Findhorn FoundationFindhorn Foundation http://www.findhorn.org spiritual community, education centre, ecovillage Fri, 25 Jul 2014 06:00:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Join the International Day of Friendshiphttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/un-day-of-friendship/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/un-day-of-friendship/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 10:18:38 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=23057 read more...)]]>

Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.

Woodrow Wilson, former US President and Nobel laureate

 

Diarise Wednesday 30 July as a day for smiles, hugs and goodwill to all beings with which we share this beautiful Earth, for it has been designated the International Day of Friendship by the United Nations.

The UN General Assembly added the date to the global calendar in 2011 to recognise that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.

HandsThe invitation from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to: “Cultivate warm ties that strengthen our common humanity and promote the well-being of the human family.”

From its earliest beginnings the Findhorn Foundation community has engaged in reaching out a hand of friendship to the world, with the Ecovillage Project playing a pioneering role and receiving Best Practice status in 1998 from the UN Centre for Human Settlements (Habitat).

So the suggestion is that we all join in the spirit of the International Day of Friendship, which highlights friendship as the fundamental glue uniting people across diverse cultures and backgrounds, and building a culture of peace that is fundamental to the work of the UN.

The idea of friendship permeates the work and ideals of the UN and the Charter proclaims that one of the purposes of the organisation is “to develop friendly relations among nations”. These same words appear in the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. UNESCO’s Constitution speaks of the need for peace based not just on the “political and economic arrangements of governments” but on the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind”. And the UN Alliance of Civilisations initiative aims to improve cooperation and understanding among nations and peoples across cultures and religions, to counter the forces that fuel extremism.

UN-FFPosterThe Findhorn Foundation was approved for formal association as a recognised Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) in 1997 and enjoys increasingly close ties.

The status was also seen as a sign of a great maturing of our community, which has been promoting principles of sustainable development as put forward by the major UN conferences of recent years – including the environmental aspect of the Rio Earth Summit, the human settlements aspect of Istanbul, and the women’s aspect of Beijing – in an attempt to provide a contemporary and evolving model of sustainable living.

This association is a commitment on the part of the Findhorn Foundation ‘to disseminate information and raise public awareness about the purposes and activities and achievements of the United Nations and issues of global concern’ related to sustainability, environment, peace, shelter, and creation of a sustainable world.

In 2006 CIFAL Findhorn was formed, creating a prestigious link between the Scottish Government, public sector organisations in the Moray area of Scotland, the UN, and leading sustainability centres worldwide.

CIFALScotlandlogo2CIFAL was rebranded CIFAL Scotland and has since served Northern Europe through innovative capacity building activities led by May East, CIFAL CEO, who was recognised as one of 100 World Sustainability leaders in 2011 and again in 2012.

 

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Angel® Cards for the new agehttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/angel-cards-app/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/angel-cards-app/#comments Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:42 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=23022 read more...)]]> It was back in the 1970s that Joy Drake and Kathy Tyler, both then resident here at Findhorn, were inspired to create and develop the Transformation Game®, with the first game being offered in 1978. At the same time they created the Angel® Cards, instrinsic to the game but which can also be used on their own. Joy and Kathy hand cut and collated each card and set back then, the first set being printed and published in 1981.

They returned to their native USA where they set up InnerLinks. The Foundation and InnerLinks enjoy a close relationship, and the Angel® Cards have become an ever-present in the community’s spiritual practice.

Angel Card AppWe are therefore delighted to share with you that the Angel® Cards have a new incarnation for the digital age as an App available on iTunes. You can read more details about this innovation on the Mind and Soul Network website here, and download the App by clicking on the image to the right.

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Life is a Pilgrimagehttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/life-is-a-pilgrimage/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/life-is-a-pilgrimage/#comments Fri, 11 Jul 2014 14:04:19 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22934 read more...)]]>

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out until sundown, for going out, I found, I was really going in.

John Muir, naturalist and wilderness advocate

Modern humanity’s love affair with materialism has reached a crossroads, with many seekers choosing to slow down, simplify and walk paths less travelled in the quest for answers to some of life’s deeper questions.

Who are we, where are we going, why is the world in the shape it’s in and what’s the purpose of it all?

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Pilgrims en route to Everest, known as the 'Goddess Mother of Mountains'

Timeless wisdom comes from philosopher, poet and composer Friedrich Nietsche who insisted: “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” while physicist Albert Einstein urged: “Look deep into nature, then you’ll understand everything better.”

Possibly the best advice I’ve received was from spiritual and ecological activist Satish Kumar, the narrator of the BBC’s Earth Pilgrim documentary and editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine, who as a young man famously walked from India to the nuclear capitals of Moscow, Paris, London and Washington.

We walked together during a 2010 Findhorn workshop about exploring inner and outer landscapes, often discussing the idea of pilgrimage.

What, I asked, would he suggest as a daily practice and way of connecting with the divine. “Walk in nature and ideally alone and in the early morning,” he said, germinating the seed of an idea that has changed my life.

Since then I’ve taken more than 16 million steps in a dozen countries with messages of treading more lightly and lovingly upon the Earth, also discovering to my delight that many fellow Findhornians have embraced the art of pilgrimage and been inspired by mountains and wilderness.

Yvonne Cuneo, who is best known for her tireless community outreach work, became the first Australian to stand on top of all of Scotland’s 282 Munros, Britain’s loftiest peaks that are all over 3,000 feet high.

The wildness, the remoteness, speaks to my soul and there is no separation.

“Hiking is empowering and it’s when I most feel that I am an integrated part of the natural world,” she says. “When I’m high up, walking on a ridge, I feel like I am part of all I can see and all I can see is part of me. It is my most intense spiritual experience – and by spiritual experience I mean simply that sense of oneness.

