Findhorn: Conversation at the Crossroads

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, clovIMG_20160426_092128383erlike 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 angerTo 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 soil to 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 knIMG_20160426_112059896ow 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.

 

 

Findhorn: Learning to Listen at the Power Point

IMG_20160421_101315572I 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! 

Yup, I was broadcasting on a pretty wide band. And remembering the words of Findhorn co-founder R. Ogilvie Crombie (ROC),  quoting the deity PanGreatGodPan in his memoir Meeting Fairies: My Remarkable Encounters with Nature Spirits:

…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…

IMG_20160424_175253499I 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.

IMG_20160424_174936088I 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.

______________________________________________

Crombie, R. Ogilvie (2011-06-01). Meeting Fairies: My Remarkable Encounters with Nature Spirits (pp. 92-93). Independent Publishers Group. Kindle Edition.

Findhorn Love In Action:
Reconciling with the “Monster” Within

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.

IMG_20160421_094313535
The dunes at Findhorn Park

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.

IMG_20160417_085350826
The Caddys’ original caravan in Findhorn Park

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.)

IMG_20160422_052620745_HDR
Findhorn’s Original Garden, literally built on sand

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?).

IMG_20160421_092105202_HDR
Cullerne Gardens

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.

IMG_20160422_042052090
The Main Sanctuary, Findhorn Park

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.

 

Findhorn: Ascending the Power Point

“…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 bIMG_20160430_065735943rief 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 IMG_20160430_065804821backgrounds 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. IMG_20160430_070004602

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 aroundIMG_20160424_172002788_HDR, 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.