Findhorn FoundationFindhorn Foundation spiritual community, education centre, ecovillage Wed, 16 Apr 2014 10:40:14 +0000 en-US hourly 1 EarthSings 2014Singing for Unity and Wellbeing 1 Mon, 14 Apr 2014 13:33:27 +0000 A Findhorn Foundation special event 12–18 April 2014 A little over a year ago I was sitting in the Universal Hall here at the Findhorn Foundation for the start of EarthSings Conference in 2013. A year on and I'm delighted to be repeating the experience as EarthSings 2014 welcomes us and invites us again to open our hearts and voices in celebration. (read more...)]]> A Findhorn Foundation special event 12–18 April 2014

Saturday afternoon
Déjà vu

A little over a year ago I was sitting in the Universal Hall here at the Findhorn Foundation for the start of EarthSings Conference in 2013. A year on and I’m delighted to be repeating the experience as EarthSings 2014 welcomes us and invites us again to open our hearts and voices in celebration.

EarthSings2014-1Peter Vallance, our host and conference organiser again this year, guides us through our time honoured traditions to open the event, one of which is choosing an angelic quality to oversee our gathering. An inaudible sigh of wonder seems to emanate from all as we welcome the Angel of HEALING into our midst.

Kate O’Connell leads us in warming up – this is about participating, not sitting on the sidelines watching, as I clearly remember from last year. We start with moving our bodies gently, through some quick pacing to arrive again in a quiet inner space, a place from which to tone together and in a moment a natural harmony arises. “Imagine you have little ears all over your body and let all the sounds blend together for your body to hear,” we’re invited.

Now we’re ready to begin. Kate puts us in voice groups and we start singing an old spiritual song:

Up above my head I hear music in the air
Up above my head I hear music in the air
Up above my head I hear music in the air
There must be a God somewhere

We’ve been together for little over half an hour and the singing is well under way!

A round of personal introductions from the invited presenters and announcements by Peter is followed by Findhorn Community member Barbara Swetina leading us in a welcoming circle dance and song to close the session.

From this circle of love
From this circle of love
From this circle of love
I send you peace.

I am excited and curious to see as what this year’s EarthSings will hold.


Sunday morning
Stepping into the Light

Quite often my Sunday mornings are for staying in bed a bit longer, but not this Sunday! I’ve arrived at the Universal Hall, the sunshine outside reflected in the brilliant yellow of the daffodils and gorse that together with spring greenery and blush roses create an altar upon which the lit candle is held. We have all come this morning to participate in one of the mainstays of Findhorn community spiritual practice – Taizé singing – and to experience the healing and joy that singing together brings.

Taizé singing was introduced to Findhorn over 20 years ago by long-term Findhorn Foundation and Community member, Barbara Swetina. It is Barbara who leads us this morning, her shiny red accordion ever ready by her side. She is supported by friends Sheila Pettitt on piano and flute, Kicky Anderberg on guitar and Chloe Greenwood on violin.

EarthSings2014Sunday-1As is custom for Sunday morning Taizé, we start with a dance. Today, even two, so that we have even more opportunity to meet and greet each other through movement and song. I particularly enjoy the second dance as it is lively, uplifting and each new partner standing in front of me is a reminder that the holy blessed one is within each one of us.

Accompanied by our wonderful musicians, we sing a few selections from the new, being launched today, Heaven and Earth Community Songbook from Findhorn. Three years in the making, compiled by Barbara Swetina and John Rees, this new songbook has the Taizé chants and other sacred songs from all over the world gathered all in one place.

The words of the songs chosen by Barbara for this occasion, and the words of a song written by Sheila, encourage us to leave the doubts and darkness behind and step into the light each moment of every day.

Sunday afternoon
Travelling the World

This afternoon we return to the Hall for a taster session with each of the main workshop leaders. Susie Ro Prater guides us in getting ourselves all warmed up, our first task to walk briskly around the room and while walking, begin to find our own unique melody and give it a voice using the sounds of ‘ah’ or ‘oh’. We then stop, stand in place and as a group pat, tap and massage our bodies awake, paying particular attention to the chest area. Susie explains the importance of having this area open and relaxed, especially with a week of singing ahead of us!

EarthSings2014 Susie PraterDivided into voice parts to begin with, we sing two songs led by Susie. Before we sing the first one, Heaven in my Heart, Susie pays tribute to her father Nick Prater who died from cancer late last year. Originally meant to be here with her, Nick was well known and greatly respected amongst community choir leaders for his arrangements and songs, and the passion with which he shared singing with others. I sense a similar passion in Susie too. When she describes her ongoing workshop this week, she makes it clear that participants are not expected to stay in their voice parts, but that her intention is to create a space where people can find their unique voice and then be the channel for spirit to enter through the song.