“It is a much more intense experience walking through the world fuelled only by my own energy, my own body taking me wherever I want to go, a speck in the landscape, than if I look from a car or train. The wildness, the remoteness, speaks to my soul and there is no separation.

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Yvonne Cuneo on a 14-hour trek in The Great Wilderness of Scotland

“I feel part of the elements, especially when it rains, hails, blizzards on me. And there is something about being physically pushed, stretching my edges – a pure, nourishing exhaustion, arriving home with the mountains inside me, my muscles doing what they’re meant for … and a sense of accomplishment … so empowering. Mountains, rocks, rivers, grasslands, moors, deer, foxes, rabbits, cliffs, Caledonian pine forests – all my cousins.”

Sharing that great five-year Munro-bagging adventure was Findhorn mountain man John Willoner whose passion for high places is undiminished as he nears his 70th birthday.

“I enjoy the continuity of long distance walks and along with bagging all the Munros I would include the Annapurna circuit in Nepal and the Tour de Mt Blanc in Europe among my highlights.”

His advice to would-be pilgrims is: “Give it a go – take the first step.”

It was John who introduced the young sons of co-founders Peter and Eileen Caddy to the mountains with Jonathan Caddy continuing that mentoring tradition and leading monthly community day-walks that often assume epic proportions.

“I like pushing boundaries,” he confided to me after one especially punishing ‘day’ walk that got us back to Findhorn at midnight, feeling shattered but exhilarated. “It’s about stretching ourselves and expanding our capacity to deal with what at first seems like challenging situations.

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Findhorn mountain men Kajedo Wanderer, Jonathan Caddy and John Willoner

“If you can successfully climb Scottish hills throughout the year you can do it anywhere in the world.”

Every two years veteran Findhorn gardener Kajedo Wanderer simplifies his life and walks with fellow pilgrims on the ‘roof of the world’ in the Himalayas.

“It is a way to walk in a conscious, sacred manner, where nothing happens by chance and every turn and every steep up and down of the trail reflect the ups and downs of my life. Walking becomes a way of life and a rhythm develops … the simple repetition makes it a meditation. Every step requires presence and attention and so much of the natural world and the human cultures we are passing through impresses upon us the sanctity of life.

“It is equally about slowing down enough to be able to appreciate intimately the beauty of the natural world: the flowers along our dusty paths, the huge snow clad mountains, the running rivers and the raw beauty of the desert landscapes, the jungles and the placid fields – all of them pointing to something bigger than ourselves and yet all of them also familiar territories of our inner landscape, which we come home to with every step.”

Former Findhornian John Brierley, author of Camino guidebooks, has made it his mission to touch lives with his practical and mystical manuals for the modern pilgrim.

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John Brierley's love affair with the Camino is expressed in his guidebooks

“Pilgrimage is an antidote to busyness and burnout,” he insists. “It’s about slowing down and taking time to contemplate the deeper questions that lie behind our superficial existence. Pilgrimage provides a moment of spaciousness and calm amid the mayhem of modern life – a time to get back in touch with our true purpose for being here.

“The task is then to bring that experience back into our ordinary, everyday lives. After the Camino comes the laundry, the realisation that life itself is pilgrimage. Now everything that occurs along the path is filled with meaning and significance. Behind every mundane question lies a deeper meaning – we just need to look for it. Take the example of a backpack. A backpack is full of symbolism. What size and what we are going to put into it become how we are going to frame and fill our inner spiritual lives. We all have had the experience of taking a pack that is too big and putting stuff into it that we don’t really need and then experiencing blisters or shin splints as a result.

From contentment with little comes great happiness.

Old African saying

John recalls that when he first responded to the call of the Camino in the Eighties, the number registering for a compostela certificate of completion was a few thousand annually. Today it is quarter of a million.

“I am often asked whether this has diminished the Camino experience. Judgement is relative but it is useful to see this in an historical context; the number of pilgrims to Santiago today is the same that walked the route each year in the medieval period!

“What caused its total collapse in the nineteenth century and its staggering revival in the twenty-first? A simple answer to the decline is the rise of materialism. We became absorbed in the pursuit of material welfare to the virtual loss of our spiritual wellbeing. The industrial and technological revolutions left the bulk of humanity connected through GPS but with the loss of our inner compass. The positioning of global satellites connected us to instant information but at the loss of wisdom and spiritual connectedness.”

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Pilgrim Geoff Dalglish at Finisterre, which means the end of the Earth

But that’s changing, he says, explaining the phenomenal revival of the Camino. “We have become so spiritually dehydrated that we are becoming increasingly desperate to quench our existential thirst and reconnect to our essence. The Camino offers one such wellspring that is uniquely accessible and draws pilgrims from 140 different nations – from every religion and those of no religious persuasion.

“I know of no other agent of change and transformation that is so eclectic in its embrace. It is available to everyone, of every age, culture, class, creed and ability. You can collect a compostela by walking, going on horseback, by bike and, increasingly, by wheelchair.”

And, if you have the time, almost everywhere is within walking distance, I’ve discovered in wanderings that have taken me to Everest Base Camp in Nepal, the Inca Trail in Peru and the summit of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak and the world’s tallest freestanding mountain.

The summit is named Uhuru, which is the Swahili word for freedom. And for me that says it all.

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The Inspiring Legacy of Peace Pilgrimhttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/peace-pilgrim/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/peace-pilgrim/#comments Mon, 07 Jul 2014 06:00:54 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22879 read more...)]]>

I will remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.

