Cohousing – The Ultimate Personal Growth Experience

By Kathryn Hazel

Cohousing guru Diana Leafe Christian has often said that the best person for living in community is someone who doesn’t need it; someone who is seeking personal growth not to heal old wounds, but to foster connection with others.

Judging by her definition, then, I was the ideal candidate for cohousing when I first became involved with Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community in 2004.

I lived in neighbourhood where people looked out for each other and worked together to make it a welcoming community.

I had close relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and members of the many organizations and groups I belonged to, as well as my faith community.

However, I had lived in a housing co-operative in Ontario for 12 years, and missed the special feeling of community I had found there.

So when I found out about cohousing, and that a cohousing community was being developed Nanaimo, I jumped at the chance to get involved.

Little did I know that I was embarking on such a time-consuming, exasperating, joyous, amazing, scary and tumultuous journey, one that stretched me in ways I never imagined.

As one of my sister cohousers said, “Cohousing will be the most expensive personal growth experience you’ve ever had” – and that’s certainly been true.

It’s forced me to be patient, to listen with both heart and mind, to accept different styles of perceiving, thinking and communicating, and value the wonderful richness these differences bring to the process of building community.

It’s also been an incredible learning opportunity. I now know more about plumbing, re-zoning, heating systems, windows, municipal regulations, bank financing, topsoil, debentures, contracts and architectural drawings than I ever thought possible.

It’s given me a reality check, when my idealism has had to confront the fact that we do live in a material world, where finances are the ultimate arbiter, whether I like it or not.

I’ve found, however, that even within the constraints of our society’s rules and regulations, the vision of community can be made real when you have a group of people who have a strong commitment to consensus and cooperation.

And thankfully, It’s also made me realize that I am not alone in my vision of environmental stewardship, and that there are others who think composting is fun, shopping is not, and sharing a car is just fine.

Kathryn Hazel lives at Pacific Gardens Cohousing Community in Nanaimo.

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