Life has chapters: relationships, projects, life phases. When one ends, how do you celebrate what you have achieved and internalise it? How do you transition into what’s next? I faced these questions at the end of co-organising Findhorn’s Co-Creative Spirituality conference – the biggest project I had ever initiated. I decided to answer these questions by going on a pilgrimage to Cape Wrath, at the Northwest tip of Scotland. At first, the name Cape Wrath seemed ominous. But then I learned the name was actually a mistranslation of a Viking word meaning ‘turning point’. Suddenly, it seemed like the perfect transition destination.
My course took me mostly through wilderness, sometimes in places where there was not even a path. For most of this nature pilgrimage I was the only human being for miles. I journeyed through a landscape of soaring mountains, dark lochs and cold, rushing streams. Vast silence accompanied me. Only the sounds of wind, icy mountain streams dashing against rocks and stags roaring across the valleys broke it.
Here are some of the lessons I learned.
Clear away distractions
Alone in the windswept hills, my whole system began changing. The simple rhythm of walking, eating and sleeping provided my only structure. After a while of this my mind and emotions became still and calm. I was able to sense intuitions welling up from deeper parts of myself.
I also realised I no longer felt caught up in the collective fields of humanity and the community I live in. Normally I have a sense of being connected with a kind of ‘human field’. For example, if a major political event happens, I feel affected. Emotions and thoughts well up in me in connection with it.
Living in the Findhorn spiritual community, I also feel intimately connected with its field of emotions and thoughts. I often feel intense waves of emotion or powerful thought-forms touching me when something big in the community changes. Most of the time it’s a wonderful part of being in community. But it seemed deeply good and necessary to disconnect from it temporarily. Doing so helped me be very clear about my individual will and purpose.
As the days progressed it seemed like I was gazing at my life path from a mountain top. I saw the larger patterns in my life events from a bird’s eye view. From there, answers to my questions had room to emerge without distractions.
Some things I had neglected when I was ‘too busy’ came to seem much more important. For instance, during certain periods I had neglected my imagination. I hadn’t read fiction, played my mandolin or made artwork because ‘I needed to work on the conference’. Alone in nature, I could see how cultivating imagination is like cultivating healthy soil for a garden. It is essential to everything else (at least, for me personally.) The meditative space of my ‘transition pilgrimage’ allowed me to understand this.
Face the truth about yourself
During the first few days of the nature pilgrimage I tried to force my body to go faster than was natural for it. I was anxious to reach a certain distance each day and I was hurrying. After a few days this resulted in a minor injury that made me take a break in the middle of the walk to recover from.
Reflecting on this, I realised that even while planning for the conference I had often tried to force things to go faster than I was ready for. I was able to survive the sustained intensity of the experience, but I suffered and in retrospect I saw how I hadn’t been able to embody the conference’s impulse as deeply as I would have liked.
When I was a Special Operations sergeant in the army five years ago, I jogged fifteen miles with 40 pounds on my back. But this, I realised, was no longer possible for my body. And to be honest, the mentality that enabled me to do that was a bit brutal. It was about ruthless striving, and I needed to realise that the strength it had given me was not suited to my new mission of co-creating wholeness for the world. In the end, I felt grateful to my detached toenails and sore hips. They were encouraging me (demanding of me) that I transition out of striving and into inter-being.
In order to transition, I needed to face the truth of my changing body. It seems miraculous to me that these physical changes indicated to me exactly what I needed to realise about my inner attitudes as well. Stop pushing too hard. Take more time for reflection. A measured pace with regular rest breaks will get me farther than spasmodic, exhausting sprints.
Release your former identity
Exhausted from pushing myself too hard one day, I slipped while crossing a river near Maol Buidhe bothy and fell in. I needed to spend a day in the bothy drying my things out. (A bothy is a simple cottage-like shelter open to hikers. One of the things I love about Scotland.) I had nothing to do but sit still or ramble among the high surrounding ridges. But I soon realised this unexpected time of rest in my transition pilgrimage was essential. It enabled me to deepen my contact with the local nature spirits, my own spirit guides and subtle support team.
Sitting still in the centre of the enormous valley, I held questions in my mind and asked for the input of nature partners and other subtle beings I work with. The enforced rest helped me easily sense their suggestions and information.
