious communication. "Through facilitated council meetings, community focused workshops, celebration, performance, and ritual, participants of Tribal Convergence share our growing skill base and our accumulated knowledge, offer supportive collaboration, network our projects, cultivate tribal alliances, share our passions and experiences, and envision the possibilities of the future." A major component of Tribal Convergence and the Convergence Network (TCN) is to activate and support intentional communities on the local level as well as weave in the larger networks across the country.

When Event organizer Adam Steinberg and Tantric teacher Stephanie Marks began LA Tribal Convergence Think Tank Spa, Priya and her co-facilitator Michael Tam Wood were brought in to support the structure for meaningful dialogue and the vision of the Think Tank at WiSpa. What better place to relax while working on solving problems present and future, as the Romans clearly understood. Guests write their interests and skills on stickers they wear.  Spa facilities are available.  Priya and Michael shared TCN's facilitator training material such at the Ojai Foundation's guidelines on the Art and Ways of Council.  The TC Think Tank community, less than a year old, is already incubating multiple projects including a local clothing swap, a community sharing website that will invite international participation, and a permaculture immersion field trip where members can learn more from working permaculture establishments.  Here alternative healing practitioners, musicians, filmmakers, and others look for ways to help each other out, and evolve an alternative way of life.

I recently interviewed Priya about this brave new frontier.

How many in the TCN community?

Tribal Convergence is a design of local and regional gatherings, creating a sacred container that serve as co-creation centers for participants and ambassadors of widespread communities. Our events are intentionally designed as intimate gathering spaces for ambassadors to connect with one another and cross-pollinate amongst the various communities that come together. Ambassadors carry back offerings and resources from the network, deepening a collective bond back to their regional communities.

There are approx. 100-200 people who are active at the core level within each of our active geographic areas,  (Vancouver BC, Portland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver); and approximately 100 participants per newer/smaller region (Bay Area, Ashland, Puget Sound). The sum of our active communities is approximately 1300 people who are aware and participating on the local or core level of Tribal Convergence Network ~ TCN.

Through the network of our networks, we are weaving and aligning our personal communities together into the whole. Through these connections we are establishing relations with hundreds of people around us, culminating in a range of hundreds of thousands of bright souls who are connected to us from close allies to broader community affiliations.

How long has the community been evolving?

Tribal Convergence as a community has been evolving for the past 3 years. It is a synthesized version of many other long-standing community projects, collaborations, and cultural movements spanning the past decade and beyond. Over the last year, we created the Convergence Network to develop our efforts into a functional organization to serve the larger Tribal Convergence community and network as Tribal Convergence Network.

What is the beauty of intentional living?

Living well and thriving is a common value and aspiration in our community. Being surrounded by people who share values of wellness creates and supports an awareness of habits and practices of healthy living, eating, and communication. We value inclusivity in the communities we are developing, living with the intention of becoming diversified centers of offerings.  Many of our land-based intentional communities also serve as centers for learning to embody the values and cultivate healthy practices. There is a vibrational coherence created when people organically share lifestyle through Yoga, Chi Qigong, meditative practices, hold Council, develop the land, and garden together in a sacred container, sharing special moments of life.

This heart-centered social experiment requires that people elect to walk transparently through spaces of potential discomfort into our growth experience. Our devotion to shared intention and values provokes, motivates and inspires new ways of dealing with tension and self-limiting beliefs.

Through these inspired actions, we are creating high functioning communication and relations-oriented networks of trust. When we trust, love and self-respect we are able to show up in our co-creation together and hold one another accountable.  Through this we live in a space of intentionality and provide a meaningful depth of connection with each other.

How do locals and neighbors feel about the community's events?

Our large-scale community events are hosted in various locations, on lands stewarded by collectives and intentional communities. We focus on the value of maintaining good relations and acting with sensitivity to the larger community in all respects. It is common for our gatherings to inspire the curiosity of neighbors.  Locals often come over and engage to the degree it is natural for them. In general it has been a positive dynamic, resulting in new introductions between neighbors and opportunities for community relations to develop. As time unfolds we are seeing and intending the sites of our events, local and large, to be active thriving communities. We are talking about a generative culture. We are creating spaces for overflowing abundance, in a way that is appropriate for each place and person into an integrative perspective of community.

What are the biggest threats/ challenges the community is processing?

Our community values include being in right relations with ourselves and reflects back through our collective endeavors and being in integrity with others and the earth. We invest our energy in articulating our shared values, ways of being with each other (kin code) and working agreements, all designed for how we relate in shared space and energy with each other.

Our practice of shared values is channeled through systems of conscious communication and agreements within our relations and collaborations. Accountability is an exploration of humility and transparency, which clarifies our intentions and commitments. This relates to our personal journeys, as well as relations with our community and extended networks. Step by step, we are templating models and modeling templates. We are witness to our process and self-aware through learning and understanding what it means to approach tension and conflict with mindfulness.

This devotion awards us the opportunity to grow from our own experiences and it inspires our ways to resolve tension. We recognize the value of staying current with changing circumstances and how they affect our agreements and relations with one another. As we walk with one another in the path of our values, we are learning, creating and facilitating systems to ensure mutual agreements and resolve conflicts if they arise.

