Findhorn Foundation » Findhorn Foundation spiritual community, education centre, ecovillage Fri, 22 May 2015 08:12:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Ten Great Years Thu, 07 May 2015 13:48:42 +0000 read more...)]]> Last week we said a fond farewell to a community member who has been at the heart of our movement for the last 10 years. Sir George, our trusty Mercedes bus, was released by the Foundation after years of devoted service.


A few of us gathered around for a short blessing ceremony before his last sortie to Cluny and back

Named after Sir George Trevelyan, who was an ardent supporter of the Findhorn Foundation and one of the charity’s first trustees, he was bought from a coach company in nearby Elgin in 2005 to support our transport needs at the time. Originally a 24-seater, we removed eight passenger seats to create luggage space and to comply with our driver legislation.

As well as making daily trips between our two sites – The Park and Cluny Hill – Sir George was a frequent traveller to Fionnphort for the ferry crossing for guests visiting Traigh Bhan, our retreat house on the isle of Iona, and our satellite community on the small island of Erraid. In addition, due to his load space, he was used to deliver Cullerne Garden’s organic veggie harvests to our kitchens.

David Fulford, long time community member and the Foundation’s current Transport Manager, speaks appreciatively of his enduring mechanical reliability, but sadly it is body rust that has made his demise inevitable. With a smile David relates how, when he was driving Sir George on an Iona run a while back, the boot floor plate fell out mid-trip and they had to make some emergency body repairs to finish the trip. Thankfully no one was hurt and nothing (other than the boot floor) was lost, not even the food boxes and packs.

Peter Vallance, another community member, has bought Sir George and has plans to adapt him for … we’ll have to wait and see.

Goodbye Sir George. We wish you fond Findhorn blessings with your new life.

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The Call Of Walking Water Tue, 14 Apr 2015 14:18:21 +0000 read more...)]]>

We will never know the worth of water till the well is dry.

Thomas Fuller, author, preacher and historian

With the benefit of the perfect vision of hindsight, each step I've taken since going from Petrolhead to Pilgrim has moved me closer towards participation in a pioneering pilgrimage called Walking Water that has global significance.

It starts in California's parched Owen's Valley on 1 September and will ultimately be a journey from the source of the water to the place of end use – the megacity of Los Angeles.

California's Avenue of The Giants where some of the world's tallest trees live

California’s Avenue of The Giants where some of the world’s tallest trees live

It is a walk for water and for life itself. And although it raises painful issues that have festered for the past century since the creation of a gravity-fed aquaduct channeling run-off water from the Sierra Nevada mountains to LA, it is not a protest but a creative collaboration.

Walking Water will bring together key players from all walks of life — including representatives of the indigenous tribes who are the first people of the land — and hopefully together with ancient and modern knowledge we can co-create healthy ways of being in relationship to water and each other.

Decades ago the issues led to a series of conflicts known as the California Water Wars and today the challenges remain as urgent as ever — water scarcity is an escalating worldwide concern and it is estimated that California has only about a one-year water supply in its reservoirs.

But there is an inspiring optimism that co-creative solutions can be found and that each individual can truly make a difference.

For my part I'll be one of the walking pilgrims and as always I'll write about my experiences. And when I look back on my earlier California experiences, first as a student in my teens, later as an automotive journalist, and more recently during a 90-day walk from LA to the legendary redwood trees, I see that it was all part of a process that has enhanced my understandings and insights.

Ostensibly my earlier walk in the US was a symbolic gesture of heading from my old life into the new. And as crazy as it might have seemed, I chose to start from LA, or what I jokingly referred to as Carmageddon, the epicentre of money, materialism, car-culture and the conspicuous consumption of rapidly dwindling resources, including water.

A bristlecone pine that's around 4,600 years old

A bristlecone pine that’s around 4,600 years old

It was also a journey through time from my car-worshipping days as a young student hanging out in Hollywood, to the places of peace and natural beauty that stir my soul these days. My geographic objective, many weeks of walking away, was the Avenue of the Giants, where I communed with the coastal redwoods that are the tallest trees on Earth. Some more travelling introduced me to the colossal sequoias that are the planet's largest trees by volume, and also the bristlecone pines that are the oldest living things to be found anywhere. Many of these gnarled and twisted trees are almost 5,000 years old, being already ancient beings when Buddha and Christ first sought their inspirations.

My bucket list had also included a visit to the legendary High Sierras and notorious Death Valley, the hottest place this side of Hell.

