By Trish Mikkelson
I have written down the values that I have been refining since I first learned about the importance of defining values 37 years ago when I was 26. Cliff Mikkelson, my former husband, friend, advisor to Vegan Utopia Ecovillage, and owner of land adjacent to the ecovillage site, also shares these values.
I hope to find people who share these values, and who want to explore living in community together.
We aspire to live these values. At times we may fall short. Yet we believe that with the help of the divine as we each perceive the divine to be, and each other, we can increasingly live in ways that are congruent with our values.
We need people to encourage us to live according to our values. That is the main reason that we want to live in community. When we have a foundation of living in congruence with our values we will have the power to make profound changes in the world.
Everyone has different life experiences which help them to see values that we might not see. You can share them in the comments section below. We will be constantly refining our values and adding values as well. Yet we will do so as a group seeking to discern what are the universal principles that we are designed to live by.
We who are full members will make decisions by consensus and use various methods of discerning what these universal values are. Changing or adding to the values are a very serious matter.
I believe that it is much easier to live these values if we have a foundation of spiritual practices on which we build which are included in this article.
All of these values are designed to help us have a balance between autonomy and interdependence. Usually, when people live together there is the temptation to give up self in order to conform. Having these values in common will help us to be our ideal version of ourselves with others. We aspire to live to our highest potential so that we can be more effective in creating the vegan utopia which we yearn to see happen--a world where all of life thrives.
Abilities and disabilities: We choose to encourage focusing on building up our strengths in what is known as strength-based practice. Everyone has abilities and disabilities, and create an environment where everyone can thrive. More here:
Authenticity and Congruence: It is important to us to live as closely in alignment with our values as possible. Together we find ways to be increasingly congruent. Congruency is the opposite of hypocrisy. It is also the opposite of being luke-warm.
Conflict Prevention and Resolution: We build a positive atmosphere where people feel so safe, empowered and connected to each other and to the divine that we easily prevent conflict. Yet we have clear ways to resolve conflicts in case conflicts do arise, and we are willing to stick with the process until we feel connected again.
Compassion and Empathy: We empathize with the suffering of all of life. We allow ourselves to grieve this suffering in various ways that help us remember and keep our intentions to serve strong in our hearts. We empathize with each other in order to create an atmosphere of love and safety where we can be our authentic selves.
Critical Creative Thinking: We encourage each other to utilize critical, creative thinking and are willing to gently challenge each other if someone is not thinking logically and/or clearly. We have dialogues to explore possibilities of erroneous thinking.
Effective and Loving Communication: We are using a variety of models, taking the best from them and leaving the rest, including Nonviolent Communication and Clean Talk. Empathic listening is one of the keys to success when it comes to understanding each other.
Encouragement: We look for, dwell on, and tell each other about observable behaviors that we see which we find nurturing. We also notice progress in these areas and share this with each other.
Forgiveness: "Psychologists generally define forgiveness as a conscious, deliberate decision to release feelings of resentment or vengeance toward a person or group who has harmed you, regardless of whether they actually deserve your forgiveness." Read more about how we think about forgiveness here.
Humility: Our values are ones that we adopt because we have discerned through our conscience, experiences, and studying wisdom traditions. We focus on cultivating compassion for people who are not living in their fullest potential and develop a longing to support them in living up to their fullest potential that contributes to a world where all life thrives. We see people who hurt others as hurting people who need our compassion. We set healthy boundaries in those cases.
Self Awareness: Having self-awareness is essential so that we can be able to admit when we are falling short. We gently help each other to see the truth as we perceive it.
Love: We see the best and bring out the best in each other through various ways. We delight in each other's presence. This love is also expressed in our life together including: working, celebrating, worshiping, eating, playing, singing, laughing, hugging, dancing, creating, serving, and healing.
Mutual Support: We help each other discern and achieve our individual heartfelt goals that are in alignment with our mission, goals, values, and vision.
Play: We make sure that we have lots of ways to play together including cooperative games, volleyball, ping pong, dancing, singing, drumming, swimming, creative board games (maybe we will create some really great ones!) and much more.
Temperance: We refrain from using drugs or alcohol or doing other things that keep us from being in touch with the present moment.
Thoughtfulness: We identify the love languages of our community members and go out of our way to do those things which honor and please the others in small and big ways.
Transparency: We have full disclosure of anything in our lives that can prevent us from being fully present in the community such as an open case with the child protective agency which could investigate the community, a criminal record where one is hiding from the police, and anything else that might affect the community members and cause the person to have to suddenly leave. We don't expect people to be perfect. We just want to have the right to know what is going on in people's lives so we can make a choice as to whether our community is able to withstand whatever is going on with the person.
Unity: We are people with varying thoughts, philosophies, and theologies, and we seek to integrate our diversity into a healthy unity. While we have no desire to endorse world-views that are destructive, we seek the good in every perspective and believe that all human beings are connected to each other and the Cosmos at large. We look at our differences and work them out in ways that everyone gets their needs met.
Trust building and Integrity: We keep our agreements. If we are unable to follow through, we negotiate a win-win solution. We are honest in every way possible. We do everything we can to make deposits into each other's "emotional bank accounts" which results in building trust.
Shadow Work: We all have a shadow. The shadow is a psychological term for everything we can't see in ourselves. Thus, we support each other in gently seeing each other's shadows and use spiritual and other proven methods to help each other to heal our shadows.
A healthy connection with all of the creation
Live lightly on the earth: We increasingly refrain from doing things that contribute to the exploitation of any living creature or the earth. We find ways to decrease our ecological footprint.
