Mia, who is one of my fellow Pacific Gardeners, told me that she was uncomfortable with the slogan that appears on quite a bit of our promotional material. It states that cohousing is a place where neighbours become friends.
Recently Mia discussed this with her son, Yonas, who has lived in a cohousing community for a few years. Coincidentally, I was billeted with Yonas, his wife, Julia, and their three young children when I participated in a workshop at WindSong in late July.
Yonas agreed with Mia that the slogan was too simplistic. He said that his fellow cohos were not exactly his friends. Rather, they challenged him, stretched him, and inspired him to try things that, if he'd been left to his own devices, he would not have tried.
He went on to say that his fellow cohos belonged to a category that was somewhere along the continuum that had family members at one end and friends at the other end.
The cohousing model falls under the umbrella of intentional communities. I think "intentional community" probably is a perfect label for the phenomenon. It's a closely knit community, but it's one to which people belong by choice.
In the case of the family into which you are born, you have little option but to belong to it. Certainly that is so when you're a young child.
As I've stated on this blog before, most cohousing communities are secular and have no religious affiliations. However, it has been observed that there are a disproportionate number of Unitarian Universalists (UUs) in cohousing communities.
There is a noticeable overlap between the demographic compositions of the two groups. One of the characteristics that is common to both of them is a love of learning.
From my experience of cohousing so far, it is a way of life that calls on you to be flexible and open minded. I agree with Yonas that my fellow cohos are not merely friends. Because they have a habit of raising the bar for me, I think of them as spiritual companions.