We are currently in the process of developing a protocol to resolve tension, revealing "the why" behind potential conflict. This is intended to proactively address tension into supportive and considerate resolution. It will include a process designed to gracefully address a situation that is discordant with the values and agreements we collectively commit to.

We are coming back to a culture of empathy and compassion, open to all perspectives as we respect the sovereignty of individuals and varying interpretations of how our core values may be practiced.  We are also a community who values cooperative guidance and mutual support. In times of tension, we appreciate the opportunity to learn from our process, which guides and supports our mutual growth.

In practical application, TCN is a group of facilitators in service to provide some of the ways we can address difficult situations. In developing conscious gatherings and intentional communities and documenting our experiences, we are learning how to navigate through tension and conflict with compassion, humility and forgiveness. Through this process we are standardizing recourse and actions to address challenges in a constructive way. Our agreed system of values and protocols is being provided in service to support the mutual growth of community, entrust participation and engagement, and to facilitate integrated resolutions.

TCN is bringing this awareness to the greater context of west coast festival culture, regional events and intentional living. TCN is offering shared values into the movement, as stewards of the land, with intentional communities as center points, and festivals as our major trade routes and market places.

Along with the larger festival culture, TCN is showing up within our network of communities to explore, co-create and template systems designed to work with the many inter-connected aspects of collaboration in this atmosphere.

How important is the Internet to the TCN community?

Tools of technology are important to sustain the experience and value of what we create in person, and to keep people connected beyond the geography that limits us. We're moving into the techno-village that activates the global community and our living models of intentionality.

Production of media and documentation of our emerging culture and community is a well-established and major part of TCN's public engagement. Our conscious media pieces are being developed to serve as tools to empower the growing community. Since its inception, TCN has attracted talented media artists and allies, such as Elevate Films, to come together in our shared vision and collective experience. We are telling Our Story.

We have successfully captured the experience of past events, archiving our potent gatherings, ongoing oral traditions, and practices. In our dedication to building and maintaining relations with Indigenous and First-Nations communities, we are sensitive to the cultural impacts of capturing devotional moments not traditionally appropriate for public broadcasting. Through relations building, we are able to tell a story of this emerging culture while honoring the lineages that have maintained direct connections to ancient ways of living in balance and harmony.

On a practical level, the Internet is very important for the purpose of scheduling meetings, promoting/sharing knowledge of the where's and why's of events and workshops. It allows for the coordination of collaborative work beyond geographic limits.

We are working on developing web tools to assist our community in the sharing of resources, collaborative synergistic project and community development, among many other things.

The focus is not to spend MORE time online but rather to facilitate the opportunities to experience and engage in community. The real live interactions are key for growth and progress; the Internet provides an amazing tool to facilitate collaboration and connectivity at the global level.

How widespread is the intentional community movement?

All of humanity is waking up to their relationship to nature. For some of us, this is a time of reawakening the indigenous heart of humanity within ourselves. In this process, we are reconnecting to one another and the environment, to develop intentional communities and permaculture movements, to learn from First Nations Peoples while refining the voice of who we are as new tribes.  In this response to our call to live an inspired balance and be the change, we are co-creating neo-tribal living systems that are driving conscious choices about the way we choose to be and live together.

The consciousness is felt throughout the globe. Intentional communities have been emerging for generations, though not specifically attributing to the reawakening of tribal aspects in the West Coast movement.  The movement is also reawakening the Indigenous First Nations such as the Idle No More movement, demonstrating these times to be legendary. The movement is inviting all of us to come into the consciousness of our relations.

The inspiring renaissance of emerging communities focused along the West Coast is fueled and highlighted by the Transformational Festival Culture. Many hot spots include Vancouver, BC, Seattle, Portland, Eugene, Ashland, The Bay Area, Ojai, LA, and San Diego and indeed more and more in Central America and South America, as well as in New Zealand, Australia, parts of Europe (Findhorn in Scotland, Tamera in Portugal, Damanhur in Italy), and Auroville in India are pretty well known spots, but they are all over.

For more information and for an idea of how widespread the intentional community phenomenon is, you can look on:
http://directory.ic.org/records/ecovillages.php?http://gen.ecovillage.org or
http://imaginationhealer.weebly.com/permaculture-villages.html

These Tribal Communities seem to be emerging out of the convergence of a variety of groups including raw/organic food enthusiasts, yogis, permaculturists, artists, integrative systems thinkers, transformational festival goers, interpersonal relationship therapists, healers, indigenous wisdom keepers, and so many others — of which there are concentrations all over the world.

Tribal Convergence Network is evolving the framework of Tribal Convergence, a sacred container for gatherings and intentional communities to assist in connecting inspired, Earth honoring communities, building bridges for generations of collaboration and co-creation. Because "Never in the history of our planet have we had so many beautiful hearts stand up for all the right reasons…. to help Mother Earth….  We have beautiful work ahead of us, we're going to take all these lessons from the past and step forward into the future, knowing that what you have learned is the truth… that we are all connected, that we are all relatives and that all the relatives around the world will realize that we are all related. " –Chief Blue Star Eagle, Star Knowledge Conference 12/12/12

What is the most exciting project the community is currently involved with?

