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The Feeling, Thinking, and Business Meetings of Ecovillage Sieben Linden

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Sieben Linden held three kinds of meetings — feeling meetings, thinking or “idea” meetings, and business meetings.
I was really intrigued when I read about Ecovillage Sieben Linden’s three kinds of meetings — feeling meetings, thinking or “idea” meetings, and business meetings. Wow! I thought. All communities can benefit from valuing — and holding special meetings for — our emotional and inspirational/intellectual as well as get-the-job-done natures.

Here’s what Sieben Linden member Kosha Joubert wrote in Beyond You and Me, the GEN/Gaia Education book on the social aspects of ecovillages:

We distinguish between time and space for feeling, for thinking, and for organizing. We have:

  • Meetings for deep, emotional sharing, with the aim of strengthening love, compassion, and mutual trust.
  • Meetings for sharing of worldviews, spiritual paths, and political thinking, with the aim of growing in awareness and building a pool of common values.
  • Organizational meetings, with the aim of realizing our dreams together.

When we neglect the first two, the third, organizational meetings, become very tedious.

However, it needs a strong focus to hold enough time and space for deep emotional sharing and sharing of worldviews. There is always so much to do! Taking time off for inner processes seems like luxury to many, even though we experienced again and again how it enhances our overall level of trust, joy, creativity, and effectiveness as a community!

More Trust, Joy, Creativity, and Effectiveness

Business meetings became tedious, Kosha found, when they neglected feeling meetings and thinking meetings. Where is everyone?
This is exactly what I want for my own community, and for all of us. It sure makes sense to me that if you hold meetings specifically for expressing emotions — no abstractions or intellectualizing, please — you’re going to develop a deeper sense of mutual understanding, trust, and connection among community members.

And if you hold meetings just to share your good ideas and what inspires you —with no getting sucked into emotions or drama — you’re also going to understand your fellow communitarians better. You’ll probably learn something new or even influence the future of the community.

And if you’re holding both kinds of meetings, well for sure your business meetings will run better. With regularly scheduled “escape valve”-meetings to express emotions or share inspirations, your regular meetings will be far less subject to emotional drama (or emotional hijacking) and impassioned speeches (or long-winded rants). Here you are in business meetings, all just discussing and modifying proposals, coming up with workable solutions, applying your "group intelligence" and happily moving towards your goals. Imagine that!

The ZEGG “Forum” process was used for feeling meetings. (Here is the Forum at ZEGG, another community in Germany.)
Unfortunately — for Sieben Linden members, and for my theory that this works so well it’s self-perpetuating — the community no longer regularly holds these three kinds of meetings. Sieben Linden used the “Forum” process for their feeling meetings. Developed by ZEGG, another German ecovillage, the Forum is a well-facilitated method for evoking emotional transparency that functions like a combination of psychodrama and group empathy. Each person goes into the center of the circle for whole-group attention, telling the others about a personal issue, then people in the group mirror back to that person what they’re seeing and hearing.

When Sieben Linden had less than 50 people and Kosha and other Forum facilitators actively supported the weekly Forum process, the meetings were well attended. About 30 or 35 people would attend the meetings, and over several weeks’ time each person would be in the center of the circle often enough that they felt seen and heard by the others, and this helped generate a great deal of mutual trust and connection in the community. But as the population grew larger than 50 it became impossible for each person to have a turn often enough, which reduced the sense of connection. So separate, smaller weekly Forum meetings were set up so everyone in each group could have a turn. But since the community didn’t meet as a whole anymore, the sense of strong, community-wide connection gradually diminished, and there was less and less energy for the feeling meetings. Now Sieben Linden holds Forums for the whole community once in awhile and three smaller groups do the Forum process together regularly, but feeling meetings are no longer as prevalent in the community.

Thinking or “idea” meetings most often focused on what inspired people: books, travels, political ideas, worldviews, spiritual experiences.
Sieben Linden’s thinking or “idea” meetings most often focused on what inspired people: good books they’d read, significant travels, political ideas, worldviews, spiritual experiences and beliefs. Holding regular idea meetings helped people stay connected to the original vision for the community, helped them understand and appreciate each other, and provided nourishment for the mind and spirit. But as people became busier and found themselves increasingly dealing with the issues of everyday life, the thinking meetings were held less often as well.

“I takes continuous care to not let the energy for feeling and thinking meetings be lost,” Kosha told me. “Enough people need to care, to take the time to create and promote feeling and meetings. There seems to be a need for continual flexibility in community. If the size of a community changes, or if everyone gets busier, what the community needs can change too.” Nowadays Sieben Linden is consciously including aspects of both feeling meetings and thinking meetings in every business meeting, such as starting with a sharing circle, or people describing something that has inspired them recently.