Peace Pilgrim

It is a source of wonder that a remarkable silver-haired 72-year-old woman I never met has had such a profound impact on my life and that of countless thousands of others.

Peace Pilgrim Web

Peace Pilgrim walked for 28 years with her messages of love and peace

Known simply as Peace Pilgrim, she walked tirelessly for 28 years throughout the United States and Canada on a personal pilgrimage for peace.

"A pilgrim's job is to rouse people from apathy and to make them think," she said, insisting: "Love is the greatest power on Earth. It conquers all things."

Penniless and walking without any organisational backing, she touched the lives of countless thousands who were inspired by her message of achieving peace between nations, individuals and that all important inner peace that is the vital starting point. "One little person, giving all of her time to peace, can make news," she said. "Many people, giving some of their time, can make history."

Thirty-three years ago today she died instantly in a car accident while being driven to a talk. A day earlier she had confided in a radio interview: "Death is a liberation into a freer life."

I'd first heard about her from another legendary pilgrim, spiritual and ecological activist Satish Kumar, the 77-year-old editor of Resurgence & Ecologist magazine and presenter of BBC2's Earth Pilgrim programme, who as a young man walked on a peace mission from India to the nuclear capitals of Moscow, Paris, London and Washington.

Satish Landscape Web

Satish Kumar walked from India to the nuclear capitals of the world

He sees life as a sacred journey and the Earth as our sacred home.

Meetings with him at Findhorn during 2010, and especially a workshop about Exploring Inner and Outer Landscapes, were to be life-changing; a spark of an idea catching flame and powering my transition from Petrolhead to Pilgrim.

"Tourists value the Earth and all her natural riches only in terms of their usefulness to themselves," he said, "while pilgrims perceive the planet as sacred and recognise the intrinsic value of all life.

As a pilgrim I discover the mystery, the magic, the meaning and the magnificence of life in every step I take, in every sound I hear and in every sight I see.

Esalen Institute Farm and Garden

Findhorn PR Geoff Dalglish has walked more than 15,000km as an ambassador for the Earth

New ideas about my life purpose crystallised during informal chats with Satish and were reinforced by the messages in his books No Destination and Earth Pilgrim.

On 7 July 2011 – exactly three decades after the passing of Peace Pilgrim from this earthly life – I took my first steps on the Isle of Iona on a walk of more than 9,400 miles (15,000km) that brought me to the Spanish medieval city of Salamanca in October last year. I'd walked with messages about treading more lightly and lovingly on the Earth, the last few months as an ambassador for WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress.

I salute Peace Pilgrim, Satish and so many other brave souls who walk their talk.

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Steiner education for all ages in Morayhttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/moray-steiner-school/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/07/moray-steiner-school/#comments Tue, 01 Jul 2014 14:37:11 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22839 read more...)]]>

Receive the children in reverence; educate them in love; let them go forth in freedom

Rudolf Steiner

It is a tribute to the visionary Austrian philosopher, playwright, artist and educator that almost a century after his death his legacy includes more than 1,000 Waldorf schools and 2,000 kindergartens around the world, the Moray area of Scotland boasting a Steiner education for all ages at two venues on the Findhorn Foundation's doorstep.

Teenagers of the Drumduan Upper School are being nurtured within the heart of the community at the Moray Art Centre until they too move to premises on the hilltop alongside Cluny Woods in Forres where younger children are welcomed at the Moray Steiner School.

Visiting both venues recently I was inspired by the passion and commitment of the adults, among them teacher Alexandra McNamara who was my tour guide at the Steiner School.

Head teacher Clare Waddington explains: "The education they receive is preparation for a future that we as adults can only imagine."

Moray Steiner School 2 Web

Flashback to the very early days of the Moray Steiner School in the Family House at The Park

She adds: "The Steiner curriculum has stood the test of time. It's been delivered to thousands of children across the globe, regardless of race or culture, since 1920. It produced then, as it does today, young adults who have an understanding of the world that exceeds mere facts, figures and formulas. It creates a sense of self that enables the individual to think outside accepted paradigms and equips them with the resourcefulness to shape and face their future."

Certainly it is a world far removed from the often-sterile mainstream education I was subjected to and I delighted in the balance of artistic, practical and intellectual teaching, along with the emphasis on social skills and spiritual values. The results are freethinking and socially committed adults, some of whom are now respected fellow community members.

Once, when I was working in the community kitchen, I was alarmed to see young children chopping vegetables with very sharp knives. "Don't worry," I was assured. "They're Steiner kids and have been doing this sort of thing since kindergarten."

Steiner 2014 Web

Students and teachers of the Drumduan Upper School prepare to launch the Canadian canoe built as a school project

I felt that same sense of surprise and delight when Drumduan head teacher Krzysztof Zajaczkowski invited me to nearby Findhorn Bay for the launch of two magnificently-crafted wooden canoes created by the students themselves using marine architectural blueprints and locally sourced materials. Even the paddles were lovingly hand-crafted from Douglas fir trunks.

A deeply moving song was sung and looking around I noticed I wasn't the only one choked up with emotions, parents and friends telling me what a force for good the school has been for these young lives.

Abi Rooley-Towe is the mother of two teenage boys and says: "It is like watching two young plants growing in exactly the way they are meant to. The Steiner system definitely lives up to the credo of educating the head, the hands and the heart to create well-rounded beings."

The analogy of growing and nurturing plants is also one that Krzysztof enjoys when he traces the history of the local Steiner school back to parents and community members within the Foundation and its satellite community on the Hebridean Isle of Erraid.

