The work weeks passed in a blaze of productivity…but oh, the weekends. I had loads of overdue home and garden work, client work… no worries, I thought. I’d keep busy, call friends….
Little did I know…
Outside of the compulsive news-sharing, Facebook, of course, brought connection….lively connections with activists and news junkies across the nation and around the world. Many of us had never exchanged email addresses or phone numbers, because – why should we? We were in near-daily connection in FB-land or Messenger!
Until…..my contact list was just as inaccessible as the rest of my FB account. And I had simply vanished from their world without announcement or farewell.
Kind friends shared my news of deactivation with their overlapping friends lists. A couple of friends emailed in response. But that was all…and I realized with a jolt of humility that between the water-cooler convenience of Facebook, and our fast-rushing news stream, my Facebook friends may not have even noticed my absence. Even if they had, the velocity of the news feed and the busyness of their lives probably prevented their reaching out specially to a nonparticipant. I had become a rogue, a renegade. An outsider.
How I choose to pursue connections, what they will look like henceforth, is entirely up to me. And it is entirely probable that hundreds of Facebook connections might simply be lost.
That was when grief and loss finally broke through the energy that had carried me through the work weeks: at the thought that deep, profound friendships may have just vanished with my disappearance from the platform.
There is one group in particular – a group made up of poets and priestesses and psychologists, scientists, storytellers and mystics…we called ourselves a tribe. Early this year (2021), a dearly-beloved member, a storyteller, photographer, master gardener, potter, and force of nature in the form of a woman, who had become part of all of our off-Facebook lives in her travels, was diagnosed with an aggressive, inoperable cancer and entered her decline only a few months later. A group member went to stay with her as she prepared to move into hospice; a week later we all gathered on Facebook Live to hold vigil with her as she lay comatose, the end approaching. We sang to her, read poetry to her, prayed with her, told stories of our friendships with her…cried and were held by the circle in our shared love and grief. The Live session lasted, I think, more than two hours.
Bonnie Ann died in her sleep the next day.
Some time later, her brother sent me a bowl that she had made, a form so organic that it seems to have grown directly from the earth. It sits as an offering bowl on my altar in her memory.
Connections like those are the ones that matter on Facebook. Connections like those are the ones I can’t let go. And because the Tribe group on Facebook was, for most of us, our only point of contact, these contacts are lost to me now.
That needs to change. So…I’m going to jump through the reactivation hoops just to check in with the groups I loved, let them know I’m leaving and make plans with them to stay in touch….then download my contacts and data, delete my account, and leave.
Make it a proper leavetaking, not an involuntary banishment. Do it with honor and love, not AI aspersions and reactivity.
Along with just about everyone else I know, I have been moving through various stages of depression, anxiety, dread, horror, and grief as I witness the travesty of government, the utter destruction of anything remotely resembling democracy, a social safety net, or environmental protections, indicated by Congress and the evolving cabinet of the soon-to-be-inaugurated dictator-wannabe.
But lately something has happened that – while it hasn’t brought me to singing and dancing, it has allowed me to put my feet more firmly on the ground. take a deep breath, and put myself back together.
A couple of weeks ago, an old real-life nightmare returned after I’d thought it gone forever. It brought profound upset, fear, anger, outrage, and a raft of other emotions, all based on pure conjectures built on a chance 15-second encounter on the street. Trauma kicked in and – after digging deep into my own “Defense against the Dark Arts” toolbox and many others’ – I went through massive home purges and clearings, doing shadow-work and practicing Metta meditation and self-Reiki.
I didn’t know what was coming regarding that nightmare, but based on what I knew, it was likely not to be good. Another wise friend had told me “If you project XYZ negative possibilities, you are also responsible for finding the same number of positive possibilities. You simply don’t know why this has happened.”I tried hard, but past experience was getting the better – or worse – of my intentions.
Finally – exhausted by the what-ifs, the possibilities, the projections, and the near-paranoia of this close-t0-home circumstance on top of the drama on the national stage – I stood at my Reiki altar before the images of Tara and Mother Mary, and the words came to my mind, “Take refuge.” And – having run out of other options – I did. Envisioned a field of compassionate love, the arms of the Divine Mother, took a running mental leap and threw myself in.
The peace was immediate, and exquisite. It wasn’t that the genuine and potential horrors of the world – or the potential terrors of my immediate neighborhood – had ceased to be; I became aware that they were not all that existed. That – as Viktor Frankl had discovered in the Nazi concentration camps – the final freedom of one’s mind was still unbroken:
…everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.. ~~Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning
I could choose my focus: fear and paralysis, certainty of helpless victimhood, outrage and striking-back – or I could focus on the human spirit taking large and small acts of compassion and love nearby, across the nation and around the world. I could focus on the goodness, beauty and creativity of Earth Mother and her endless adaptations of evolution. I could focus on the dark, and surrender to despair, or I could focus on the knowledge that there is a deeper balance.
This didn’t mean that I was going to disappear into never-read-the-newspaper/never-look-at-the-news/happy-happy perky never-a-negative-thought denial. It meant I could see the horrors, but deny them their power over me. I could choose my state of mind, I could choose my actions rather than reacting.
