By Sarah Jordan
I first became aware of cohousing initiatives a couple of years ago.
One evening I turned on the TV at the end of a Grand Designs at the point where they show the completed project, this episode featured a cohousing project, something I had never heard of before. I remember the final project being stunning, of course this is Grand Designs after all, but I was also struck by what a wonderful concept it was. In a society where community spirit is dwindling, where people live next to each other for years and barely say hi to one another, here was a group of people who chose to live together and create their own community. Each family had their own private house but had shared communal areas where they could spend time together. The community house felt like an extension of all their homes, it was cosy, warm and inviting with comfy sofas around a log fire and a huge dining table where they took it in turns to cook so the whole community could sit and eat together. The program always stayed in my memory, but that’s all it was; a memory of a lovely project on Grand Designs.
Fast forward to the start of this year and one evening my partner started telling me about a new project a friend of his at the Cambridge Buddhist Centre was part of. A small group had started to look into the possibility of creating a cohousing project right here in Cambridge, building their community around Buddhist beliefs, and were looking for members who shared their vision to join whether Buddhist or not.
Now I personally wouldn’t say I’m Buddhist (I’m more of a yogi myself!), but I do relate with a lot of the principles; kindness, generosity, simplicity, truthful communication and mindfulness. It really didn’t take much discussion between the two of us; we were drawn to the idea of living in a community with similar-minded people who are dedicated to creating a secure and supportive environment based on friendship and caring for one another. We hope to have children one day and we couldn’t think of anything more wonderful that our children growing in such an environment. Sustainability is a very close issue to both of us so another draw was the fact that this is a big part of the project. Becoming members was a natural step which we took completely open minded, accepting the fact that the project may develop in a way that actually doesn’t suit our needs and being comfortable that we may end up walking away if that becomes the case.
We eagerly anticipated our first meeting with the other Suvana members and, I’ll be honest, I was a little nervous, particularly as most if not all the current members are practicing Buddhists. I wondered whether I would be ‘accepted’ or if I would feel like an outsider.
This could not have been further from the truth, the workshop day was so wonderful! I felt so welcomed, really listened too and like my contribution was valued. It was so lovely to meet all the other members and to see all our ideas mix together. Each member had their chance to contribute and all ideas were fairly discussed, with plenty of joy and laughter.
It was so inspirational to see individuals working together, to see our community develop! I honestly feel we have the ability to create something really special and unique, both in design, sustainability and as a community to live in.
I left excited and encouraged about the future of Suvana and the possibility of seeing our co-housing community built one day. And you know, even if my partner and I end up not living within the community for one reason or another, we feel honoured to be part of such an exciting project and to be involved in creating something special.