The Real Estate Fund is a fund offering an investment opportunity in land and property with a social purpose. The Fund exists to provide capital to develop mindful, wiser and weller co-living and co-housing communities, whilst providing investors with an opportunity for social impact, security of capital and a fair return.
Why do we need this now?
Individuals and groups have an increasing desire to live wisely and well, and to do so in community. Investors are increasingly seeking ethical, social, and well governed investments, that secure their capital and provide above-inflation returns. We exist to bridge the gap between these parties.
The Fund’s Philosophy
We operate the fund as we would a not-for-profit entity, and do not create short-term financial incentives for management. We prioritise the mindful, long-term management of our assets, and are invested in the flourishing of the communities they support.
The idea that we are each individuals living ‘our own life’ is a useful but flawed intellectual fiction woven into (us) Westerners. We largely live as though it were true, even though we notice and remark on many ways that it is false. We can embody individualism and deny it simultaneously, as contradictions are the reasoning ape’s great talent.
We might not be personally responsible for being individualists, given that each of our minds is a collective creation, but we also have the ability to respond to this dogma, especially in groups.
“Embodied deconstruction” might be a way of referring to the practice of acquiring a feeling for what it is like for our souls to “have an individual constructed inside them” and move towards freedom.
Carmen Zurl and Liam Kavanagh provoke the exploration.
This extract is taken from a session at our Gathering 2020 on Collective Practices. Here, Valerie Duvauchelle summarised what was said and some suggested ideas. This is very much a work in progress, and we invite you too to participate.
Contemplative Activism is another name for awakening to s(S)elf, the basis of Life Itself’s vision
A manifestation of full beingness coming from Collective Wisdom practices leading to joy of being and right actions in the world.
The process relates to a collective frame, which allows for the emergence of a subtle resonant space where individualities can feel a dissolution of separated self for an interconnected one.
From this feeling of being complete, at peace, arises a deep joy of living and also a deep capacity to embrace the pain.
Being able to bear witness to pain within joy is the road for collective compassion and right (adjusted action).
This emergence of our true human compassionate nature comes from a frame, a ‘space’ which can only exist in the mirror of a trustful community.
Being seen and seeing others with no judgement nourishes our joy of living and reactivates our natural compassion towards other members and outside.
Then, from that, we deeply generate an intuition of acting wisely in the world.
To point to that we don’t need so much morality or ethics, our natural mechanism produces compassion and unconditional love when we give it the frame to emerge from. It is not something we have to work on or to suffer frustration from .. it is our true nature. We just need the collective frame.
Since we can’t do the loving ourselves now we have to create the rights and the protection of (see UNHDR). This has value, but the attachment to it can become a dogma. We believe more in laws, ethics, morality than our natural capacity of loving. The laboratory of a community can create the proper frame for collective wisdom and compassion to arise.
And what is community but a collective practice.
If we agree our collective goal is to activate collective compassion etc, to act from this compassionate place, we often think (and forget this truth) that awakening this collective wisdom is awakening the self, and that this goal you could attain forever rather than it being a process.
Awakening is an ongoing process; we are both in the awakened reality when we meet one another and at the same time we are in the relative reality (with different agendas and different opinions) both from collective practice. We can also activate this collective wisdom, the awakened self, from the crossover of the two. We don’t need the goal of absolute truth or oneness – we are in it and then we drop out. It is a movement, a dance.
Practicing collective action, literally daily activities together, is to stress we are not just theoretical but in our bodies too, we are sitting, cleaning and cooking together – which is often forgotten.
Mixing both eastern (eg Zen) with western concepts (eg neuroscience ), creates an unnecessary filter to talk about Buddhism.
More than the internal and external perception of self, it touches Francisco Varela‘s concept of autopoïese; that we are both separated and integrated, our autonomy comes from our aptitude to produce from ourselves something else than ourselves through constant integration of alterity.
