Interview with Robert Griffin on Hummingbird & Tamera Communities

In consulting with Mandy and Ryan from, they suggested we contact Robert Griffin as someone who had visited Tamera, a Peace Village in Portugal that seems like a very interesting model for community living. They also recommended Robert as someone who is easy to talk to, accessible, and who has some pretty deep and broad knowledge about different aspects of living in community.

He was, indeed, all of these things as this summary of our 90 minute skype conversation (3/10/12) suggests. Please note: this post is part-way between a fledged out article and notes that have not been edited to flow well or particularly coherently. Good information though!

Robert’s background prior to his ecovillage focus was in the green building and solar industry for many years. As a very cool passing note, he facilitated (along with Ma’ikwe, now living at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage) the first Ecovillage Design Education (EDE) course in the United States, a course that now represents a relatively standardized and comprehensive 5-week review of ecovillage living and their creation (inset picture is overview of the curriculum). Four aspects of sustainability (Ecovillage Design Education)Incidentally, Robert reports that Ma’ikwe and her husband (Sand Hill community next to Dancing Rabbit), Laird Schaub are both involved in the Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC). Furthermore, Laird is knowledgeable about the independent health insurance co-op being joined by communities throughout the country.

I was curious about Hummingbird Community, Dancing Rabbit, and Tamera. Our conversation focused on Hummingbird and Tamera as well as more general issues related to community living and even about the process of being in this world.

Hummingbird Community: 500 acres in Northern NM, evolution of consciousness from fear and separation to unity and love. 8 years ago there were 4 people living on the land and now there are 18.

  • Healthcare: No community healthcare. Up to each individual. “I don’t have health insurance but several people do.”
  • Children: No children there. Developing from the elder group down. There is a close family of a member who has an 8 and 10 year old child who live on a farm a few miles away. Furthermore, the community is close to Mora with schools and social opportunities with other kids.
  • Relationships. Right relationship, self-responsibility, deep intimacy with each other, transparency, and mutual support with the evolution of personal consciousness. Foundation is honoring and nurturing the “love field”. Goes hand-in-hand with honoring a  mix of perspectives and honoring other forms of diversity. Can be challenging. Always return to and rest in the “love field”.
  • Technology. “I was involved in the solar industry for many years and the technology of that industry, but for me an ecovillage is more than technology. It’s about what’s going on with each of us individually and how we relate to each other. No matter how good the technology, without the foundation of deep, intimate connection and a spiritual foundation of who we are and why we are here, the community is not going to be sustainable.” Thus, similar to Tamera, Hummingbird has focused their primary energy on developing the “social technology” needed to evolve a culture that works. When I asked about Tamera’s technology: Haven’t implemented Tamera physical technology yet. “I was there when they turned on the sterling engine for the first time…I just such a rush!”
  • Economics. We talk about currency, etc. People have specific gifts that people are passionate about (e.g., body work, therapy, feng shui, short sales) and “laboratory” is about developing from the inside out. “We get to know each other’s gifts and how we can support each other with those gifts, but then also how we can bring these gifts to the world through the community. How does a community operate in a way that creates synergy in terms of individual gifts and the community vision?” For example, the community is developing internet workshops, webinars, books, creating CDs. “We’re developing as a community ‘business’ that integrates who are individually and fulfills our vision as a community. In the past, we’ve had what might be called a more ‘masculine’ effort to develop a business, but now we are enjoying a different approach.”
  • Finances. Has been an ongoing question for the community especially given the $8k/month debt due on some of the land and some of the houses. Community came together, have faith, and honor the diversity of financial resources by allowing people to do what they felt they could do in terms of a financial contribution. Recently the community has developed a resource expansion team, and monthly pledges. Another source of income comes from operating program facilities, including a campground and indoor housing for visitors. Though this accounts for a significant portion of their income, they were still able to cover costs when for two years they did not operate these programs.
  • Specific Finances. People engaging in a year-long exploring relationships program pay $400 into program + $250 housing + their individual costs of food + utilities + transportation + costs of running own biz. “I get social security of about $1000/month and that’s sufficient with occasional influx of other income from time-to-time.”
  • Joining. Just had 6 people come into their year-long exploring relationship program.
  • Social. Tuesday night dinner & Friday night dinner and dance. “Almost everyone here wants more meals together and more common activities together…more play.”
  • Housing. Up until the new explorers showed up, people lived in single-family dwelling; now I have 2 house-mates; another building = 3 people living in that; they do some meals together and some individually
  • Planning. Master plan just completed. 60-65 people = goal. Community center. More and more collective housing. At sequencing and nuts-and-bolts stage of planning now. Interest in moving more to a “Turk” model: common facilities with either attached or separate but close by individual living spaces
  • Food. We raise 10% of own food. Aspiration = 30-40%+. Diverse in beliefs around what foods to eat. Current garden is 50 x 100′ enclosed. 42′ diameter  greenhouse/dome. A number of people in the community our steeped in anthroposophy: mostly practicing in gardens through biodynamics (relating to earth as a living being)
  • Self-sufficiency. The community does not aspire to be 100% self-sufficient b/c they want to be in relationship with the surrounding community, Mora Valley. Mora Valley itself is involved with a project they call “Collaborative Visions” to begin to co-create local self-reliance and interdependence. Hummingbird is also working with the Mora County commission to protect the  rights of the earth and eliminate corporate override of mineral rights. As Robert said, “Even if we had to go back to horses, etc. we can still rely on each other. We want to develop local self-reliance.”
  • Time: “Almost 100% of my time is living in community which is what I consider important.” Encourage each other to take care of self…don’t overdo. Notice if you are enjoying yourself. If you find yourself getting stressed, consider shifting back to balance. Helen & Scott Nearing balance of 4-4-4 (four hours “bread labor” to meet basic needs, 4 hours doing what you are passionate about, 4 hours of social/community time) important at community level, but that can be achieved with different individuals contributing what they are passionate about (I haven’t gardened much recently but enjoy other forms of support).
  • What about the bad jobs, like “cleaning the toilets”? I work on maintenance and repair and firewood & for most part I enjoy most of it. Synergy of I-we-whole (fractal applications of the “whole”). Sometimes for good of the “we”, the “I” may clean toilets but in context of knowing what that does to support the community, it takes on different meaning. So rather than resenting that, etc. we develop new vision for what the work means.