As I disengaged the emotional hooks of dread and helplessness, I remembered the words of the young warrior at Standing Rock: “The police and DAPL are trying to scare us, put us off our balance. Don’t let it disturb you. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? You’d go in spirit to see your relatives. Don’t let them shake your prayers. Stay in prayer, sister.” Take refuge in divine love and compassion.
At two-twenty one morning, after a week of horrific news from Standing Rock, Washington, Aleppo, ecosystems of the world, I was numbly clicking through Facebook posts so I didn’t have to go to bed, lie there staring at the ceiling, and possibly get waylaid by the despair that had been building in me since….I’m not sure when, probably since the brutal attacks started at Standing Rock.
The Facebook post wrote itself…and touched off a flood of support, empathy, and wisdom: 104 “likes,” 64 comments (some long-extended comments spanning hours or days) and one share…not to mention the personal connections made and deepened off the thread. Six days later, the “likes” and responses continue. I am astounded..at no time have I ever been so raw in my FB sharing; nor have any of my posts touched such a chord. Never have I been gifted with such solidarity, support and wisdom. I am awed, humbled, and deeply grateful for so many soul-connections, unknown until now.
As friends have been posting their own struggles with depression and despair since then, I’ve been tagging them on the post, so they could share in the wealth of solidarity…and finally realized that it would make far more sense to copy the post and comments (with their makers’ permission) here.
Let it stand as a testament to human connection in a time of growing isolation, a demonstration that even when we humans feel most alone, most direly isolated, we are not alone; others are sharing the struggle, suffering with us. We are all truly connected in this world, we all do share in the sufferings and delights of others at profound levels, whether we realize it or not.
I have (for obvious) reasons, posted only a select few of the comments; for each one here, there were many variations on “You’re not alone,” “I hear you,” “I’m struggling too” and “Standing with you,” many punctuated by heart icons. What a blessed festival of love.
Phila Hoopes December 14 at 2:22am ·
This has to stop. I am lying here on my sofa at 2:20 a.m., clinging to our sharing, our grieving here, each share a bearing-witness, each click a prayer. Dry-eyed, choked silent, feeling the knot of world-pain growing in my chest, in my throat: Aleppo, Standing Rock, Washington, the rainforests, the oceans, the…….all of it. Too much to begin to comprehend, too much to bear…and yet as a human with a heart I cannot shut it down and go to sleep; I cannot stop this vigil of solitary grieving, this silent, ongoing scream of desperate, directionless prayer that does nothing practical (or does it?).
This is the worst time, when the phone is running out of power and bed is beckoning my body, but I cannot think of letting go even this tenuous FB thread of connection to people who together are suffering the connection to the world’s pain and fighting the causes in such wee-hours ways as we can – a petition here, a letter there, a donation somewhere else, prayers and Reiki ongoing – does it make any difference at all? The demons set loose on the world would have us believe it does not – meanwhile trying to keep up the energy to do our own work of service for the world.
This is the time when I wish for a sweatlodge to wring the salt water and pain from pores and eyes while surrounded by others similarly releasing. To hear prayers from others echoing my own. To know that somewhere, somehow, this giveaway of heart makes a butterfly-flap of difference, shifts the balance even the tiniest fraction of a millimeter toward the light.
Comments Sucely Lucifera Hernandez<3It does. The Moon bears witness to our pain at the same time as she sheds light on it.
Casey van BronkhorstYou are far from alone. Let the thread of connection act as a very slow recharge cable, linking you back to us all with the faintest and most delicate of energies. You are heard. You are, softly, appreciated. Rest if you can; sleep if you must, but savor the hidden strength of that cable. …Run with us, if you’re too tired to stand. We pace in the earliest hours. We listen, though our ears are too weary to accept silence.…Grief is a needle and thread that stitches you back together after a phenomenal loss. Occasionally, as it does its work, it sticks you, catching you off guard. That’s part of its process, though, as each bit of pain is a healing moment but it may help keep your empathic talents in perspective at the moment when you feel like reaching out and grabbing someone’s pain from them.
Cate Raphael Send out that which you desire and turn it over. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the drama and the emotion of it, it happens to me too. But then when I go into meditation and be very quiet and focused and send out what it is I wish to see in the world , I remember that it is all happening for a reason. The best thing we can do is to take care of our bodies and our spirits , so that we can raise the energy, raise the vibration in this crazy world filled with turmoil. You cannot control people places or things you can only send out the energy that you want to receive. That is how healing works. If you are unable to physically help then work on raising your own energy so you can help with the healing ! You are draining yourself, and that will not help anyone but it will hurt you.
Karen Starr So many of us are reeling at the state of the world at this moment. And it is hard to know where to focus and how to best be of use. Especially for empaths this is a very hard time indeed. However, I think we need to cultivate a calmness that allows us to move past the grief and outrage to find the wisdom to direct our action. So many beings are depending on us and we have more allies in the natural and spiritual world than we can possibly imagine. Each day, each hour there is only each of us doing our best to relieve some small part of the suffering around us as best we can. Sending you lots of love, Phila.