One last tick on the list involved a visit to Gigi Coyle, who was just a name although I knew she and her partner Win Phelps were wilderness guides involved with the California-based School of Lost Borders. Only later would I learn their remarkable stories. Gigi's love affair with water had famously led her to oversee the release of captive dolphins to the sea where they integrated with a pod of wild dolphins. Win, a former Hollywood film director, had worked with the likes of Clint Eastwood, and only found his true vocation much later as a wilderness guide, leading questers into the loving embrace of nature and back to themselves.

Death Valley is a reminder that much of California is parched desert

Death Valley is a reminder that much of California is parched desert

Their journey brought them to Three Creeks, which is also headquarters for an inspiring global outreach initiative called Beyond Boundaries.

Meeting them was serendipity itself, although I didn't realised it then as I trudged down a long dusty road through parched desert on weary feet, a wind whipping up sand that temporarily blinded me and filled my mouth with grit. Arriving at the lush oasis that is their base was like stepping through a doorway into another world. When I knocked tentatively on their door, I had no idea what to expect.

Of course, my timing was perfect. They were facing a minor logistical crisis: Gigi was due to lead a gathering elsewhere, while Win would be leading a men's group in a wilderness rite of passage. Somebody was needed as a temporary steward of the land, which is a magnet for the surrounding wildlife that depend on it's waters.

"Don't worry, I'll take care of things. You just do what you need to do," I invited. "You don't know this guy," Win observed, although Gigi was satisfied. "I have a good feeling about him."

Geoff at a view site overlooking Mono Lake which has been devastated by LA's thirst

Geoff at a view site overlooking Mono Lake which has been devastated by LA’s thirst

Three Creeks was an incredible gift. It allowed me to enjoy aloneness without ever feeling lonely; also deepening my connection with the natural world around me. Once when swimming in a pond I met a water snake, I also spotted my first bobcat patrolling the water's edge at sunset, and I came to know where the bees had their hive and which birds nested where.

My favourites were the diminutive hummingbirds and I felt truly blessed when they hovered alongside me, their tiny blurred wings making the most amazing sound as they beat at up to 80 times a second. When one brushed up against my cheek, I felt I'd been formally welcomed into Hummingbird Heaven.

More than anything Three Creeks was about the sanctity and preciousness of water, and I sensed at some deep level that my relationship was just beginning with this much-loved oasis and the surrounding landscapes of the Owens Valley. Now I understand a little more and see that I need to spend much more time in this place of astonishing beauty, with its backdrop of high snowcapped mountains.

Gigi is now part of the core team with Shay Sloan, a guide and team member of Beyond Boundaries, and Walking Water coordinator Kate Bunney. Some years ago Kate had the vision of this pilgrimage when she came from the Tamera community in Portugal to connect, be in service, train, and explore her relationship to Beyond Boundaries, Three Creeks and the Owens Valley, which is the deepest valley in the continental USA. Win will also be part of the support team, and serving as an elder and witness, a role every community is hopefully learning about today.

Snow melt from the High Sierras provides water to a parched land

Snow melt from the High Sierras provides water to a parched land

On 1 September, after months of preparation, I will join this team and 50 or so others. We will begin to walk 200 miles linking Mono Lake and Owens Lake. The intention is to walk a section of the route for three weeks each year until we arrive in LA in 2017. Three sections will give participants time to interact with the local communities and environment, and to weave in activities that have the potential to create beneficial long term impacts.

"We walk for the issue of water, we walk with water and the communities along this path that are so affected by this issue, and we walk towards a change in our acting and thinking towards water on both a local and global level," says coordinator Kate Bunney.

What a privilege to join this vision of a regenerated environment, a healthy valley and self-sufficiency for the Greater Los Angeles Area, which is home to more than 18 million souls.

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Guardians of Wild Nature Thu, 26 Mar 2015 16:15:54 +0000 read more...)]]>

The Findhorn Foundation is very grateful for the donation that enables us to become the guardians of Wilkies Wood and Hinterland, providing for The Park a green belt – free from development – in perpetuity.

Mari Hollander, Findhorn Foundation Trustee.

A symbolic handover, a blessing of the land and a perimeter walk allowing those present to get a sense of the land and its diversity were all part of a recent celebration to mark the Findhorn Foundation taking into custodianship 34 hectares of wild land. Located between Findhorn Dunes Trust land, the Bichan family land and Cullerne Farm and once a part of the Wilkie Estate, this parcel of land was purchased by the Foundation from Duneland Ltd and will continue to be managed by the Findhorn Hinterland Group as conservation land in perpetuity. The Findhorn Hinterland Group, a local community group begun in 2005 and now with over 100 members, has been caring for these hectares over the past nine years.


During the celebration Jonathan Caddy, son of Eileen and Peter Caddy and founding shareholder of Duneland Ltd, recounted that at the time he was growing up here, the land adjacent to The Park was not accessible. That changed when Duneland Ltd purchased the Wilkie Estate in 1997. The old fences were removed and the woodlands area made available for use by the public. The northern half of the land was donated to the Findhorn Dunes Trust to be preserved as a nature reserve in perpetuity, and of the remaining land a small percentage was designated for development as part of the ecovillage in The Park – East and West Whins. The remainder was held as amenity land, including a Green Burial Site and buffer zone between the residential areas and the dunes. The Foundation, as the new landowner of this amenity land, is committed to maintaining open access.

Using a map showing the land at the heart of the celebration, representatives from Duneland Ltd (Eian Smith, Chair of the Board of Directors), the Findhorn Foundation (Lisette Schuitemaker, Chair of Trustees) and the Findhorn Hinterland Group (Jonathan Caddy, Convenor) symbolically transferred the land from one to another. When Lisette received the map, she honoured the devic realm, speaking of the Hinterland as a place where the devas can reside and we can be in co-creation with them.


Jonathan Caddy and Lisette Schuitemaker with the symbolic hand-over

It is a story of co-creation between the devas and Lisette that is behind the Findhorn Foundation receiving the funds needed for the purchase of the land as it was the influence of the devas that prompted Lisette to make a donation. She wrote in one of our newsletters: “I am deeply grateful for the gentle nudging I received from my contact with the devic realm. They have shown me again how to be true to my belief that we all give what we can and that there is always more I can give … giving is itself an act of co-creation. It connects and makes us the one we have always been.”

If you live locally, or are here visiting, the Findhorn Hinterland Group extends an open invitation for anyone interested in conservation to join in with work parties which take place 2-4pm on the last Saturday of the month, meeting at the Hinterland information point in Wilkies Wood. For more information you can visit their website.

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The Story So Far Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:20:30 +0000 read more...)]]>

You are the answer to the questions that you are asking.

Craig Gibsone, community elder

The challenge of compressing more than half a century of faith, hope, love and inspiration into a 70-minute documentary is an example of bold co-creation by many whose lives have been profoundly touched by the enduring magic of Findhorn.

The Story So Far, which is available for sale as a DVD or digital download, is ambitious in the scope it covers, taking us on a remarkable journey from November 1962 to present times.

The Field of Dreams

The Field of Dreams

Directed and edited by Lorenz Gramann, and produced by Maria Craig, it offers penetrating insights and is spiced with rare archival footage as we share the stories of community members young and old, as well as hearing the views of spiritual leaders and visionary presenters who have come to know the community and ecovillage intimately.

For many it has been life changing. Robin Alfred, an executive coach and organisational consultant, was a criminal justice social worker when he signed up for Experience Week and found himself in a circle with 15 others. "I had an experience of what I would call unconditional love. Suddenly I felt a heart connection with these people and I wrote in my journal that life will never be the same."

Randolph's Leap

Randolph’s Leap

For him one of the major successes of the community is that it not only survives, but thrives. "Many communities start and die within a few years and Findhorn is still growing, still vibrant. Look around you: the built environment is astonishing."

Acclaimed environmentalist and writer Jonathon Porritt says: "The story for me is really what Findhorn has done to provide a bastion of integrity against a world which has given in increasingly to a materialist febrile surge of self-indulgence."

For Ana Rhodes, former chair of the Findhorn Foundation's management group, it is as simple and as complex as trying to get to the heart of what it means to live a meaningful life.

Founder Dorothy MacLean

Founder Dorothy Maclean

Often during the telling of the story we meet Dorothy Maclean, the sole surviving co-founder who is in her 95th year and remains a major source of inspiration. In the 1960s she famously communicated with the overlighting intelligence of the natural world, and received messages about how best to create the legendary garden that grew up around the Original Caravan. "I think the major achievement is in making people in the world realise what is really important and what the truth is – love is a powerful thing and it's not just words that sound nice and pretty. It's real," she insists.

Spiritual teacher Caroline Myss, who is a regular visitor and popular presenter, says: "I can't say enough about it. I love this place." She adds that the community "would have imploded upon itself if Eileen's guidance wasn't authentic."

Many report experiencing a palpable and positive energy on entering both venues at The Park and Cluny Hill, among them Richard Olivier, the head of Olivier Mythodrama who co-focalised the recent global gathering called New Story Summit, Inspiring Pathways for Our Planetary Future.

Whisky Barrel Houses

Whisky Barrel Houses

The documentary explores what attracted people to the community in the first place, what it means to them, and how they see it evolving and unfolding.

