Findhorn Experience Week

I finally got a chunk of free time.  The first 5 days were pretty packed.  I used this afternoon to sleep and compose this blog entry.  It is a sunny day here and most folks went to the beach near the village.  I am glad for this time to sit and write and reflect because I have experienced a LOT in the last few days that I wanted to share.

First, it might be good to explain a bit about what Findhorn Foundation is and how it got started.  I will distinguish the fact that Findhorn is the name of a village so when I say ‘Findhorn’ in my post for brevity, I really mean the Foundation. 

So Finhorn’s 3 principle’s are:

-listening to one’s inner voice

-co-creation with nature

-work is love in action

The Foundation’s Vision is:

By living and working together, putting spiritual values into practice, we are creating a positive and sustainable future for humanity and the planet.

The Foundation is a spiritual community, education center, and ecovillage.  There are two geographical parts to the community: Cluny College is where I am staying (the main education center) and then there is The Park, which is the place where it all started from a caravan about 40 years ago. 

Here is a bit about the history from their website:

"The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. All three had followed disciplined spiritual paths for many years. They first came to northeast Scotland in 1957 to manage the Cluny Hill Hotel in the town of Forres, which they did remarkably successfully. Eileen received guidance in her meditations from an inner divine source she called ‘the still small voice within’ and Peter ran the hotel according to this guidance and his own intuition. In this unorthodox way – and with many delightful and unlikely incidents – Cluny Hill swiftly became a thriving and successful four-star hotel. After several years however, Peter and Eileen’s employment was terminated, and with nowhere to go and little money, they moved with their three young sons and Dorothy to a caravan in the nearby seaside village of Findhorn.

Feeding six people on unemployment benefit was difficult, so Peter decided to start growing vegetables. The land in the caravan park was sandy and dry but he persevered. Dorothy discovered she was able to intuitively contact the overlighting spirits of plants – which she called angels, and then devas – who gave her instructions on how to make the most of their fledgling garden. She and Peter translated this guidance into action, and with amazing results. From the barren sandy soil of the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park grew huge plants, herbs and flowers of dozens of kinds, most famously the now-legendary 40-pound cabbages. Word spread, horticultural experts came and were stunned, and the garden at Findhorn became famous."

For more information, go to: www.findhorn.org

I first found out about this seven years ago when I was working with my first gardening mentor.  She had just finished reading the book and she gave it to me to browse through.  I immediately promised myself that I would go visit there some day.  Although they are no longer growing HUGE vegetables, they are still pretty much a self-sustained community.  They have acres of land they use and cultivate to grow their own vegetables.  The Park is completely run on windmill energy and whatever they do not use, they sell back to the energy grid.  They are now in the process of switching over from gas to biofuels.  Everything is recycled and there is a lot of reuse of things.  Not much that is bought is brand new.  People are conscious of not using more than they need and this includes only using electricity when they need to in the buildings.  It is rare to see lights on this time of year when it is so light outside for so long.  However, their winters are dark here (by 3 pm) and even so, I hear that lights are turned off and appliances unplugged when they are not being used.  Water is captured from the gutters in barrels in some buildings and re-used in the gardens during drier times.  Although they tend to get a lot of rain, the greenhouses need watering so that rain water is used in the greenhouses.  Housing at The Park is diverse and keeps in mind the co-creative aspect of working with nature.  They have several straw bale houses here (known as cob for those of you in Canada), earthen mound houses (houses built into the earth following natural contours), and many of their buildings have rooftop gardens on them.  Probably the wildest and most brilliant idea someone in the community had a while back was to get a hold of HUGE whiskey barrels form the distillery and make houses out of them.  They still smell like whiskey today and they are some of the most sustainable buildings here.  They are functional, beautiful, and built  almost from entirely recycled materials.

As part of our program, we work in one of the departments in the community 4 mornings in the week.  The departments to choose from are:

Kitchens on both campuses

Gardens on both campuses

Homecare on both campuses

Maintenance on both campuses

Everything in this community is done in a ritualistic way.  When we gather in any circle of people- be it our experience week group, to eat a meal or in our work groups- an atunement to each other is always done by holding hands and setting an intention for our time together.  This is preceded by a lighting the candle in a beautiful centerpiece garland of flowers that is common here in every room and pictured above at the beginning of the post.  In many ways, this centerpiece has come to represent what this community is about.  Everything that happens here is done with a particular intention set by the group beforehand.  These angel cards from Findhorn’s Transformation Game may give you an idea of what some of these intentions might look like:

That doesn’t mean there are no problems or conflicts or hicups and yet because people are holding that intention and conscious of taking ownership of their own inner and outer "stuff", things seem to work out well in the end. 

I have met a ton of people this past week from both campuses and what surprised me most was that these people are from every country in the world imaginable.  I thought that I was coming to a place where there would be mostly Scottish and English people.  In my group alone there are people from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France, Norway, Canada and the US.  And there are people who have been living in the community for over 35 years.  It has been fascinating to talk to them about all the changes and their evolution in that time.  All the founders have passed on besides Dorothy who still lives near the original caravan.  It is a vibrant community with a LOT going on: various workshops and ongoing classes offered on a routine basis. 