All whilst still deeply be s(S)elf or the ‘Jikko’ from Uchiyama Roshi (self embracing the Self to be the s(S)elf ) in an infinite interconnected dance where autonomy rather than individuality, equity rather than egality is manifested through actions coming from «being the world» in a state of constant transformation, with no permanent self.
Practice is the movement of life moving through life co-creating life
Movement is being within space beyond time (the ungraspable present)
Practice is awakening to s(S)elf
In that sense, practices are an awakening in themselves as they put us in the movement of s(S)elf by just living our lives together with others. They also are an inclusive way to activate and sustain, learn, integrate fluidity along time (doing circles, meditation, cooking, cleaning is a practice and a teaching at same time).
Practices should not be based on rules or laws but on patterns and principles based on a new ontology of reality of Self, an intricate and impermanent one.
Precept: we can only truly manifest our (sS)elf through community of trust
As an illusionary separated lost entity we need a frame of remembering: trust building and sustainable practices to reactivate the space for our universal being to manifest fully and act accordingly to its true nature.
Here is a Set of practices, principles and patterns to be used in communities, Labs, Hub to protect the frame of activation of collective wisdom.
Everything is practice, as practice is living Life Itself
The question: how to cultivate ways of being within the community and the world?
Digital and analogue: online and offline
Community living practices and patterns manual: regular practices to nourish and learn from
Regeneration of s(S)elf includes gratitude, inspirations, resolution…
Community Living practices and patterns manual
A tool of practices that Life Itself Hubs can choose from in order to co-produce collective wisdom and wellbeing for each member.
Feeling together through:
Silent absorption (just sitting with no goal) practices
Transparency practices (especially around power issue emerging from sex and money)
Conflict resolution practices
Shadows work practices
Community practicalities practices
Life Itself commitments in a hub:
Affirmation of vision ( vows to be at service to our l(L)ife) to be written
Daily silent practice ( in each hub a space dedicated to collective practices with on person sitting at least 40 mn every morning as an invisible anchor )
One shared meal a week and community management of food
One deep listening circle a week
One hour collective cleaning a week
One shared knowledge a month
Suggestive practices to be adapted within the ecosystem of each hub:
Way of council ( to share what is needed )
Forum Zegg ( good for unclear emotions related to sex , money , hierarchy)
Work That Reconnects / Food that reconnects ( pain compost)
Contact improv dance
Weekly retreat in monasteries
Weekly secular retreat in hubs
Tag and other plays
Sharing knowledge time
Celebrating our failures and unskillfulness
Celebrating our lineages
A Spiritual representative /mentor each member chooses a spiritual to meet with every 15 days to share emotional disturbances or questions regarding the practice of living
Honoring the animal genocide
Living together our life in daily activities is practice:
Buying ( facing interdependence of our actions, eg recycling)
Fooding ( choosing to cook non-suffering ingredients) in hubs but not imposing vegan
Bex Baxter, Life Coach, TEDx Speaker and former People Development Director at Coexist CIC, will be holding a Sunday Salon on Sunday 25th October to explore the topic of Menstruation in Community. Sharing her own pioneering story of breaking a Menstrual taboo for the first UK business in the west, Bex will share her passion for integrating new ways of relating to menstruation in community and workspaces.
Having journeyed from one paradigm to another, Bex will showcase the intelligence of the menstrual cycle, exemplifying ways we can best harness its guidance for optimum individual and collective health. There will be a platform for deeper exploration, appropriated to individual situations.
All welcome. Q&A and signposting to key books, people and links will be made available and options for further individual or group work with Bex.
When you book, you shall be sent a Zoom link to access the Salon.
“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.”
Unphased by a health pandemic, our community was unreasonable and responded to our request to connect with new members with the fervency expected of Life Itself members. It was important to gather around the new concentrated essence of Life Itself after the transition from Art Earth Tech and our old base at La Cheraille. This was a holding space to meet in the whole, our new community – from which we could launch proper: Life Itself.
“I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live.”