The new generation should not just be made to be what present society wants it to become…

Rudolf Steiner

"The picture is of a seed being planted in the Findhorn Foundation which was to become the small sapling of Steiner Education in the area. It was transplanted up on Drumduan Hill where it grew into the symbol or logo of the school … a Scot’s pine! One of this tree’s seeds was again planted back into the Foundation last year – 28 years later – to be propagated in a safe and nurturing environment where seven boys and seven girls have formed the core group of an upper school. This new sapling will be once again transplanted back onto Drumduan hilltop where a new campus will be built this summer."

Family House Web

Early role players back where it all began - Auriol de Smidt, Mari Hollander, Roger Doudna, Jude Farmar and Rosie Turnbull at the Family House

Mari Hollander, who joined the community in 1976 and also spent five years on Erraid, recalls: "There had long been a desire to start a Findhorn-inspired school and in 1984, a parent group in the community started a study group to take this forward. The group consisted of a dozen families who met weekly to research options. After exploring alternatives the decision to link with the Waldorf movement was taken. There was resonance with the spiritual worldview and development education philosophy for small children.

"The decision was made to call this the Moray Steiner School, as the vision was that it would serve the wider community and not only the Foundation, although it was set up under the Foundation as it already had a charter for a school. It was launched in 1985 and located within the Family House, which today serves the management of the community."

In 1987 it moved to Drumduan House, a grand and character-filled 19th century building, surrounded by woods with magnificent views over Findhorn Bay and Moray Firth.

Steiner was emphatic: "The new generation should not just be made to be what present society wants it to become …

Moray Steiner School 1 Web

Teacher Jude Farmar (now da Silva) coaxing youngsters who are today all adults in their Thirties

"Our highest endeavor must be to develop free human beings who are able of themselves to impart purpose and direction to their lives. The need for imagination, a sense of truth, and a feeling of responsibility — these three forces are the very heart of education."

All over the world Steiner schools strive to offer children a natural and unhurried way to develop. These are places where children develop a zest for life, a love of school and a lifelong commitment to learning — the child's love of learning and school becomes the adult's intellectual journey and love of life.

Looking back over the past three decades, Mari says: "From the outset this education project was blessed with so much love and commitment from the families, friends and teachers that despite the many obstacles and resourcing challenges, goodwill and clarity of purpose prevailed. It is so very heartening to witness the care, creativity and courage that enables the children and young people to flourish today!

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Soillse Shines the Light on Eco-housinghttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/06/soillse-eco-housing/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/06/soillse-eco-housing/#comments Wed, 18 Jun 2014 15:10:09 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22791 read more...)]]> “Fun!” In a word that sums up living at Soillse, according to five-year-old Isabella. And best of all, she says excitedly, is the time she shares with the chickens visiting from a neighbour’s garden.

There are also ducks in a pond out back, while deer roam nearby, although a recent fence discourages them from feasting in the organic vegetable gardens.

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Early days as Soillse takes shape as a multi-generational co-housing development

Soillse, which means ‘light’ or ‘ray of light’ in Gaelic, is the name of a new multi-generational co-housing development that is home to a small intentional community within the wider Findhorn community.

Thirteen souls, ranging from a year-old babe to an elder in his 70s, live in the six-dwelling cluster and cherish a vision of ‘actively practising and sharing the art of living in a sustainable way.’

For Isabella’s parents Iain Davidson and Bettina Jespersen their double-storey home is a dream come true, although they admit it was slower manifesting than originally anticipated, and only happened after a protracted process of stakeholder meetings and a minefield of agreements and permissions.

“I love the house,” Iain insists. “It is the closest to a perfect home that I have lived in.” His wife Bettina shares that delight and says: “What we’ve done is amazing, especially on top of all the personal challenges that have included the deaths of two parents and a grandparent.”

First impressions are of wonderfully bright and airy spaces and commanding views over the adjoining woods, farm fields, Findhorn Ecovillage and waters of Findhorn Bay. Mercifully, air traffic from neighbouring Kinloss Barracks is rarely intrusive these days, although the proximity to a Ministry of Defence facility necessitated some expensive blast-proofing on one side of the development.

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Bettina and Iain Davidson with five-year-old Isabella

“Wow, I could live here,” a BBC Scotland journalist announced enthusiastically on entering the home of young mum and artist Lisa Shaw and her husband Galen Fulford, echoing the sentiments of most first-time visitors.

“One of the best things about living at Soillse is that we are all good friends,” Lisa says. “We have a lot of fun together, often sharing dinners and having singing or poetry nights.”

Part of the vision is to embrace living in harmony with the land and creating a beautiful environment together through ecological passive solar design and permaculture gardening. They’re also committed to carbon neutrality and using renewable energy and ecologically sustainable building materials, composting toilets and rainwater harvesting.

“Our project is educational in the broadest sense of the word, inspiring both individuals and the larger community, local and worldwide.”

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Three generations with young Jasper enjoying the support of parents Lisa Shaw and Galen Fulford and grandparents Michael and Gail Shaw

“I feel really good about the fact that we don’t use fossil fuels in our home,” Lisa adds. “Knowing that our heat, electricity and hot water comes from renewable sources is fantastic. I find the house to be always warm and light and I wake up in the mornings so grateful and delighted to be living in such a beautiful house. I also love working in the garden and eating food we have grown ourselves in our polytunnel.”

Her dad Michael Shaw recalls: “Pioneering a small co-housing community within the broader Findhorn community was both a satisfying and challenging learning experience. From the beginning the future members of Soillse were involved in the whole process from buying the land to creating the design and choosing the architect, negotiating access roads, permitting, financing, constructing and finally occupying the homes. We invested a great amount of time over the seven or eight years it took to complete these phases of the project.