Related articles:

Is Consensus Right for Your Group? Part I – Oct ’08
Is Consensus Right for Your Group? Part II – This issue
What We Can Learn from Ecovillage Sieben Linden — This issue

Also in this issue:

Coming in Future Issues:
  • Anastasia Ecovillages in Russia (Andrew Jones)
  • Konohana Family Farm in Japan (Hildur Jackson)
  • First Philippines Ecovillage Design Education Course (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Pintig Ecovillage Partners with a Local Green Business (Diana Leafe Christian)
  • Our Whirlwind Aussie Road Trip, Part II (Russell Austerberry)
  • Svanholm in Denmark Becomes Carbon Neutral (Christina Adler Jensen)
  • Ecovillage Conference Tokyo 2009 (Hildur Jackson)
  • ‘Glue’ or ‘Shrapnel’ in Your Ecovillage (Diana Leafe Christian)
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Newsletter Staff

  • Diana Leafe Christian,
  • Jan Steinman,
    Website Designer, Mailing List Administrator
  • Marie Marcella,

Mission & Purpose

To encourage and inspire new and existing ecovillage projects with news about ecovillages and related projects worldwide.

Advisory Board

  • Lois Arkin,
    CRSP; ENA; Urban Ecovillage Network; Los Angeles Eco-Village, US
  • Peter Bane,
    Permaculture designer; publisher, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Albert Bates,
    Co-founder, GEN; Post-Petroleum Survival Guide; Director, Ecovillage Training Center at The Farm, US
  • Tree Bressen,
    Consensus & Facilitation Trainer; Cofounder, Walnut St. Co-op, US
  • Ernest Callenbach,
    Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging; US
  • Giovanni Ciarlo,
    GEN; ENA; Huehyecoyotl Ecovillage, Mexico
  • Raines Cohen,
    Cohousing Association of the US; Fellowship for Intentional Community (FIC); Berkeley Cohousing, US
  • Leila Dregger,
    Peace journalist & writer, Peace Research Center & Ecovillage, Tamera, Portugal
  • Chuck Durrett,
    Cohousing; Senior Cohousing; Architect, The Cohousing Company; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Jonathan Dawson,
    Ecovillages; Findhorn Foundation, Scotland
  • Robert Gilman,
    Co-founder, GEN; Ecovillages & Sustainable Communities; City Council Member, Langley, Washington, US
  • Michael Hale,
    Yarrow Ecovillage, Canada
  • Jeff Grossberg,
    Guidestone Consulting Group, US
  • Martha Harris,
    Earthaven Ecovillage, US
  • Scott Horton,
    Editor, Permaculture Activist, US
  • Hildur Jackson,
    Co-founder, Gaia Trust; cofounder, GEN; Ecovillage Living, Denmark
  • Kosha Joubert,
    Editor, Beyond You and Me, GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage Sieben Linden, Germany
  • Elana Kann & Bill Flemming,
    Co-developers, Westwood Cohousing, US
  • Joseph F. Kennedy,
    Designer/educator; The Art of Natural Building, US
  • Fred & Nancy Lanphear,
    Northwest Intentional Communities Association (NICA); Songaia Cohousing, US
  • Mark Lakeman,
    Founder, Portland City Repair & Village Building Convergence, US
  • Max Lindegger,
    Cofounder, GEN; Director, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Crystal Waters Ecovillage, Australia
  • Chris Mare,
    GEN's EDE Program; Village Design Institute, US
  • Ronaye Matthew,
    Canadian Cohousing Network; Cranberry Commons Cohousing, Canada
  • Kathryn McCamant,
    Architect/Developer, Cohousing Partners, Inc.; Co-author, Cohousing; Nevada City Cohousing, US
  • Dr. Bill Metcalf,
    Findhorn Book of Community Living; Professor, Environmental Sociology, Griffith University, Australia
  • Ina Meyer-Stoll,
    Co-director, GEN-Europe; ZEGG, Germany
  • Tim Miller,
    The 60s Communes; Professor of Religion, University of Kansas, US
  • Hank Obermayer,
    Mariposa Grove Cohousing, US
  • Toshio Ogata,
    Professor of Economics, Chuo University; GEPA (Global Environment Project in Asia), Japan
  • Craig Ragland,
    Executive Director, Cohousing Association of the US; Songaia Cohousing; New Earth Song Cohousing, US
  • Penelope Reyes,
    President, GEN-Oceania/Asia; Tuwâ - The Laughing Fish, Cabiao, Philippines
  • Michael Rios,
    Network for a New Culture Summer Camp East; Chrysalis, Washington DC, US
  • Jim Shenck,
    Enright Ridge Ecovillage, US
  • Nicola Shirley,
    The Source Farm Ecovillage, Jamaica
  • Tony Sirna,
    Communities Directory; Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage, US
  • Jan Steinman,
    EcoReality Co-op, Canada
  • Liz Walker,
    GEN's EDE Program; Ecovillage at Ithaca; EcoVillage at Ithaca, US