I have just returned to my community after six weeks away with family in Australia. I always find it valuable to get away from Findhorn for a period. It provides an opportunity to reflect on my life there and my reasons for remaining, given that it’s on the opposite side of the world from family, including: my aging mother whose health is not good; my two daughters and their beautiful families; and several siblings. My two grandchildren, Gus and Mattie are two years and six months old, respectively. Separation from family is the greatest challenge, indeed the only real challenge I face in living permanently in Scotland. In every other respect, I am deeply happy in the Findhorn Foundation and community and also as a Scottish and European resident.

Over the Christmas period I stayed with both my mother on Australia’s Gold Coast, and my daughter, Anna and her family who were also hosting my other daughter, Liberty and her family. They live about an hour’s drive south in a beautiful rainforest setting near a town called Mullumbimby. It was a busy time for me, driving back and forth several times, living out of a suitcase, connecting and reconnecting. And whilst I was ostensibly on holiday, my various projects also required attention, sometimes for several hours a day. I did find time, however, to reflect upon and appreciate all of the gifts I have in my life at Findhorn. On one hand, I used the opportunity to step back and gain some objectivity and perspective. On the other, I couldn’t help but feel deep love and appreciation for life in my adopted home. I found myself missing the community deeply. And here’s why…

There are three main aspects that I most appreciate about my life in Findhorn: the people, the place and the culture. By far the most important is the people, or more specifically, my relationships with them. The place and the culture, to my mind, provide the context for those relationships. The Findhorn community is estimated to have about six or seven hundred members, although nobody really knows exactly how many; we have never conducted a census, as far as I know. I would have some form of relationship with only a small proportion of them: a little over 100, perhaps. This figures; it’s approaching Dunbar’s number. Dunbar was an anthropologist who suggested, based on his research of primates, that the human brain can comfortably maintain only about 150 meaningful relationships (See here.)

Those 100+ community members I know by name, and I know something of their background and role in the community. But more importantly, and this is the defining characteristic of such relationships, I would say, we would have a ‘heart connection’. This, for me, is what determines a significant  or meaningful relationship. We would have had at least one, probably several, heart to heart conversations. Every time we’d meet, we’d enjoy a lingering heartfelt hug and a meaningful exchange of words. Because we are a geographically defined community, I meet some of these people several times every day, so opportunities for a meeting of hearts occur frequently – too often at times when there’s work to be done. This results in a deeply embodied experience of what I can only describe as a ‘field of love.’ It feels as if I’m immersed in a culture where love is freely, constantly and generously expressed. The open-heartedness of my relationships with so many people is without doubt my primary motivation for living at Findhorn.

Such relationships will have been formed over time and mostly as a result of the very many opportunities at Findhorn, both formal and informal, for building this kind of relationship. (I’m an introvert, so relationship building doesn’t come naturally to me.) Opportunities for deepening connection occur formally in all manner of courses, meetings, celebrations and cultural events – in fact just about every time two or more gather together for some kind of purpose. Gatherings of all kinds usually begin with an attunement, to bring people present and induce greater alignment of purpose. Then, we often proceed with an ‘ice-breaker’ to help those participating loosen their defences and open their minds and hearts. These are playful activities that appeal to our inner child. Fun and laughter are excellent means of dissolving personal boundaries and enabling connection.

Depending on the nature of the gathering, further processes may be introduced to encourage a deeper experience and appreciation of ‘the other’. Dancing, singing and playing what we call Discovery Games, are commonly used vehicles for deepening connection. We often include a ‘sharing’ whereby participants express what is going on for them, outwardly or emotionally or both. Each person in turn takes a minute or two (often longer) to convey what’s currently going on in their ‘private’ life. The rest of the group listens attentively – with empathy and without judgement. This is probably the most direct and powerful means we have of building love and acceptance within a group setting. In the process, growth, healing and transformation commonly occur.