Tamera Peace Ecovillage in Portugal (see this post on Tamera). Robert visited Tamera for the month of March, 2011 (after reading “Sacred Matrix” by Dieter Duhm) and says that Tamera, in his view, provides a compelling vision for what Hummingbird could be one day. ZEGG was founded in Germany years before Tamera, so there is Tamera rests on a foundation of developing multi-dimensional aspects of community. Robert visited as a temporary community member, sleeping in community housing ($250-300/month = vegan food and lodging).

  • Forum: Robert never participated in the forum though he said that all the meetings at Tamera are forum-like. He describes it as a deep holding healing space, theatre-like, with a facilitator. People come together in the circle and anyone with something to share (from celebration to conflict) are invited to come into the center and act it out with the facilitator helping them get more deeply in touch with it and express it. If there is a relationship issue, they have unique way to invite people to express it: rather than addressing the person, the language might look something like this: “when I’m relating to this person, I have these experiences, and I’m trying to get in touch with what’s happening for me.” It is less about resolution and more about being witnessed and supported in understanding themselves. The Forum is a way of deepening into knowing each other and how to be more supportive and intimate with each other. At Tamera, the Forum occurs 3-4 times a week in smaller groups, but with everyone in the community 1/month
  • Pods/sub-communities: The community is divided into sub-tribes or pods of 10-20 people which acts as a kind of family unit. Some live in the same household & most are part of same working group area, but also there is an intermingling among sub-communities (e.g., whole community planting trees for the day)
  • Solar Village: A very interactive place with open source technology. They’re not selling parts, but rather developing the plans so others can replicate using primarily local resources (e.g., metal, welders, machine shop=$10-20k)
  • Other work groups: Ecology; Artisan’s area: pottery, herbology, seamstress/tailor work; Horses
  • Kid’s world: “Great place for kids”; Whole segment of land dedicated to just the children and kids empowered to do own governance with just a few adults to supervise. Adults come in via invitation only. Sleep with parents.
  • Deep spiritual foundation to planet as living being with whom we can consciously relate and honoring all the animals. Story about rats: commune with them. Built houses for them outside of their houses and asked the rats to live there & they feed them.
  • Finances: No internal economy (Hummingbird neither). Do lots of fundraising or volunteers for expansion. Each member contributes $ (he guesses several thousand per year) for the everyday expenses. Each on their own for income. Many leave community for # of weeks per year to make the money needed for the contribution in extensive network around Europe that employs people to support Tamera.
  • Language: Primarily German speaking but all committed to speaking and learning English
  • Typical Day: (1) 7 am: breakfast; (2) 8-9 am Dharma talk & relate to sacred matrix (70-100 people) with headphones/interpreters; Every Monday morning = stone circle meditation focused on one of 96 stones; (3)  9 am-1 pm: working (“I was in solar village working with ecologists with plants”); (4) Lunch; (5) Work group would gather in forum-like expression and talk (not as facilitated as monthly forum), questions & answers about the community; interactive. Educational offering happening at the same time and people in those groups would go do those offerings; (6) Supper: 30-40 people at every meal; share the cooking & dishes (schedule x shifts/week); (7) Evenings = variety of activities: talks, discussions. Sundays = gathering at aula building: talks & singing.
  • Living in Portugal longer term means getting visas or become a citizen. There might be an openness to just have a marriage being an agreement and being able to stay there. I was tempted to live there.
  • Relationships: Tamera do not call themselves a “poly-amorous” as they are not interested in defining themselves that way. They are interested in being able to get to the core about being a living, loving, sensual human being. We have a lot of conditioning around jealousy, attachment, fear of abandonment. Love school addresses these issues.

General Community Conversation. Spectrum about how to find or create the “right” community. (1) “I started off with a list of communities I wanted to check out.” This is the scientific approach: list of needs + list of communities = visit them all. (2) Other end of continuum = intuitive approach: “I just knew. I dropped my list. I had an inner knowing that this was a place I was meant to be.”

So for the 2nd approach, the question is how to come to this sense of knowing? How does it feel to be with the people in the community? Had to visit to get feel. Got initial hit with website, then visit got “ah-ha”. “If there’s an inner knowing, that’s what I’m learning to follow.” At Hummingbird for 22 months as a builder and left “b/c I didn’t have enough money…got caught up in my fears.” Facilitated the first EDE course in US with Ma’ikwe. Had mini-awakening…let go of fear…”b/c I know this is the right place, all else will be provided so I can let go of trying so hard to figure it out. Not to deny it, but allow things to be worked out in the community container, the nest of the love field.”

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