George Bernard Shaw
We gathered in our new premises, a grand townhouse on the edge of a square facing the river Dordogne befitting of enquiry into culture and our being. We checked-in regularly how the grandiose of our surroundings was affecting our psyche: I for one wanted to host ‘ambassador receptions’ immediately with gold trays and piles of Ferrero Roche. The picking up and packing up from our more feral, rubble farmhouse to the ballrooms of Bergerac was quite a transition, and we enjoyed it. Regular swims in the river, games of tag and hide and seek, late night dance parties around the fire. Opulent meals cooked by members who matched the food to the surroundings with their attention to feeding us well. Helped by our guest Valerie Duvauchelle, a ZaZen monk and chef, we practiced the preparation of food with our meditation practice.
“It was great to meet new members of the community who became involved via the Berlin hub and the building festival in Thenac. A lot of optimism and possibility was generated as our newcomers became more acquainted with the vision and history of Life Itself. Valerie Duvauchelle, a member of the Aontemplative Activism group added a special and centering day of Zen cooking in the middle of the week. I got a very high level of interest and engagement from the newcomers during my talk on the equality complex, and we turned to a grounded discussion of how to build the community in the next year.”
Liam Kavanagh, co-founder.
Rufus led the participants through the Tao: a playbook for Life Itself. The background context for why Life Itself exists, and what we exist for…
“A world that is wise, well and awake”
…was felt all the more with embodiment practices led by Sylvie. Often, we are talking about our primacy of being – and the quality of our being, whilst being in our heads and intellect. This time, we regularly tapped out of that intelligence and into emotional and physical intelligence.
What was in the air and noticeably different in this cohort was the commitment to action. We have held open Gatherings in the past, and this one, because of Covid-19 restrictions, was limited to our new team members and community members. It helped us really distill what Life Itself could be and to focus our energy on our being; rather than diluting it away. We had some ‘crunchy’ sessions addressing fears around intentional community; power relations: decision making and governance; values, and membership. It was a heart opening session and mid way through our week, the community sank into a tenderness, a compassion and love I had rarely seen come so soon.
Liam shared a presentation and discussion on Questioning Equality: the Institute’s enquiry on the Equality Complex from his new book on Collective Wisdom.
The cycle of divergence – convergence – divergence opened up again to create and design our community and activity going forward. The relationships with our Hubs and their autonomy; our Gatherings for the year to come. I include here what Valerie wrote after a session on cultivating our practices.
“The vision for Life Itself: A manifestation of full beingness coming from collective wisdom practices leading to right actions in the world.
The process seems to be related to a collective frame, which allows for the emergence of a subtle resonant space where individualities can feel a dissolution of separated self for an interconnected one.
From this feeling of being complete, at peace, arises a deep joy of living and also a deep capacity to embrace the pain.
Being able to bear witness to pain within joy is the road for collective compassion and right (adjusted action). This emergence of our true human compassionate nature comes from a frame, a « space » which can only exist in the mirror of a trustful community. Being seen and seeing others with no judgement nourishes our joy of living and reactivates our natural compassion towards other members and outside. Then, from that, we deeply generate an intuition of acting wisely in the world.”
Watch this space for the development of our collective frame and accompanying practices.
What a safe harbour to find out of lockdown with extraordinary people to share it with and plot the future for Life Itself. Thank you.
“The Gathering provided me with ways of interacting and bonding with others that I’d never encountered before. More than this, it challenged me to engage with the world around me not just from a new perspective, but in a radically different fashion. I have left with some wonderful relationships I hope to long carry forward, and a curiosity to see what this new way of thinking means for the commitments that shape my life.”
The renovation of the Bergerac Hub began in earnest last month and we were delighted to welcome many new as well as familiar faces to the Building Festival.
Heavy building work was balanced with contemplation and interesting discussions. We began stripping the cement off the farmhouse’s walls to reveal the beautiful stone walls underneath, did yoga together every morning in the shade of the trees, and relaxed by the Dordogne river. We held a Quaker meeting and a Plum Village Sharing Circle in which we shared joys and difficulties encountered in our meditation practices.
We were also delighted to welcome Simran and Elisa to the team.