Christel Libiot I hear you sister and yes there is so much going on in the world, everywhere, at so many levels.. It seems the hope of “better” is so tenuous. And more than ever we need to show up and stand strong as the peaceful warriors that we are and come together to energize the emerging paradigm of Oneness and Right Relationship with All Our Relations, supporting a new establishment of a World that Works for Everyone. We have the power to do what is necessary. Let’s gather; let’s do it!
Sue A. Phillips I am there with you too. One day despair, the next day hope. I am working on standing in my loving warrior space – I get there for a little while, then I am overcome with a depth of sadness that has me running scared – retreating into my little one who can ignore reality for a while. I honor all sides of myself along this very difficult road. We must move out of FaceBook to the real world and start standing together- for support, yes, but more for the strength of our warriors standing in all of our collective glory to protect Mother Earth and our sisters and brothers . The hard part for me is how to start the process.
David Alan TynerPhila, your witness is heard, your sharing felt, your deep compassion appreciated, yet most significantly your hope is kindled and enfolded. We who are letting ourselves be sensitive to this often overwhelming life, must find some way not to be crushed by its weight and expanse. Thich Nhat Hanh has helped me take Andrew Boyd’s challenge to somehow find a solution and to become it, piece by peace.
….”The second aspect of true love is karuna, the intention and capacity to relieve and transform suffering and lighten sorrows. Karuna is usually translated as “compassion,” but that is not exactly correct. “Compassion” is composed of com (“together with”) and passion (“to suffer”). But we do not need to suffer to remove suffering from another person. Doctors, for instance, can relieve their patients’ suffering without experiencing the same disease in themselves. If we suffer too much, we may be crushed and unable to help. Still, until we find a better word, let us use “compassion” to translate karuna.” http://andrewboyd.com/the-agony-of-being-connected-to…/
….“Oh well, blankets for land is a bargain indeed, And the blankets were those Uncle Sam had collected From smallpox-diseased dying soldiers that day. And the tribes were wiped out and the history books censored”
~ Buffy Sainte-Marie
…. A close friend just mentioned obliquely who knew of Buffy Sainte-Marie, the lyricist for Donovan’s “Universal Soldier” ? And I burst into tears remembering her as the one who told my near empty younger slate of the story of blankets, that forever changed my life and perception of First People’s struggles, being beyond any misery I could ever imagine. Still trying … many decades later.
Carol Sheppard I understand and share in the mania of love, and worry, and needing to make even a flicker of a difference when all the forces seem to be saying that it is futile, with so many hands reaching toward fleeting connection and community that only faith says might make contact and matter. This is such a dark and difficult time and I pray to the spirits that somehow so much suffering may eased. Hard as it is we must hang on and do the work of loving fiercely and fully, especially when there is no evidence that it makes a difference. It is necessary to be the ones that do so, especially now. Sending you love and blessings ♡♡♡
Kerrith McKechnie I am with you. I think there are countless beings with us. We must be still so we can know our strengths and do what we must do. One tiny step at a time, but it IS a step, and we ARE together.
George Moore I’ve changed my prayer intention from putting an end to all of what is going on to allowing it all to ramp up to the point that finally tips the scale and creates worldwide peaceful resistance and economic revolution. By being peaceful resistors in the faces of militarized corporations, like the Water Protectors are doing, we can affect peaceful change. By not buying anything from the multi billion dollar corporations and buying locally from small businesses that only sell what is produced in your home country we peacefully cut the supply of green blood to the greed ridden billionaires and put them out of business. These actions will change the entire world. This is what I pray for, meditate on, and ask everyone to join me in.
Reblogging this powerful and important channeled message from Earth Mother, transmitted by my longtime friend, Gaia mystic and author Mare Cromwell… she provides a little of her story and her many credentials at the beginning, then starts to deliver the message at 4:12.
Just a few of her key points:
CALM DOWN. Too many of us are getting pulled into the drama of these times. Our collective subconscious feeds an energy grid encircling the planet; some of our actions feed Earth Mother; most don’t. So – yes, feel the emotions, process them, and release them; don’t numb them out or get stuck in them or lash out in anger and hatred at others.
ENERGY FEEDS ENERGY. Hatred and anger build more hatred and anger. There are positive energies pouring into the planet – Cosmic Christ energy, Buddha energy. Pray, send positive energies into the grid. Create prayer circles, do ceremony – the Earth needs this all the time now.
CHAOS IS OVERWHELMING. And it is necessary; a new world is coming in. Native peoples have predicted this. Don’t feed the chaos with reactionary drama. Negative energies are served by our unconsciousness, numbness, reactivity…their time is limited and they are fighting hard to hang on.
WE EACH HAVE A CHOICE: To get sucked into the drama, or not. Facebook is a prime example of the addictive cacophony, the energy hooks us immediately when we login and too many of us are venting there. Step away from the computer, go outside, stand barefoot on the Earth and give our angst to Mother; she is hardwired to heal.
MOTHER LOVES US. More than anything, she wants us to know this. Mother loves us and wants to help and heal us. And she asks us to be present with her, listen to her, love her back.
There’s much more – much more – in this long message, and I urge you – please listen to it all. This is the real deal, and it’s important for all of us to hear it.