Appropriate technology: We simplify our lives as much as possible by using technologies that can free us up from using fossil fuels in our cars and buildings. We will create a fully tooled makerspace where we can invent things and repair our vehicles, tools, appliances, and buildings. Ultimately, we will be able to build anything we need, even if the grid collapses.
Self-sufficiency: We grow the healthy food we need to survive. We grow plants like sea-berries, moringa, Jerusalem artichokes and other easy to grow foods that we could live on if we had to. We save seeds and forage wild edibles. We create structures and systems that can be powered even without solar power in case the grid goes down. We study these methods from video courses such as
Minimalism: We work to keep our environment free from clutter and unnecessary items. We will create systems so that unwanted items will be recycled, given away, or stored in ways that we can use them in our makerspace.
Vegan Permaculture: "Permaculture is a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted & thoughtful observation rather than protracted & thoughtless labor; of looking at plants & animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single-product system." Bill Mollison. Vegan permaculture rejects the use of animals or any animal derived product through any type of exploitation within its design systems or thinking. ... They work in harmony with each other as the natural world is meant to.
Beauty: We value making our environment beautiful to please the eye and the soul.
Connection with nature: We spend a lot of time outdoors: walking, working, and communing with creation.
Interspecies communication: We learn to talk to animals, plants and insects so that we can be very respectful and attuned to their needs and be better able to cooperate with them.
Balanced and healthy lifestyle: We make time for everything that helps us to be healthy including exercise, yoga, laughing, playing, whole foods vegan diet, healing childhood wounds, sunshine, earthing, and living close to nature. We eliminate as much as possible effects of negative energies including Electro Magnetic Frequencies.
Healthy, whole-food, plant-based diet. Hallelujah diet is a good example. Mostly raw foods are ideal. We find ways of helping everyone find the best, most nutritious diet possible for them.
Natural healing methods: We use clay, herbs, acupressure, massage, essential oils, diet and other therapies and lifestyle choices that help people to heal whatever ails them. Allopathic medical approaches are discouraged except in cases of emergencies because of the fact that this approach does not address the importance of nutrition and other preventative measures. This includes treatment of depression and anxiety. http://www.truthwiki.org/allopathic-medicine/
Right Livelihood: We create business and income streams that enable us to do things that we love and which are in alignment with our values and goals.
Financial Sustainability: We will have legal structures and other structures set up so that we will be financially secure, and the community will be able to carry on through 7 generations.
Financial Independence: In the beginning, as trust is building and our community is developing, people will take care of their finances themselves, having a responsibility to pay for their share of food, their living space, the land on which they live, etc.
Financial Interdependence: We will grow into a place where people if they choose, can have an increasing amount of sharing their finances with each other such as in the case of egalitarian communities where income and property are shared in common. http://www.thefec.org/about/
Community Outreach: We will organize projects such as TimeBanks and other services. We value having good relationships with our neighbors and the larger community.
We do all that we can to help our neighbors and extended network to cooperate with each other, solve problems, and become a beacon of healing and light. We have community-building activities for our neighborhood and the larger community that meets their needs and ours. We support the Animal Lovers of the Ozarks organization, of which Trish is a co-founder. We attend and help with the vegan-friendly activities in Fayetteville including the Vegan Meetup, Anonymous for the Voiceless, Students for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Omni Vegetarian Potluck
Sharing: We share our knowledge and experiences with others through blogs, ebooks, websites, printed medium, workshops (onsite and elsewhere), internships, webinars, conference calls. We share our experiences of success that we have experienced both in our community and from past experiences.
We teach in ways that use the best ways possible of imparting knowledge so people can really utilize. Helping others create community, once we establish a healthy one, is something that will be very important.
We share activities and material items to enrich our larger community.
Education: We are constantly sharing what we are learning and how we are growing in various ways: classes, youtube videos, blogs, Facebook and other social media. We work on writing books, creating professional videos, podcasts and radio programs.
Intersectionalism: Our work needs to be mindful of all of those who are on the underside of power. We will explore this issue and seek to find ways to help all people who are exploited without compromising our commitment to the animals.
Discernment and support about major life choices: We use techniques like the clearness process to help people make life decisions that affect the whole community. We give counsel, but do not make demands unless they clearly violate the values.
Governance (Non-Hierarchical) and Shared Decision Making: We are still exploring what this looks like and have a number of resources. The Friends, or Quakers, have some great systems we are studying here.We may use a system based on Sociocracy which empowers people to work in small groups on various projects but in such a way that the values are lived by and goals achieved. Decisions are made by consensus and also a method called "Consent." See more about this method of decision making here.
The Quakers have a way of conducting a meeting where they are lead by the Holy Spirit. We may use this approach as well.
Servant Leadership: “The servant-leader is a servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first.” - Robert K. Greenleaf.
Servant leadership is a philosophy and set of practices that enrich the lives of individuals, builds better organizations and ultimately creates a more just and caring world. Every individual is allowed to be a leader if they qualify in the area.
Order and structures: We see having order and structure as being like the banks of a river--without the banks, the river can not flow freely. Without order and structure, divine creativity can not flow freely. We find ways to find a balance and keep talking about ways to create order and structures that are creative rather than overly confining.
Healthy Ethics: Treating All Life With Respect and Nonviolence
Anti-Speciesism: Speciesism is the idea that being human is a good enough reason for human animals to have greater moral rights than non-human animals. ...a prejudice or bias in favor of the interests of members of one's own species and against those of members of other species. We do not agree with this idea. We explore how this works in our day to day lives.
Multiple Generations: We value the gifts that the different generations have to offer. We can learn from each other and enrich each other with our different life experiences.
People of all gender identities and sexual orientations are respected and accepted. We believe that they share the worth that comes from being unique individuals created by the divine. We honor same-sex marriages.