Simran jumped straight into the role of the festival producer and helped make the building festival a huge success, in addition to teaching us yoga every morning.
Elisa is currently leading a research project on the emerging field of ‘culture-making’ in order to learn more about the individuals and organisations focused on improving the world through shaping culture. If you work in this space and would like to contribute to our understanding, please take a look at Elisa’s blog post for more information and to get in touch.
We’re looking forward to publishing some other exciting work. We’ll soon be releasing Collective Wisdom, a book written by Liam Kavanagh, Director of our Research Institute, on the blindspots in Western culture that we urgently need to address if we are to avoid ecological and political crises. Sign up to be notified when the book is released.
We’re also making progress on Wiser, a newsletter that will provide curated information on how to live a wiser life.
You can now read about more of our work and projects on our website. If you’re an investor interested in getting involved, check out the information about our Real Estate Fund, a fund to support the creation of more Life Itself co-living communities.
‘I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect at the building festival, planning to leave the UK during a pandemic felt worrying, however after months of isolation I felt like human connection was truly needed. I can genuinely say that I discovered in the South of France one of the most welcoming and caring communities I could have encountered. People from all over the world coming together to share great food, amazing conversations and to contribute towards an exciting project. I felt overjoyed to share my time with such wonderful people and felt truly inspired by the fire-side chats about wisdom, creating a better world and supporting one another.’
I came to the building festival seeking an experience, little did I know, I would also find a home 🙂
For the whole of August, Life Itself opened the doors to our new rural hub near Plum Village Buddhist monastery, south west of Bergerac in southern France. The invitation was to our Build Festival, where people came from Germany, France, Spain and all across England to renovate and restore an old farmhouse. Accents were a hot topic at our evening meals!
Building together – whether it be as small and delightful as a pizza oven, or structural and hefty as a barn – is a simple communal act of bonding, creating together and celebration. It is fulfilling to sweat, toil and problem solve together, and to create something unique from the people there. People expand on what they thought they were capable of – it is a joy to witness young people using a drill for the first time, for example.
Set up by our friends Mark and Poppy, they had listed areas and tasks that were low-ish risk for inexperienced, enthusiastic volunteers. We donned masks for more than health reasons (“antique dust” it was referred to); fulfilled childhood dreams of power tools and tidy workshops, and got to it. Every day after our morning practice (for a community that meditates together, gets a lot done well together); we assembled in circle for our Stand Up. We would share what we had done yesterday and what we were going to do that day – and where we needed help / what was blocking us.
We learnt about the different soil types on the land, and what we can use for different types of natural building. As it was so dry and hard, we had to make mud baths to loosen it. Yes, mud fights were had, as well as mud face masks. We added some straw and created a good material for our pizza oven, but could also be used for stronger structures – see the bricks in form below.
We made different compost and it got smelly.
As Health and Safety Officer, I can happily report that I was the only one in need of our first aid kit repeatedly and everyone left unscathed, indeed most left much calmer and weller than when they arrived.
Most of our work was indeed clearing rather than building at this stage. We got hammer drills and removed the plaster from inside the bedrooms and on the external wall to show more clearly the story of the buildings, alongside Life Itself’s design principles. We became experts in pointing; in insulation; in the difference in french and english terms; the aisles of Bricomarche; and most of all cooking feasts for the hungry crew. We worked until 2pm after lunch, when the heat became a barrier and we either rested or went on excursions to find the internet as many of us had work still to fulfil on.
People slept on mattresses in old kitchens and dining rooms, mid renovation. We had large bell tents too dotted around the site under the clear, star filled night sky.
Thank you all. It was a real pleasure to meet you and come to know you better. …The place is enchanting…. I especially enjoyed our fireside discussions; building the clay oven; the community housing workshop; swimming in the Dordogne; playing with Ateyan and observing his appetite for exploring life; sharing the cooking, laughing and singing with Catalina; sharing beers with the boys.
Our days were rich and deeply fulfilling combining physical, satisfying (most of the time) work with cooking, silliness, philosophical chat and laptop time. Thankfully, we have an ambitious project here so there will be plenty more opportunities for community builds. We look forward to welcoming you next year for the next phase.