They really encourage people to do meditation and to find a type of meditation that is natural for them.  I enjoyed hearing the different meditations that people did to get access to their inner voice: ironing clothes, doing dishes, sitting meditation, guided meditation, walking meditation, singing meditation, dancing meditation, and being in nature.  The last one seemed to be the most common; folks all over the world go out into nature when they want to quiet their minds and hear that inner guidance.  I have been attending the singing meditation every morning before I leave on the bus for my love in action work at The Park.  Singing has always been my main way of connecting with Spirit and with myself.  My mom and my godmother used to joke that I sang more when I talked when I was a kid.  I really always did have a song in my head and that has not abated as I’ve become older.  Singing for me is my way to express what is going on inside me and to let that out so that there is room for Spirit to enter and take care of the rest. 

In order to decide what love in action department each of us was going to work in for the week our facilitators took our group through a guided meditation.  They asked us to notice which department elicited an inner response of some sort when it was read aloud and to make note of it.  Then when the meditation was over, they read out the departments again and people raised their hands.  There were only a certain number of places to be filled for each department and so after a bit of juggling, everyone found a home.  I was really surprised that I was not in the gardens.  I was drawn to do Homecare at the Park.  This work entails cleaning and caring for several buildings at the Park including all 3 sanctuaries and the big community center where everyone comes for their meals and tea.  In these communities, we all eat together and the kitchen department cooks for everyone so there isn’t a need for people to cook at home unless they want to. 

I wasn’t really sure why I was in Homecare at the beginning, but now at the end of the week, I am getting clarity around that after this morning.  Part of my love in action at the Park is caring for the sanctuaries.  We clean them physically and then energetically by sending up prayers or singing or ringing bells after our work is done.  I was one of the people who went to cut flowers for the sanctuary candles and then spent time arranging them.  I really love this creative work so I was thrilled to be with the flowers and make something beautiful for the community center tables and sanctuaries.  I was perplexed the entire week that in the Homecare Nest where we meet every morning, our sanctuary candle had rocks around instead of flowers.  After all, it is not winter where I could understand rocks, shells, feathers, and pine cones replacing flowers in a seasonal way.  Another thing I noticed is that almost everyone in the group had some sort of body illness or then were drained of energy.  Then today when I was cleaning the Nature Sanctuary (by far my favourite place on both campuses and pictured below), I realized that I too was exhausted by giving so much of myself without taking time to receive some of that love in action.  When I went to do the flowers for the sanctuaries, this morning, I also grabbed our ceramic container from the Nest, emptied it of the rocks and created an arrangement for us to enjoy.  When we came back in after our love in action was done to debrief and "tune out" (give thanks and blow the candle out to a cause), I found it interesting that only one person noticed the new arrangement in the middle.  During my sharing, I explained my revelation and we all decided to clean the Nest for ourselves as a project for tomorrow (my last day).  

And I realized why I was there in that group.  I have that tendency in my life to give more than I allow myself to receive.  In a way, I think that those of us that are natural caregivers tend towards neglecting ourselves, our space, and our own inner lives.  When I looked around our group this morning, I saw exhausted people who simply had not taken the time to care for themselves.  It may seem like an insane thing to do when the TO DO list is a mile long, and I have learned this week that doing up a flower arrangement- even when there are piles of laundry to get through- makes all the difference.  It gave me the inspiration to do those piles of laundry with joy and love.  It took the drudgery out of the work and turned my focus to seeing it as a meditation.  Stewart Friendship- a Glaswegian man who is a long time resident- told me that it is not love in action if you have the end goal in mind.  When he explained that, he said that everything that needs doing gets done eventually.  Part of the purpose of attunement is to align with the most easeful way to accomplish something.  What gets in my way, I realized, is all the planning of how I think it "should" go when if I am in the flow and stay in that meditative state, the most easeful way reveals itself.

I took this practice out with me yesterday morning when I went out to do Earthshare with my group in the pouring rain.  Twenty six of us descended on the muddy crop fields like locusts and weeded the rows of carrots and onions in about 3 hours.  Many hands do indeed make light work.  I am accustomed to working as a gardener in the rain and rather enjoy it most times.  Others in my group were not so sure about this!  The work ended up being playful and joyful.  We all sang songs or talked or went about our work quietly.  At one stage, it was so muddy that the mud was spilling over into my hiking boots and I had to pull my feet out of the earth that was sucking me in.  I looked over at Ken and he had taken his shoes and socks off.  So I followed suit.  I felt like a kid playing in the mud.  Others started taking off their shoes in droves and soon we were laughing like children and having a good time.  I even made peace with the occasional encounter while weeding with what Scottish folks lovingly call stabbies and jabbies- another name for prickly thistles.  I enjoyed working the earth with my bare hands and feet and was so grateful that I got to garden after all this summer. 

I have decided to stay on for a few extra days if they have room for me here at Cluny.  I want to take some pictures and explore the beach more.  As a guest, I can continue with my morning singing, use the bus system between campuses, and eat meals with everyone so I am looking forward to some more time here.

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