I’d like to share with you the words of the second song Susie taught us. A simple chant-like song that carries the love so needed at this time in human history:

Heart to heart
Hand to hand
Healing the circle
Healing the land

FionaMackenzie2013Returning briefly to our seats we are then off to the Gàidhealtachd (the Gaelic-speaking communities of Scotland) with Fiona Mackenzie. With lyrics written out phonetically and projected up on the screen for us, we are able to quickly learn a working song about a man cutting the bracken on his own called Tha Mi Sgith (I am tired). Fiona explains that these working songs, like the waulking songs sung by the women softening the tweed fabric, have a certain rhythm and we keep time by tapping our feet or clapping our thighs. We then have a lot of fun with Brochan Lom, a song about porridge. Once the lyrics are learned, we stand in a circle and first pass a clap and then a stomp around the circle. What a hoot!

It seems there are quite a few similarities between the Gaelic and Georgian, so how appropriate then to move into Georgian three-part polyphony. Having experienced the evocative, powerful music of Georgia last year, I am delighted that Nana Mzhavanadze is able to be with us. Before we start, she speaks of her gratitude to Liza Hollingshead, long-term member of the Findhorn Community and founder of Ecologia Youth Trust, for the help Nana has received in order to be here.

NanaMzhavanadze2013Her grandfather a songmaster, Nana grew up with the Georgian songs all around her. So when she teaches a song, she doesn’t count beats but rather feels the rhythm of the music and the words. For this session, she has chosen one of the many versions of Mravalzhamier, a song appropriate for any time you want to wish someone a long life. This particular version is considered an urban one, more contemporary and more familiar sounding for the Western ear. It takes us a little while to get comfortable with it, but before the end of the session, we are singing this Mravalzhamier in three-part harmony well enough to offer it at a supra (Georgian feast).

After a short tea break we are back with Kathy Bullock. Kathy herself is back at Findhorn, having ‘raised the roof and brought down the house’ at EarthSings last year. Once again sharing songs with us from the African-American tradition, Kathy gives us a glimpse into what it means to grow up in Africa surrounded by your community. The secular and sacred are not as distinct from one another as is found in some other cultures, and singing and dancing are part of everyday life.

EarthSingsKathyBullock2013Having this as their roots, the Africans who were forcibly brought to the United States as slaves merged their music with what they found in this new land. The songs that were born, becoming known as spirituals, provided a way to live with the extreme hardship and misery that was the life of a slave in the States. After slavery was abolished, the music form of blues evolved out of the spiritual and then later came the gospel.

There is such a richness in the African-American music tradition and this afternoon is only a taste of the rhythms (we become the percussion section using our hands and feet and even our mouths!), the melodies and the words. I love the call and response aspect of the gospel, as well as the movement and dance. Adding the percussion in at the same time I find a little tricky until I get my mind out of the way and just let it happen. I see this most clearly when Kathy shares with us a children’s song born from the time of slavery called Juba. The song itself is sung in a two-beat rhythm and the hand clapping that goes with it is a three-beat rhythm!

I leave the Hall exhilarated, eager to participate in more of what this fantastic week will offer, and feeling such gratitude to these wonderful women who have shared so much of themselves with us this afternoon.

(Come back early next week for our wrap-up report which will include the Friday night final extravaganza.)

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Findhorn PR nominated for Adventurer Award Fri, 11 Apr 2014 13:30:21 +0000 read more...)]]> Geoff Dalglish, PR for the Findhorn Foundation, has been nominated for a prestigious Adventurer of the Year award.

His nomination follows an epic 124-day, 1,600 mile (2,500km) walk through six European countries and four major mountain ranges as an ambassador for WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress. It was held in Salamanca, Spain, during October last year.


Geoff is welcomed by the mayor of Salamanca

Wherever possible he followed in the tracks of migrating wolves and wrote dozens of blogs and features, many of which were published on the Findhorn website. (Click here to read the last one.)

The winner of the Nightjar Adventurer 2014 accolade will be announced in Cape Town on 8 May and nominees include a daring wingsuit flyer and a stand-up paddleboard (SUP) surfer who established three new world records, including one for the first official source-to-sea paddle down the River Thames and the fastest standing crossing of the English Channel.

“It’s a great privilege to be included in such adventurous company,” Geoff said, “but the important thing for me is that the nomination helps spread the message about the urgent need to respect and protect all other forms of life with which we share this beautiful planet; and to preserve – and even expand – our wild places.

“Rewilding is the new buzzword and it isn’t only the animals that need wilderness and wildness, with growing evidence that humanity depends on an immersion in nature for its health and well-being – we are all part of that interconnected and miraculous web of life.”

The theme of WILD10 was to make the world a wilder place and Geoff accepted an invitation to walk from Geneva to Salamanca, pioneering what could become an international hiking trail called El Camino Salvaje, or the Way of the Wild.

It was while staying at Findhorn that Geoff, a former motoring journalist and race driver, felt inspired to go from petrolhead to pilgrim and to walk with messages about treading more lightly and lovingly upon the Earth.


Geoff at the start of his epic walk

He started walking from the sacred Isle of Iona on 7 July in 2011 and had covered more than 8,700 miles (14,000km) – the equivalent of a third of the circumference of the planet, when he reached Salamanca and was treated to a mayoral reception on the day before the start of the World Wilderness Congress.

“Interestingly, there were so many threads linking Findhorn as the driving force behind WILD10. American Vance Martin was part of the original core group with co-founders Peter and Eileen Caddy, and he organised WILD3, the third World Wilderness gathering that officially opened Findhorn’s Universal Hall in 1983.

“At the same gathering was a young Alan Watson Featherstone, who later founded the Trees for Life charity which celebrates its 25th anniversary on 25 May.”

Geoff said that a requirement for the nomination was that the adventure be pioneering or perilous, and a South African or world first. “Ironically the most perilous thing we humans can possibly do is to continue living the way we have where our materialistic and destructive ways threaten all lifeforms, including our own. It is time we started living a new story of interconnectedness and co-creation with nature, which is one of the cornerstones of Findhorn philosophy.”

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This is Your Life Dorothy Fri, 28 Mar 2014 08:58:29 +0000 read more...)]]> The theme tune for the remarkable life of Dorothy Maclean might well have been a chart-topping Beatles’ song, John Lennon famously touching millions of hearts with the simple lyrics of the 1967 love anthem: ‘All you need is love, love; Love is all you need.’


Dorothy today

On 14 February – St Valentines Day – the Findhorn Foundation community surprised our sole surviving co-founder with a version of the famous TV series: This is Your Life! It was an outpouring of love and a celebration of a life of contribution – now in its 95th year – that has been about love of the nature kingdoms and all beings.

“The secret is to love and to love more,” Dorothy explained.

But on this momentous evening she was at a momentary loss for words, taking her place in a front row of the Universal Hall without ever suspecting that she was to be the star attraction of an inspiring collection of tributes from around the world. Her friend John Willoner had jokingly explained that she was attending a history lesson.

Australian community member Will Russell and his wife Angie orchestrated a lively programme of tributes delivered in person and on a giant screen, which were interspersed with historic video clips and a slideshow spanning nine decades.


A three-year-old Dorothy wrapped up against the cold

In perhaps the most famous TV interview, a youthful Dorothy and co-founders Peter and Eileen Caddy, answer questions from legendary BBC presenter Magnus Magnusson in a 1973 broadcast that took the Findhorn community into the homes and hearts of many thousands of viewers.

The soundtrack for the evening incorporated iconic songs like ‘Love One Another’ performed by The New Troubadours band formed by spiritual teacher David Spangler and his friends during their Findhorn adventure in the early 1970s. The music captures the spirit and creativity of the era, and is resonant with the spiritual values that accompanied the birth of the Lorians in North America, of which Dorothy is a member.

The Findhorn founders were emphatic that ‘God is Love,’ and Dorothy said: “God is this exploding universe that we are seeing through science at the moment; and love is just as great as that, just as vast as that, and we know so little of it.


A teenage Dorothy enjoys a day on the beach

“As I grow older, or more experienced shall we say, I realise the power of love. It can make anything happen. And it’s appropriate in any situation. When nothing else works, it works.

“Love? To me it’s the founding energy … and it’s like the white light that is split into all the colours. Only love is split into everything that is. Light and dark are polar opposites but love contains the dark – it contains everything, it embraces everything.”

Looking back on early beginnings in the caravan park, she says she was told in meditation “that I had a job connected with nature. I thought this is a wonderful excuse to go for a walk, to lie in the sun. But when Peter saw the guidance, which I always shared with him, he said: ‘Maybe you can help in the garden.’ He was having a hard time growing vegetables in the sand dunes.

“I tuned in the next day and was told that everything in nature had an ensouling intelligence, whether it was a planet, or a cloud or a vegetable. And I was to attune to and harmonise with the essence of that intelligence.”

Her immediate reaction was that she couldn’t do it and didn’t know how to, although Peter insisted with characteristic confidence that it would be easy for Dorothy.


Dorothy on her wedding day in 1942

“But one day I was doing a meditation when I got into a stream of power when I felt I could do anything. So ‘Ah,’ I thought, now is the time to tune into the intelligence of nature. I chose a vegetable we were growing – which I loved to eat – the garden pea, and I tried to attune to its essence.”

To her astonishment, she received an immediate response and began an enduring communication.