There’s been quite a lapse of time since my last Findhorn post, mainly out of an awareness that to this culture’s underlying mindset – that everything non-human is therefore nonsentient – what I am writing about communicating with plants and nature spirits may sound quite mad.
I’ve seen a dear friend, a nature mystic with decades of experience, wrestle with this worry, and come to resolution through the endorsement of recognized Indigenous elders and medicine people. By comparison, I’m at the bare beginning of my path in the practice of communicating directly with the awarenesses of nature…but rooted in a childhood vision, verified by interspiritual study and by having been the wife of a Sun Dancer, witnessing and directly experiencing the truth that all beings, and the Earth herself, are alive, conscious, inter-aware, and interconnected by the Divine light of consciousness.
I’d seen my husband teaching sweatlodge participants to tune in to the trees used for building the lodge and the stones used in the ceremony, had seen their faces light up as they made connection…I’d experienced connection in that ceremonial state, and profound connections with nature awarenesses on sacred land elsewhere…had led a circle of my own and seen the attenders make their own first contact.
And if those experiences had taught me one thing, it was that everyone has the ability to hear and communicate with the awarenesses of our brother and sister beings – that this is not a paranormal, superhuman, mutant personal “power” but our birthright as beings of this planet, part of its web of life. And that is what I, in my stumbling way, want to communicate in these posts: I’m not special, I’m Everyperson.
These stories are my steps along the path; yours will differ, but anyone who seeks connection with Our Relations and Mother Earth can eventually find it, if the invitations are made with love and the desire to learn and serve the greater Whole. And I believe – pardon the soapbox, but I do believe that this loving conscious connection is critical to our survival and the survival of life on Earth in these changing times. And I am not alone in this belief.
So…where were we? I had just encountered the nature spirits of the Power Point at Findhorn, and had my first conversation with them.
After that, I couldn’t wait to get back to the Power Point and seek further conversations with its entities…but due to wild weather and structured days, it took a little while. Finally, on a wet, clammy afternoon, I slipped out in full rain gear, passed through the gateway arch and rang the windchime, bowed as I passed the earth altar, made my way to the beginning of the spiral path….
…and realized that the path forked: one side cutting straight up the hill along a property fence, the other swinging wide into the spiral. And the left side, the straight uphill side, was flanked by a slope of oxalis with its dark, cloverlike leaves and nodding white bells, all of it shimmering with energy.
I caught my breath: if I’d walked into a glade of dancing fairies, I couldn’t have felt the energy of the nature spirits more strongly. Dropping into seiza on the muddy path, I quieted my mind in greeting and gratitude, and remained in meditative silence as I felt my energy body being scanned. My thoughts ranged over my life and work: how would these beings see me? To my relief, I felt general approbation: they saw that I’d dedicated my life to serving the planet and her beings. My relationships? Struggling, in process, but authentic. My relationship with the land I tend? Insecurity burst out of me: what can I do about the problems in my veg garden – yellow spots, aphids?
The response startled me: stop digging your anger into the soil.
I thought back to the beginning of the garden, how my late husband had been trying to teach me construction techniques in building the fence, and how our power struggles had manifested throughout the process. How my father and husband had insisted for years on bringing over Dad’s Rototiller to till the garden, while I was choked and paralyzed with the wordless distress of the soil ecosystem as the men gouged the roaring, bucking, petrol-stinking machine through the soil, the blades slashing through tender underground bodies. How, after years of this, after my husband’s passing, my insistence on spending days gently turning the garden soil myself and crumbling the clods by hand had sparked Dad’s scorn, which triggered my angry defensiveness…oh, anger had been dug into that soil from the beginning. And even now, after my father’s passing, with the garden mine alone to tend as I tried to practice no-till permaculture and sacred gardening, that patch of land still received my occasional self-defensive soliloquys.
The response rose in my mind: You’re never alone – the spirits of your land see you, hear you, and most important, feel your pain and anger. To heal your land, you need to connect to Earth Mother’s love and send love to the soil and all the plants you tend. Remember how Peter Caddy dug LOVE into the soilto turn sand dunes to gardens at Findhorn Park. Dig love into your land and we will guide you. We know you’re wounded. We want to help you heal as your land heals. There is no division between you and the land you serve.
There followed a wash of acceptance and love so strong that I burst into tears.
I don’t know how long I knelt there; that was just the beginning of the conversation. I received affirmation of the practices I’d been following, insights on new ones, and guidance in moving them forward. And most important, I received the affirmation that – as much as I’d stumbled and fumbled, my vision for the property, and my dreams for my own work, were on the right track.
Finally, the conversation was over, and it was time to move on. I bowed to the spirits, the plants, the trees, the misty rain, and walked one circuit round the hill, joining the other end of the path as it led down from the Power Point. Treading carefully on the slippery moss, damp stones, and mud, I made my way down the path to the archway, ringing the wind chime in farewell, and back to join my group at dinner.
I could go on and on about the adventures of our group at the Findhorn Foundation‘s Experience Week…our free-time hike to Forres, abetting one young man’s quest to try the quintessentially British diabetic-coma-on-a-plate (a.k.a. deep-fried Mars bar) and then ascending a minor mountain to mug for photos at the base of Nelson’s Tower…wading in the frigid Moray Firth…scrubbing sculleries and washing windows during Love in Action…and serving up a potluck of talent, from Wonderwall to Taize, on our last night…and through it all, through the attunements and trust exercises and service and meditation and clowning, bonding to become a close-knit international family.
