The vision for Commonweal came on a dirt road.  It was 1975.  I was living in a small coastal town in Northern California.  The town was called Bolinas.  The name came from a Coast Miwok name of unknown meaning.  

The dirt road ran along the edge of town.  Beyond were rolling grasslands.  Two miles north nestled in a grove of trees was the old Marconi-RCA wireless building.  Radio communication between East and West began there.

That morning a stiff onshore breeze was pushing low heavy clouds inland toward the coastal hills.  Below the clouds, at ground level, swirls of fog were rolling in off the ocean.  The sun kept dancing through the clouds and mist.

I paused on the dirt road, Poplar Road, to look north.  My eyes were naturally drawn to the old white two story building – about the size of a school gymnasium– where banks of old radios still filled the entire space.  

Suddenly I was startled into astonishment.  A single shaft of golden sunlight had broken through the clouds and settled on the old white building.  It was as though a spotlight had been turned on.

At that moment, I was given what I can only describe as a vision.  The vision was of creating a center there dedicated to healing ourselves and healing the earth.  I walked back to the improvised garage apartment where I was living.  My friend Carolyn Brown, who owned the house, was washing dishes.  I told Carolyn of my vision.  She stood with her back to the sink, drying a dish with a dish towel.  She was single parenting three young children.  We had just spent the past two years building Full Circle – a residential school for troubled children in an apple orchard on Route 1 just north of town.

Carolyn was a tall woman with long brown hair and compelling blue eyes.  I sat across a high kitchen table from her on a stool.  She gave me a long appraising look.  Then she said, “well, let’s try.”

That is how Commonweal began.

Community well-being

Commonweal is an old English word.  It means community well-being. We understand that to mean the community of life on earth.

Carolyn Brown,  Burr Heneman and I co-founded Commonweal in 1976. We planned a health center, a research institute, a residential center and a biodynamic garden. That vision lives today.

Commonweal has always been committed to healing, learning and justice. Today Commonweal has over thirty initiatives across the US and around the world. 

Ancient values

Our values are kindness of heart, consciousness of mind, and dedication to service. The work of the heart, the head and the hands. We struggle to live up to these ancient values. The ancients knew them as love, wisdom and will. They guide our steps.

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