1980’s Communal Living

Living in a small commune in Oregon from 1980 through 1983 forged me into a better person. I became more self- aware. That sounds like a short time. Short maybe, and powerful.

Communal living changed me. I was young and impressionable. Fresh from college, moving from Nevada and beginning my teaching career was full of firsts. This was not my first commune though. In the late 70’s, I lived in a Buddhist commune in Reno for about two years. We chanted and studied together and other than that had little involvement in each other’s lives.


One of the many values I acquired from living in a spiritual community in Oregon that stuck with me is being considerate of others. It started with little things. For instance, we were encouraged to call and let roommates know when we would be late. Or to build a fire when we got home at the end of the day so the house was warm when the others came home.

When we cooked, we took into consideration to the extent we could afford everyone’s food preferences and offered for example, more vegetable choices because of it. I remembering wishing one of my roommates would take into consideration my preferences. I thought her okra and stewed tomatoes the worst dish I had tasted in years.


Each weekend, we worked outdoors on the land. Then, we cleaned the tools and put them where they belonged so others could find them for their work. These were not habits I had learned growing up. They made a lot of sense in this situation. And I appreciated that when I had a chore to do, I could easily find the tools because they were in the expected place.

Not to pick on my husband today, but my goodness the worktable in the garage is piled two and three things deep. Sure, everything I look for is there. I just find it challenging to get to what I want without knocking other tools down.

Little things like cleaning up and putting things away whether in the tool shed or the kitchen made a difference for all of us in the group. Also, being on time mattered. Especially when we scheduled spiritual studies and discussions. Consideration was encouraged and expected.

At first, I did not get it. I wondered what the big deal was. Then as different members came to stay or went on their way, I saw how their behaviors and attitudes affected the rest of us. Awareness followed by thoughtfulness made life easier.


Being self-aware and realizing our impact on others means we may act differently by choice. Others get a little more ease and less stress because of it.

Those lessons shaped me into the person I am today. Thirty five years later, I am grateful. I continue to strive to live by the maxims I learned in my impressionable twenties.