“We wanted one architect, one essential design and one construction contract that would result in an economy of cost savings, and we handled most of the facilitation ourselves. We were our own developer and as such dealt with the Moray Council, Ministry of Defence, the Park Planning Group, the negotiation of the construction contract and the collective financing.”

Individual members were tasked with handling legal issues, accounts, project management and the supervision of construction, landscaping, securing another interest-free loan from Energy Savings Trust and following the correct path dictated by local bylaws.

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Soillse means 'light' in Gaelic and interior spaces are bright, airy and spacious

All joke that there were plenty of opportunities to practise what Findhorn Foundation co-founder Peter Caddy referred to as the three Ps – patience, persistence and perseverance.

“We were working towards carbon neutral homes that used no fossil fuels in their operation and we achieved this goal. We also realised that many groups run out of money and sacrifice green features, so we took a loan to put in the green infrastructure. This included a biomass boiler that uses wood pellets, a common laundry and the purchase of our own transformer to connect to the windmills.

“In the end we have homes that we enjoy, neighbours who are friends we love, our family conveniently next door, land we own in common and now we are working on creating other aspects of community together.

“We have just erected a yurt we can use as a common space, we have a greenhouse well planted and are planting extensive outside gardens.”

He echoes the sentiments of the others when he says: “Soillse has been a lot of work, but it has paid off.”

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Heartbreak and Hopehttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/06/heartbreak-and-hope/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/06/heartbreak-and-hope/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 09:32:39 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22743 read more...)]]>

Above all we must realise that each of us makes a difference with our life. Each of us impacts the world around us every single day.

Dr Jane Goodall, primatologist and animal rights campaigner

What is it that breaks your heart?

The provocative question, posed by spiritual activist Andrew Harvey, engages me daily as images play out in my mind of the almost unimaginable suffering of animals and the devastation of their natural habitats.

GeoffPilgrimage291Andrew, the best-selling author of the book The Hope and a co-presenter at Findhorn’s Love, Magic and Miracles conference, asked: “What, of all the causes in the world, breaks your heart the most?

“When you follow your heartbreak, instead of following your bliss, you’ll uncover the cause that you are prepared to do something about because it burns within you with such an intensity of outrage and pain.

“If we wake up to our heartbreak we’ll find our mission and when we enact our purpose we’re filled with energy and passion and joy.”

Like Andrew I’m triggered by the incredible suffering we inflict upon the animals and other beings with which we share this Earth, somehow imagining that we are separate from nature and not accountable for the havoc we are causing.

Of course, it’s easy to stand back and point fingers at the suicidal greed of the oil companies or the avaricious mining and logging industries that reduce vast tracts of our beautiful world to a wasteland each day. The madness has been likened to sawing away at the high branch we’re sitting on!

But are we so different? Each of us makes choices that depend on fossil fuels to power our cars and sustain lifestyles characterised by an addiction to comfort and convenience. So its easy to apportion blame, pointing a finger everywhere but at ourselves.

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Animal whisperer Anna Breytenbach

Often I’ve felt anger and helplessness, without having the honesty to acknowledge my complicity in a system that’s stripping our only home of its resources. In my travels I’ve witnessed the slash and burn policies in Central America that left blackened, smouldering stumps where once there were towering trees stretching endlessly toward distant horizons.

I’ve felt nausea and revulsion in equatorial Africa when I watched helplessly while ancient trees toppled and convoys of logging trucks raced towards the nearest harbours with their plunder. Could I have made a difference?

In war-torn Congo and Angola tears welled up in the eyes of members of my overland expedition team when we came face-to-face with the agony inflicted by ruthless animal traders and the bloody bushmeat business. Cruelly tethered animals, including endangered primates, were changing hands at the roadside for a few dollars apiece.

In many African countries it is illegal to traffic in wild animal meat and yet in expensive restaurants in Cameroon or Gabon you could find a veritable Noah’s Ark on the menu and sophisticated and well-padded diners happy to pay the price. This isn’t only about hunger and survival!

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Adelle with the rescued antelope

So was it a futile gesture of kindness when we spent $20 to rescue a young antelope? My friend Adelle cradled the terrified animal in her arms, whispering gentle reassurances and feeling its heart hammering, while we drove a few kilometres before untying limbs bound tightly together with wire that bit deep into its flesh. Then stepping aside, she released it into the wilds. Sniffing freedom, the animal ran, and then stopped to look back at its rescuers. Was the silent telepathic ‘Thank You’ a figment of our imaginations?

We debated whether we’d merely encouraged the bushmeat industry and agreed that it is up to each and every one of us to do what we feel is right. Saving that one life had been non-negotiable.

Which brings me back to the question: What is it that breaks my heart?

Perhaps more than anything I’m tortured by what is happening to baboons in South Africa, the country of my birth. Baboons, and especially dominant males, are being shot, poisoned and persecuted, sometimes by people in authority who masquerade as conservationists. The beleaguered primate’s crime is that it is desperately fighting for survival in the face of human encroachment where it has lived for thousands of years.

GeoffPilgrimage292

Baboons are a target for many intolerant humans

Admittedly baboons do raid kitchens and rubbish bins in the suburbs and can be a nuisance, but the issue isn’t about their appeal or usefulness to us. What matters is that they have an equal right to be here and like humans are an important strand in the intricate web of life. We’re all in this together as part of a massive collaborative quest for survival.

My way of dealing with this crisis of consciousness has been to walk the equivalent of a third of the circumference of the Earth with messages about treading more lightly, and along the way I’ve been inspired by countless individuals who are responding to the challenges, each doing their bit, whether motivated by simple survival or a love of life.

Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who famously led the incredible wartime rescue of the animals of Bagdad Zoo, wrote in his book Babylon’s Ark: “When one registers the fact that our very own survival depends upon the wellbeing of all life on our planet, one starts to understand that we are the ones responsible for the state we find Earth in today.”

Life survives through biodiversity and biodiversity is achieved only as a shared initiative with and through all life-forms on Planet Earth… Homo sapiens must live in close collaboration with the plant and animal kingdoms in a healthy, life-sustaining environment. There is no other way. We are all in this game of life together. There is no divide, no ‘us’ and ‘them’; no ‘man’ separate from ‘nature.’ Homo sapiens as individuals and as a species are as much a part of life’s overall thrust for survival as any other species. As living organisms, we are all part of the greater whole, and as such, we are embodied with exactly the same purpose: to survive. And to do so – as individuals, families, groups, and as a species – we have to live in dynamic collaboration with the plant and animal kingdoms in a healthy, life-sustaining environment.

GeoffPilgrimage294“There is no greater imperative. Mankind’s superior intellect and deep spiritual heritage will count for naught if we fail in this quest. Life will simply pass us by as we succumb to our own devices, and more successful life-forms will evolve to replace us…”

Perhaps my friend Braam Malherbe, an adventurer, author, motivational speaker, youth developer and TV presenter, is on the right track with his D.O.T campaign, where he invites everyone he meets to ‘Do One Thing’ for the planet. He believes collectively we can make a huge difference!

Having studied climate change in recent years he insists that the single greatest challenge facing humanity is how we deal with global climate change and the effects it is having and will have on us.

“Our planet is just a dot in the universe; we are just dots on our planet; but if we each just Do One Thing, we can make a radical difference.”

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Silver Jubilee for Trees for Life charityhttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/05/tfl-silver-jubilee/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/05/tfl-silver-jubilee/#comments Wed, 14 May 2014 13:53:59 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22578 read more...)]]> The Findhorn-based Trees for Life conservation charity — which has been described as “the most ambitious rewilding project in the UK” – celebrates its 25th anniversary on 25 May.

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Trees for Life founder Alan Watson Featherstone

It promises to be a day of fun and learning for the whole family, showcasing a quarter century of progress while spotlighting urgent future objectives.

The long-range plan is nothing less than to restore the ancient Caledonian Forest to the west of Loch Ness and Inverness to a wilderness area of 1,000 square miles – and to support the return of wildlife that is under threat or extinct locally.

Trees for Life’s founder and executive director Alan Watson Featherstone has warned: “Without urgent action, key parts of Scotland’s ancient Caledonian Forest could be lost forever, and forest-dependent wildlife such as the Scottish wildcat and capercaillie could become extinct in the UK”.

“As we celebrate 25 years of pioneering conservation action – including the planting of more than a million trees by our volunteers, and the creation of 10,000 acres of new Caledonian Forest – we aim to increase the impact and scale of our work. We want to ensure that our children and grandchildren also have the opportunity to enjoy Scotland’s wild landscapes and its rare and spectacular wildlife.”

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Volunteers at Dundreggan Conservation Estate

With concerns over the state of many Scottish woodlands – and fears for the long-term survival of iconic species including red squirrel, pine martin and capercaillie – the conservation charity is marking its 25th anniversary with a significant expansion of its forest restoration work across the Highlands while exploring opportunities to restore neglected and derelict Caledonian pinewoods in other parts of Scotland.

Trees for Life’s flagship Dundreggan Conservation Estate, a biodiversity hotspot in Glenmoriston near Loch Ness, will welcome visitors on 25 May between 10.30am and 5pm. Entry is free and the day of celebration – which is targeted at adults and children alike – will include the official launch of a Forests of the Commonwealth photographic exhibition, guided walks, tree planting, a talk by Alan and opportunities to feed wild boar. Food and merchandise will also be on sale.

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Volunteers at Dundreggan Conservation Estate

The inspiring Trees for Life story began in 1986 when Alan made a commitment to an environmental conference in Findhorn to launch a Caledonian Forest restoration project. Practical activity began in June 1989, with tree guards used to protect Scots pine seedlings from being eaten by deer. In 1991, volunteers began planting some of the first new trees to grow in the forest for 200 years.

While it feels appropriate to honour 25 years of committed and consistent action – mostly by volunteers – the challenges remain considerable.

Less than half of Scotland’s native woodlands are in “satisfactory condition for biodiversity” and much must be done to reverse centuries of damage, according to Scotland’s first complete survey of these important habitats, published by Forestry Commission Scotland recently. The report found that natural regeneration of native pinewoods is scarce.

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Jill Hodge, Dundreggan's tree nursery manager

Following a long history of deforestation, the Caledonian Forest reached a critical point some 200 years ago, with too few remaining trees and too many deer eating seedlings – leaving ‘geriatric’ forests of old trees. Today only a fraction of the former forest survives, with 84 isolated remnants of native pinewoods.

The need for concerted conservation action – and the lack of young trees to replace mature specimens when lost – is also being highlighted by threats posed by climate change and extreme weather, and the risk of disease affecting the Scots pine, which forms the forest ecosystem’s ‘backbone’ on which many species depend.

“We want people to get involved through volunteering or financial support. Wildlife tourism generates millions of pounds every year, so bringing new life to impoverished woodlands and barren glens can bring economic as well as environmental benefits,” Alan said.

ForestsThe charity’s major plans for 2014 include an ambitious project at Dungreggan to convert a 300-hectare commercial plantation of non-native trees planted by a previous owner back to native woodland. This will involve the felling of the alien conifers and a pioneering mire restoration scheme, funded by a grant from Scottish Natural Heritage.

