this is a cross-post from The Commons Substack

At the heart of The Commons’ vision, there’s always been one question:

How can we create a lively culture dedicated to our collective inner development, personal meaning-making, and fullest expression in the world?

In other words, can we create a place where we can find out and develop who we actually are, so that we may show up fully for the world?

The northstar is clear, but the “how” has been a process of continual experimentation and renewal. Over the last year, we’ve been alive in this question with our entire community, understanding that this vision can only be made possible with co-creation at its heart.

“[T]owns and buildings will not be able to come alive unless they are made by all people in society, and unless these people share a common pattern language, within which to make these buildings.” - Christopher Alexander, A Pattern Language

The impact of getting this right is also clear. In our own personal journeys, dialoguing with friends, and in joining various communities, we have yet to find a continual home to learn, connect, question, grow, and explore our own questions, place in the world, all the while being in community.

As we look to become this kind of fourth place for communal meaning-making and flourishing, we’ve asked ourselves: what is the common pattern language by which people can create their own worlds of exploration, insight, and integration? How do we design not just a place, but the social infrastructure needed to animate a physical sphere of sense-making?

To do that in the modern world requires a combination of tradition and pluralism – drawing from a variety of the strongest traditions of human flourishing, to create a cohesive yet diverse set of paths for each of us to become more fully ourselves. It requires sufficient structure around our inner development, meaning-making and expression, so that we can help one another out along the way, while also maintaining individuation.

These inquiries serves as the inspiration for the next iteration of Campus 🏛️- the core experience at The Commons.

Up until now, Campus has consisted of dozens of free-ranging salons and classes hosted by the community. Taking a nod to the collegiate quarter system, Campus has renewed itself every 2-3 months with a new curriculum co-created by members.

Going forward, however, we will establish a core curriculum for Campus dedicated to holistic adult development: the process of inner development, meaning-making, spiritual growth, and personal expression.

In devising this curriculum, we take inspiration after various unified theories of development: From Ken Wilbur’s Integral Framework (typified as grow up, wake up, clean up, show up), to the Zen/Taoist tenets of stillness clearing murkiness so that life can evolve from life, to karma yoga’s path of unselfish action, to Joseph Campbell’s characterization of the Hero’s Journey. Whether secular or non-secular, what underlies these processes is directionally similar: finding out who we actually are, in order to fully express ourselves from that place. Our core curriculum will explicitly draw from varying traditions and feature experienced practitioners from outside our community to bolster our offerings.

Each one of our members can embark on a journey across four mediums:

  1. 🏰 Guild & ⭕ Circles - At the start of every Campus term, every Commons member picks a single guild they most resonate with: explorer, builder, seeker, citizen, or artist. Each guild meets weekly as a Circle, focusing on one another’s meaning-making and personal expression.
  2. 🏫 Practicums - Outside of Circles, will be practicum: prescribed curricula open to all Guilds around the following topics:
  3. self & inner world (self to self)
  4. holistic wellness (self to physical self)
  5. making sense of outer world (self to world)
  6. relationships (self to others)
  7. wisdom (transcending self)
  8. creativity (self-expression)
  9. 🌱 Free-form Experiences - Outside of our core curriculum (Circles & Practicum), members can still host additional Campus courses and one-off events & experiences. We’ll also continue hosting community-wide events for play and connection like field trips, celebrations, retreats, and potlucks.
  10. ✨ Unstructured Time -  our community living room will always be a place for unstructured work, reflection and play.

In order to make this happen, we’ll be instituting The Campus Council - a loose governing body of members, deeply alive in their expression and processes of becoming, who co-conspire with us in dreaming up and executing our curriculum each quarter.

Council leaders balance autonomy with co-creation: having range to enact their visions for guilds & practicums, and abundant support and budget from The Commons, while working closely with us, external practitioners, and the rest of the Council to cohere a pluralistic curriculum. This council will form a tighter knit community  - connecting over retreats and dinners whilst being accomplices to one another in co-creation and personal growth throughout the quarter.

So how does this all come together?

In reality, we all contain multitudes and carry each archetype within us. However, there are times when a particular archetype becomes the predominant lens by which we desire to understand the world and ourselves.

As such, members stick to one Guild per quarter to deeply nurture that form of expression (in guild circles), while also allowing ourselves to explore other lenses and ways of relating (in practicums).

At other points in our journey, we may feel compelled to grow and express ourselves through the medium of nurturing others and/or creating a curriculum we feel excited by - thereby joining Campus Council as a leader. Every season (or quarter) of life calls for a refreshed assessment and exploration of what’s most alive in us, eventually leading us to ever-evolving truer versions of ourselves.

