Thursday, October 22, 2009

Findhorn came and went

Findhorn River

Well, Findhorn came and went without a blog post. Seems pretty typical at this point. It remains a challenge to write a good descriptor of this journey, even when there’s time to do it. So much has happened in such a short/long time. Our schedule is full; incredibly interesting and pretty ripe with unique opportunities. Like at Tamera, our time at Findhorn was long enough to allow us to sink into the community quite a bit.

We began with “experience week,” which is the standard starter course for any first-timers to Findhorn – it’s the pre-requisit for everything else they offer. During experience week we lived at “Cluny,” an old hotel that is now owned by Findhorn and used for programs and residents, a wonderful old place. Experience week was an introduction into group process, community living, “working community,” and many of the other nuances and practices carried-out by the folks at Findhorn.

On par with the rest of BB thus far, Findhorn was full and incredible. After experience week we moved to “the park,” which is the original location of the Findhorn community. We commenced many meetings with many parts of the community, and began holding sessions of our own as well. Findhorn is nearly 50 years old, one of the oldest communities we will visit. Incredible intention has been put into making this unique place function: Findhorn uses a wide variety of alternative building techniques, they power the whole place (160-ish permanent residents?) with 3 big windmills, grow a significant percentage of their own food, and take care of almost 100% of their wastewater (including raw sewage) through a “Living Machine” technology developed in the U.S. And still, Findhorn identifies itself more readily as a "working spiritual community" than an "eco-village" per se.

Though it is a spiritual community, there is not one over-arching dogma, but instead many wonderful individuals practicing their spirituality in their own ways, resulting a gentle sense of the sacred sprinkled throughout just about everything we did. We had a chance to work in the various work departments and get our hands into their world famous gardens. We met with the education department and learned about their many triumphs and struggles with programs and university affiliations. We were able to sit and interview some of the old-timers about how it used to be and what’s changed through the years. We met with the youth leaders and held council with the youth. We held community councils and a council training for the community. We met with the former president of the Global Eco-village Network, “GEN,” who now lives here full-time – a brilliant man with incredible perspective and scope. We helped to construct the new roof of an “earth lodge” on the land, using a “reciprocal frame” model (which is absolutely worth googling right now – an amazing, self-supporting technique). We spent 2 days in a workshop with Joanna Macy. We held evening presentations on Ojai, Tamera, and Auroville in an attempt to cross-pollinate between the communities.

Amidst the rest we also found time for own meetings and councils, visited another incredible and ancient stone circle site from the Neolithic earth-based cultures of old Europe, jumped in the cold north sea, made it to town for a good old Scottish fish’n chips from a place that’s been selling them since 1850, had a little fun, made independent study plans, and tried the scotch.

I love Scotland. It’s obvious from my name that I have heritage here and it feels to be an especially deep place for fulfilling the task of exploring ancestral roots (one of the intentions behind this pilgrimage). Especially important for me has been the chance to discover the indigenous of my own bloodline. It isn’t easy to learn, as a lot of it has been stamped out over the millennia. “Clavas Cairns” is the name of the Neolithic stones we visited in Scotland (there are hundreds of such sites still standing all over the UK). Just to be there – walking through the place, looking at stones erected by hands at least 5,000 years ago… hands that were connected to hearts, minds, bodies, and cultures that had an intimate relationship with the earth. Just to know the work of those hands – to be able to see it – does something for me that no amount of reading or research could ever do.

The standing rocks created circles, aligned with celestial bodies.

The old structures are thought to be burial sites... but no one really knows... and, there is speculation that they may be much older than we initially thought.

After 2 weeks at the park we packed up and left long before sunrise in a van, making our way through twisty roads and multiple ferry rides from the east to the west coast of Scotland, ending on the island of Erraid, where we stayed for a week. Findhorn care-takes the small settlement on Erraid for most of the year, using it as a retreat and residence. Just across the channel from Erraid is the famous Isle of Iona – home of ancient Celtic and Druidic sanctuaries, as well as the place where Christianity entered Scotland long ago through St. Columba: a site of sacred pilgrimage for many. Erraid is a rugged, wet, windswept Scottish Isle, with piles of granite dripping with big bracken ferns and mosses, peat bogs that forbid you to hike without a good pair of Wellington boots on your feet (“Welly’s” as the locals call ‘em), crystal clear blue water with white sand beaches (which are inviting, but the ocean is freezing). It’s a wild, elemental place.We stayed in old stone homes, once used for the families of lighthouse keepers stationed some 16 miles from here out in the Atlantic. Wood-burning stoves for heat and hot water, fresh milk and cheese from the cows, veggies from the gardens, eggs from the chickens, mussels from the sea, meditation twice a day… we were there to work and be in retreat together for our final 8 days before splitting up and heading our separate ways on independent study.

The Isle of Erraid

The old monastary on Iona

Sheep with a view on top of "Dun I", the tallest point on Iona

During this first trimester I have learned incredible things about alternative and life-sustaining ways of living, about community, about human-systems, and some the changes that will almost certainly have to happen in the coming times if we are to make it as a species. And, the real learning seems not to be how to do all of that, but who to be while doing it. Who to be at this time on the planet? Who to be when another species goes extinct? Who to be when the 200-year spike of cheap energy that we’ve been riding crashes? Who to be in myself? Who to be with the land, the earth? Who to be with my friends? Or my lover? With my community? The answer over and over is a mixed bouquet of truth, humility, integrity, and trust, which if lived seems to spell the only response that any of us could ever give… and seems to account for the deepest level of learning unfolding on this incredible journey.

We are now spread the winds on our independent studies... but that's another story...



1 comment:

  1. Nice Will. Brought back great memories of being there with my family back in 1998...I remember running around Clavas Cairns with Augie and Sophie (then 5&8!)and chasing sheep on the Isle of Skye which looks just like your photos of Erraid. So beautiful. Tell me when you figure out "who to be..." "how to be" and "what to be." This morning I was a stone...lying immobile on the sand at the beach for 2 hours! It was divine! see you soon! xx L