“I think in that very first message it was what nature is still trying to tell us humans – that we are all great beings of light and we can work with them, attune with all life.”

She realised that the intelligent energy she was attuning to was not from one pea plant. “It was the soul level of all peas on Earth – the soul of the pea kingdom – and that as such it was a planetary being. I was communicating with an intelligence that was aware all over the Earth at one and the same time.”


Dorothy with the Caddy family in the early pioneering days

“Peter gave me a long list of questions to ask various vegetables in the garden, which kept me busy for years,” she remembers with a laugh.

She said the messages always brought her back to Oneness. The angels – or devas (a sanskrit word meaning ‘shining ones’ that has now become known and acceptable to many) – are messengers of God who stressed the interconnectedness of nature and humanity and the necessity to work together. They told her that love is the key and the bridge between kingdoms.

Years later, when she was no longer working just in the gardens, the team of gardeners came to her and asked questions, and she insisted that they turn to their own inner guidance. “What do you feel?” she asked. “They told me and were generally accurate. They were loving landscape gardeners and sought the truth, though they probably wouldn’t have called it attunement with nature. Love is the key to all these things.”

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Embracing new Possibilities Mon, 24 Mar 2014 11:15:36 +0000 read more...)]]>  

Where there is trust, there is no fear, no anxiety, no uncertainty!


MichaelRoads2014Author and spiritual teacher Michael J Roads, who will host a three-day event at the Findhorn Foundation on 21–23 June, says that humanity has no viable choice other than to move forward and embrace new possibilities and potentials.

“The old parameters of human endeavour are shifting, making way for new paradigms of experience,” he insists. “We have reached the place in the soul’s eternal journey where we either go onward with newness, or we recycle our stuck-ness once again. We have already done this! We either move forward consciously, or we subconsciously stagnate.”

He’s already well known to Findhorn audiences through previous visits and has published 17 books that have been translated into 16 languages, his teachings revolving around the theme of unconditional love and emotional completeness.

The 2014 Findhorn event is entitled Unconditional Love – Emotional Healing – The Meaning of Life and it will spotlight the need to trust and let go of fears.

“Our subconsciousness is filled with old fears. These fears constantly talk to us in our deeper thoughts, thereby undermining our capabilities and holding us in the stasis of our deepest fears. Our subconscious is not innovative – it clings to more-of-the-same. By its very nature, it will not and cannot take us into the new. When you consider that at least 90% of humanity lives 90% of their life in a subconscious state, then this clearly reveals the vulnerability of the human condition. To move into the new requires that we live consciously in the moment, not in the endless repetition of the past.

ClunyGardenBee2011“One powerful way to move past this deeply-implanted subconscious programme is trust. To follow our intuition or inner guidance we are required to release our doubts – and trust.” But what is trust, he asks?

“If trust is simply a word that you intellectually understand, the chances are that you have never truly experienced it. Trust is far more than any words can describe. The subconscious is totally incapable of trust. The left-brain cannot trust. Trust is something I talk about and teach in my seminars and Intensives – real trust. Trust is purely metaphysical, and until you consciously create it, you do not have it. Where there is trust, there is no fear, no anxiety, no uncertainty … trust is an expression of newness.”

He discovered at an early age that he had the ability to communicate with nature and to go beyond linear time and space, his books and seminars describing remarkable metaphysical journeys and a growing awareness. He states: “On this planet the potential timing to move to the next level has arrived … you have to consciously choose the next level. You are required to put into place in your life the conscious process that will take you there. It will never happen accidentally, or if you wait long enough, or if you try enough techniques maybe one will succeed. It does not work that way. The next level is a place of higher consciousness that can only be attained by being more fully conscious and aware.”

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UN International Day of Happiness Tue, 18 Mar 2014 13:36:30 +0000 read more...)]]> In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proclaiming 20th March annually as the International Day of Happiness. In celebration of this event in 2014, the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon issued the following message.

Secretary-General’s Message

The pursuit of happiness lies at the core of human endeavours. People around the world aspire to lead happy and fulfilling lives free from fear and want, and in harmony with nature.

Yet, basic material well-being is still elusive for far too many living in extreme poverty. For many more, recurring socio-economic crises, violence and crime, environmental degradation and increasing threats of climate change are an ever-present threat.

At last year’s Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, United Nations Member States agreed on the need for a balanced approach to sustainable development by integrating its three pillars – economic growth, social development and environmental protection. They recognised that in order to better inform policy decisions, broader measures of progress should complement Gross Domestic Product.

I am encouraged by the efforts of some Governments to design policies based on comprehensive well-being indicators. I encourage others to follow suit. On this first International Day of Happiness, let us reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Compassion promotes happiness and will help build the future we want.