It was the experience of a lifetime; I haven’t shared so unself-consciously or laughed so hard or felt so utterly free to drop my masks and public persona since I was a teenager.
…and it wasn’t until I’d stepped into my second week – Spiritual Practice Week – that my deep purpose for coming to Findhorn truly began to take shape: connecting consciously with the awarenesses of Nature. Our small group spent far less time bonding, far more time in solitary contemplation, and despite the wild weather (rotating snow/sleet/hail/rain/sun, often in the space of an hour), I gravitated again and again to the Power Point.
I spent the first few trips alternating between admiration of the glorious forest and mountain vista, and impassioned prayers: let me hear! let me see! let me shift to a new, grounded perspective, one that will last and support a deeper work when I go home!
…the genuine people who are legitimately curious about my world… would dearly love to see us. There is nothing wrong with that except that it very rarely works—they try too hard. Perhaps this is fortunate as they do not realise how dangerous it might be if their desire was granted too soon, before their bodies or their minds had been prepared and conditioned for the experience, and the right degree of cosmic consciousness had been reached. The elementals, the ones who are my subjects, belong to a different evolutionary stream than humanity. Close contact between human beings and the elementals can be dangerous if it takes place too soon, especially if the motives for seeking it are wrong.
So you might say I was protected up there…or else I was just making too much noise, asking!
And then there came the day when things shifted…
I was coming down the spiral path, touching the trees and bushes in gratitude, when my eyes were drawn to a stump by the side of the path. It was beautiful, covered with moss and lichen, with delicate plants resembling tiny cyclamens springing from its root. And…..something about it, the energy around it, was different.
I slowed to a halt, squatted down, and considered the beautiful little micro-ecosystem…took out my phone and snapped a photo, and rose to go on my way…
and heard in my mind a rather irritated voice, asking, “Is that all you’re going to do?”
Whoa..what??? I turned on my heel, knelt down and apologized: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snub you!
You just didn’t expect your requests to be answered? That’s not unusual.
I mentally stammered in confusion, mouth agape.
There was a sense of softening, and an invitation: Just sit down and be with us for a little bit. Let us see you.
I knelt down on the path, the wet leaves soaking through the knees of my jeans, feeling a sense of welcoming. While the stump looked – and felt – like a fairytale scene, while I could imagine the tiny fairies of the storybooks flitting about among the plants and reclining on the mosses, I didn’t see anything…but there was that sense of aliveness.
I thought of Hildegard of Bingen’s word, veriditas. referring to “spiritual and physical health, often as a reflection of the divine word or as an aspect of the divine nature”….remembered the warnings ROC had received: that if the nature spirits withdrew that vital force from nature, humans could no longer survive.
Yes, came the response, and I began to catch a sense of a multidimensional macro-ecosystem, not only populated with interdependent physical beings of all kingdoms and species, but also with related ethereal beings tasked with caring for them and keeping the whole system functioning. I knelt there in awe, feeling myself part of a cosmos much more diverse than I’d ever imagined.
You don’t have to pound on the door, came the words, gently. You need only ask in love and openness. We’re here and we want to help you in serving the land and the people.
With that, I felt I was released; the encounter was complete. I rose and bowed in gassho to the beings of the stump, and went on my way.
By Tuesday of Experience Week, our little group had gained somewhat of a feel for the grounds of Cluny Hill and Findhorn Park. It was time for our focalizers Craig and Pat to introduce us to the wider bioregion. We piled into the shuttle bus and rode past fields of grazing sheep, through glorious birch, holly and spruce forest, to the Findhorn River. We parked at a trailhead above the spectacular crags of Randolph’s Leap … a spot that clairvoyant/metaphysician R. Ogilvie Crombie (“ROC” for short), a guiding light for the growing community, had identified as particularly powerful and watched over by benevolent nature spirits. Here, Craig and Pat invited us to find a spot, settle in, and meditate, consciously reaching out to the awarenesses of the wood.
With some minimal experience of communicating with nature spirits, I was praying hard for connection here. With all my senses awake, I chose a trail that sloped gently downhill, reaching for the tingle that would tell me I’d found the right spot. Singing a Libana chant as invocationas I walked, I felt into the energy of the wood: where was the best place for me to seek connection?
And there it was: a dropoff past a towering Scottish Pine, past ferns and bracken to a sandbar below. Warned by Craig and Pat of the river’s potential for flash floods, I didn’t want to go close to the water…but where to sit? Perching precariously on an outcropping of the slope, I looked to the exposed roots of the Pine, and saw that they intertwined with the roots of a neighboring Beech to form a natural nest. Feeling like a child climbing a jungle gym, surprised at my own temerity (and blessing the deep treads of my galoshes), I clambered over and hauled myself up and in.
