Help me brainstorm please! How could an integral co-housing look like?

I am wondering how it could look like when a bunch of integralists come together to live in the same place, for a short or longer time or permanently.

If you had the idea of finding something like that, what would you want and expect?
What do you think the agreements should look like? The community rules? The commitment, internal and practical?
What do you think would be important to consider before engaging in such a thing?

I am really curious about that. I have a wonderful place in Italy, far too big for me alone and I would love to share the beauty and the burden with people of a similar mindset who would love to be in such a situation.

Every idea and suggestion welcome!


Hello Heidi,

I found your website and it looks like you are doing beautiful work.

In answer to your question, the book “The Spider and the Starfish” comes up - it is essentially about self organising / decentralised systems, which we seem to be evolving towards collectively. It would be great to consider how the internal approach can be married with this to create a BEAUTIFUL self organising system of humans co-exisitng in a way that honours individual and collective TRUTH is a GOOD way. Hope that’s some food for thought.

Best wishes and blessings on your project.


I lived in a spiritual community (called Ananda - based off the teachings of Yogananda) for 3.5 years, and also grew up in a Buddhist temple, so I have a little experience with community/co-housing life.

Here are some thoughts off the top of my head:

  1. Everyone engaged in some kind of service with the community, as we had a chart of who makes dinner, does dishes, cleans up, etc… Everyone had their own distinct role in the community (the repair guy, etc) but had crossover for routine tasks (everyone alternated doing the dishes). After breakfast, we would have a brief morning circle to go over the work agenda for the day. People who were experts at something (i.e. the construction leader) would lead a team of volunteers in that area for the day. At some Ananda communities, people have their own jobs out in the world, so this wouldn’t apply then (only on community service days, which were once a week).
  2. Regular spiritual practice. Meditation was held every morning from 6:00-8:00 AM. Everyone was encouraged to go, but if you didn’t make it, you were expected to do some kind of spiritual practice on your own. Perhaps in an Integral community, someone could lead a different practice everyday (Yoga, Qi gong, meditation, etc…), since their are so many potential practices an Integral person could engage in. Because the purpose of Ananda was spiritual growth, meditation and other practices were a key ingredient, so if you weren’t practicing, people would begin checking up on you (for me they overvalued meditation and placed all their eggs in 1 basket).
  3. Regular community meetings. We would meet every Wednesday night to discuss issues in the community, how they could be resolved, while also participating in a personal development chart. Each week, we would go over a spreadsheet of what we wanted to work on spiritually, break into groups to discuss our growth process and strategies of attaining that growth, and report back to the main group. Ananda didn’t use a developmental model like Integral, but instead focused on developing character virtues that we would rate on a scale of 1-10, and share how we worked on developing them during the week.
  4. Joining the community: people were thoroughly vetted before being allowed to join the community. They would have to undergo a 3 month service program (maybe in your case Heidi it would be something like WOOFING) then a 9 month trial period to make sure you were a good fit.

A question I would have for an Integral community is about shared leadership, and how democratic/inclusive it should be. All of the communities that I lived in didn’t have a very democratic process of decision making – it was made by a committee of ministers and spiritual directors who voted on key decisions (when to ask someone to leave, major financial decisions, etc.).

Hello Kinga,
Thanks for your reply and the suggestions.
Yes, the self-organising part is essential. What I learned from a lot of experience that this is actually the hard part as so few people are in a stage where they are ready and able to do that in a co-creative space.

So maybe my question boils down to: How can I find the right people who have these capacities or a sincere willingness to develop them, and how can I recognize that capacity and willingness -to engage in these goals- in them much earlier than I did so far. I regularly understood very late - and paid the price - that more often than not they were oriented on egocentric goals guised in something else.

Hi Ryan,
Thanks for taking the time to state these principles which you found in the community you were in. It is very helpful and at the same time raises questions. I think that there has been much experimentation with communities with spiritual goals - and some of them failed clamorously, as we know. And, as you say, they are mostly led by some authorities who rule over the “normal” people.

It would be interesting if there are spiritual communities who have successfully created a co-creative peer level system? I think that is the challenge, especially when the common intention is spiritual or psychological growth where everybody expects that there is someone who “knows better” and automatically puts those above of themselves.

