Dear reader, did the title of this post grab your attention? Did it cause you to click on the link? Why is that? What is it about sex that we find so compelling… so fascinating?

Having posed these questions, I guess I should research psychology journals on the topic and distil my findings for you. But I’m not going to. I don’t have the time right now. Rather, I’m simply going to accept that most people are interested in, if not fascinated by, sex and press on with writing this post. As usual, I have little idea of what I’m going to write. I generally don’t plan or structure my blogging. I simply pick a topic and start writing. Generally, the writing flows freely to the keyboard as a stream of consciousness. It feels like I’m simply a channel or a conduit for the rendering of ideas that somehow bubble to the surface. I’m particularly curious to see where this topic takes us. For me, sex is a topic that goes way beyond interest or even fascination. I have been preoccupied by the subject since I was about 12 years old. There, that’s a confession. No doubt there will be more to follow. I’m in the mood to spill a few beans.

Half an hour ago I was lying in bed (alone) thinking it was about time I wrote the next blog post. It’s been over a week since the last one and a post every week is the rather demanding target I have set myself. So I was wondering, ‘What seems to be ‘up’ in the community at the moment? Or alternatively, ‘What’s going on for me personally that is germane to this blog about community life in Findhorn? And, hey presto! The topic presented itself. Yesterday afternoon I participated in a gentle two hour long session of dance and meditation in the Universal Hall. It was tenuously based on Tantric principles and practices. This afternoon I’ll attend the weekly meeting of our group, ‘Healing Love and Sexuality, Findhorn’ (HLSF). In another few weeks I’m going to attend a week long Tantra intensive, my first. So it seems that for both the community and me personally, sexuality is a hot topic right now. But let’s face it, when is it ever not? (One study showed that, on average, men think about sex 34 times a day and women, 19 times.) Yet we don’t seem to discuss it much. Why is that? Why is it such an edgy subject? Why do we find open discussion of the topic, in community and more generally, so challenging – threatening even?

These are exactly the questions that were the genesis of the HLSF support group. Sexuality is important to us all. We are hard wired for sexual desire to ensure that our species is perpetuated. Indeed all life is driven to procreate. Life begets life. Humans, of course, have (almost) uniquely evolved to be able to separate sex and procreation. (‘Almost uniquely’ because Benobo monkeys and I believe a few other species also recreate sexually.) And yet, despite sexuality being the life source of our species and central to our wellbeing as individuals… we struggle to talk about it. And, I would suggest, even more so within the context of community. We struggle to talk about it and we struggle to express it, even privately, let alone publicly. I’m not going to enter into a cultural analysis of the reasons for this here. I’m not qualified. I think it’s clear however, even without substantiation, that sexual thoughts, feelings and behaviours are repressed and sublimated in our Western, post-Victorian, middle class culture, and most elsewhere as well. And most of us are frustrated, unfulfilled and/or damaged as a result.

Our HLSF group has arisen from the deep need that most of us carry to heal the wounds this creeping catastrophe has caused. Our meetings provide an outlet and a forum for the expression of long suppressed thoughts, feelings and behaviours. Recent meetings have been truly liberating. In the last few weeks I have witnessed some deep and courageous sharing from participants as they open wounds (that they’ve been carrying for a lifetime in many cases) in order that healing and transformation may begin. This has been particularly inspiring for me as someone who so strongly believes in the value of transparency for transparency’s sake. (Note. I speak here only for myself and my collaborators. I don’t expect others to concur, necessarily.) Some of you will know of my recently published book, ‘Deepening Love Sex and Intimacy: A True Story.’ The feedback I’ve received has repeatedly focussed on the openness of the sharing and how inspired and comforted have readers been in realising that they are not alone with their interpersonal challenges. Knowing we are not alone can be a catalyst for healing and transformation. The book is not just about the joys of relationship (as the title might suggest). It’s as much, if not more, about the challenges. I passionately believe that the more we humans can fully share what’s going on for us at a deep level, the greater can be our individual and collective healing and transformation.

Somewhat frustratingly, there has been little critical or negative feedback about the book from which I could learn and improve. I would love, as a new writer in the genre, to receive more constructive criticism. Having said that, I’m grateful and somewhat relieved that there’s been no backlash, or even any negative feedback, from my community. And this, I think, approaches the issue I most wanted to breach with this post. The Findhorn Foundation and Community (our most commonly used title), like most intentional communities, is, in many ways, conservative. With a few exceptions, members have come from conventional middle class backgrounds. And of course, they have brought their conventional middle class values with them. Without an overt ideology which seeks to challenge, counter or overturn those values, our community perpetrates the norms we have inherited. That’s to be expected. But not all intentional communities are like that. There have been many historically (the famous Oneida Community (1848-1880), for example) and there are numerous contemporary groups, that deliberately seek to overturn inherited values and behaviours and develop an alternative, more radical, set of norms. This is the area of investigation of my anthropologist friend Anna’s PhD dissertation. Perhaps I should have asked her to be a guest blogger of this post. It would have been far more authoritative. This one is based purely on my own personal experience and decades of reflection on the issues.