The roots on which I rested were covered in moss, swathed in ferns and lilies growing in the dirt accumulated over countless floods. Facing the river, the trees stood proudly on their exposed, mossy roots like Louisiana Cypresses, with their hidden path-side roots no doubt holding up the hill. I couldn’t imagine the force of floods that would sweep away earth this high – easily 25 feet up from the riverbank. But the trees stood strong, their roots and branches intertwined, evergreen and deciduous.
I settled my tush, crossed legs to meditate. Just in front of me a Beech root snaked lithely over a Pine root, both disappearing down into the hillside. I felt the trees embracing in a long partnership. You are at a bridging place, a connection point, I heard in my mind. That is your work: helping to build connections between humans and the natural world. It was the beginning of a long conversation: my trepidation was met with reassurance and guidance; affirmation that despite my self-doubts I had a job to do; even floundering as I have been, a good start had been made, my good intentions were recognized. I sang, laughed, cried…felt a flood of love and connection with these Standing Beings and the micro-ecosystem they supported.
We had 90 minutes in which to do our walk, meditation, and return. I don’t know how long I sat there, cradled; it seemed far longer. As the conversation drew to its end, I saw a discarded juice box half-hidden, caught in the roots of the Beech. It summed up the culture from which I’d come: disconnected from the natural world, focused on immediate gratification, careless of the cost or consequences of its consumption. Yes, exactly, came the response. I wanted to remove it, as a token of service in gratitude, but I could see it wouldn’t be easy – the box was well lodged, out of reach and slightly down the hill, outside my nest. I looked and found a pointed stick ready to hand, and with diligent poking, maneuvering, and prayers for balance, I edged it out and up to my hand. Yes!
With that, it was time to go. I offered my gratitude to the trees, and asking their help in getting back to the path, found roots fanning upward like a ready-made flight of steps. A short scramble and I was on level ground, bowing to the trees, the river, the spirits of the land, and walking back to the meeting point with the juice box in my hand.
The second turning point of the Findhorn visit opened a part of me that I had thought unreachable…a part I’d feared for years as a monster intent on destroying my life.
There was the rush of arrival and meeting other Experience Week participants …the check-ins, the introductions, getting-acquainted exercises, and talks…and under it all, the looming question: where would we each perform our Love In Action (service periods)?
(In the early days of the Findhorn Foundation, when spiritual pioneers Eileen and Peter Caddy, their three sons, and their friend Dorothy Maclean were surviving on meager means in a trailer on Findhorn Park, they supplemented their diet with what they could grow in gardens literally built on the sand of the Moray Firth dunes…gardens that flourished beyond all possibility, thanks to Dorothy’s communication with the nature spirits, Eileen’s direct transmissions from Spirit, and Peter’s hard work.
As word spread about their impossible harvests (including famous 40-lb cabbages), they received a flood of eager visitors seeking to experience a community based on spiritual principles. With some visitors less willing to help out than others, Peter laid down a firm rule: every resident and visitor who was capable would contribute work as “Love in Action” toward the physical development and maintenance of the community. This rule continues today, and Experience Week includes four periods of service, either in Cluny Hill or in the Findhorn Park. Where you perform your Love in Action is determined not by assignment but by “attunement” – a meditation to match participants’ inner call to the needs of the community.)
Sunday morning, as I dressed after showering, I felt a weight on my chest, seemingly compressing my lungs till every breath was a focused effort as I told my body, No. You are not going to do this. This is not allowed. When I get home I’ll go to the doctor, but right now you are not going to do this. My heart is fine, my EKGs are fine, I’m not going to break up this week. I was getting light-headed and the sensation was not stopping…finally, I lay down, breathing deeply and calling on every spirit-helper I could think of. Slowly, the sensation passed and I joined our group for the introductory tour of Findhorn Park and its blossoming new development.
After supper came the Attunement. We were offered a choice of Cluny Kitchen, Dining Room, Home Care (housekeeping); Park Kitchen, Dining Room, Home Care, and Cullerne Garden – the large, CSA-like farm that supplies most of the community’s vegetables, year-round (did I mention that the Findhorn Foundation is located on the same latitude as Alaska and Moscow, with a three-month growing season?).
There was no question in my mind of where I should be: the Garden. This, after all, was the reason I’d come for a two-week visit: to immerse in the organic/semi-permaculture gardens, be as useful as I could, learn as much as possible, and bring home a new understanding of co-creating with nature. There was simply no other option.
When we all emerged from the brief Attunement meditation, I headed immediately over to the corner marked “Cullerne”………with three-quarters of the rest of our group. The other areas received only a bare sprinkling.
Clearly some negotiation was needed…and was done, gently at first and then with quiet intensity: this was not about our personal needs or wants, but the needs of the community as a whole. We would have free time in which we could experience the gardens, if we chose. One by one, people moved to other areas. I stayed rooted, with four others: this was also about the need to give to my community at home! Finally, I realized: I was here for two weeks; there would be another opportunity to serve in the garden; I didn’t need to be rigid. After a brief inner check-in, using my necklace as a pendulum, I moved to Park Home Care.
Meeting with the Home Care group in the Nest next morning, we had another choice: cleaning and blessing the sanctuaries and Library, or scrubbing and Hoovering (vacuuming) the Community Center? Once again I consulted the pendulum, and went off with Susan, a Danish energy-healer and former therapist, to the sanctuaries, intent on freshening up and affirming their powerful positive energy.