Ban Ki-moon
United Nations Secretary-General

You can read and download the original United Nations resolution declaring 20 March annually the International Day of Happiness here.

For more information on the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness, click here.

**The Findhorn Foundation is an NGO Associated with the Department of Public Information of the United Nations and is regularly represented in UN Briefing sessions.

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Trees for Life! Mon, 17 Mar 2014 13:58:14 +0000 read more...)]]>

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.

Nelson Henderson, pioneer farmer

“Tees, tees,” I exclaimed excitedly from my lofty perch astride my father’s shoulders as he strolled through the local park hand-in-hand with my mother.

As first they were mildly taken back, surprise at my first-ever words turning to delight when they realised that I was saying ‘Trees.’


Coastal redwoods lining California's Avenue of the Giants

I have a fuzzy memory of that day and of a child’s sense of wonder at being surrounded by so many huge trees. And I guess those feelings of awe and connection with the natural world have stayed with me ever since. Many subsequent encounters with majestic trees have had an increasingly profound impact on my life.

I recall my horror during 1995 when I hiked through a Central American rainforest reduced to a smouldering ruin by reckless slash and burn policies. Why, I demanded, and was told the ancient forest was needed as pastureland for cattle. One cynic angrily insisted that it would satisfy a hunger for hamburgers from mostly overweight Americans!

More than a decade later I could have wept with helplessness at the scenes of devastation wreaked upon pristine equatorial rainforests in Africa. I watched an endless succession of logging trucks speeding by with their plunder, mature trees, some a thousand years old, destined to become commodities in furniture showrooms from Berlin to Beijing.

GeoffPilgrimage288When one logging vehicle collapsed beneath the colossal weight of a giant of a tree, I felt like cheering. Score One to the trees!

Still more recently it was a tree that saved my life as, terror-stricken, I hid behind it after being charged by eight enraged elephants. It was then that I made a pact that if I survived, I’d devote my energies to the Earth and all its beings. But how to do that!

Walking with a message became a way and during 2012 my pilgrimage took me from the epicentre of car culture in Los Angeles to the ancient redwoods of Northern California that are the tallest trees on the planet. What I jokingly refer to as my walk from Carmageddon to Redwood Heaven. It also introduced me to the sequoias that are the largest trees on Earth by volume, and the bristlecone pines that are the oldest. A famous grove high in the White Mountains dates back around 4,600 years – one tree germinated in 3051 BC, today celebrating a life spanning 5,065 years!

My wanderings have taught me humility in the presence of so many amazing trees, and introduced me to no less remarkable humans who have chosen uniquely inspiring paths of service.


Logging in Equatorial Africa

Among those is Alan Watson Featherstone, a Scot with a giant 250-year vision to restore the Caledonian Forest of which just one percent remains in isolated remnants in the Highlands of Scotland. This is rewilding at its best, to use a popular buzzword.

A quarter of a century ago Alan founded the Trees for Life charity and during 2012 he and his team of enthusiastic volunteers planted their millionth tree. That’s walking your talk.

It’s harder to quantify what I’ve been doing, although I hope it has helped to raise some awareness around the importance of the natural world with which we enjoy a symbiotic relationship, drawing sustenance, inspiration and with each breath exchanging carbon dioxide for the oxygen on which we depend for survival. Have you ever hugged a tree and said ‘Thanks’?

Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way

George Monbiot

Recently I read the book Feral by English writer and environmental activist George Monbiot, who says: “Rewilding, to me, is about resisting the urge to control nature and allowing it to find its own way … the rewilding of natural ecosystems that fascinates me is not an attempt to restore them to any prior state, but to let ecological processes resume. In countries such as my own, the conservation movement, while well intentioned, has sought to freeze living systems in time. It attempts to prevent animals and plants from either leaving or – if they do not live there already – entering. It seeks to manage nature as if tending a garden.

“Rewilding recognises that nature consists not just of a collection of species but also of their ever-shifting relationships with each other and with the physical environment. It understands that to keep an ecosystem in a state of arrested development, to preserve it as if it were a jar of pickles, is to protect something which bears little relationship to the natural world.”

He has visited Trees for Life and come away impressed with Alan’s vision and approach.


Alan Watson Featherstone

Recently I’ve had the opportunity to again spend time with Alan, both on his 60th birthday and on a day trip to the Dundreggan Conservation Estate, near Loch Ness, which is the focus of a major rewilding project.

And my timing seemed perfect: only days earlier all the lobbying had paid off and the noble Scots pine had been declared Scotland’s national tree.

It’s a step in the right direction although Alan warns that higher priority must be given urgently to the conservation of Scotland’s pinewoods.

“Declaring the Scots pine – bastion of the Caledonian Forest and one of the world’s most beautiful trees – as a national symbol sends a signal to the world that Scotland values its trees as an important part of its culture and identity,” he says.

