The ironic thing is that the Findhorn Foundation – a wonderful self-sufficient community beautifully located on the North-East coast of Scotland – wasn’t started with any intention at all. The three ‘founders’; Eileen Caddy, Peter Caddy and Dorothy Maclean; had fallen on hard times and were forced to live with their children in a caravan on the outskirts of a village called Findhorn. Through following their ‘inner guidance’ and listening to the intelligence of nature, they managed to grow a bountiful garden of miraculous proportion. Tales of the 40lb cabbages and roses that bloom in the snow reached far and wide, and others flocked to join the community from as far as Australia and California. The community now has around 250 permanent members, each dedicated to serving the community, serving their own spiritual advancement and serving nature.
The foundation used to be classified by the home office as ‘Harmless Eccentrics’ (H.E.) and were known locally as ‘that mad bunch of hippies on the hill’ -children who lived in the community would get off of the school bus two stops early to avoid the association- but it is now seen as a pioneering community in perma-culture, sustainable energy production and the cultivation of mindfulness; to the extent that in 2004 Eileen was given an MBE for her services to ‘spiritual enquiry’. The foundation is now an international haven for spiritual workshops and teachings in sustainable living.All community ‘staff’ members are expected to work 35 hours a week in a service department; ornamental gardening, growing and harvesting, guest services, maintenance, homecare, kitchen etc. and in exchange they are provided with all of their basic living needs plus £50 a week to spend/ save as they chose for things they cannot produce themselves. Crop growing, pottery, weaving, printing, water treatment and energy production are all carried out on site. Meals are taken together in the community centre, as well as daily meditations, Taize singing and spiritual dancing in the beautiful hobbit-like ‘sanctuaries’ located all around the community. ‘Sharing’ is encouraged before and after every work session, every workshop and every meal and there is more group hand-holding than you can shake a stick at!So how was my week living with a bunch of hippies? It was truly wonderful. Despite my raging cynicism, I found myself totally convinced that my blindly picking the angel of ‘Understanding’ from a choice of hundreds, an angel who was reading a book in her picture, couldn’t possibly be a co-incidence. To my surprise I also found the morning meditations, Taize singing and spiritual dancing thoroughly enjoyable and enriching. Of course, there were a few things I struggled with; asking forgiveness from the hedge that needed pruning; stories of Dorothy’s negotiation with a mole who was digging up her garden, and the moles willingness to dig elsewhere when she explained that he was stealing her family’s food….hmmmm.I learnt to slow down and try to enjoy every moment rather than blindly running from one thing to the next; “enjoy the journey, because there is no destination”. I learnt to communicate my emotions openly, something I have never really done before, and of the ability this gives you to build deeper and more meaningful relationships. But mostly I learned how important community is, that warm, fuzzy feeling that someone always has your back, that you are constantly supported and, in true hippy style, that you can never have too much love.
I have never in my life before bonded with a group of people so tightly in such a short space of time. It was incredible, and we were all in tears during our final 3 hour sharing session, where some played instruments, others sang songs, taught dances, made origami hearts, bowed to the group, or just spoke from the bottom of their heart about their experience of the week. The people of Findhorn are so very warm and full of compassion, and my group especially were so kind and caring of each other. Often when I refer to people as ‘nice’ what I really mean is that they are a bit boring! Far from it. This group were some of the most interesting people I have ever met, traveling from as far as Australia, Japan, North and South America, Denmark, Norway, Germany and Spain, they were full of intrigue, passion and enthusiasm and were willing to give absolutely anything a go. From wandering round a room with your eyes shut making animal noises to try and find other people making the same noise as you (“find your family”), to hopping and skipping around in a circle holding hands to the dulcet tones of Enya. People came from all around the world with an open mind, a willingness to learn and an unquenchable thirst to be better connected with nature.
Our week ended exactly how it should, with a guitar and a sing song around a blazing campfire. And the song of choice? “Imagine all the people”. Of course.
What a glorious start to my journey. I will be back Findhorn, and I will write much, much more of my adventure with you, but for now I must finish painting my dragon eggs (part of my Daenarys Targaryen costume) for my next adventure. TitonCon, and the whacky world of SiFi superfans, here I come…