What is it that allows groups of people to carry out intelligent collective actions? You can find our white paper on collective intelligence (by Life Itself Institute director Liam Kavanagh), and a number of issues in this area that relate to our work for a wiser society, re-published at this link.
We know there are individuals, organisations and initiatives around the world who share the values, principles and vision of Life Itself. We know that many of them are trying to create change, often by attempting to change the culture — a form of culture-making.
But that is more or less all we know about this newly emergent space, and, as such, it calls for exploration.What are its defining characteristics? How do organisations differ, and how are they similar? How do people work together? What is this space?
These are some of the things we are hoping to find out. We will start by talking to as many people as possible so if you’d like to talk to us or know someone or an organisation we should talk to please let us know by dropping a line to [email protected]. Finally, we’ll be sharing everything we learn back with the community.
What we know
The ecosystem of change-makers which Life Itself is part of has come to life primarily in the last 10-15 years, thanks to three key developments.
1. Recognising the shortcomings of Western societies
Although the last 100 years have seen incredible technological, scientific, social and economic progress, there is a sense that Western societies have failed to generate corresponding advances in human flourishing. Rates of depression, anxiety and other mental health issues are rising; complex collective action problems and global catastrophic risks (such as climate change, nuclear war, the weakening of democratic institutions, global inequality, etc.) appear unlikely to be solved by technological or scientific innovations alone. As a result, more people are recognising the need for better ways of being and acting, individually and collectively.
2. Popularisation of wisdom traditions, especially Buddhism
The dissemination of Buddhist ideas and practices in the West over the last 60 years has led to a renewed appreciation of wisdom traditions. A growing number of people, including Life Itself, wish for these ideas and practices to be more widely accepted and embodied in our society and culture. As a result, many organisations have been created in the last decade whose aim is to push these ideas into the mainstream, in one form or another. Not everyone focuses on popularising Buddhist ideas, of course, and many appear to be doing completely unrelated things. However, ideas of wisdom and awakening often constitute core philosophical foundations, or at the very least have inspired the activities of actors in this space.
3. Acknowledging the connection between inner and outer transformation
Implicit in the activities of organisations in this space is also a belief in the connection between inner and outer transformation. At the individual level, this is relatively intuitive – in order to make lasting changes in your life, your mental state must change. External circumstances matter as well, of course, but if your intentions, values, beliefs and mental models are incompatible with your goal, you are much less likely to achieve it. The same holds at the collective level. A whole systems transformation requires some form of structural change (outer transformation), as well as some form of cultural change (inner transformation). The key point here is that the former does not guarantee the latter. Changing the external components of a system can indeed affect individual behaviour and is important, but it is much less likely to achieve the desired outcome unless people’s inner lives are appropriately aligned, especially when the system is complex and unintended consequences are difficult to predict. This is why culture is important: it regulates behaviour and makes it more predictable. It may sound obvious, but it is only in recent years that changemakers have started to take seriously the importance of inner transformation.
What we want to find out
Through our exploration, we are hoping to answer the following questions:
Who are the individuals, organisations, communities, etc. that make up this space?
How can the space be mapped? What are the key groupings and directions?
What are the major differences and similarities between actors in this space?
What, if any, are the areas of overlap and what, if any, are the gaps?
Answers to the questions above will help Life Itself and other similar organisations to better understand:
Who they could work and partner with
How they complement and differ from other organisations
Potential opportunities and future directions
Where to share and find ideas
Where to find like-minded people
In addition, exploring the space can help to establish credibility for the people and organisations involved. By better understanding it and finding appropriate terminology to describe it, public awareness can grow more easily.
Get in touch!
If you are an individual or an organisation active in this space, and you think you could provide insight into our research questions, get in touch! Send us an email at [email protected] with ‘Ecosystem research’ in the subject line. We would love to hear from you.