“But with alarm bells ringing for this remarkable tree’s future, we should strengthen conservation action now. Our national tree is under siege from climate change, extreme weather and disease. We owe it to future generations to ensure its long-term survival by being world leaders in reforestation.”

A giant of a tree at Dundreggan toppled during this winter’s severe storms, highlighting the vulnerability of even well-established Scots pines to extreme weather, something that is likely to increase with climate change – and equally worrying is the lack of young trees to replace mature specimens.


Trees for Life volunteers at Dundreggan

But there’s no place for despair or overwhelm and a day out at Dundreggan is an invigorating tonic. I find myself in the company of cheerful volunteers potting tiny plants, some of which might only reach maturity in a couple of centuries’ time.

There’s something quite magical and hugely healing about working with young trees, being careful not to damage their roots and tenderly easing them into the soil that will nourish them on the first phase of their great adventure.

Long-serving volunteer Diana Brockbank enthuses: “It’s wonderful to have a day out here in the country and I’ll do this for as long as I can.”

She looks lovingly at rows of tiny plants in the greenhouse, knowing she’ll not be around to sit in their shade. “This is the future,” she says. “These are just tiny little plants but they’ll grow into 250-year-old trees.”

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Findhorn celebrates Nature’s Benevolence Mon, 17 Mar 2014 08:53:48 +0000 read more...)]]> In sharp contrast with much of the UK that has been battered by heavy rain during one of the wettest winters in living memory, the Moray area of Scotland is enjoying unusually mild and dry weather.

Nature16032014The official Met Office rainfall maps show that Moray has been one of the driest places in Britain recently although for many thousands of people elsewhere it has been a winter of discontent with severe flooding, especially in the south of England.

In recent days members of the Findhorn Foundation community have been counting their blessings and making the most of sunny spells and an explosion of new buds and blooms.

Many more residents can be seen taking their lunch outside the Community Centre, where lilac crocuses are adding brilliant splashes of colour. And on my daily early morning walk through the woods I’ve noticed yellow gorse flowers emerging again, while within the past 48 hours golden daffodils have sprouted beneath the young oak tree planted to commemorate the life and legacy of co-founder Eileen Caddy.

The days are so much longer now and the seemingly miraculous return of new life has been accompanied by a soaring of emotions, my own days increasingly filled with a childlike sense of excitement, joy and wonder.

Flowers17032014For many it is also more than a manifestation of flowering plants, something deeper stirring inside. As Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best-selling Conversations with God series, observed: “There is a unique energy here … it makes it easy for people to access a different level of knowing, understanding and experiencing of some of the higher truths of life and how it is.”

Here people are encouraged to question, knowing that it is at the end of our comfort zones that life begins.

“Come to the edge,” Walsch invites. “What Findhorn brings to the human spirit is the possibility of flying!”

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Forres and Findhorn are ecological trail blazers Mon, 24 Feb 2014 17:49:24 +0000 read more...)]]> Richard Lochhead, the MSP for Moray, paid tribute to the Findhorn Foundation community and its neighbours for taking a leadership role and “blazing a trail of sustainability and innovation” where many local people are making lifestyle choices that are destined to become mainstream in Moray and Scotland.

MorayCarshare7Speaking in Forres at the official launch of Moray Carshare, a pioneering community-based car club that includes two zero-emissions all-electric vehicles, he said: “At some stage, maybe in 20 or 30 years from now, we’ll take zero carbon and zero emissions for granted.”

The Scottish Government has thrown its full weight behind the local car club with generous grant funding and anticipates a steady growth in the car sharing movement that currently has 16 registered car clubs serving 21 Scottish communities.

In the space of less than seven years Park Carpool has evolved into Moray Carshare, which is intended to serve residents of the IV36 postal code area of Morayshire.

After the ribbon-cutting ceremony he celebrated with his first-ever drive in an electric car, gliding silently without using a drop of fuel between Forres and the new charging station in The Park, which draws much of its energy from the Findhorn Wind Park. “The drive was momentous,” he enthused, describing the comfort and convenience of the Nissan Leaf, which was voted Europe’s Car of the Year.

MorayCarshare8He praised the Findhorn Foundation ecovillage and community for adapting their lifestyles to reduce their ecological footprint. Initiatives included the car sharing scheme, living in Eco homes, eating locally grown organic vegetables and harnessing clean energy from the wind turbines.

“It is a great story that you are joining all the dots to use the wind to generate energy that is helping to drive these cars.”

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Moray car club launches ‘carbon neutral’ electric cars Mon, 10 Feb 2014 15:18:58 +0000 read more...)]]> In the space of less than seven years Park Carpool has evolved into a pioneering community-based car club showcasing more affordable and sustainable transport solutions, including two zero-emissions electric vehicles.


