Imagine yourself back in time, to the spring of 1962. . .
Imagine yourself on the coast of the wild North Sea in northern Scotland, in the village of Findhorn. There, Eileen Caddy and her husband Peter, along with their good friend Dorothy Maclean, had lived off and on since 1957. The three had been friends for many years following the Great War, after meeting while members of a spiritual community in England. Eileen and Dorothy could be called modern-day mystics; they devoted hours every morning to meditation and prayer, to practice listening to the still, small voice of Spirit. What made them perhaps exceptional is that, after careful discernment, they acted on the guidance they received with complete trusting confidence. In fact, they moved to Findhorn based on spiritual guidance received by Eileen in her morning meditation sessions.
At first, they prospered at Findhorn, where Peter was the manager of the Cluny Hotel in nearby Forres. In fact, his management of the hotel was so successful that the owners asked him to manage another hotel for them. Though this meant leaving Findhorn Village, he accepted the transfer. Here is where their fortunes seemed to change for the worse. The hotel under his management closed, Peter was fired, and, despite his best efforts, the company refused to re-hire him to his former position at Cluny Hotel. At the same time, Eileen and Dorothy also lost their employment. None of them seemed to be able to find work. As Dorothy recalled in her book “Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic,” the three of them felt as though they had been ”snubbed” by the Findhorn community. Lacking income and employment prospects, they felt obliged to sign up for “National Assistance.” In the parlance of the time, they were “on the dole.”
You could say that they found themselves in a “wilderness” in the spring of 1962. On the promptings of Spirit, they moved their vacation “caravan” (what we call “trailers” in the U.S.) to the Findhorn Caravan Park, next to a military base, close to the shores of the sea.
At this time Peter decided to expand their small vegetable plot to see if they might be able to grow their own food. But there was little bit of a problem with this idea. You see, the caravan park was situated on what amounted to sand dunes. If you’ve ever tried your hand at gardening, you’ll know why this posed a bit of a problem. After all, water runs through sand, and sand doesn’t typically contain much organic matter. At first, Peter met with minimal success, but here’s where their fortunes turned yet again.
Throughout this period of uncertainty and relative poverty, they continued to follow their daily spiritual practices. Soon Dorothy began to receive intuitive guidance about gardening in her mediation sessions. And the suggestions, so to speak, weren’t offered by an ascended spiritual “master,” but by presences much closer to home.
She began to receive communications from the over-lighting devas or Spirits of the vegetables and plants themselves.
As Dorothy sat in her mediation one morning, she realized that she could communicate directly with the nature spirits of the vegetables in their garden, primarily through intuitive impressions and feelings. As she cultivated a relationship with these spirits, she learned that “all of nature – all of creation – has a vast intelligence,” and “that every conceivable part of life is alive.” (OM, p. 79). Peter, Dorothy and, to a lesser extent, Eileen, embarked on a partnership with the nature devas, and experimented with growing a garden in direct cooperation with them. Dorothy sat in daily mediation to communicate with them, while Peter implemented the guidance and suggestions that Dorothy received.
The results were quite astounding. Their garden flourished, with an impressive array of vegetables and flowers, some of epic proportion or thriving outside their expected range. As word of the astonishing garden spread, people from across the U.K. traveled to Findhorn Village to see the garden themselves. How could this be? How could such vibrant flowers and gargantuan vegetables grow in sandy soil? Despite the best efforts of skeptics, the results defied logical explanation. But what seemed like “magic” to some could best be attributed to “collaboration.”
Dorothy, Peter and Eileen never set out to establish a spiritual practice community, yet, from such humble origins, the seeds of the Findhorn Foundation and Community were planted, growing through the years, and attracting people from across the world with an interest in sustainable, collaborative spiritual life. That original garden spawned a community that has grown and blossomed over the years.
Today, Findhorn is one of the largest “intentional communities” in the UK. It has attracted residents and visitors from over 40 countries, and offers a wide range of educational workshops and programs. The programs offered are intended to give participants experience in practicing the founding principles of the Findhorn community: “Inner Listening,” “Work is Love in Action,” and “Co-creation with the Intelligence of Nature.” The community itself is a working ecovillage, with houses constructed of local materials, its own sustainable sewage treatment process, and electricity generated almost exclusively from community owned wind turbines.
My wife Eila and I have stayed at the Findhorn Community twice; both times based on guidance Eila received from her “small, still voice” of Spirit, and both times, I might add, despite my initial resistance. In 2016 we attended what is commonly referred to as “experience week,” which is an introduction to the life and spiritual practices of the community. In 2018 we returned to attend a weeklong workshop on “co-creative spirituality,” with an emphasis on entering into partnership with Nature and its denizens. It is safe to say that these experiences have validated and expanded our understanding of the reality of the intelligence and divinity flowing through all of creation.
Ok. So, this all sounds great. But how is this story relevant to us? What can we learn from Dorothy, Peter and Eileen?
Well, I think it is fair to say that Findhorn has come a long way from the “wilderness” of those early days in the sandy garden. But it seems to me that we are all in a bit of a wilderness today – at least when to comes to environmental issues and climate change. It seems evident that we are in the midst of serious threats to our earth and our very existence. So often it seems that the collective response to these threats are based in a mixture of ignorance, denial, or out and out hostility. We seem to lack the collective will to face what is together, with trust and faith in collaborative action.
It seems that this state of dis-connection can be attributed to a false sense of separation from the rest of creation. How often does one hear the argument that we are the dominant species with “dominion” over the earth and all its inhabitants – which are simply “resources” to be managed. In doing so, I believe that we cut ourselves off from the intelligence and spirit that flows through everything. And we fail to see our interrelatedness with creation – and how every action affecting nature affects us too.
But I don’t think that it has to be this way. Imagine the possibility of collaboration as demonstrated by the Findhorn Foundation. We are invited to see ourselves not as “dominant,” or with “dominion,” but as “inter-are” (to use the words of Thich Nhat Hanh) with all beings in creation. An invitation to co-create and collaborate with our fellow inhabitants, and together find ways to face our current climate crisis. To come together with all beings to truly experience the love in all of creation. To know that we are loved – and put love into action for the benefit of all.
Of course, one might say that this is all easier said than done. And I suppose it is. Living in connection with the natural world takes commitment. Both Dorothy and Eileen spent many hours in prayer and meditation every morning. They lived the guidance of our scripture for today – to “Be Still and Know.” And the Findhorn community continues to live that guidance to this day. The image on the bulletin cover is from a gate to the original Findhorn Garden that is still there to this day.
But you don’t have to be a mystic like Dorothy and Eileen to practice interbeing and co-create with nature. Peter never considered himself a mystic. He was a person of “action,” yet he practiced cooperation with the intelligence of nature and lived his life in accordance with the inter-being of all creation. Like Dorothy and Eileen, he practiced love in action. And when you do that you open yourself up to the divinity in all – and see yourself as part of it. And that is what supports true and wise collaboration and co-creation.
Or, so it seems to me.
May it be so.