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Animal Communicator Celebrates a Great Awakeninghttp://www.findhorn.org/2014/04/great-awakening/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/04/great-awakening/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 13:45:42 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22442 read more...)]]> The idea that humans can talk to the animals and have them talk back to us is suddenly a breathtaking reality for many thousands of people worldwide who’ve watched a documentary about the work of an animal whisperer.

AnnaBreytenbachAnd more than anything it is the inspiring story of a formerly abused black leopard called Spirit that is touching hearts and minds; a 13-minute YouTube video going viral and enjoying more than 1.5-million viewings in a matter of weeks.

“There’s a great awakening,” says South African-born Anna Breytenbach, who returns to the Findhorn Foundation in May to offer four interspecies communications workshops (all fully booked) and to put the finishing touches to her book, Ask the Chicken!

Suddenly Anna has been catapulted onto the world stage and inundated with messages, questions, requests and even fanmail from people who’ve had a yearning to reconnect with the natural world – and didn’t know how to.

Funnily enough wide-screen blockbusters like Avatar and Alice in Wonderland have probably also helped popularise the idea of interspecies communication, although Anna laments the fact that so many are putting her on a pedestal and looking to her personally for guidance.

“So many have awakened to the idea that this is possible, although some don’t want to take personal responsibility for connecting with animals and nature, and look to somebody like myself to make the connection for them.

KidsElephant“Animal communication is not a gift,” she insists. “It is a natural ability that everybody has and is simply a matter of getting in touch with our intuition and accessing something that isn’t part of our everyday five-sensory reality.

“The First People and indigenous tribes like the San Bushmen and Native Americans were easily able to communicate telepathically with all of nature and didn’t consider this unusual.

“The shaman or medicine man would use these skills for the tribe’s benefit, to conduct healing or reach a major decision, while every person in the tribe had the ability to connect in non five-sensory ways with their surroundings; to know from the animals where they were, which was a good animal to hunt, or which plants would be medicinal, toxic or nourishing.”

Her passion is to mentor more communicators to help resolve the challenges of living harmoniously with the creatures with which we share this beautiful world.

AnnaBreytenbachHorse1“I’m not teaching people anything new,” Anna says. “I’m merely helping them remember what’s already within them and I think that it’s important to again experience a deep connectedness with nature. When we experience a direct empathetic connection with another being we’re much more inclined to understand the perspective of that animal and the challenges it faces, particularly at the hands of humans and what we are doing to this planet.

“Interspecies communication brings about mutual understanding and respect along with the possibility of co-creating solutions for even the most tricky situations where wildlife and humans come into conflict.”

In the YouTube clip, taken from the full-length documentary The Animal Communicator, Anna is called in to talk with a black leopard named Diablo after the animal had mauled the owner of a South African predator sanctuary, also refusing to emerge from its night shelter for months on end.

AnnaBreytenbachElephant2 Anna established that the former zoo inmate was deeply distressed by his past as well as negative associations around his name – diabolical and devilish.

To the astonishment of the sanctuary owner, Jurg Olsen, Anna described a two-way dialogue and told him things about the black leopard’s former tenure with a European zoo that only the animal could have shared. The details were subsequently confirmed.

Jurg, a former policeman, was seen fighting back tears when the animal emerged from its shelter and greeted him with a series of low growls. Feeling somewhat foolish and self-conscious, he told the animal that he was beautiful and would in future be known as Spirit – the spirit of the sanctuary.

“Remember that I grew up in a conservative environment and the idea of animals talking to us was never even thought of.” But he was adamant: “I can say without a doubt that there was an interspecies communication. I now respect Spirit for what he is and how he wants to be treated. He has changed my interaction and socialisation with the rest of our feline and human family very positively. As a result of our little altercation – I no longer have the full use of my left wrist – and the subsequent communication, I have been taught more about respect for the needs and feelings of humans and animals than in my whole life up until then.”

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Anna with Findhorn community co-founder Dorothy Maclean

Anybody who does not believe in inter-species communication is missing out on an amazingly wonderful opportunity,” Jurg insists, admitting that he was totally overwhelmed by Spirit’s transformation. “He is a stunning cat, a great friend and a very powerful and wise being.”

The documentary film also introduces us to the work of American master tracker Jon Young, who was Anna’s mentor, and together they will host a workshop on intuitive tracking and interspecies communication in Findhorn in April 2015 – watch our website for details as bookings will open in a few weeks.

Visit Anna’s website.

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EarthSings 2014Singing for Unity and Wellbeing 2http://www.findhorn.org/2014/04/earthsings2014-2/ http://www.findhorn.org/2014/04/earthsings2014-2/#comments Tue, 22 Apr 2014 15:15:20 +0000 http://staging.findhorn.org/?p=22415 A Findhorn Foundation special event 12–18 April 2014 After the weekend's rapturous start, we're into the week and these next five days will find us in workshops of our choosing to fill our days with glorious singing. There are morning and afternoon workshops with the different presenters, but for the first session each morning we all come together as a group to warm up to get into workshop mode, and to create some group synergy by singing together. (read more...)]]> A Findhorn Foundation special event 12–18 April 2014

The mornings
Here we go

After the weekend’s rapturous start, we’re into the week and these next five days will find us in workshops of our choosing to fill our days with glorious singing. There are morning and afternoon workshops with the different presenters, but for the first session each morning we all come together as a group to warm up to get into workshop mode, and to create some group synergy by singing together.

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Our presenters

On Monday morning Vera Bohlen and David Harrison lead us in the gently beautiful Harmonic Temple singing. Tuesday morning Susie Ro Prater leads us in finding the natural harmony within our bodies, what she describes as the river of song that flows through us all. Wednesday morning Bill Henderson has us singing in the vernacular as we belt out The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie in four-part harmonies. Thursday morning Barbara Swetina, with Sheila Pettitt accompanying on harp, has us using our voices to explore the sacred space the harmonies create.