Zero emissions ... the all-electric Renault Twizy with car club members Heather Ripley, seated, Neil Giddins, Duncan Easter, Martin Roche-Nishimori and Adriana Bijman

Now known as Moray Carshare, it is intended to serve residents of the IV36 postal code area of Morayshire and will be officially launched by local MSP Richard Lochhead in Forres on Saturday 22nd February.

Park Carpool started in 2007 with three cars and 15 members and at present nine cars serve 47 members with the latest acquisitions – an award-winning Nissan Leaf and diminutive two-seater Renault Twizy – promising state-of-the-art electric propulsion, lower running costs and a radically reduced ecological footprint.

The addition of the two electric cars has been facilitated by a grant from Developing Car Clubs Scotland, which is funded by the Scottish Government. The convenience and viability of the electric= car project has also been enhanced by the installation of a charging station in The Park funded by Energy Savings Trust Scotland.


An electric charging station at The Park enhances convenience

An added bonus is that the charging station is supplied by clean renewable energy generated by the four nearby wind turbines, with the possibility that a system of ‘smart’ charging could be developed to ensure that the electric cars are charged when the wind is blowing and the turbines spinning. It is hoped that this idea will be explored further by Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh as part of the ORIGIN project, funded by the European Commission. (ORIGIN is a collaboration to orchestrate efficient and balanced use of locally generated energy from renewable solutions and is being validated in three eco-communities in different climactic settings.)

The grant from Developing Car Clubs Scotland has also secured two fuel-efficient petrol-powered economy cars that are proving highly popular with cost-conscious members.


Neil Giddins maintains the car club fleet

Moray Carshare manager Gordon McAlpine said the aims of the car club are to provide appropriate and cost-effective transport for its members and to do so in ways that minimise negative impacts on the environment.

“We also see the Moray Carshare as an example of how we can create a sense of community and fun by sharing resources in a way that benefits all. People get to know each other through the car club.

“The benefits to members are that they save money compared with buying and maintaining their own car, while for some the main advantage is that they have convenient access to a car they could not afford – or justify – on their own.

“Other benefits are that increased awareness of the financial and environmental costs of using a car leads to more conscious choices of the most appropriate vehicle for a particular trip – the options include the electric cars which are ideal for shorter hauls, the two fuel-efficient new-generation runabouts, an estate car and another car with a more powerful engine and a tow hitch.”


Duncan Easter plugs into the electric charging station

The car club is open to new members who hold a valid driver’s licence and agree to abide by the rules of operation, with bookings made via the Internet using an online booking system. Members pay a joining fee, a monthly fee and charges based on mileage and the number of hours the cars are used.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “Moray Carshare, formerly Findhorn Park Carpool, is one of Scotland’s longest standing car clubs and introducing EVs into the fleet will allow car club members the opportunity to drive an EV and experience the benefits for themselves. Electric vehicles can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve local air quality and reduce noise pollution.

“The Scottish Government is providing funding support for the car club network across Scotland to help further reduce carbon emissions and inspire individuals to make more sustainable transport choices.”


Moray Carshare reflects the geographic spread of car club members

Richard Lochhead MSP, who is also Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, said: “Utilising cleaner and greener means of travel is hugely important in reducing the impact that we make on our environment and projects like Moray Carshare make a significant contribution to that. That positive impact is not just from the active membership of the car club but also through the increased awareness in our community of the alternative travel arrangements that they help to promote.

“In addition to the Moray Carshare project there will soon be a public network of electric car charging points across Moray, which I believe will increase people’s confidence in using electric cars, knowing they can get their vehicle re-charged at a variety of locations.

“The mix of different projects supporting the use of electric vehicles will appeal to different people and help change people’s perceptions and lead to greener travel.”

Developing Car Clubs Scotland is funded by Transport Scotland and delivered by national transport NGO Carplus.


The Twizy drawing on energy sourced from the Findhorn Wind Park

Chas Ball, Carplus Chief Executive, said: “The impressive rate at which the Scottish car club network has grown over the last few years highlights the important role played by the Scottish Government in facilitating the growth of this sector by funding support through the DCCS programme. Across Scotland there are now over 7,000 car club members with approximately 102 people joining a Scottish car club every month. We hope this car club will encourage further growth of car clubs in Scotland and the wider use of electric vehicles.”

Developing Car Clubs Scotland is keen to see the car club concept expanded both in cities and rural areas, and will monitor the running costs and experiences of participants.

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The Gift of St Francis Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:35:10 +0000 read more...)]]>

How we eat determines how the world is used.