Join our new coliving community in the heart of Berlin. Grounded in purpose and presence, the hub is part of our international network of co-living spaces intended to create communities dedicated to fostering a wiser, weller world. Rooms are available from the end of August or November 2020 and start at €420 per month all costs included.
What: Join a coliving community in the heart of Berlin
Where: Gneisenaustrasse, Kreuzberg, Berlin
When: August / November 2020. Stays from a minimum of 3 months
Who: People who have a pioneering spirit and value community and making a difference
Cost: From €420 pcm (furnished and all costs included)
A growing number of us are seeking lives that are meaningful as well as productive, yet we often struggle to find a balance. We need a wiser way of living whilst remaining engaged in conventional society; a way to live in cities whilst being in community; to be present as well as purposeful; to be supported to be the best versions of ourselves.
We are building that way, starting with creating co-living communities across Europe.
We seek pioneers and believers in community to be residents of our hub in Berlin.
Our Berlin Hub
Our Berlin hub opened in September 2019. As one of the first residents you will be part of a small, supportive community and contribute to shaping its culture. You will live in a beautiful old building on the tree-lined Gneisenaustrasse in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin.
We have different spaces available with different price points, all inclusive of bills:
Four bedrooms (13m² each) on the ground floor attached to our community events space — €420 each
Three bedrooms on the first and fourth floor — €560 to €680 each depending on size
There is a communal space for events on the ground floor that faces the street and has a separate entrance. Here you can hang out with other members of the hub, hold your dream event and attend other amazing events curated by guests and the other hub residents.
You will be connected to our other hub in the beautiful countryside in Bergerac, France and be part of an international community that supports your personal growth and wellbeing.
You have a love of living in community and contributing to it.
You are a self-starter: you take initiative and manage your own projects.
You want to make a difference.
You have a meditative / mindful practice
You have done personal development work
You have past experience with living in shared spaces
More about the space
Open your window onto a tree-lined boulevard in Kreuzberg. The flat is in a 19th Century building with large bedrooms, wooden floors, high ceilings, large windows and a modern kitchen. The bathroom has a shower and a bath.
Life Itself has a strong aesthetic where we honour noble, natural materials. The bedrooms will be part-furnished and include a double bed. We provide a refrigerator, freezer and a washing machine.
What previous residents in our other hubs have said:
“Staying at the Life Itself London Hub was a lovely experience of living intentionally and in community.”
“The London Hub members were all awesome, and I felt like we had created a warm, open and trusting dynamic and atmosphere.”
“The interior itself was also exceptional, and it adds a lot of coziness and uniqueness to this centrally located space.”
More about Life Itself
A multidisciplinary initiative creating a wise and beautiful future
Life Itself is a multi-disciplinary initiative including artists, ecologists, researchers and technologists. Its goal is to foster a community of people making a wise, well and beautiful world. Activities include developing coliving spaces; building a network via gatherings and events; and sharing knowledge via education and research.
More about life in the Hub
We are forming a community where:
We stand for the importance of collective action, especially for issues like climate change. We take the role we play in these problems and the agency we have to change them seriously.
We are not shy about discussing everything from big controversial issues to everyday and personal ones. We interact with diverse groups from different social classes, different professions, different political views and different religions. We don’t run away from conflict and we create an environment where disagreements can be safely expressed.
We think carefully about why humanity is the way it is. We question the status quo and its direction.
We are on an enquiry into self-development and self-awareness and we value communal living to support that growth.
If our intentions resonate with you, here are some other things that will apply to you if you would be well suited to living in one of our hubs:
You value communality and participation. You’ll want to eat with your house-mates regularly and enjoy having the opportunity to extend your circle by meeting friends of friends who you would never otherwise encounter.
You value contemplation and mindfulness and either have a meditative practice or would want to be in an environment which would support you in having one.
You want to live in an emotionally open and caring environment. You want to be able to depend on a shoulder to cry on and you’ll offer others the same.
You’ll be considerate of others and respectful of communal spaces when you have a romantic partner or friend to visit.
*Please also note we have a no-pets policy in our hubs.