I have heard many a guest to Findhorn say after such an experience that they felt ‘heard’ for the first time in their life. By this they mean far more than just being heard aurally. Rather, they have felt accepted and appreciated (loved, even) for who and what they are. This can be a primary catalyst for healing, which can also come to those who listen when they realise that they’re not alone in their innermost thoughts and feelings, that their issues are universally held by all of us. I personally believe in transparency for the sake of it. The more we humans can fully share with each other what is going on for us, then the greater can be our individual and collective healing and transformation. (This, by the way, was my primary motivation for publishing the book referred to in the previous post.)

Informal opportunities for deepening connection are also numerous. Because we live, work and play together, we are constantly interacting in different settings, for a range of diverse purposes. We get to know each other in different guises. Our understanding of each other grows rich and our relationships become more authentic. It becomes impossible to ‘fake it.’ So generally, people don’t bother; they are themselves. This is such a different way of being in the world to that which I experience elsewhere. Particularly in the conventional mainstream workplace, relationships are built around hierarchical roles and responsibilities. In the absence of awareness, they are likely to become fixed and immutable, with little opportunity for deepening. I see friends in the city meeting by appointment for a single prescribed activity. Even when they meet for recreation, their interaction is circumscribed by activity and lifestyle. Certainly this is the case in Australia. When ‘the boys’ enjoy a round of golf together, or families a picnic, they will typically spend precious little time deepening their heart connection.

As mentioned, other aspects of my life in Findhorn that I most miss when I’m away include the location itself and the community culture. We live here on an isthmus – a roughly 2 mile long peninsular that separates Findhorn Bay from the North Sea. We are surrounded by water; the nearby beach is magnificent. There are traditional fishing villages, extensive forests and rolling countryside all within close proximity. And the Highlands, with their magnificent peaks and countless lakes and lochs, are but an hour’s drive away. At Findhorn we are truly blessed by the richness and diversity of our surroundings. I love living in this location! And, to the surprise of my Australian friends, I don’t even mind the weather. In fact, I think I prefer it to the steamy sub-tropical conditions I experienced recently in Australia. One can at least dress for the cold; there is little one can do (apart from air-condition) to alleviate extreme heat and humidity.

And, what of the community culture? I am not going to attempt to elaborate on that here. There is too much to tell. Indeed this whole blog is an exploration of its different aspects. Perhaps I could offer a glimpse simply by describing my choices for this weekend. On Friday night I enjoyed our end-of-week celebratory meal with friends in the Community Centre (CC) and followed that up with a hot tub under the stars, surrounded by snow. Yesterday, I spent the morning writing the above, lunched in the CC, and met a friend afterwards for a run on the beach followed by a massage exchange. In the evening, I shared an excellent pizza from our on-site pizzeria with another friend and then went with her to watch our annual pantomime at Cluny Hill, our second campus in the town of Forres, 5 miles away. The panto was written and performed by people I know and love. It was amateur, exuberant, chaotic and hugely successful. The enormous dining room at Cluny was packed with an engaged and highly appreciative audience.

This morning (Sunday) I may play golf with friends if the weather is conducive. Otherwise I’ll go to our regular Sunday morning Taizé session of devotional dancing and singing. Brunch will follow, providing another opportunity to catch up with friends and colleagues. I don’t yet have a plan for the afternoon, but expect that something will crop up. There is probably a talk scheduled for 12.30, our ‘Sunday Slot,’ which I’ll attend if the topic is of interest. Otherwise I may just get some work done around the house. I need to chop and bring in firewood, for example. This evening I have a choice between attending a session of dance in the Hall (5Rythms) or joining a support group of friends who are exploring issues of love and sexuality. I’ll probably choose the latter; the Healing Love and Sexuality group is a new and nascent initiative that deserves support.

That is a typical weekend! The cultural life here in Findhorn is as full and rich as I wish it to be. Most activities occur on campus. When I need a car for a short journey (to Cluny or to play golf) I can chose from the several late model vehicles (including a fully electric Nissan Leaf) in our community carpool.

Life in this community is good! I miss it when I’m away.