Eian Smith, a representative of the New Findhorn Association, recalls that a decade ago: "I was about to become a father and felt that this was the best place I'd encountered so far for a child to grow up. And as I've lived here I've found that it's a really good place for my growth and evolution."

Even as someone who has been immersed in Findhorn community life for the past six years, I was often touched by the interviews, learning more about what has always been regarded as a mystery school, laboratory for change and work in progress. Watching the film is a good way to understand what our community is all about, and will also be appreciated by those whose lives it has touched.

Community elder Craig Gibsone

Community elder Craig Gibsone

Thousands visit each year in person and many more via the website, although the challenge remains to make it accessible to an ever-wider audience of seekers who are interested in a different and more sustainable way of living together with all life on Earth.

Christiana Figueres, the United Nations executive secretary who recently addressed the community on urgent issues of climate change, says: "We all need to continue working together to make this kind of community the norm and not the exception."

Visit the Moviola Productions website to read more about Maria and Lorenz’s motivation in making this film, view the trailer, and buy or download your copy.

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Answering the Call of Iona Fri, 20 Mar 2015 11:43:59 +0000 read more...)]]>

We can make our lives sublime. And departing, leave behind us, footprints on the sands of time.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, poet

For the fifth time in as many years the sacred Isle of Iona has tugged at my heartstrings, reeling me in with its magic, mystique and monastic simplicity.

GeoffPilgrimage30It was here that I started my pilgrimage on 7 July 2011, the date honouring the memory of a remarkable silver-haired woman known simply as Peace Pilgrim, who walked tirelessly for 28 years, vowing to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”

Penniless and walking her talk without any organisational backing, she touched the lives of countless thousands of people before dying instantly in a car accident 30 years earlier on 7 July, while being driven to a talk she was to give. She was 72 and had described death as “liberation into a freer life”.

She’d believed that a pilgrim’s job was to rouse people from apathy and make them think, insisting: “Love is the greatest power on Earth. It conquers all things.”

And somehow Iona seemed the perfect starting point for my own walk, having been synonymous with pilgrimage for centuries since the Irish monk Saint Columba arrived in CE 563, bringing Christianity to Scotland.
My daughters Bonnie and Tammy had chosen to be with me for the start of this life-changing day as I shouldered my heavy pack; paused to pose with them in front of Iona Abbey and then strode purposefully to the ferry. The plan was to hitch a ride across to the vastly bigger Island of Mull, and then begin stepping it out towards the mainland of Scotland.

Of course, a true pilgrim of old would travel without money, relying on the kindness of strangers, I explained, adding that if I were to attempt my quest without funds, the ferry crossing would be the first major hurdle. Guess what? While waiting at the slipway we struck up a conversation with a friendly local, who announced: “You seem such nice people – would you like some ferry tickets? I have a book of tickets that’s due to expire today.”


Geoff with Bonnie (l) and Tammy (r) outside Iona Abbey

Not for the first time the Universe playfully showed me what is possible with faith and commitment.

More than a year and many millions of footsteps later I was back where I’d last hugged my daughters in an emotional farewell, and I vividly recalled their words of encouragement: “Dad, what you are doing brings knowledge, love and light to a great cause, the beloved Earth.

“Have fun, be brave and remember that you don’t have to suffer, freeze or go hungry to spread your message. Spread your message in true happiness.”

Now I’d linked the spiritual centres of Findhorn, Glastonbury and Iona with my footsteps, and done so during the wettest weather in England in more than a century. Often I’d ignored their sensible advice about not needing to suffer. Perhaps the lowest point was when tired and sodden, I’d lain in a muddy field, awaking with a start each time a slug crawled across my face. In the days that followed I suffered severe and debilitating asthma attacks. What was I doing and was I really making a difference?

One question brought a smile to my lips: If I was treading lightly and lovingly upon the Earth, why did my feet hurt so much?


Columba Bay where the famed Irish monk reportedly landed in CE 563

Now there was a spring in my step and all the pain and suffering seemed worthwhile. I’d carried a bottle of holy water I’d filled at Glastonbury’s Chalice Well to sprinkle as a prayer and blessing and was planning a small ritual of gratitude at various sites, including Traigh Bhan, the Foundation’s retreat centre on Iona.

A few drops went into the flower arrangement in the retreat house’s meditation sanctuary, some on the Wishing Stone on neighbouring Erraid where I’d photographed my daughters and silently committed to my walk, with much of the remainder later being sprinkled generously at both Findhorn venues: Cluny Hill and The Park.