My first experience of the challenge faced by intentional communities in dealing with sexual matters was very painful. It happened when I was a youthful, somewhat naïve, 22 year old living on kibbutz in Israel. This was my first experience of intentional community life. I had gone to Israel specifically to live on kibbutz. Since my mid-teens, I had been a committed, card carrying socialist (and have been ever since). At the time, Kibbutz was considered one of the most successful and politically radical communal experiments anywhere in the Western world. And because I was Jewish I was able to enter and live in Israel indefinitely. I was so convinced that kibbutz life was going to suit me that I officially emigrated from Australia. And so it proved. I absolutely fell in love with the lifestyle. It suited me to a tee. Unfortunately, as it turned out, I also fell in love with a married woman. We enjoyed a passionate, clandestine affair for a month or two before being outed. And shortly thereafter, without ceremony or even due consideration, I was ‘invited’ to leave the kibbutz. This felt totally unjust to me; it was common knowledge that extramarital affairs were commonplace amongst members. It was almost the norm. But I was made a scapegoat because I had relatively recently arrived and was not yet a full member. I was expendable. I believe that, in good part, I was expelled because our affair threw light on the dark. It exposed the underbelly of dishonest sexuality that was enjoyed but not acknowledged by many of the kibbutz establishment. Perhaps it was through this experience that my commitment to transparency first developed. I left Israel eventually, not because of this incident but because I didn’t fancy joining their army and fighting wars. And I’ve been seeking a kibbutz-like lifestyle ever since. This is probably why I am so content in Findhorn. In terms of lifestyle, I believe that our community is about the closest thing to kibbutz outside of Israel. But I digress.

I love my community, as those who regularly read this blog will know. And I’m proud of what has been achieved here over decades of social evolution. I resonate with our established values and norms… for the most part. I love, for example, that we are very welcoming and encouraging of gay and lesbian couples. There are many living here. We run workshops for the LGBT community. Ironically, I think that in some ways we are more comfortable with homosexuality than heterosexuality. We haven’t, in the ten years I’ve been here, held too many programmes for straights – Tantra workshops, for example. Anything that’s at all edgy in that way is shuffled off to our sister community, Newbold House, some 6 miles away. I’ll be commuting to and from Newbold for the programme I’m attending in a few weeks. Why is that? Why is there such sensitivity to expressions of overt sexuality within the community? One reason is its potential for negative impact on our image. There have been times in the past when the Findhorn community has copped some quite harmful press. And because the Findhorn Foundation, the key organisation, is dependent on positive publicity for its survival as an educational charity, it’s understandably sensitive to how we are portrayed in the media. Concern about the potential for bad publicity is definitely a reason.

But I think there’s more to it than that. And it’s in part to do with the norms and values we have inherited. Peter and Eileen Caddy were radical in many ways, but they were also very, very English. Peter was a career military officer who wore a stiff upper lip to suit. And whilst, by all accounts, the community demographic in the ‘70s was representative of the libertarian climate of those times, many of the most radical members left in the early ‘80s when the economic going got tough (we came close to bankruptcy). A period of consolidation ensued and a more conservative milieu was established. The membership self-selected accordingly. And I think that we still carry that inherent pragmatic conservatism today. There’s at least one more reason why sex talk doesn’t receive much air time here. It’s not acknowledged by our spirituality which, let’s face it, is the glue of this community. Our spirituality, based on messages channelled through Eileen Caddy, references only those chakras from the heart upwards. The lower chakras are simply not recognised. So qualities of love, compassion and consciousness are lauded in the community whilst matters of power, passion and sexuality are not well recognised.

But I believe that change is in the air. The HLSF group is evidence of this. There is a coterie of mostly, but not exclusively, younger members of the community who are more openly discussing and exploring issues of love, intimacy and sexuality. ‘Cuddle puddles’ are now a feature of many a party, gathering or casual encounter. The tide is shifting in favour of greater openness and transparency. I hope that this blog post can effectively feed into the zeitgeist. Thank you for reading. Your thoughts would be appreciated. To contribute a comment, click on the number to the right of the date above, below the title of this post.

In community, Graham.