The evenings
Time to be and time to do

The evening sessions are dedicated to concerts where we participants in this wonderfully energetic week get to relax after a day of workshopping and soak up the sometimes-mellow, sometimes-get-up-and-dance performances of our presenters. Sunday evening was a sultry jazz night with local band Swing The Cat; Monday evening Kathy Bullock had us once again dancing in the aisles with her wonderfully raucous Gospel songs; Tuesday evening Fiona Mackenzie with her band Cruinn EarthSings2014-3treat us to Gaelic ballads and folk songs; Wednesday evening we experience the sacred space created by the Threshold Choir before we’re more participatory again later on with mantra chanting; Thursday evening Susie Ro Prater brings us her soul-filled music, starting with a song that she coached six local teenage girls to co-write only a few days before.

Tomorrow we have the last round of workshops before coming together a last time for a group completion session. And then tomorrow night we get the opportunity to perform what we have been learning this week!

Friday afternoon
Until We Meet Again

The journey of singing together as participants in the EarthSings conference is drawing to an end. This afternoon is completion and tonight a celebration. Completion is an opportunity to reflect on the experiences of the week, and with the group as witness, to make a commitment to bring singing into our everyday lives during this next year.

We begin with a simple song and spiral dance to greet each other once more while acknowledging that it’s “good where we’ve been and good where we’re going to.” My heart is touched by the beautiful energy generated as we look into the eyes of one another and see the divine. Sitting in a circle, we release with gratitude the Angel of HEALING, knowing that the quality of healing will be there still to care for, guide and protect us on our onward journey. We then each give a voice to our own personal commitment to singing, some voices in languages other than English.

After some announcements, one of which is that another EarthSings conference is planned next year, 28 March – 3 April 2015, we end with an invocation song and dance. Starting steady and soft at first, the drumbeat becomes stronger as our voices grow louder and our feet move faster, giving power to the words we sing.

May the circle be open, but unbroken
May the love of the Goddess be ever in your heart
Merry meet, and merry part and merry meet again.

Friday night
An Extraordinary Final Night

I make sure to arrive at the Hall early tonight as I anticipate that it’s going to be a packed house. And full it is, Peter Vallance asking for those of us who are already sitting to move closer to one another so that everyone can have a seat. Though by the latter part of the evening many of us are up on our feet, hands clapping, arms waving, even down on the floor dancing.

EarthSings2014-10Susie Ro Prater and her workshop group create a column of resonant sound as they enter the Hall, the song they sing a reminder that we are walking on sacred ground. Transforming into a human wall when they reach the front of the room, they continue with Wake Up, written by Susie’s dad Nick Prater. A celebration of the dawn, of a new day, this song is filled with praise and the recognition that “love never grows old.” Immense joy shines from the singers’ faces and I feel myself lifted higher and higher.

The next song, which Susie wrote while travelling in Mexico, is a promise to sing to the world, never giving up until the world is singing together. Imagine what might happen if each one of us was to throw our voice on the wind, those voices travelling around the world, touching all who heard them….

EarthSings2014-4Next up is Fiona Mackenzie with her Gaelic group and they treat us to three old, traditional Scottish Gaelic songs. The first two, one a rowing song and the other a waulking song, tell a similar sad story from the time of the Clearances, a period in Scottish history when so many of the Highlanders experienced great loss and extreme hardship. Sheila Pettitt sets the mood with her harp for the first song and Chloe Greenwood helps to keep the rhythm going with her bodhran during the second song. The third song, again with Sheila accompanying on the harp, is an old lullaby which takes us to a gentle, comforting place.

With Nana Mzhavanadze and her participants, we taste of life in Georgia. A rug, baby basket and chair evokes the feeling of home while images of artefacts, rural villages, the city of Tbilisi, ancient monasteries and a typical Georgian house are projected onto the screen. Seated in the chair Nana plays the chonguri, a Georgian stringed instrument, the first piece of music welcoming a new soul into the world. Once the new baby has arrived, the group sing a healing song, scattering rose petals and sweets around the basket as they sing.

EarthSings2014-11The next two songs honour Queen Tamar, whose reign spanned the apex of Georgia’s Golden Age. Beloved by her people, she died in 1231 AD, her dying wish to be buried in an unmarked grave in a place where nobody knew. Ian Turnbull recounts the story of her passing and of the two men who granted their queen’s wish, killing each other after they buried her body. Drinking horn filled with wine in hand, Ian makes a toast to “the power of love that moves through us all.” The Georgian group finish with the powerful Mravalzhamier we started with on Sunday afternoon.

The piano is brought out, and Kathy’s workshop group numbering around 100 people take their places. Kathy makes it clear that gospel is a participatory song and we are invited to sing along.

Martin Barker, familiar with the African rhythms, provides accompaniment on his djembe. Our flight on the wings of gospel takes us from South Africa to the United States, bringing the spirit with us when we come, walking in the light. With this song Walk in the Light, Kathy and her choir have the entire audience up, clapping our hands and swaying back and forth. What a tremendous energy of joy, praise and unity there is in the Hall at this moment! To borrow a line from the song, “ain’t it wonderful how the light shines.”

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I’d like to close with the first four lines of a contemporary gospel Kathy has introduced us to tonight, written by James Fortune. Similar to the meaning of the Georgian Mravalzhamier, the words speak of trust and hope in the future and I believe we so need that at this time.

I believe the storm will soon be over
I believe the rain will go away
I believe that I can make it through it
Ooo I believe it’s already done.

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