We came to the Main Sanctuary and began our work. I’d thought initially that it needed to be done in silence, with utter focus and intent, but Susan drew me out with questions about my life and background, and to my surprise I found myself telling her the experience of the morning before. She gazed at me a moment, and asked, “Would you allow me to listen to your heart?” I nodded and she placed her hand on my chest.
“There is a voice here that says ‘I don’t want to be here,’ not here at Findhorn, but on this planet,” she said after a pause. I caught my breath: she was directly quoting the words I perennially heard from my inner child. “You don’t need to worry – she’s not going to cause a heart attack,” Susan continued. “But she’s wounded and afraid, and she desperately needs love. She’s trying to get your attention in the only way she knows how.”
I was staring at her, thinking of my experience on Arthur’s Seat – the forgotten hiking shoes and the terrifying vertigo and acrophobia that forced me to step back, embrace my limitations,and choose a gentler path, examining with childlike curiosity the plants along the way. Was my forgetting really an accident? I remembered other unaccountable choices that had led to risky or physically or socially self-destructive situations, and how I’d reflexively fought and judged them, had been tempted to despair, believing that something within would forever sabotage me, perhaps one day fatally…..
“She wants you not to fear her, but to accept and love her unconditionally. Treat her as you would treat any scared, hurt child,” Susan said. She paused, closed her eyes for a moment. “I’ve given her healing energy, but the rest is up to you. She’s living in fear; you need to surround her with love. Set aside the fear in your mind and replace it with love.”
Tears were running down my cheeks now, thinking of my mother’s closely-constrained existence and the tightly-structured do’s and don’ts of my childhood… how after 20 years of rebellious growth and leadership, supported by my husband, I’d withdrawn into a spiral of isolation after his passing, fighting fear, paralyzing inertia, and self-sabotage with every attempt to break the pattern.
I nodded, remembering the experience on the beach at Nairn, seeing my hostess transcend the cold of the Moray Firth with conscious loving connection to the earth, sea and sky. Feeling the playful lick of the waves around my galoshes as I moved past fear of the frigid water to make my own loving connection. Realizing that despite my best control-freak efforts, this Love In Action attunement had brought me exactly what I needed.
Finally I gathered myself and thanked Susan from the heart. We continued the cleaning, I tapping into the accumulated energy of 50+ years of community meditation in this spot, and remembering the reading from Eileen Caddy that had closed the morning’s meditation:
Expect your every need to be met, expect the answer to every problem, expect abundance on every level, expect to grow spiritually. You are not living by human laws. Expect miracles and see them take place.
“…And over there is the Power Point,” said our co-focalizer Pat, waving her hand toward the forest beyond the Cluny parking lot. Dropping that provocative comment with no further explanation, she went on to point out the laundry, the Boutique, the downstairs 24-hour shower, and other necessities. But that brief mention left me determined: when we had some free time to explore, the Power Point would be destination #1.
It only took a passing mention at dinner to discover that five women in our group had felt equally compelled to see the Power Point. Despite the cold drizzle, we bundled up and sallied out across the parking lot, past the heart-shaped wisteria espalier and under the freestanding arch, with its path leading up the hill.
This was just a getting-acquainted trip for us, exploring our environment. The five of us laughed and joked about Woman Power, being unafraid – even eager – to encounter the nature spirits of the spot (or even the great god Pan himself!), but an undercurrent of awareness ran through our carrying-on: this expedition was calling forth a wild-woman face that we each carried hidden. Our backgrounds were varied, international – Welsh, Spanish, Dutch, German, and American – and each of us was aware at bone level that past the budding arch, with its wind chime like a doorbell, lay genuine earth mysteries that transcended our individual cultures.
Instinctively, each of us gently touched the wind chime to ring as we passed beneath the arch. I was reminded of the Shuar community of Ecuador, who painted their faces before going into the rainforest to tell the spirits that they came humbly in peace.
The graveled path arced uphill, turning sharp left around a growth of trees and bushes to reveal two circles, set like an anteroom and sanctuary. My heartbeat quickened at the still air, the echoing song of sleepy birds, the feeling of expectancy.
Instinctively we walked the first circle clockwise, past the Garden of Release and its fragrant flowering bushes. The flagstone path led on to the second circle, outlined in white stones, with a bench facing a simple altar to the Feminine beneath a young Scottish Pine. Silently we gathered in a meditative semicircle and offered an intention for the coming week, then one by one laid an impromptu offering – a feather, a stone, a fallen blossom – on the altar.
We recessed out in silence, feeling as if we had already accessed a Power Point, knowing that the actual destination still lay ahead. Our footsteps muffled by damp leaves, we followed the path as it spiraled uphill. “The path is a beginning of ritual in itself,” one of the women whispered, and I agreed. Like walking the turns of a labyrinth, this wide spiral was leading us inwardly deeper even as we moved higher, glimpsing the roofs of Cluny below us through the trees and the mountains far beyond.
