One year ago I moved from California to Montreal to co-found the Valhalla Movement. We started off with the 5 founders living together in a 4-bedroom house, just 5 minutes from our 60 acre plot of land. Since then we’ve had up to 14 people in that same house, which is truly an experience of communal living.
This has been difficult at times as you can imagine. Our house was not built for a dozen inhabitants, let alone the wild group we have under this roof. But we’ve learned to make it work — or rather thrive. I’m even more enthusiastic about the concept considering normal communal living arrangements allow each person to at least have their own room.
Here are the highlights of my communal living experience thus far.
1) You Learn a LOT
Everyone in the house has different skills and knowledge, all of which they’re more than willing to teach and share. In the last year I have gained considerable knowledge of:
- Videography and video editing
- Yoga (just nailed my first back-bend drop back)
- Cooking skills (mostly within the realm of Asian cuisine and raw vegan food)
- Plant/outdoor knowledge (Did you know there is a tea for natural abortion? That weeds actually help replenish damaged soil?)
- Sustainable design, eg. Earthship architecture
- Speaking on camera (I used to hate this and completely freeze up)
- Tons of random knowledge about spirituality, psychedelics, exercise, diet, etc.
2) Rapid Personal Growth
The last year has easily been the most rapid period of growth and learning in my life. Being submerged in a group of conscious individuals gives you constant examples of how to live (and how not to live).
We’ve cultivated a solid culture of brutal honesty through the use of ‘Power Talks’. When someone says “Let’s have a power talk”, they are setting the platform for a frank conversation about something that is bothering them.
We have also created the ‘3 Pillars’ system, where each member of the house chooses 3 other members to give them a spiritual, mental and physical task, respectively. For example:
Spiritual: Practice self-love exercises each morning + sun gaze each night
Mental: Learn how to video edit and create that video series you’ve been putting off forever
Physical: Train for and complete a Tough Mudder race
Some people love to cook, others to clean, and others to sing. With so many people working together, it’s much easier to allocate work to those who love doing it. Instead of having to do everything yourself, you can breakup the daily tasks and save loads of time.
4) Free Services
We’re constantly helping other out using our unique skills. If someone in the house needs a website or some technical help, I’m on the case. Rusty handles video production and marketing ideas, Germ is the shaman, M does Reiki, X leads yoga sessions and cooks and Viv sings and gardens, etc.
If you need someone to talk to, there’s always an open ear. If you need help, there’s always a lending hand. We’re more than roommates — we’re at cohesive team. You get more than you put in. The whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.
6) Solidarity + Accountability
Achieving goals is much easier when you’re working with others. Whether that be a project for Valhalla or an experiment with fasting, it’s better together.
Even with personal goals it’s powerful to tell the entire house what you aim to do so you have 13 watchful pairs of eyes making sure you keep your word.
7) Interpersonal Skills
They say humanity’s greatest challenge is living together.
Constant human interaction is a solid boot camp for being a good human being. If you can learn to live in peace and love with a large group in a small space, you’re prepared to do the same in the outside world.
In such close proximity you become more aware of how other people are just like you. That ‘we are all one’ feeling is bolstered. It feels amazing.
The more people you live with, the more sources of serendipity you bring into your life. I cannot count the times that I’ve been looking for something, and then had one of my roommates mention exactly what I needed by happenstance.
9) Group Activities!
Playing hide-and-seek isn’t much fun by yourself!
With a house full of active people, you’re hardly ever short people for a game of soccer or, our house favorite, Super Smash Bros: Brawl. If you ever visit Valhalla, you best hone your Brawl skills beforehand ;)
Have experience living communal, or questions about it? Leave a comment below!
(I’ll be gone at Burning Man until Sept 5, but will answer comments when I get back).