I woke this morning to find a rather pointed message from a friend in the community who wrote, “Well, GEN+20 is well and truly over now, so looking forward to some new posts ;-)”. Well, thank you Iain for the reminder and prompt. It’s nice to think that at least one follower is keen for me to resume posting. I’ll do my best not to disappoint. Truth is, however, that I’m still recovering from the GEN conference. It was such an intense and challenging experience (although ultimately a very rewarding one) that it’s taken me some weeks to rejuvenate. My writing juices are still not flowing fully but I’m working on it. I’ve been thinking about the issue of mutual support in community for a presentation I’m giving in September. I’ll write that up in the next weeks and will post some extracts here. In the meantime here is a piece that I originally wrote for the book, ‘Findhorn Reflections,’ mentioned in the last post….

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This chapter has been written expressly for this book; it never appeared in the blog. I realise now that I had skirted the issue whilst blogging and perhaps that was ok. But it’s clear that it would be extremely remiss of me to publish a book about the culture of the Findhorn Foundation and Community that does not in some way recognise the deepest held and most famous aspects of our culture – our relationship with nature and the ‘subtle realms.’

I’ve not ever written on this topic before now because I’ve felt unqualified to do so. I have little personal experience of the kind of relationship with nature that many of our members enjoy. Historically, and continuously to the present day, many Findhorn community members have experienced extraordinary connection and interaction with unseen elements of the natural world and the so called subtle realms. I have little experience of such things and my somewhat sceptical, material worldview doesn’t permit me to simply accept such phenomena uncritically. Yet, I have no ready explanation, so I find the matter curious and perplexing. (As an aside, I have a similar relationship with crop circles. I’ve researched them thoroughly and find them totally mystifying.)

Here is a case in point from just yesterday. Indeed it was this communication in the form of an email that prompted me to write this chapter. (It’s included here in its entirety for completeness.)

Dear all,

NFD are preparing to dig a trench along the runway from the Earthships down to the Guest Lodge and then across the Village Green. As this will involve the cutting back of trees, shrubs and flowers, NFD have given Park Garden group time to attune to the project, to the land, the plants and animals, and to the associated angelic and elemental lives. Yesterday we assessed the likely impact, and this morning we held an attunement to inform the nature kingdoms about the project.

We affirmed the need to make the Park safer and more beautiful by burying a new electricity cable and thus being able to remove all the overhead ones, and that the planned route has been decided after consideration of all the options. We walked down the route, looking at all the plants and deciding what was best for them, and will work with NFD to minimise the impact.

In our attunement we felt gratitude from the nature kingdoms for clear communication, for conscious co-operation, and for the love and care we take in all the work. We affirmed that the project will be carried out and completed safely and efficiently.

We felt that we were doing this on behalf of the whole community, and so I am writing now to tell you that the initial energetic work of co-operation and co-creation has been done, and that the response from the nature kingdoms has been filled with gratitude and appreciation.

We invite you to hold the project in light and love as it proceeds.
With thanks to NFD for the time to do the energetic groundwork,
Angus (on behalf of Park Garden)

So what am I to make of this? I am sceptical, but not cynical; I don’t for a second, doubt the veracity of Angus’s words nor the experience of the Park Gardens team. Yet, I’m at somewhat of a loss to know how to interpret this story. It reads as if the team communicated directly with the nature kingdom – ‘to the land, the plants and animals, and to the associated angelic and elemental lives.’ And it sounds as if the nature kingdom answered back. The casual reader certainly could not be blamed for assuming that the words above are literal and the intercommunication was ‘real.’ Did the Park Gardens team feel that? Or was there something else going on? Before I publish this chapter I’m going to run it past Angus for his feedback. I love Angus. He’s one of the great stalwarts of our community and a man whom I greatly respect. I’m looking forward to unpacking the matter with him. But in the meantime, here’s my take.

As previously mentioned, I believe that we human beings, individually and collectively, possess enormous untapped potential. Each of us is capable of levels of achievement that we can’t even imagine, which could be unlocked if only we could identify and apply the right means. Sometimes those means are pro-active; we might take a course of learning, develop a practice, collaborate with others etc. And at other times, all that’s required is that we be with what is; be open, be still, and ‘listen.’ This second way of being I have experienced to great effect many times, most notably on two ‘mind-blowing’ occasions, once in the ‘70s in the middle of the Sinai Desert and the other almost 10 years ago at the Findhorn River. I think of them as the only two (non drug-induced) mystical experiences of my life.

On the first occasion I was on tour with a busload of youngsters. We had arrived at the foot of Mt Sinai in the evening and set up camp, planning to climb to the legendary Orthodox monastery, Santa Caterina, the following morning. Late that night, I went for a walk on my own in the desert. After some time, I sat on a rock to rest. In those days I was youthfully zealous, politically rabid and philosophically opinionated – anything but open, still and able to listen. It was decades before I ever attempted meditation. And yet, in that moment, something magical occurred. I can only guess that what happened was due to the conditions in which I found myself: being in the middle of a vast, vast desert; one that’s completely arid and devoid of vegetation; where the air is as dry and clean as anywhere on Earth; on a night when the stars were as bright and as numerous as I’d ever seen in my life. Due to the context and rarefied atmosphere, I was somehow able to soften my shell, let down my defences and allow myself an experience of the infinite – of ‘oneness.’

