Amala’s message came out of the blue and stunned me with its enormity: “I realise I’ve never been in love before. Thank you for cracking my heart open…”
The text beeped its arrival on my phone in Cape Town just days after I’d left Findhorn when I was feeling the pain of our parting and wondering if we’d ever see each other again. Then, seemingly miraculously, she was on an aircraft to South Africa and we were together.
The weeks that followed have been a celebration of what is possible when we set powerful intentions and have the courage to follow wherever they lead us. There has been so much fun, laughter and shared adventure with like-minded people on a journey that has taken us deep within – and to many of my favourite places ranging from the Mountain Club hut on Table Mountain to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope where wild windswept cliffs tower above often stormy seas.
We’ve communed with the natural world at its most magnificent: listening to the dawn chorus of birds outside our tent, swimming naked in secret rock pools, showering beneath waterfalls and meeting gentle giants at the Knysna Elephant Park.
Both of us have manifested cherished dreams; Amala discovering what it means to let go of fears and be in a truly loving relationship, while I’ve realised that my nomadic existence as a wandering pilgrim doesn’t have to exclude all possibility of romance and intimacy. What a gift!
For a year and more I walked alone without loneliness, although increasingly I yearned for more than the occasional hug from wonderful people I met along the way. Being at Findhorn for a few weeks to help out with the 50th birthday celebrations changed all that and perhaps for the first time I entered a romantic relationship entirely consciously with a determination to learn from the past and be the best possible gift I could be. I never suspected how profound the experience would be.
Often I return to the wisdom contained in the best-selling Conversations with God trilogy by Neale Donald Walsch for encouragement: “Relationships are constantly challenging; constantly calling you to create, express, and experience higher and higher aspects of yourself, grander and grander visions of yourself, even more magnificent versions of yourself.
“Nowhere can you do this more immediately, impactfully and immaculately than in relationship. In fact, without relationships, you cannot do it at all.”
Ironically, it is said that we are not complete until we have no need of another, and yet it is in the presence of another that we enjoy such amazing opportunities to grow.
And although Amala and I are now thousands of kilometres from the loving embrace of the Findhorn community in northern Scotland, we’re seeing how that consciousness reaches far and wide, often surfacing in the most unexpected places.
Choosing to greet the birth of 2013 in the company of beings dedicated to a kinder and less materialistic world, we joined the Space of Love New Year Gathering at the Blue Hippo retreat, near Greyton, a couple of hours’ drive from Cape Town.
There was much merriment without a drop of champagne or any alcohol being poured; and delightfully sunny days were filled with hikes up the neighbouring gorges, swims in a dam and secluded rock pools, dance, singing, meditations, sharings and the communal preparation of healthy, organically grown vegetarian meals.
We formed circles and held hands to bless the food and each other before meals, offered thanks for the abundance in our lives and celebrated our interconnectedness with the natural world around us.
Findhorn popped up in conversation often and we enjoyed delicious vegetables harvested from the Space of Love Garden created by 32-year-old Ashleigh ‘Forest’ Gordon after her inspiring visits to the Findhorn community.
Ashleigh, a graphic designer by profession, has replaced her car with a bicycle and lives a simple, sustainable and joyful life as a gardener at the Blue Hippo where she also facilitates workshops and events. And, like the Findhorn founders, she stays in a caravan.
‘When I returned from Findhorn I felt very inspired to connect with the land and be sustainable, also putting my energy into creating the first Space of Love gathering in South Africa, which is inspired by the Anastasia stories by Vladimir Megre.”
We’d arrived at the gathering not knowing a single person and within days enjoyed a special connection with so many individuals, couples and families, the young children adding their own exuberant and playful energy to the mix.
Among the workshops I attended was one on conscious relationships where I was humbled and encouraged by the brutal honesty of participants, even when the subject matter was painful. As one who has kept a lid on his feelings for most of his life, and rarely revealed vulnerability, it remains a challenge for me to be that open in the company of others.
Amala has certainly taught me much about honouring and expressing my feelings.
She says: “Our learning together was immense and very healing and I was able to recognise and let go of many hurts around men through the relationship. Although being in an open-hearted relationship with the intention to grow and heal is not always easy – in fact it can often be extremely painful – the space of love created through our attraction has helped both of us know more about ourselves, and each other, as individuals.”
Since starting my walking pilgrimage I've taken more than nine million steps in six countries and known so many high points, as well as a few dark nights of the soul. Once after being continuously wet for days I awakened in a muddy field with slugs crawling across my face, but at least I was able to see the funny side of my situation and laugh at my stubborn refusal to add the weight of a tent to my already heavy pack.
It's about choices.
But I'm discovering that the greatest and most fulfilling adventures invariably come from that inner journey into the uncharted wilderness of the human soul. And increasingly I’m being brave enough to confront and talk about what that means to me…