Fast-forward to March 2015 and I was again back on Iona, this time for a writing retreat, accompanied by my friend Amala. A wonderful week stretched ahead of us with the tantalising prospect of filling it in whatever ways we desired, be it writing, exploring, reading or simply relaxing.

Of course, getting there wasn’t as simple as you might imagine, Mother Nature concocting a fiendish mixture of ferocious winds, wild seas and snow, sleet and horizontal rain that prevented the ferry from attempting the mile and a quarter stretch of ocean that separates it from Mull.


Iona is a feast for religious historians

Eventually when we did land, it was with a vast sense of relief and the welcome feeling of stepping back in time to a simpler way of living.

There is a brooding sense of history and of occasion that so many pilgrims have noted, the poet John Keats describing his tramp across Mull as “a most wretched walk,” while the journey’s end astounded him.

“Who would expect to find the ruins of a fine Cathedral church, of cloisters, colleges, monasteries and nunneries in so remote an island,” he asked.

It remains a place of marvel to modern-day tourists and pilgrims who invariably spend a day of travel that includes three ferry crossings and the adventure of motoring along single-track roads where the etiquette involves pulling into lay-bys and allowing oncoming vehicles the right of passage.

For Amala and I it was a precious gift. For a week we managed without Internet and emails, left our phones switched off and connected instead with the rhythms of nature, observing the tides and the movements of the sun, moon and stars.


Amala depending on human-powered propulsion … and loving it

Somehow everything at Traigh Bhan has to be earned and is appreciated all the more: if you want more heat or hot water, you stoke up the fire. And if you are hungry you harvest and cook. We delighted in preparing delicious vegetarian meals, some of the ingredients plucked from Traigh Bhan’s own garden and generously supplemented by organic produce from Findhorn’s abundant gardens.

As a former motoring journalist who enjoyed an unlimited choice of new vehicles, I smiled at the image of us taking turns to haul a cart carrying our supplies. Sure, there is a lone taxi on the island, but there’s something deeply satisfying about sustainable human-powered propulsion.

Stormy weather gave way to warm sunshine and the caress of a gentle breeze, inviting us to take a day out and explore the island, which is roughly 3.8 miles long and 1.2 miles wide. A four-hour hike allowed us to traverse Iona’s length and end up at Columba Bay where we walked a labyrinth and picnicked on a rocky outcrop with the waves breaking alongside us. Was this potentially treacherous spot really where St Columba landed more 1,400 years earlier?


The Traigh Bhan retreat house has served the Findhorn community for more than 40 years

The day was a wonderful gift, and so is Traigh Bhan, which has been in the custodianship of the Findhorn Foundation for more than 40 years, serving as a retreat house for co-workers during the winter months, while being available to visitors during summer.

It offers a quiet and dynamic space to explore our inner landscapes and roles in global service.

Visit the Traigh Bhan facebook page

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Supporting and Celebrating Water Everywhere Fri, 13 Mar 2015 11:40:12 +0000 read more...)]]> The Findhorn Foundation is lending its support to a pilgrimage in California called Walking Water that will spotlight humanity's relationship to water and invite people to co-create solutions that are pivotal to the wellbeing of all life on Earth.

Photographer David Wright has captured the rugged beauty of Mono Lake

Photographer David Wright has captured the rugged beauty of Mono Lake

Walking Water is an invitation, an action, an educational journey and a prayer intended to foster a healing relationship among people and water, while celebrating the beauty and power of water.

The pilgrimage takes place over three years, starting on 1 September 2015, and will bring together the voices of many through the act of walking together on a route that follows the waterways – natural and manmade – between Mono Lake, Owens Valley and LA, with the Greater Los Angeles Area today being home to more than 18 million people.

Among those participating is Findhorn Foundation PR Geoff Dalglish, who most recently walked as an ambassador for WILD10, the 10th World Wilderness Congress in Spain.

"I'm privileged to be playing a part in this inspiring initiative and also representing the Foundation," Geoff says. "While there is a perception in Scotland and the UK of water being totally abundant, access to clean, healthy water has become a burning global issue and nowhere on Earth is immune to the need to radically re-envision how we act, think and live in relation to water.

The sun-baked Owens Valley. Photo David Wright

The sun-baked Owens Valley. Photo David Wright

"The pilgrimage will take place in areas of astonishing natural beauty but also pass through areas devastated by drought and the impacts of the water being channeled to LA during the past century, literally sucking some areas dry.

"Walking Water brings together role players from all walks of life – including representatives of the indigenous tribes who are the first people of the land – and hopefully together with ancient and modern knowledge we can co-create healthy ways of being in relationship to water and each other."

The intention is to walk a section of the route each year for three weeks until arriving in LA during 2017, with this year's section linking Mono Lake and Owens Lake. Separating it into three sections will give participants time to interact with the local communities and environment, and to weave in activities that have the potential to create beneficial long term impacts.

The pilgrimage is seen as a journey through inner and outer landscapes that connects to the soul of a place and to our essence as humans, with the art of pilgrimage having been used for many centuries by the major religions, belief systems and indigenous tribes as a way to come closer to the meaning of life.

Owens Valley residents Gigi Coyle and Win Phelps from Beyond Boundaries are key players

Owens Valley residents Gigi Coyle and Win Phelps from Beyond Boundaries are key players

Walking Water attempts to connect that sacred path of pilgrimage – our internal relationship to ourselves – with our relationship to our external environment.

"In this sense we walk for the issue of water, we walk with water and the communities along this path that are so affected by this issue, and we walk towards a change in our acting and thinking towards water on both a local and global level," says coordinator Kate Bunney.

"We also walk toward a vision of a regenerated environment, a healthy valley and a self-sufficient metropolis.

Geoff Dalglish walking at Esalen in California  Photograph: Doug Ellis

Geoff Dalglish walking at Esalen in California
Photograph: Doug Ellis

"Our approach is to work in a way that is synergistic, collaborative and future-orientated, revolving around a simple bottom line: for the enhanced protection of all life."

"We invite you to create an event that is appropriate for your area of the world, maybe a pilgrimage, a music festival, a school project or a tree planting. The most important thing is that it is an event that inspires and empowers each of us to become part of the global solution to water management and usage."

The Findhorn Foundation community and Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) are among the growing list of cooperation partners and share the goal of contributing to a vision for a healing relationship between people and nature, specifically the waters, that will bring long-term water practices that benefit the people and ecology of the area and beyond.

Logo WebGEN was established at the Foundation in 1995 and 20 years of walking its talk will be celebrated during the GEN+20 Summit at the Findhorn Ecovillage from 6–10 July. Our relationship with water will be one of many topics presented.

GEN today connects more than 10,000 villages, urban neighbourhoods and intentional communities in more than 100 countries and showcases high quality, low impact lifestyles.

Water-related events will be featured on the Walking Water website. For more information on how to offer support and/or organise a parallel event please write to

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Planting Trees for Hope Wed, 04 Mar 2015 14:07:43 +0000 read more...)]]>

Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Mead, anthropologist

A Persian-born member of the Findhorn Ecovillage community is answering a call to help heal the land of her birth in the Middle East with an ambitious rewilding project to restore degraded forests and encourage the return of wildlife.

Pupak Haghighi plants the first tree at Findhorn

Pupak Haghighi plants the first tree at Findhorn

"For many years I have heard the land of my birthplace on the south shore of the Caspian Sea calling out for help," Pupak Haghighi says, explaining her inspiration to convene a Gathering for Earth Healing in Eastern Turkey in April 2016.

"There, and in the greater region all around, I have seen the degradation of the soil, the pollution of water and air, widespread deforestation, and the life-carrying capacity of the land diminished. My heart cries for the suffering of life on a land I love and I know there are ways to help the lifeforce return.

"The simple act of planting trees can transform the land," she says. "Planting a tree is an act of hope which begins the process of ecological recovery and the revitalisation of the whole region. When we plant trees together it can also transform our lives."

Trees grow roots deep into the Earth, stabilising the soil and supporting networks of fungal mycelia that nurture other life. The trees also create shade and understory habitats for wildlife and attract clouds, which bring life-giving rain.

The Trees for Hope ceremony in the woods alongside the Findhorn Ecovillage

The Trees for Hope ceremony in the woods alongside the Findhorn Ecovillage

For the dream to be realised it has to be shared by local people in the Middle East and to catalyse conservation and restorative action she is planning the bio-regional gathering – and fundraising to make this a reality.

Living in the Findhorn Foundation community has been the perfect place for inspiration and nurturing, a conversation with 95-year-old community co-founder Dorothy Maclean sparking the idea of calling the project Trees for Hope. And in an act rich in symbolism the first tree was planted in the woods adjoining the community on 22 February, with Jonathan Caddy, son of co-founders Peter and Eileen Caddy, helping choose the site and turn the soil.

Her life partner is Alan Watson Featherstone, founder of the award-winning Trees for Life conservation charity. A decade ago he accompanied her on a fact-finding mission to Iran to help promote and develop the concept of a Middle Eastern rewilding project.

