Journalist Geoff Dalglish signs up for the Findhorn Foundation Experience Week and gets more than he bargained for.
Experience Week is an intensive seven day immersion in community living that can be life-changing; opening the heart to a feast of new possibilities and fresh ways of viewing our wonderful world.
It is also one of the most popular ways of learning more about the pioneering Findhorn Foundation, with tens of thousands of guests from around the world having attended Experience Week, many choosing to return as soon as they can or stay on for weeks, months or even years.
Today the magic and mystique of this place is well chronicled and I can certainly attest to that mysterious magnetic pull, having attended the four-week Applied Ecovillage Living course last year only to return in March for a much-extended stay in the Communications office.
But would Experience Week still work its magic for somebody who’d already been deeply immersed in community life for more than three months, I wondered? And what would it be like to swap my place within a large wooden Eco home at The Park for a room six miles away at Cluny Hill, the former Victorian hotel that was once managed by Foundation co-founders Peter and Eileen Caddy?
I was excited by the prospect of getting to know Cluny with its majestic presence overlooking superb gardens and a lush green golf course – especially savouring the promise of quiet times for reflection and a communion with nature during walks through the adjoining forest. But I got much more than I bargained for. Initial disappointment that I didn’t have my own room, and was sharing, soon gave way to delight in the depths of perception and enduring humour of my room-mate, a young American many years my junior. Chatting to others in my ‘FX’ group, who were also sharing, I discovered that great friendships and bonds were being forged from day one, inevitably accompanied by much laughter. Sharing is an important part of the Findhorn Foundation process.
“It’s as if the Universe had chosen exactly the right people to team us up with for the week,” one participant observed. I agreed, appreciating the contribution of each individual member of our circle, as well as the wisdom, kindness and compassion of focalisers Ineke Vollebregt and Jackie Pond who helped us to gently navigate our way through often unfamiliar inner landscapes.
“Findhorn is not a place; it’s a state of consciousness,” long-time resident Caroline Shaw said, echoing a sentiment of Peter Caddy. However you define it, some describing it as a mystery school, it seems to deliver what each person needs, rather than wants.
For me there were times of painful self-examination along with moments of pure joy, and others when I felt my heart opening to the group and all the world around us, seen and unseen. Particularly powerful was an exercise in the forest behind Cluny Hill where we took turns to explore nature with our eyes closed and senses heightened while another guided us and ensured we remained safe. While seeing is a celebration, touching the world with all our other senses, including the intuitive sixth sense, is divine and underlines the interconnectedness of all things.
It is when we quieten the mind and go deeper within that we have amazing insights and know we have far greater resources we can draw upon. It is that still small voice within that inspired Eileen Caddy and has guided the community ever since.
The week is an invitation to let go of limitations we impose on ourselves, open up to love and to be the change we want see in the world. The process exposes participants to the principles on which the community is based: inner listening, connection with all life, and inspired action. And the week emphasises the role of gratitude and the understanding that with faith all our needs will be met. It is also a chance to gain first-hand experience of an amazing manifestation, the world-renowned centre for holistic learning, spirituality and sustainable practices, having grown from the humblest beginnings when three adults and their children made their home in a caravan alongside a rubbish dump almost 50 years ago.
While the Experience Week programmes run regularly at both The Park and Cluny Hill sites, the majority are held at Cluny and include opportunities to visit both venues. Embracing the idea that our activities are ‘love in action’ our daily routine included spending four mornings in one of the Foundation’s service departments — the garden, kitchen, dining room, homecare or maintenance.
In a welcome change from sitting behind my computer, I dug compost, planted seedlings and harvested organic vegetables, getting in touch with the natural rhythms of the land and then tasting the fruits of my labours during mealtimes. I’d forgotten how precious it is to experience the complete growing cycle and fully feel the Earth beneath my feet and fingertips. This is how it should be and will be again in my life.
The aim of Experience Week is to deepen the connection with all life forms and to be open to transformation, and all I spoke to within the group experienced feelings of increasing joy and recognition of their self-worth as their hearts opened. At the end of the week I felt exhilarated, buoyed up and inspired to take my unique place in the world, surrounded by a sense of love and expansiveness that is hard to express in words, but will influence my actions in the world and serve as a reminder that ‘Nothing is Impossible’.
The changes I wish to see start within me… now. Experience Week was a magnificent gift to me that I’ll hopefully repay by helping to make the world a better and more loving place.
I felt sadness when it was time to leave Cluny and so many new friends, but looked forward to getting home, realising perhaps for the first time that home isn’t just a place on the planet but a joyful and fulfilling state of being.
“Did you fall in love with your entire group?” a friend asked knowingly. “Absolutely” I replied, “and with Life itself.”
For more information about Experience Week click here.