A multi-quarter journey at The Commons could look like the following:

Now to dive into each building block - what do these guilds, circles, and practicums actually entail?

🏰 Guilds &  ⭕ Circles

As we traverse the troughs and peaks of our individual journeys, it’s not only important to be in community - but to be in the company of those who understand. We’ve learned that in order for relationships to deepen, shared interests and shared context are required. Guilds are the means by which shared context can deepen within the already shared context of the Commons community. At The Commons, we’ve identified 5 primary archetypes:

These will be our guilds and members can only join one each quarter. By doing so, they’ll be committing themself to a weekly support circle consisting of check-ins, mastermind discussions, practice sessions, and resourcing harvests.

A north star for our Guild Circles is their ultimate development towards the likes of collaborative circles. Collaborative circles like The Impressionists, J.R.R. Tolkien’s Inklings, Susan B. Anthony’s women's movement circle has fueled inventions, masterpieces, cultural movements, and hastened the process of individual actualization.  

Historically collaborative circles formed through the curation of 1-2 charismatic leaders, bringing together peers to challenge and elaborate upon the status quo in one's field. However, building collaborative circles is difficult and often not accessible in lieu of these super-connectors.

We believe that Guild Circles can engender the conditions, like trust-building and serendipity, from which collaborative circles can organically evolve out of.

🏫 Practicums

Practicums are a more in-depth curriculum dedicated to some aspect of inner development, meaning-making, spirituality, or self-expression. They serve every guild in their actualization & expression and as such are open to anyone from any guild.  With roughly 4 sessions spread across a quarter - they will be either tailored to the abilities and capacities of our Council leads or taught by external facilitators that have mastery over difficult or sensitive material.

Here are our Practicums at a glance:

🧭  Inner World Practicum (self to self)

A practicum that serves as a foundational introduction to language and experiences about our inner world. The practicum will specifically explore attachment theory, emotions & feelings, internal feeling-beliefs – and all of their impacts on our lives.

🌌 Outer World Practicum (self to world)

In this Practicum we will explore our specific meaning, visions, values, and dreams as they relate to our outer world. The most intellectually-focused of our practicums, we will spend time personally drafting a vision for a better world and the specific ways we fit into it. This practicum will welcome discussions on theories of change + impact, foundational beliefs about “the good”, and comparative studies on value.

👪 Relationships Practicum (self to others)

In the Relationships Practicum we will break down our desires & conflicts within relationships to understand the dynamics underlying our relationships; question and dissect those underlying desires and beliefs, explore how we can show up more authentically, and offer tools to do so.

🧘 Holistic Wellness Practicum (self to physical self)

The Holistic Wellness explores wellness on a physical and energetic level. Part theory, mostly practice, this practicum will offer experiences and tools to understand and take care of our energetic and physical bodies. We recognize that taking care of these foundational aspects of ourselves, enables a strong foundation for our daily lives. We’ll talk about topics on the physical plane like fitness, nutrition, and sleep. As well as topics on the energetic plane like vitality, somatics, and sexual health.

🦉 Wisdom Practicum (transcending self)

The Wisdom Practicum combines the practices of various insight and spiritual traditions alongside theory to understand the limits and texture of human experience while also providing experiential glimpses. Meditation and other insight practices will be a predominant part of this practicum.

👩‍🎤Creative Practicum (self-expression)

In the Creative Expression Practicum your entire being, expression, and creative power are fully welcome. In this practicum we will focus on the 4 foundational creative mediums: voice, movement, craft, and imagination. Each person will be invited to take each medium in the direction most natural to them, while exploring and pushing your personal edge.

Overall, we believe this new iteration of Campus will enable us to get closer to our vision for The Commons and support its members along their journey of becoming their truest selves. The new core curriculum balances tradition, plurality, and depth so that we may all share a common “pattern language” while having the freedom to go our own ways.

And in parallel, we hope to hasten a cultural shift towards the creation of new kinds of places; fourth places for a new kind of meaning-making that is communal, dynamic, and holistic. We see a time and place where every city across America has safe spaces that don't prescribe meaning or fixed identities, but become the edifice by which people can create their own meaning.

Where a group of disparate humans finds equilibrium not through homogeneity but in existing with difference and celebration of collective plurality. Where people, communities, and places are increasingly defined by a holistic and continual kind of development that values each and every one of our fullest expressions in the world. For it is when we show up fully in the world that we show up for the world in the way it needs us most.

”Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” - Howard Thurman

Making art is not selfish; it's for the rest of us. If you don't do your thing, you are cheating us.” - Kevin Kelly

If this vision sounds inspiring to you, apply to be a member of The Commons. We’d love to see you on the other side 👋

For more context on our thinking check-out these previous essays: