By Tina Boehm
I recently had the good fortune to attend Experience Week at the Findhorn Foundation Community in Scotland and want to share a little of my experience. My hope is that it may encourage others to venture overseas and have their own experience of a truly magical and unique spiritual ecovillage and learning centre in the secluded harbour of the Moray Firth in Northern Scotland. Findhorn is an ecovillage, spiritual community and learning centre and has been successfully running and growing for over 50 years.
I registered for and was accepted into the Experience Week in December 2014. This is a foundational program and a pre-requisite for longer Findhorn Community programs. Our group consisted of 11 participants and 2 “Focalisers” who facilitated and led the group – Between the 13 group members we represented 9 different countries – from Japan, Columbia, Africa and Turkey to name a few. The youngest was 27, the oldest (me) just turned 60.
It soon became clear that regardless of ethnicity, age, gender and educational background our shared humanity does not recognize these differences. It seems we all desire to love and be loved, to be known and accepted for who we are and what we bring to the world. We all shared the deep wish for a better world with more tolerance for diversity, and respect for the natural environment. It was our shared curiosity, openness and courage that created an amazing group dynamic and transformed each one of us in a profound and deep way during the course of the week. I believe we are all braver and stronger for our week together. I am sure we will each take this wonderful experience back to our own communities and on some level influence the world because of it. From this experience I believe we are making sense and contributing to a world that often appears to make no sense, given our current global financial, ecological and political challenges.
Findhorn Foundation has two main sites, Cluny Hill is an old Victorian Spa Hotel in Forres and The Park about 5 miles away was originally a Caravan site in Findhorn, and where Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean originally settled in their old caravan, after serving as the Managers at Cluny Hotel until they bought it from the original owners. There is a free bus service which runs throughout the day between the two sites. I was based at Cluny Hill for the duration of my stay.
There were many highlights, but one thing I really loved about my week at Findhorn was the gentle and regular focus on co-creation and respect for “the intelligence” of the Nature and Spirit realms which was emphasized in the outdoor activities and regular ritual of “Attunement” with everything we participated in. During the week together we experienced and attuned to many aspects of community life at Findhorn from food preparation, home care, garden maintenance, meditation, personal and community sharing, Sacred dance and Taize singing, to name a few. This Attunement is rooted in an abiding respect for and awareness of self, others and nature, and I believe offers a gentler and kinder way of “being” over “doing” in the world. It fosters a deep peace in knowing that we are supported by seen and unseen intelligent forces and in alignment with the natural flow, and joy of each life which is the embodiment of Spirit. Rather than moving noisily, separately, and egotistically to dominate and exert control, we moved more slowly and deliberately and shared in the projects with mindfulness and gratitude for the gifts of life with purpose and in resonance with all beings, seen and unseen. It left me feeling a deep calm and ease of being with myself and others.
During our week together we had many opportunities to share our feelings and thoughts about our experience, with no expectation of feedback or need of response, or participation from those who, for their own reasons, chose not to share. We had visits and heard stories from Community members who voluntarily shared their own experience of living at Findhorn. We met Auriol, a wise and graceful elder who had been part of the community since it started over 50 years ago. She had been a teacher at the local Rudolph Steiner school in Forres. She was a wonderful storyteller, and had such great presence and ‘spriteliness’ about her which belied her 80+ years. We heard first hand stories from a variety of lovely souls about their lives lived in, and out of, the community. Without exception, everyone was fascinating and generous in their openness and willingness to share themselves in this way.
We also got to choose our Love In Action service through a process of Attunement. As a working community, serving others is considered as important, or more important than serving ourselves. It is a big part of how and why Findhorn has managed to remain successful and viable for so long. I “attuned” to serving in the Community kitchen at The Park, which provided another wonderful way to be with interesting and caring people preparing and serving food for up to 80 people from the Findhorn and wider community. Every lunchtime and dinner time. the Findhorn Community opens its doors to its neighbours and visitors, in exchange for voplunteering, or other contribution, recognizing the importance and value of being accepted and supported by the community at large. As this world-renowned Spiritual community continues to grow, it is essential to be mindful and inclusive of its neighbours. This has not always been an easy relationship to foster and develop.
The week ended with an offering of Biodanza, a community dance, without words in which participants invite and allow playful and joyful dance, connection and contact with others. All of them seemed open, caring and extraordinary. I loved the permission and encouragement to dance and move to music and explore being with others in a safe and con-sensual sacred space.
Findhorn has been going through a profound Change process in recent times. They call it Living The New Story. It is described this way in their catalogue:
“Goes beyond recognizing what no longer serves and releasing anything that holds us back. Living the New Story is to allow our story to change and be changed in response to what is being asked of us in each moment. It is to open ourselves to bringing into being that which we perhaps cannot even imagine yet. It is the freedom to fulfill our highest potential…”
I am going through my own Change process as I moved into my 60th year. I still feel profoundly optimistic and privileged to be alive at such a time of great change and opportunity. I am inspired by the courage and openness of the Findhorn Community and know that they continue to be a force for good in the World.
Many of the participants I was with during our Experience week decided to stay for a few extra days after the program ended. I was sad to leave them all, and I wished I had allowed for the opportunity to stay longer and explore more of what Findhorn and the community has to offer. All in all it was a wonderful week. I met many amazing people and have made life long friends with some of them. My hope is to return some day for a longer stay, to re-connect with the people I met, and share more of myself in playful sensual delight. I am so grateful I had this chance, and invite anyone who is interested to explore more of what Findhorn has to offer. It is a unique and ever evolving community, not without its challenges, but one which I hope will continue to flourish and grow and become even more relevant as a sane and viable model for sustainable, meaningful community. In a world so hungry for a New Story and new ideas about how to live fully, lovingly and inclusively together Findhorn provides a model for how this might look. I encourage anyone who is interested to check it out www.findhorn.org.
My sincere thanks to Rachel Davey and Christine Lines of the Findhorn Foundation for providing the Exchange Agreement and opportunity for me to visit this remarkable place.