Our most passionate "project" is the social movement, itself, growing towards thriving interconnectedness. We are creating a cohesive network of people aligned in our values. The projects, community centers, relationships, and tribes born of collaborations keep each of us engaged and inspired. We are developing relationships with other inspiring architects of spirited change like The Paititi Institute, The Ojai Foundation, The Earth and Spirit Council, The Star Knowledge Conference, The Four Winds Foundation, and Earth People's United. Whether local or network wide, TCN offers guiding principles to the values of conscious collaboration which translates to co-creation with intentionality around our shared values and ways of being for the greater benefit of the planet.

Our next TCN leadership retreat is called Awaken and will be taking place May 16-19, 2013 in the California Redwoods. Awaken is the evolution of our journey.

Awaken is an offering of Tribal Convergence to the greater community. Tribal Convergence is the creation of an intentional container to strengthen our relationships, weave alliances, showcase our network's endeavors, and amplify the potential for collaboration and momentum on innovative projects that serve our network as a whole.

Awaken is bringing together the creators of Tribal Convergence and Enchanted Forest, along with Evolver Nor. Cal, Elevate Films, and many other conscious allies with whom we are co-creating a very special event. This is a call to engage Visionary Action, inviting the participation of intergenerational artists, leaders, visionaries, community builders, earth guardians, and innovators to join in co-creative solution-ing, as we foster solidarity through collective community intelligence, celebration, and inspired artful living.

We are interweaving the design of a conscious festival, leadership summit, and community retreat into one potent gathering. As a collaboratively produced event, we employ the principles of generative practices, land steward partnerships, intergenerational bridge-walking, whole systems design, innovative networking, facilitated GUILD council sessions, team building, and SEVA conscious service principals, to support local community participation and personal empowerment with emergent systems to further build the world we wish to see.

Awaken is also the culmination of TCN's conscious efforts in learning how to model and live within the best practices and core values which weave cohesiveness and solidarity throughout our network.

We invite you to join us May 16-19, in the Spring of 2013, for this Visionary Retreat, held in partnership with the newly acquired Camp Navarro, a community gathering site in the Heart of the California Redwoods, as we support this community based land node with offerings and resources that STAY on-site to continue adding generative infrastructure for future gatherings.

This will be a limited capacity event with registration beginning Feb. 20 at www.awakenthefuture.com.

The Los Angeles regional node of TCN is a sponsoring partner of the I.AM.LIFE campaign in collaboration with The Luv Amp Project. I.AM.LIFE is a life-affirming music, arts, and media project in support of Generation Waking Up, Amazon Watch, Pachamama Alliance. Through the I.AM.LIFE campaign, the Luv Amp Project holds two guiding principles — radical collaboration and radical interconnectivity. "We chose to play with community groups who are doing the same thing and coming from the same place… grassroots foundation and a bigger responsibility for what's happening on the planet." Tony Moss, The Luv Amp Project.

THE BLOOM, a groundbreaking new documentary web-series, illuminates the blossoming phenomenon of Transformational Festivals, immersive participatory realities that are having profound life-changing effects on hundreds of thousands of lives.

THE BLOOM tells the vibrant, compelling and colorful story of a cultural renaissance in progress with the artistic sensibility and inspired creativity from which the culture has been birthed.

The visual dialogue and experience promotes the sustainability and evolution of transformational festival culture by creating a shared vocabulary & understanding of essential issues, empowering participants to contribute towards the integrity of the culture and be a part of collectively navigating its course. This story builds a bridge of understanding and creates an invitation to communities and allies with similar values who may find resonance with the transformational aspects of festival culture. THE BLOOM contributes to the creation of a better world by disseminating the model created in transformational festivals to communities and audiences in many contexts.

The Bloom was born at a Tribal Convergence gathering and will provide an opportunity for hosted screenings, which also serve as a TCN series of workshops, panels and a vehicle of community engagement. More than 50 screenings have been confirmed for the first episode, to be released in March 2013.

How important is spirituality to your community?

Spirituality is the taproot, which nourishes our community. It is an essential force directing the movement within our network, with inspiration being the common thread between us.

The nature of one's spiritual practice is completely a personal choice.  While we feel full engagement in our community offerings is certainly beneficial, we also recognize and respect individual resonance with where one feels most called to participate.

Our shared values make us a cohesive group, while our approaches, disciplines and practices may vary.  A devotion to personal development and the expression of our visions is our commonality, as is our outlook of mutual respect, interconnectedness and a personal responsibility to self, others and the environment.  Our spiritual values are experienced in our deep connection to nature and our global family. In that, we honor that interpersonal relationships require the nurturing of clear communication, honesty, authenticity, and a deep exploration of our purpose with one another.

We are a group that chooses to be co-creators of a reality we envision; where mutual cooperation allows for abundance and peace to prevail for all beings, where all can exist, thrive, and be free.  Being inspired is key to all we are doing together as we collectively elect to thrive through these states of immense change in our world. The tribe that encompasses this network understands that a thriving humanity can only come through thriving individuals.