Around and around, walking, walking…there were shortcut trails directly to the top of the hill at intervals, and a couple of the women broke off to follow these, but the deepening feeling of ritual held three of us on the path. Finally we came to the summit, a clearing of holly, birch, flowering bushes and a simple altar of stones. “Love is the answer, Love over all,” said one woman in a hushed voice. Standing there, I felt the connection of earth, trees, sky, the Deep Feminine connection between us five. Smiling impishly at the rest of us, one woman howled at the nearly-full moon somewhere beyond the clouds, and we all joined in, embracing our wild Oneness with divinity.
Walking down, unwinding the spiral, I felt the ritual energy slowly releasing. Women began to talk again, one speaking of similar experiences at other earth sanctuaries, another sharing her worries as a Catholic experiencing things far outside church dogma. I stopped to admire a clump of lichen on the path, and another woman noticed a bee, somnolent from the cold, huddled on the path next to it. Carefully, reverently, we picked it up and placed it in the grasses to the side of the path. Down and down we circled, all five of us, till the path swung wide on the downhill stretch to the arch and wind chime.
After a brief discussion, the other women went on to explore another trail. My feet were still hurting from traipsing the mountain and streets of Edinburgh; I went in to rest and take in the evening’s experience.
It was only in my second week at Findhorn that I learned of the significance of the Power Point: its place among seven sacred hills in the vicinity; its association with the Divine Feminine; the significance of the trees that populated its slopes. But we had been introduced that night, and our impromptu sisterhood had tasted its mystery, and that was an experience to cherish.
Leaving Edinburgh was not easy – in one day I’d seen enough to fall in love with the city’s glorious stone buildings, urban mountain, royal and postage-stamp gardens, and friendly people – but I took a great and shamelessly touristy thrill in riding a real British double-decker bus to the train station.
I’d been hoping to find a congenial – and informed – seatmate for the four-hour ScotRail ride to the North….and glory be, next to me settled a delightfully acerbic elder lady from Inverness, who’d been taking the North/South ride throughout her life. Together we entertained a young mother’s active toddler, while my companion shared her memories, gave history lessons about landmarks, clued me in to differences between British and American English, and dished gossip about the royal family and their Balmoral Castle, far over the snow-clad peaks of the Cairngorms to the east.
By the time we were approaching Inverness and passengers were lining up to use the lavatory, she was telling hilarious tales about the tourists who invariably couldn’t figure out how to close the compartment door. When my turn came, and I was equally baffled, she gestured with hands and eyes from her seat as other passengers hid their smiles. I followed her not-exactly unobtrusive pointing, and sure enough, there was the button, just as well-hidden as she’d warned. What a relief!
The train station in Nairn was a mile’s stroll from the home of my AirBnB hostess, the “Swan Woman of Nairn”…healer, artist, photographer, Renaissance woman….and the evening that followed, of touring the town and gathering with her friends in an impromptu wise women’s circle, was magical.
My hostess asked as I was settling in for the night, “Would you like to come for a dip in the sea with me tomorrow morning?” I gasped – the winds that day had been frigid, and the next day’s temperature was predicted to drop into the 30s ! This was her normal practice, she added, smiling, and her guests often found it a profound experience. “No expectations, no pressure,” she added, and bade me goodnight.
Next morning dawned cloudy and as cold as expected, but we sallied out, she jogging ahead, I photographing as I moseyed along, soaking in the beauty of the place. She’d told me the stories of the swans nesting in the river…how she and a friend had saved a clutch of duck eggs from being swept away in a flood…and shared her wonder at seeing the tide coming into the River Nairn as if to meet her on her way to the ocean. I crossed the bridge, passed the trailer – caravan – park, and came to the dunes…and she came to meet me as I topped the hill.
“There are fishermen up the beach, so if you’d rather not undress, that’s fine,” she said tactfully, noting my pulled-down hat and hands tucked inside the sleeves of my thin Gore-tex jacket. “You can shelter here by the pier while I get ready and go in.” Teeth chattering, I nodded gratefully and watched in awe as she slipped out of her jogging suit and shoes, pinned up her hair, and walked serenely barefoot down the beach to the water’s edge. She lay down in the shallow surf, rose, and walked in to waist-height, dipped, emerged, and returned to dry land.
She smiled at my wide eyes and said, “It’s simple. When I lie down in the water, I feel my connection to the land, the water, and the air. I focus on that connection; the more connected I feel, the less I feel the cold.”
I closed my eyes and breathed in her words, remembering my husband’s experience at his third Lakota Sundance ceremony: offering his chest for piercing in giveaway as Traditional intercessor Elmer Running struggled to cut through his skin to insert an eagle’s talon, telling him, “Pray harder! Pray harder!” He hadn’t felt the pain, he said; he was lost in an trance of connection with cosmic Oneness. I’d gone half-expecting to witness macho stoicism or Spanish-Baroque grotesquery, the piety of pain, and there I found him describing transcendent ecstasy.
And here, halfway around the world, was this wisewoman, embracing a habit I’d read of stereotypical Englishmen of the old public-school military sort practicing – but driven not by sacrifice or macho discipline but that same transcendent connection.
Opening my eyes, I turned, walked down to the water, stooped down and held my hands in the receding ice-cold surf as my own homage to nature. A rogue wave rushed up, splashed around my galoshes and soaked my socks, and I laughed in surprise and delight.