Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Findhorn Experience

Ahhh, how good it is to be alive!  I am recovering from a 24 hour flu that had me questioning my sanity in signing up for 10 month community pilgrimage and looking up symptoms for swine flu online... Waking up without a headache and fever feels good!  

We have been here in the North East of Scotland for two weeks now, and I am soaking up the atmosphere of the Findhorn Foundation Community.  We began with 'Experience Week', the entry program for any visitor interested in a closer look at the Findhorn Community.  It was quite an experience! It has been running for many years, we have met elders of the community that entered in this way decades ago.  Highly facilitated, this program brings individuals into a community within a group, introduces aspects of the Findhorn philosophy, and offers a taste treat of the tools and practices of the spiritual community of Findhorn.  In addition to sessions with elders introducing the multifaceted life at Findhorn we separated into work departments for service each day.  I got to work in the Cluny garden.  Cluny is the second home of Findhorn, a grand Victorian mansion that houses 35 or so community members in addition to guests participating in Experience week and other programs.  The garden is 'focalized' by Svere, a Norwegian man with a deep spiritual connection and love of gardening.  I was touched by his relationship with the earth, his approach is to tune into nature and find a way to aid in natural flows rather than impose his will upon a garden bed.  As a facilitator he offered much freedom to his workers, I felt like I had choice and freedom in my movements in the garden.

After our week at Cluny we moved to the Park, the center of the Findhorn Community.  As we go deeper into the workings of Findhorn, I find the system is diverse and complex.  There is a core community of the 'Findhorn Foundation', composed of people that work within Foundation, mostly on educational programs and the running of the facilities.  The eco-village is run sustainably, and so the Foundation encompasses projects such as the Living Machine, the biological waste water treatment system that effectively treats the waste of the 350 or so people living at the park.  In addition to the Foundation, which is not for profit, there are a variety of other businesses, both for and not for profit, that support the Findhorn Community.  One example is Trees for Life, a dynamic organization working to restore the Caledonian Forest of the highlands.   Another supporting organization is Earth Share, a large community supported agriculture farm in the area.

The Foundation began in a caravan park (a.k.a. trailer park) in 1962.  The founders (Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean) had followed a spiritual life for many years, and settled here under guidance.  Dorothy was led to gardening on this sandy land, and found an intuitive connection to plant spirits that she called 'devas'.  Soon her garden flourished, and became famous for 40lb cabbages!  Her world renowned garden drew visitors, and the community began to grow.  It seems like the community has grown organically, with members bringing their own interests, practices and technologies.  

The physical community has grown too, from the original caravan to a large and diverse community encompassing dunes and newly forested land.  There is a variety of housing, from caravans to a variety of eco-buildings.  Early sustainable housing included recycled whisky barrel houses.  The charming cottages were first built in 1986 and are still standing strong.  We met some of the neighbors, and visiting their gardens saw permaculture living side by biodynamic gardens.  The 'field of dreams' is an eco-experiment... the developers were given a lot of freedom beyond some basic environmental and sustainable guidelines.  The result is a beautiful medley of architecture

We have met a lot of interest in our pilgrimage here.  Last Sunday we held the 'Sunday Slot' and spoke about our journey and intentions.  We held a youth council with the Youth Project teenagers, which included elder witnesses.  We shared videos from the Ojai Foundation, and have events planned next week including more council, information about Tamera and a new film about Auroville.

Today is a day of rest, and I am grateful for the opportunity to recuperate and work on my logistics for the upcoming independent study! 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Arrived in Scotland!

We have just begun our month with the community of Findhorn! It is a dark and gloomy morning and I just returned from a lovely stroll out in the forest here. It is so lush and full of life!
Findhorn is a beautiful community, and I am enjoying 'experience week', our introduction to our time here. We are immersed in the community, learning about the ecological work, sustainable housing, community structure and spiritual life. We are also serving in various parts of the community. I spend my time in the gardens which became famous in the 70's for 40lb cabbages and other enormousness vegetables. The gardens are still beautiful and plentiful, but these days the emphasis at Findhorn is on growing people not vegetables.

Damanhur was incredibly impressive, complex and varied. 
I loved the emphasis on the arts, art as a worthwhile expression. We spent a day immersed in art, working along side Damanhurian artists on a mural. The neucleo homes are often painted with larger than life nature scenes where the flowers, insects and birds tower over humans. This is a reminder of our interconnectedness, perspective, and part in the whole of the universe. Falco, the visionary, ‘spiritual teacher’ and leader of Damanhur, said that the ascetic value of the art is not what matters. It is the practice, the healing that is possible in the act, which is valuable in of itself.
Meanwhile, artists at Damanhur are doing amazing things. In addition to creating paintings and stained glass, their restoration artists of work all over Italy and beyond. The work of Damanhur is done within cooperatives… the Italian approved way to share ownership and property. The cooperatives are businesses with different skills and products from real estate to selfic art (an ancient healing technology).
There are many projects going on and as Falco said to us “Damanhurians run”. This means they work. A lot. During our final days at there we spoke with a few of the people involved with cutting edge technology. We visited the newest green building model, a building that houses 30 people, as well as accommodating up to 10 guests in a bed and breakfast wing. The building is well insulated with natural material and utilizes technology such as ‘triple locking doors’. A lot of the technology is German based, while most of the materials are local. I was particularly impressed with their energy systems, innovative water and air circulation systems.

We, Beyond Boundaries, have been sharing the information we gather at the communities through deep discussions on various research topics. We are recording our observations and insights while we share and collaborate with each other. One of the many blessings about working together is the variety of perspective and interest, we all have different ‘ins’ and therefore gleam diverse information. Our conversations are rich, and more and more often we are exploring ideas of integration…

I am loving the work we are doing, and really opening up to this holistic research. I am making a lot of connections, and feel that one of the many gifts I am receiving is knowing I am part of this web of positive work and healing on the planet, and I am gathering tools and contacts that I can connect to and through. Already we have offered connections from one community to the other... if feels good!

I also am learning what is important to me in community, and what seems to 'work'. Also, what some challenges are. I am interested to see where this all goes, what is the next step with the project... a program? a book? a community? We are still in the listening, and very busy 'in the soup' with each community we visit.

After our time at Damanhur we had a short break, I used the time 'on' to explore Italy. I visited Cinque Terre, a beautiful spot on the Mediterranean. Three days of hiking, swimming, and eating great food… then off to Florence, where I was sufficiently awed by the art and shocked by city living after living so close to the earth in community for the past three months.

My independent study time is taking form, I am making plans to travel to Germany to follow my ancestral roots and visit and work with an eco-village there. I will be returning to California sometime in November to volunteer at the Ojai Foundation and complete my fund-raising. I am planning on collaborating with other Beyond Boundaries members for events in the Bay Area and would love to see any of you there! At this point I am looking for connections, and would love your help if you have anyone in your circles that may be interested in learning more about our work and funding the completion of this pilgrimage. If all goes well (and fund-raising is complete) I plan on travelling to India in December to work with communities there before meeting up with the group at Auroville in mid January.