As I sat on the rock I slowly became aware of my connection with it – that the rock and I were made of the same fundamental stuff and that we were, in fact, one. My attention was then drawn to the sand around the rock and I ‘saw’ the same elemental interconnection between the rock on which I sat and the sand upon which it rested. So now I’m as one with both the rock and the desert floor; we form a continuum. Soon enough my awareness expanded further to include the surrounding wadi (valley) and I now felt fully interconnected, at one, with everything up to and including the mountains all around. Slowly, gradually, my awareness and understanding expanded onward and outward to include the whole of the desert, the region, the Earth, the stars and, ultimately, the whole damned Universe. I was as one with all that is.

I don’t know how long the experience lasted, perhaps five or ten minutes, or perhaps one or two; I really have no idea. But when I came to, I was left with the unshakeable conviction that I, we, everything is fully interconnected. From that day onward I have known this as an incontrovertible truth, because (and here’s the rub) I had it proven to me! I ‘saw’ it with my own ‘eyes’. Did I literally see it? I don’t know. Perhaps I did. Perhaps our visual faculties are capable of such things. But actually, I think that’s irrelevant. By some means or other, I arrived at a crystal clear understanding of an essential truth that has lived in me ever since.

And again, during Experience Week, I had a similar vision, except that this time it involved a beautiful woman, a magnificent tree and my very first visit to Randolf’s Leap on the Findhorn River, one of the most awe-inspiring riverscapes I have ever come across. No doubt, I was already in somewhat of an altered state, being three or four days into a programme designed to shift perceptions and dissolve defences. So on both occasions, due to circumstances, my barriers were down and ‘the veils were thin,’ as they say. When the veils are thin enough, it seems that even sceptical ol’ me is capable of and open to unfathomable depths of perception.

Much more often, indeed regularly, I experience a less profound but nonetheless still deep and moving level of awe and wonder. It can happen if I’m looking at a beautiful painting, or standing in a fine architectural space, or listening to gorgeous music. It can happen in a natural rainforest or a well-designed garden setting. Somehow, I am transported in such moments to a place of pure bliss and deep contentment. Invariably tears flow. Again, there seems to be something going on there that causes my defences to come down and allow in a different kind of experience to what I think of as ‘normal.’ Perhaps it’s some kind of return to innocence – layers of conditioning being peeled away to enable a state of wonder more commonly associated with early childhood.

Anyway, getting back to Angus’s story – my interpretation (before having spoken to him (see below)) is that the Park Gardens team experienced something like that which I’ve just described. There are people, many of them, in this community who are very practiced at attunement. They can close their eyes and drop into a space where the ‘veils become thin’ quite readily. They can quite quickly align with the energies and/or entities that are being invoked. I’m guessing that Angus and his colleagues experienced a deep empathy with the plants and animals in question and, via a strong sense of their interconnection, were able to ‘feel’ or ‘hear’ an energetic response. And I imagine that the experience was quite different for each of them.

Angus’s story illustrates the complexity of our relationship with nature here in Findhorn. We are both a spiritual community, in large part premised on our relationship with nature, and also an ecovillage. We began as just the former and adopted the latter identity in the ‘80s. These days, I think it’s fair to say, we have a kind of a dual personality – we see ourselves and are viewed by others as either or both a spiritual community and an ecovillage. For the most part, these two aspects of our culture co-exist in harmony. It’s been said that they are two sides of the one coin. But there are times when a creative tension arises between the two. I think this is well illustrated in the above account of what occurred when the NFD needed to run a trench through some of the gardens in order to progress our renewable energy infrastructure.

Another classic example of this kind of tension occurs when there’s tree pruning and felling to be done. When the community began back in the ‘60s there were very few existing trees on the site. These days there are thousands growing throughout the ecovillage. Many of them are magnificent specimen trees. Some have grown up on the south side of community and residential buildings, thus blocking their access to sun and light. Trees of course, are much valued generally, for their intrinsic value and beauty as well as their contribution to the environment. But here in Findhorn they are considered and valued much as sentient beings. To many people in the community, removing a limb from a tree, or felling one, is tantamount to amputation or murder. Historically, we chose not to prune or fell trees just because they blocked the sun from buildings and gardens. But in the last 10 years or so, as our identity as an ecovillage has matured and we’ve applied more and more effort to reducing our carbon footprint, it’s become increasingly obvious that something had to be done. And so we’ve become much more willing to prune and fell trees to this end. And yet, it’s still very painful for many of our members. Hence, we almost always inform the community prior to any significant tree lopping or removal so that individuals are given the opportunity to attune and communicate (or perhaps even grieve) much as the Park Garden team did recently.

I’d like to tell one final story about another such instance of creative tension that arose when we installed a centralised biomass boiler some four or five years ago; probably the most significant infrastructure project of recent years. As designer and project manager, I had to configure the route taken by the district heating pipe, from the boiler itself to the dozen or so buildings which it fed with carbon zero heat. Many of those buildings are located in what we call the Central Garden, the very first ornamental garden that Peter Caddy designed and built in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. All our gardens are precious of course, but the Central Garden is as a temple to us; it’s a sacred space! Any damage wrought by the pipeline installation would be considered sacrilegious by some and cause considerable angst for many more. So the solution we struck was to route the requisite meter deep trench along the existing pathways through the garden, a quite circuitous and ostensibly inefficient route. By this means, almost no damage was done to the gardens. Yet the exercise was more troublesome and expensive than would have been a more direct, straight line layout. Such are the lengths we can go to appease the denizens of the subtle realms as well as the sensibility of community members.

APPENDIX

Follow this link to hear an audio file of the chat I had with Angus about his experience with the Gardens team. https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/22754825/Angus.wav

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