Belated wrap up / write up on the efforts this summer to kick off a NY testlab! All's well that ends syncrhonistically....
Following preparations and outreach, we had about a half dozen inquiries come back from interested participants for one or both scheduled cycles of the Lab over summer. Starting in June, four of us were in place to share the old farmhouse rental on the mountain down the road from the Abode. We were even able to host a congenial emissary, Kei, from the EU unMon 'Organ' around that time to help us settle and dial in to new rhythms and routines of Americanized unMonasticism!
Splendid beginnings, and yet it was clear from the get go that we were a loosely knit unit, pulled in several directions at once and saddled with the need to each pursue independent income to cover expenses. One of the guiding questions for this lab session (for myself, at least) was: how might a small, unsupported but aspirational group generate enough of a support stream to launch and sustain a lab with the potential to grow into an enduring communal vehicle? We inquired, and were unsuccessful in this initial time frame. However, data was gathered, experiences had, learnings learned, and fresh ideas spawned!
Another aspect of this first round experiment was the potential of partnering with an established scholarly and service oriented community organization, the adjacent Abode sufi center, towards mutual aims by complementary means. We would provide some input of energy, skills, people, and activities, in exchange for use of some space or facilities and an opportunity to engage in the dialogue and development of a transition plan for their organization. This offer was well received and endorsed, however our small cadre wound up being too thinly spread in multiple directions at once to focus in on an action plan to make good use of the available space and support from the Abode - at the time.
By the middle of the second scheduled session of the test lab, a known liability with our housing situation (property was listed for sale) came to bear on practical short term planning, and we opted to disperse to better suited options close by, including another space that has increasingly figured in to the plans and prospects looking towards future venues and actions: the historic inn mentioned previously. We held a final, reverent unCircling at the West Family farmhouse and moved on.
In (personal) reflection, the 2016 NY lab was launched quickly and casually, a prototype of a prototype, in the hopes that sufficient energy, skill, care, and connection would aggregate to spark a brighter council fire in this unique and compelling location/setting. That turned out to be about halfway true, and yet at the close of the second (half) session, things felt relatively unsubstantiated. Part of that ambiguity may just have to do with the story and state of the world in this strange and trying year, part to do with the personal status and precarity of the participants at this time. There's certainly more to explore. The question is: what might emerge here next year? Does the lab call for a rerun, another iteration?
Likely still too early to tell. The inn remains a center of new activity as a business in transition towards more of a social and ecological mission. The Abode has made great progress in its own transition towards broader participation and programming arising from the resident community. The tumult of change on the world stage only seems to intensify and darken.
I intend to continue the study and practice of 'agile' land-based community development, looking at ways to document, share, and spread effective patterns in furtherance of those goals, and the cultivation of a network of projects and practitioners for knowledge sharing and mutual support. Stay tuned, stay inspired, stay quizzical