Barbara Kingsolver, author of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

GeoffPilgrimage280“Health is more than just the absence of disease,” holistic health practitioner and intuitive healer Anneliese Cowley insists. “It is an embracing of life. It is also about reconnecting mind and body and discovering your soul – the real you!”

She’s the Austrian-born founder of the St Francis Health Centre where unconditional love is recognised as being the best medicine of all.

It is here in the beautiful Kleinemonde Valley, near the coastal resort town of Port Alfred in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, that people from all over the world come to escape the stresses of everyday live, to detoxify body and mind, lose weight, stop smoking, learn to eat correctly or simply take time to get in touch with themselves.

It’s about making a life rather than a living. “Healthy living is a way of life,” she says. “By learning how to incorporate and balance a healthy and nutritious diet with exercise and relaxation each day, we function more effectively. Our lives become much less stressful, our relationships improve, and we gain a greater sense of control over our life and health.”


Anneliese Cowley, founder of St Francis

I wholeheartedly agree, having made a pilgrimage to St Francis no fewer than nine times in the past 11 years. It helps me unwind and find the focus and clarity to face challenges ranging from summiting Mt Kilimanjaro, leading an overland expedition to Timbuktu or going from Petrolhead to Pilgrim, as I did during 2011 with my decision to walk with messages about treading more lightly and lovingly upon the Earth.

Here, in a safe and nurturing environment, I conquer fears and focus on my hopes and dreams.

I’ve once again made myself the gift of healing massages, steam baths, aqua aerobic classes and a gentle vegetarian cleansing diet as I prepare for what promises to be an exciting and intense year at Findhorn. A highlight is likely to be my support role for a global Findhorn gathering known as the New Story Summit: Inspiring Pathways for our Planetary Future. It will be a journey through inner and outer landscapes and now I feel refreshed and ready for whatever 2014 dishes up.


Hanli Rautenbach and Nico Weeber

Homeopath Hanli Rautenbach says that St Francis is a place where we can step off the treadmill, stopping for a while in the way that all the ancient cultures did, especially with the onset of winter. It is a chance to rest the digestive system and then start again slowly and gently. “You can’t separate mind and body and this is an opportunity to enjoy some physical and emotional detoxification. It allows you to see life differently and make the changes you need to make.”

Part of my daily ritual involves walking the labyrinth at St Francis, the circuitous path having been likened to our journey through life. Unlike a maze which can be frustrating with its barriers and dead-ends, the labyrinth is an ancient tool of prayer and meditation that has no tricks, a single path guiding you to its centre and then out into the world again.

Of course, just as in life, some people attempt shortcuts without following the path, denying themselves valuable insights and inspirations.

Hanli’s husband Nico Weeber, a neuro-linguistic trainer and former minister of religion, explains: “Walking the labyrinth is a journey to the deepest part of yourself and then out again. On the way in it is an opportunity to let go, while in the centre there’s a chance for prayer, meditation and being in the Now.”

For me the walk out is always energising and I often experience greater clarity about whatever issues I’ve brought into the labyrinth.

GeoffPilgrimage283Always I wish that more people could have the healing benefits of a place like St Francis, perhaps also calling on healing modalities like shiatsu, reflexology, aromatherapy, acupuncture, cranio-sacral therapy and neuro-linguistic programming.

For many the greatest gift is a personal consultation with Mrs Cowley, who is blessed with an intuitive healing touch, her selfless work having taken her to such remote corners as the Andes in Ecuador, and the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, before she established St Francis in South Africa 21 years ago.

The cornerstones of her philosophy are a nutritious diet, exercise and daily relaxation.

“We are what we digest,” she says. The detoxification diet is a healthy vegetarian diet that allows the gastro-intestinal system to have a rest, rejuvenate and start functioning better again, producing the right enzymes for digestion.


The labyrinth is an ancient meditation tool

“Your first day is a liquid day which is not a starvation day as most people get more nutrition absorbed out of the vegetable broth, herbal teas and fruit juices than from a three-course meal which takes a lot of energy to chew and digest.

“Around 80% of energy produced by the food we eat goes back into digestion, so the better prepared the food is the more goes back into our cells,” she says.

Perhaps as important as what we eat is how we perceive the world, bringing fun, laughter and a sense of childlike wonder into it. “Attitude is the paintbrush of the mind – it colours any situation.”

A popular highlight for many is her guided colour meditation with all participants comfortably stretched out on mattresses, while she talks us through the chakras or energy centres in the body, filling the room with an atmosphere of love and caring.

GeoffPilgrimage285We’re invited to visualise ourselves in a bubble of light that’s safe like a mother’s womb, letting in only what’s needed and shielding us from anything that doesn’t serve us.

It’s all about unconditional love and that starts with loving ourselves. Her invitation is to: “Give yourself permission to love, respect and accept yourself just the way you are.”

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