What I learn for my case from what you write: I need to find a common cause or task for the people and myself if we want to be together here. It won’t be spirituality, I guess, or in a completely different form, like: spirituality by living our lives in a sustainable way.

And yes, shared leadership and also reciprocity, co-creation, understanding and ways of conflict resolution which are not exploding in red. I just come out of such an experience which finally should teach me to not get caught anymore, in the desire of supporting them, in the hands of victims who then turn out to be perfect perpetrators.

All very good questions. There are some intentional communities (usually eco-villages) that use more Green models of group consensus, where everyone is an equal in making decisions. As we know, this also creates many problems and can cause stagnation in the community. One community in Oregon uses a method called sociocracy. I don’t know much about it, my initial impression is that it comes from Green. But it is probably worth taking a look at, as we may glean a few key insights from that model.

The book Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World mostly applies to businesses, but may have some good insights in community leadership as well. Core to the idea is a Holacracy charter, which effectively acts as the constitution of shared leadership. Their website has some good tidbits:

I believe each person needs their own autonomy before they be integrally communal. Each person need own bathroom, kitchen and bed. Tiny houses in a circle with a communal living room and weekly circling.

Intgral means autonomy in communion. 《 most important thing.

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Ryan, yes, I know about Holacracy and know also about its limitations: not including the interior quadrants enough and being quite rough on people if they happen to want something different then that what gets decided. I practiced it a few times in conferences and I have some insights in the German Integral Movement who are practicing it. It seems to be more useful in a business context than in communities.

I have heard about Sociocracy but haven’t looked into it yet. Cecile Green and her “round sky solutions” has developed Holacracy into something which includes the interiors of the people which seems a much better way. But still she is teaching it for businesses, not for small private constellations. All these approaches seem to be more integral than the eco-villages with consensus practices which have huge problems.

Anyways, thanks for adding these informations to the question. I think, in my case, it really boils down to finding the right people in all aspects of being.

Hi Kurt,
I absolutely agree. Bathrooms and kitchens are the number one problem point in all forms of communities, from couples to big families and communities. We all need to be able to live in the way we want to do our things and not be conditioned by others who want the kitchen be organized differently to our ideas, let alone bathrooms and the different ideas of clean and dirty.

Hello again Heidi,

As you have probably experienced, one of the best ways to get to know people is to live our work with them so perhaps you could do a ‘trial’ period with collaborations so that you don’t jump in the deep end and no long term promises are made. For example you could do a one week ‘visitation’, a one month ‘taster’, a three moth ‘trial’ and a year ‘probation’ period with full integration not happening until 2 years has passed.

From the sounds of it what you are inspired to start is an intentional community and there is quite a bit of material and books by communities who have already gone through the good the bad and the ugly parts of creating communities and eco-villages. ic dot org is one of the main international websites that has a list of intentional communities. It may be a good place for more reattach to see what has worked for others.

Best wishes Heidi!

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Hi Heidi,

I think one aspect of communal living or a co-housing situation that is sometimes overlooked but that can be very useful is to have the community coalesce around being of service to the larger community it’s in. Some ashrams require this, devote time and energy as a group to a service project of some kind outside of the co-housing/communal living situation. It is viewed in spiritual communities as karma yoga or seva, and it helps give the co-housing/community a positive identity in the larger community and it gives the co-housing members a shared sense of purpose beyond individual growth/development or individual ego fulfillment.

I also once knew a woman who lived in a (non-spiritually oriented) co-housing project that started a community garden, for instance, not on their own property but in a centrally located spot. The idea being, if you want people to look beyond the self, then introduce them to an “other.” It also helps with the community being less insular, less turned inwards towards its own self. It gives the community a sense of pride as well. In your situation, it would also be a good way to introduce integralism to a larger community.

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Great point, Lawanna! Sadly, I never experienced this in any of the communities I have been a part of. Too insulated. Can actually make for an unhealthy experience, as going out into the community and being a part of something larger can be a good way to militate against becoming a cult. IMO an Integral community should place this front and center – at least that is a community I would like to be a part of! Some kind of “tipping point” community - an integral community to impact the world.

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Kinga, LaWanna and Ryan.
Thanks for the infos and suggestions. They are all good points to ponder upon and will help me in my thought process. And, yes, I need to check out reports of communities who have already tried out. Do you know of any community based on integral level of consciousness as an entry point?