What’s it like living in community? Geoff Dalglish joins Findhorn’s Living in Community Guest Programme to find out.
If I was to update my CV it would be to proudly add ‘gardener’ to a list of previous occupations that includes photo-journalist, editor, expedition guide, adventurer and 4×4 driving instructor.
How precious it is to reconnect with the soil and to fully appreciate that our labours can be ‘love in action’ and an integral part of the spiritual path each of us is walking individually and collectively. If you wish to immerse yourself in our community for a month or more, the Living in Community Guest Programme (LCG) is a dynamic and purposeful way to explore the meaning of service and to experience the gifts that come through community life.
Focalisers Astrid Gude and Jackie Pond explain: “Sharing all aspects of life in this vibrant environment opens the space for you to deepen the relationship with yourself and your own inner wisdom, as well as with people and nature, creating an ever more meaningful experience of life.”
The programme is open to those who have participated in Exploring Community Life, Spiritual Practice or a Service Week, having already taken part in Experience Week. It starts on a Saturday and is divided into four-week segments with participants initially staying in the former Victorian hotel on the Cluny Hill site, adjoining the picturesque town of Forres, and either staying there or around six miles away at The Park.
Using a process of attunement you choose the service department team you’ll join in the gardens, kitchen, dining room, maintenance or homecare. For me it came across loud and clear that I needed to join the team tasked with maintaining and beautifying the gardens at The Park. I was especially drawn to the Original Garden and loved imagining what it must have been like in 1962 when three adults and three children established themselves in a caravan alongside a rubbish dump.
John Willoner, who was among the first to join the fledgling ‘New Age’ community, recalls: “There were no birds and no flowers!” But fast-forward from those early pioneering days to today and we are witness to a miracle of manifestation and hard work, the formerly barren and windswept sand dunes having transformed into an amazing celebration of life and diversity.
The LCG process begins with clarifying your individual purpose and setting a clear intention, mine being “to live in absolute faith, knowing I will be guided and inspired.” And what inspiring examples I had to draw upon. The founders Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean faithfully followed their inner guidance without knowing where it would take them – only that all would be very, very well and whatever happened would do so in perfect timing. How do you describe their amazing legacy? Is Findhorn a celebrated holistic education centre, a pioneering ecovillage, a world-renowned spiritual community, a state of consciousness or all of these things?
My month in Park Garden certainly wasn’t just about digging, weeding, pushing wheelbarrows and helping create a beautiful water feature – the simultaneous inner journey added its own challenges and threw up many questions. Each person’s experience is different as are the reasons for visiting what has been described as a mystery school where we seek to better understand our life purpose – or at least the reasons for visiting Findhorn at this specific time in our lives.
I was exhilarated by my job as a photo-journalist in Communications, but found myself enthralled by my time as a gardener during LCG. It definitely deepened my experience of community: I now love this nurturing and challenging home-from-home in northern Scotland even more. Living in community is an opportunity to be the best we can and to join kindred spirits in an intensive routine that includes joyful times in the service departments, holistic ‘living’ education sessions, meditations and sharings.
Having already spent months at The Park, I enjoyed getting to know Cluny Hill better with its majestic presence overlooking superb gardens and a lush green golf course – and savouring quiet times for reflection and a communion with nature during walks through the adjoining forest. I was certainly never disappointed, sometimes asking myself which site I prefer. Some favour the busier rhythms of The Park, although American Stan Stanfield, 76, has lived at Cluny for more than a quarter of a century and points out that it was here that the spiritual principles of the Findhorn Community were first tested and validated in the late 1950s when Peter, Eileen and Dorothy managed the Cluny Hill Hotel.
At both venues I’ve savoured ‘love in action’ and in the garden I marvelled at how smoothly and joyfully it flowed, especially when German Maren Koopmann, Australian Natalie Rule and I created a water feature with no previous experience.
There was also great satisfaction in helping German master gardener Kajedo Wanderer to save and transplant a huge flowering plant, also learning from him about making compost that is vital to a healthy organic garden.
And my excitement soared when I discovered a beautiful angel figurine hidden in the undergrowth while helping clear the site for Moontree, a wooden eco-mobile building-to-be that will be the new home to the Park gardeners. But perhaps my best moment was when I unexpectedly met honeybees harvesting pollen and felt that interconnectedness with Nature and Gaia Earth.
After too long as a workaholic, I feel that LCG has re-established balance in my life as well as creating loving friendships with the people and other beings of Park Garden. For those precious gifts I’m immensely grateful.