In 1981, when I first saw a copy of Gentle World’s classic vegan cookbook, The Cookbook For People Who Love Animals, I felt compelled to meet these vegans – the only other people I knew of at that time who felt as I did.
Since then, the experience of living with Gentle World has transformed me into someone who is much different from the person I would have been had we not joined paths. My personal transformation has taken me from being a suburban, consumerist, superficial person – to a country girl, a naturalist who tries to live at one with her environment, and a non-consumer, a recycler and conservationist.
Gentle World is an intentional community of sun-loving, country-living, Truth-seeking vegans who have come together for the intention of improving ourselves, and sharing our message of nonviolence and gentleness with others.
In our New Zealand location, our vegan educational center called Shangri-La is a model of vegan cooperative living. The food is grown veganically (marrying the principles of organic growing with the ethics of veganism), and the land is off-the-grid; powered by solar and hydro-electric.
This vegan sanctuary was once animal-harming land. The fences and ‘Not-Okay Corral’ (used for sheep shearing) were immediately taken down, and replaced with hundreds of assorted fruit trees, vegan-organic gardens, fields of flowers, and fragrant flowering trees. While the reminders of animal slavery were removed, the derelict house (that most people would have demolished) was restored and preserved.
The volunteers of Gentle World live in second-hand caravans that we clean, paint and bring back to life – instead of adding more to the landfills. Also worthy of note, living communally means that we contribute less to environmental devastation caused by consumerism, because instead of each of us living separately and owning 10 washing machines, we live together and share 1 or 2 second-hand ones. It’s a way of living that we want everyone in the world to be following, in order to help save the planet.
Gentle Worlders agree on some very important things, and right up there at the top of that list is veganism. Because we are not willing to accept ‘the world as it is,’ we have agreed to join together from different walks of life in order to work towards the building of a new one; both as a sanctuary for ourselves and as a model of what human beings can achieve, when they are willing to sacrifice their personal desires in favor of doing what is right for the whole.
Being a part of Gentle World has lifted my life by raising my consciousness. It has taught me about integrity, by defining and exemplifying ‘following the Truth,’ by prioritizing Love, and by encouraging my own evolution. It has taught me how to actually live the ideals that most people don’t even talk about, let alone try to incorporate into their lives on a daily basis.
Gentle World has been in existence for over four decades. What keeps us together through the years? First of all, the fact that veganism is the bottom line of all individuals living there (human and otherwise) makes the whole experiment possible. Secondly, having a strong purpose and goal that transcends our egos and ‘soap opera’ mindsets, also serves to keep the community together.
Living in Gentle World has sheltered me from the harshness of the non-vegan world, which is no small thing. The more sensitive I grow through the years, the harder it becomes to live in a society where it is an accepted practice to inflict needless, horrific torture on sentient animals. The Gentle World members are living proof that we do not need to use other animals at all, as each one of the members has been vegan for anywhere from one to forty years. Living in a world where vegan is normal (because actually it really is) is a blessing.