“What kind of free-lovin’, room-sharing, twig-eating, communal-living, HIPPIE cult is this?,” I asked my Best Friend Iccha as she valiantly tried to describe to me her new living arrangements.

For some unimaginable reason, Iccha had decided to move out of her spacious South Shore condo to share a home with six other adults and three children. And, she had convinced her husband, whom I previously assumed was a sane and reasonable man, to go with her.

“Well, we’re at a time in our lives where we want to make a shift, to be part of something bigger that ourselves, to live differently, more aligned with our princples.” “O.I.C.,” I replied. But really I didn’t! I mean, its true, Iccha was into meditation and vegetarianism way before these things became “popular” and somewhat mainstream. So they leased out their condo, downsized their things (including three cats they off-loaded on me!) and moved into Sophia Community at the Quaker House in Hyde Park. It would not have been my choice, but hey, if they were happy, I was happy.

They settled in, and about two months later, Iccha invited me to Sunday dinner. OK, I knew visiting was inevitable so, reluctantly, I agreed. I’m not sure what my hesitation was about. Perhaps the name “QUAKER House” made me uneasy. Would I have to avoid cursing (almost impossible for me) during dinner conversation? Could I still bring my customary red wine as a hostess gift (I was really looking forward to that red wine)? Was this their monthly cult recruitment dinner? Would I be chewing on kale and sprouts for two hours and have to stop at Popeye’s on the way home? Sheesh! No wonder I was reluctant to…

Nevertheless, I was a trouper! I ate beforehand and brought dessert instead of red wine (which I did miss) and as for the cursing, well, I did my best… I do have to admit – it was a lovely meal with good conversation, great food and interesting people, and I had a wonderful time. I left feeling reassured that my friends were indeed in the right place.

Now, let’s fast-forward to about 18 months later. My husband and I are divorcing. I had moved to my own spacious apartment in an exquisite vintage building I had always wanted to live in (with Iccha’s three cats in tow!)

A little bit about me. I’m an only child who married late (and briefly) so I was used to being “on my own” the majority of my life. No problem. Except now, I was feeling strangely alone, for the first time ever. Even with three cats in my dream apartment…

About a week later after having this personal epiphany, I got what was now my twentieth invitation to Sunday dinner at the Quaker House. This time I happily agreed – I could use the company. After this dinner, however, Iccha pulled me to one side and admitted, “You know, we have an opening in Sophia Community right now and you are welcome to apply.” I gave her an incredulous look that implied – “Do I look like a free-lovin’, room-sharing, twig-eating, communal-living, HIPPIE cult-seeker to you?” My reply, however, much to my surprise was, “I’ll think about it.” She smiled.

On the drive home, I did think about it. And I thought about it the next day, and the day after that. By the third day, I had to admit to myself that I wanted to make a shift, be a part of something bigger that myself, to live differently, and more in alignment with my principles.

So I immediately submitted my bio, and after my in-person interview and reference check, Sophia Community made me an offer! Yep, I negotiated out of my lease, downsized my things, found homes for all three cats, and moved into Sophia Community at the Quaker House.

I’m still amazed that, twelve years later, that one unimaginable choice could so alter the trajectory of my life. I got the emotional support I needed during a difficult time. By downsizing my life I was able to leave my corporate job early to travel the world and pursue my passions and interests. I’ve learned to appreciate diversity from living with people of all ages and walks of life over the years. I have been challenged in many ways and have gained great personal insight from these challenges. And, most importantly, I’ve had numerous opportunities to strengthen my compassion muscle in a myriad of ways. I am therefore reassured I have made the best choice for me and I am grateful beyond measure!

Now, let me clear up some common misperceptions people have about living in an intentional-living community like mine… We are not “free-lovin'”, but we do love freely. The only “room-sharing” is our own kitchen and community room, both great conversation-gathering spots. We prepare creative and enjoyable vegetarian meals, nary a twig in sight. Now, by definition, we do live “communally” and we’ve just finally embraced the fact that, yes – we are actually “HIPPIES!” As for being a “cult?” Well, you’ll just have to come to Sunday dinner to see for yourself.

One warning though – “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid!”