Planting a tree is a gesture of hope

Planting a tree is a gesture of hope

He reported at the time that many thought he was slightly crazy to visit a country that was perceived to be dangerous and hostile. "The people we met were the most hospitable I have ever encountered and all were very friendly, from cab drivers and farmers to government officials."

At the end of the trip he gave two talks in the capital city, Teheran, to university forestry staff and conservation activists about Trees for Life, the work of forest restoration and the vision for the Restoring the Earth project, which were well received.

Pupak draws inspiration from the impact of people like Alan and is grateful to be surrounded by a loving and supportive community.

Hand Web"I find myself in a very privileged position of having so much support here in Findhorn to initiate the project. To make next year's gathering a reality I need to travel to the area and meet the relevant people. So I am acting on my love for the land, using the resources I have and calling for help to attract support to realise this dream together with allies. I know I am not alone in wanting to see a vibrant and healthy ecology for both humans and wildlife.

"I appreciate any funds and connections people can offer."

She invites anyone who might be interested or able to help to visit the Trees for Hope website.

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Risk! Fri, 27 Feb 2015 09:31:06 +0000 read more...)]]>

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.

T S Eliot, poet

Life is not defined by the number of breaths we take, but rather by those moments that take our breath away – and one of my most memorable was when I took a giant leap of faith and stepped over the cliff-edge alongside Maletsunyane Falls in the African kingdom of Lesotho.


On the world's highest single-drop commercial abseil you are just this tiny yellow dot alongside a thundering waterfall

None of the preparatory training or gut-wrenching middle-of-the-night moments of fear equipped me for the breathtaking reality of the next few seconds. First I spiralled alarmingly on the end of the rope, gradually stabilised and stopped spinning, then realised with a sense of wonder that all fear had evaporated, to be replaced by adrenaline-charged awe and gratitude.

The view was like no other I’d ever known, especially as I dropped lower and lower until I was engulfed in spray from the waterfall. This is one way of confronting a fear of heights, although the surprise was that it was magical beyond my wildest imaginings. This is living, I thought, picturing all those poor souls toiling indoors in offices far removed from the loving and exhilarating embrace of Mother Nature.

Maletsunyane Falls might lack the sheer thundering spectacle of Victoria Falls, where the mighty Zambezi River plunges over a series of gorges separating Zimbabwe and Zambia to earn its status as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Nor does it pull tourists with the power of Iguazu Falls between Brazil and Argentina, or Niagara on the US-Canadian border. But it is significantly higher than any two of this famous trio combined.


Note the phony smile as Geoff pretends that he's not scared

And better still, if you are an adrenaline junkie, it provides the setting for the world’s highest single-drop commercial abseil – the dizzying 204-metre descent guarantees it a place in the Guinness Book of Records!

I’d ostensibly signed up for the abseil to help my friend Inga Hendriks confront her terror of heights, while in truth I was meeting my own demons and learning about faith and trust. “What if the rope tangled or snapped? What if the mechanism jammed?” I’d tortured myself with all those questions before discovering the sheer joy of the experience.

Clad in a yellow waterproof jacket and protective helmet, I pondered the words of my host Jonathan Halse, who explained: “The abseil brings you down to earth. You are just a yellow dot hanging next to these giant cliffs that are millions of years old. It gives a sense of scale and a measure of your importance in the scheme of things.”

This adventure was back in 2008 and since then I’ve had many more opportunities to test my theories about the importance of sucking the juice out of life. When I’m 90 and sitting in my rocking chair, I don’t plan to look back on any regrets. Fears maybe, regrets no.


Mission accomplished ... Geoff (left) at the South African scientific and research base in Antarctica

At the beginning of 2011 I scared myself silly during an expedition in Antarctica where I became the first person to drive a conventional 4×4 from the edge of the ice shelf some 300km inland to the South African research and scientific base. Once, when in the grip of a terrible dread, I even wondered if I might die in this frozen and lonely place.

Instead I encountered indescribably beautiful landscapes and the magnificence of the human spirit. It is an impossibly harsh and dangerous world that seems to bring out the best in us, and has done so for more than a century of exploration.

Entertainer and writer Andrew Denton summed up my feelings when he said: “If Antarctica were music it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature, and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater: the only place on Earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it!”


Fears forgotten, Inga in party mode

A few months after my personal mini-exploration of the white smudge at the bottom of the world map, I went from Petrolhead to Pilgrim, turning my back on my former life of money, materialism and expensive cars. I chose instead to walk with messages about treading more lightly and lovingly upon the Earth. And while it should have been scary, it mostly wasn’t, a strong sense of purpose propelling me forward.

