For some days I’ve felt closely accompanied by the Angel of Willingness. This is classic Findhorn-speak. What do we mean by it? Or rather, what do I mean by it, for such a feeling must surely be subjective? My interpretation is quite straightforward. I am not naturally drawn to esoteric or mystical meaning or language, unlike many of my Findhornian friends and colleagues (Adriana, for example, in her blog post I Believe in Angels). Indeed, I’ve held a strongly scientific/material/sceptical worldview my whole life. So in saying, ‘I’ve been accompanied in the last few days by the Angel of Willingness,’ I simply mean that I’ve several times witnessed an act of extraordinary willingness by people around me. Or perhaps, the quality of willingness has shown itself more often, more clearly, or more strongly than usual. And in a community where acting willingly in service is one of the highest values, this means a lot. Given the community context, for me to have been particularly inspired by singular acts of service, or several of them, is significant – significant enough to inspire this blog post.

If I were seeking a more Findhornian or spiritual interpretation of the presence of the Angel of Willingness, I would immediately refer to the booklet that accompanies a pack of Angel Cards. Angel cards I described in some detail in the post titled Cards. They were originally created as part of the Transformation Game, invented here in Findhorn by Kathy Tyler and Joy Drake in the ‘70s, but have since become popular in various guises all around the world. Angel Cards (the original ones) each carry a word representing a particular quality or value, and a sketch of an angel somehow enacting that quality. In the case of willingness, the card’s message according to the accompanying booklet is: Approach life with an open mind and a how-can-we-make-it-work attitude. Use your will skilfully to enhance the creative process rather than inhibit it. So the spiritual message carried by the Angel of Willingness is: keep an open mind, adopt a can-do attitude and be creative. Ironically perhaps, the picture on the card shows an angel washing the dishes…

Card

As mentioned, acting with willingness is normative behaviour around here and a strong part of the culture. And service, per se, is written into our code of conduct, the Common Ground, specifically in ‘Clause 2, Service: I bring an attitude of service to others and to our planet, recognising I must also consider my own needs.’ It is commonplace for people here to go out of their way to freely serve or support (without expectation of recompense of reciprocation) the people around them or their organisation, the community, humanity or the Earth. It’s a spiritual practice of sorts, one that we hold in common with many of the world’s faiths. So what was it that particularly inspired me to write a post on willing service? What were those extraordinary demonstrations of open mindedness, can-do-ism and creativity?

My week began with one of our regular, un-extraordinary acts of service – well two actually. On Saturday I had Saturday Homecare. This is a rota commitment that comes around once every three weeks. All residential Findhorn Foundation coworkers participate. We spend an hour or two on a Saturday morning cleaning our guest accommodation during the very short, two hour window between one week’s guests departing and the next arriving. Then on Sunday, I participated in another rota – washing dishes after Sunday brunch. This comes around once every couple of months. This week we had a large turnout at brunch so KP (Kitchen Party, as we call it) took a good two hours. Now, neither of these acts of service was remarkable, although having them both fall on the same weekend is unusual. But perhaps worth mentioning is that both were truly enjoyable. Cleaning toilets and washing dishes are not my favourite activities, to be sure, but doing the work collaboratively in a team and knowing that it contributes to the viability of the Foundation makes all the difference. In that context, acts of service become a joy and a privilege.

No, the act of willingness that particularly inspired me came at work, in my job in the Conference Office of the Findhorn Foundation. My current preoccupation there is with a big event coming up in July, the GEN+20 Summit. We are expecting between 300 and 400 participants; it could be our biggest conference for 20 years. In the week prior we are planning several short workshops which we thought would appeal to some conference goers and encourage them to come for an extra few days. We had originally scheduled six of these workshops, but we discovered on Monday morning that another which should have been included was not, through no fault of our own. In the meantime the two presenters of this seventh workshop have been promoting it around the world for the last twelve months!

What to do? The process of including a workshop in our annual programme is very complex; it involves at least three departments, many personnel, and a lot of staff time and trouble. The programme information has to be entered into a central database and included in our brochure and on our Web site. It also needs budgeting and setting up on a Bookings database. There is considerable ongoing administration required in the months leading up to the workshop running, not to mention the work required by our Homecare, Kitchens and Gardens Departments in accommodating and feeding the participants. I was doubtful that I’d be able to gain the consent of everyone involved to include the workshop as a favour to the presenters. And I was expecting the process of negotiation to take days. But by lunch time, I had the enthusiastic agreement of all concerned, even though they are all very busy and the late inclusion will involve considerable extra work on their part. I was quite astonished that everyone involved expressed such total willingness, and so spontaneously. Their how-can-we-make-it-work attitude was well in evidence.

In my role as the FF project manager of the GEN+20 Summit, I’m currently seeking volunteers for some of the crucial roles. We need to find two experienced Head Ushers (to manage the ushering in the main conference venue, the Universal Hall), two Teas Focalisers (to organise the tea breaks), people to administer two conference registration sessions, others to manage the many venues etc. etc. There are about 20 of these key positions, all of them requiring quite some commitment of time and effort. During a big conference the felt responsibility and inherent stress levels in these positions can be very high. And yet we offer no payment for this kind of work; it’s purely voluntary. Those who volunteer, do it out of the goodness of their heart and because they know that our conferences are important ‘world work’. Their contribution is an act of service, not only to the FF or the community but to the world. On the white board in the Conference Office we currently have written “healing the world, one conference at a time.” This is how we feel about our work. We see that it brings profound and lasting change and transformation to the people attending and also those participating via Web streaming. Anyway, on Monday, I sent out about a dozen emails to people we know have experience in those key roles. I asked whether they’d be interested in taking on the position yet again; most of them having done the job time after time. And yet, within a couple of days I had harvested nothing but positive responses from almost all of them. Again, I was impressed and inspired by their willingness and their selfless attitude of service to the Foundation, our community and beyond.

These separate instances of willingness and freely offered service may not count for much in and of themselves, but when they come as thick and fast as they have this week, I’m given cause to reflect and appreciate. What seem like isolated instances are not really separate and distinct. They are connected via the ‘field’ – the commonality of thought and action that pervades the community of Findhorn. Being immersed in a field of common purpose is itself, an inspiration. It provides extra motivation to offer even more service to the cause.

If this post is beginning to sound zealous or preachy for someone with a supposedly sceptical world view, let me explain why I am affected so. At a very young age, around 12 I think, I rejected the notion of a Judeo-Christian God. I did so for the same reasons given recently by Stephen Fry; the notion of an omniscient, omnipotent, beneficent God make no sense to me given the levels of chaos, pain and strife in the world. Furthermore, The Ten Commandments seemed predicated on prohibition. “Thou shalt not…” is no way to offer guidance, it seemed to a rebellious youngster. So as a teenager and a budding philosopher I was forced to consider, ‘How am I going to live my life?’ ‘What’s going to be my frame of reference?’ In response, I came up with a code of conduct of my own – one that would guide me as an atheist and a sceptic. The core of my homespun, tripartite ethos was, and still is: to fulfil my potential in love, creativity and service. (For more about this see a previous post titled, A Spiritual Life.) So the practice of service has always been central to my worldview. This is, in part, why I feel so at home in Findhorn. And for that matter, my mission to fulfil my potential in love and creativity is also very well supported by the culture here.

Which reminds me – it’s time for dinner in the Community Centre, to be followed by my weekly Thursday night KP rota – yet another opportunity to actually become that Angel of Willingness washing the dishes.

Advertisements