Now, at Findhorn, I continue to explore inner and outer landscapes with the challenge – and the gift – of meeting my true self along the way.

Probably my greatest fear is of living a life of mediocrity where I don’t fulfill my potentials. Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg said it nicely: “The biggest risk is not taking any risk … in a world that is changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.”

I guess my daughter Bonnie understood that sentiment when she gave me a present of a coffee mug that features a quote by Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations with God trilogy. It says simply: “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Thanks Bonnie.

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Dorothy granted indefinite UK residency Tue, 10 Feb 2015 10:12:11 +0000 read more...)]]> Dorothy Maclean has been granted UK residency that could see her through to her 105th birthday and beyond.


Dorothy Maclean with her residence permit

More than a half century after co-founding the Findhorn-based spiritual community that continues to attract thousands of visitors and seekers to north-eastern Scotland, the 95-year-old author and spiritual teacher has received a letter from the Home Office awarding her residency until 2025.

And a comment on her plastic residency card, which is known as a biometric residence permit, adds: “Indefinite leave to remain.”

A delighted Dorothy, who is a Canadian citizen, joked that she was ‘legal’ for another 10 years and recalled the challenges a few days earlier when she had needed to have her thumb and fingerprints electronically recorded in Inverness.

Although each human fingerprint is unique, detailed and surprisingly durable, there was difficulty getting hers to register clearly and her long-time friend John Willoner helped by applying gentle pressure on her hand.

John is a schoolteacher who first came to the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park in 1967 to join founders Dorothy, Peter and Eileen Caddy and their three young boys at the nucleus of what became the Findhorn Foundation community. He is one of an enthusiastic team of carers who help in whatever way they can, some community members accompanying her on her daily walks around The Park.


Dorothy and long-time friend John Willoner

Regardless of the weather she can be seen walking, using the support of two sticks, and is quick to explain that wintry conditions hold no fears for her. “I’m a Canadian. I love the snow.”

Her presence is an inspiration to many of us, as is her enduring legacy of connection with the intelligence of nature.

“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.”

Her wisdom and pioneering history of co-creation with nature find expression in a number of her books including her autobiography, Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic.

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Black leopard reaching out to humans Tue, 27 Jan 2015 09:17:05 +0000 read more...)]]> A magnificent black leopard named Spirit is reaching out to millions through a YouTube clip, taken from the full-length documentary The Animal Communicator.


Spirit, the black leopard

The formerly abused animal, that had known the worst of human behaviour while a captive in a European zoo, is now living in a more spacious predator sanctuary in South Africa and touching hearts and minds with his real and virtual presence.

A pilot version of the film previewed in Findhorn’s Universal Hall before the documentary’s public launch and during the past few months the video clip has gone viral and enjoyed more than two million viewings.

It showcases the inspiring work of South African interspecies communicator Anna Breytenbach who demonstrates that modern humans can talk to animals and have them talk back, just as their ancestors and all indigenous people did routinely.

“You have to have a quiet mind and an open heart,” she explains. “It is a conversation in unconditional love.


Anna camping out in South Africa's Knysna Forests

“Animals pick up our emotions which tend to be more authentic than thoughts – you can’t fake it with animals; you can’t lie to them.”

While she has been swamped with telephone calls, emails, messages and fan mail, the 13-minute YouTube video clip is adding enormous and welcome credibility to her role as a bridge between the species. “There’s a great awakening,” she says.

“The best thing about the response is that people are inspired to start communicating with their own animals right away. My advice is: ‘Definitely DO try this at home, folks!’

“The flipside personally is the gruelling travel/teaching schedule. There are organisers in 39 countries clamouring to host workshops, but we simply can’t get to most of them. In 2016 we’re taking a break from physical workshops to write, research and develop online learning materials that will serve more people globally with less impact on our precious planet’s resources.”


Anna with Geoff Dalglish at an elephant park

Later this year Anna returns to the Findhorn Foundation, which she regards as a pioneer of co-creation with nature, to co-host a six-day workshop on intuitive tracking and interspecies communication with legendary American master tracker Jon Young, who was her mentor.

As evidence of the huge upsurge in people’s desire to communicate with animals, the workshop, from 4-9 April, was fully subscribed within hours of being announced and the list of those hoping for a cancellation has also been closed.

“Jon and I are excited to be deepening the practicalities of intuitive sensing during this very holistic and experiential adventure. We’ve offered this journey in Germany, Botswana and the USA, so Findhorn is the first UK event.”

* You can watch the video of Spirit here, and a video of Anna giving a talk on interspecies communication in the Universal Hall in Findhorn here.

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