I began to use co-creative principles, like those developed by the Lorian Association. I considered my life not as an individual quest (like an actor on a stage surrounded by props) but as a collaboration between a diverse group of very different beings.
The flows of river and wind and the ancient remnants of the glacial flow that had shaped the valley mirrored the different influences and inspirations I felt flowing into me from my subtle colleagues and aspects of myself. I realised I didn’t have a personal agenda or plan to follow. In the vastness of the glacial valley, I realised I could let go of the version of myself that needed to prove something.
My unplanned baptism in the All’t a’ Chreachaill Mohr river had washed away my anxious fixation on a static goal. Pure awareness came more into the space that my ambition had occupied. I sensed within my life many different flows and influences without feeling particularly attached to any of them. I had taken the next step in my transition.
Let challenges bring out your strength
At times (for example, while lancing my fourth blister of the day, which had unexpectedly and painfully formed underneath my left pinky toe), I found myself wondering why I had chosen to spend my transition time hauling an 80 litre pack through isolated, often boggy, hilly and trackless terrain. Wasn’t I supposed to be relaxing after completing the biggest project I had ever worked on?
But as the days wore on, I realised that the rigours and challenges of the journey were evoking in me a deep sense of joy and accomplishment. I was making my own path, in partnership with the land. Ascending a mountainside was more than a physical act, I found. It tested me emotionally and mentally. I learned to plan my pace and change my route if necessary in response to the topography. I learned to enjoy the level ground and the inspiring vistas, to linger in them and let the sensations of beauty flow into my cells. In short, I learned to be how I wanted to be and feel how I wanted to feel, in partnership with what was around me.
I sensed my power of decision-making swell as I decided to carry on through the rough patches. No circumstance, I realised, could overwhelm me, even when I got stuck in a bog or felt exhausted. I could choose to rest, alter course or push through. I always had the ability to make a decision, regardless of what was happening around and inside me.
And I realised that getting a physical felt sense of this was the perfect preparation for my transition to the next step.
Use Rituals to Embody and Complete a Transition
At last my nature pilgrimage came to its end at Cape Wrath. I stayed overnight in the stunningly situated Kearvaig Bothy amid a herd of curious deer. The next day I took time to be silent and enter ritual space. I evoked in myself a felt sense of my intention: to amplify what the conference participants (human and others) had co-created and offer it to the world.
I edged out onto the grassy ledge on the edge of the Cape Wrath peninsula. To my right was an enormous horn used to signal ships. It seemed like an auspicious coincidence to have the horn there, as if it were amplifying the signal. I placed the objects onto the grass, inviting the conference participants to be with me in spirit. Trying to keep the roaring wind from tearing me off the cliff, I evoked in myself a sense of what I wished to share with my fellow co-creators and the world.
Together, we had built a field of inter-realm cooperation and exploration. We had impregnated it with fiery hope for our future. Standing in the felt sense of this work on the clifftop, arms outstretched, I breathed out with the intention of releasing this hope, love and knowledge into the wider world. The wind roared and the sea sparkled. I breathed out, imagining this felt sense flowing out into the world. Then, feeling the release of subtle energies into the world, I lowered my arms.
The ritual also helped me transition to a sense of completeness with the conference. It helped me ground the experience in my physical sensations. I can now recall the felt sense of the ritual, and hence the end of that chapter in my life. It marks a definitive ending point, which gives me a sense of freedom and openness when I turn towards the future. Having completed the ritual, I feel unencumbered by any attachment to the past.
Feeling clear and energetic, I made the homeward journey from Cape Wrath.
On the last evening of the nature pilgrimage, I sat on a peat bank watching the sun set over the hills.
My plans had emerged. I knew that this deeper sense of being in tune with wildness – my own and nature’s – was connected with a powerful theme that had emerged in the conference: human-Sidhe cooperation. I know that I want to be part of an exploration of how we can work with these partners to shape our shared future and craft a new human identity that is in harmony with the Earth.
The Co-Creative Spirituality conference, it came to me, was a the beginning of greater things. The Findhorn Foundation, it seems clear, is now experiencing an evolutionary wave that is opening the door to many new possibilities. With a felt sense of freedom, clarity and power throbbing in my cells, I realised that I wanted to be a part of envisioning and manifesting the highest potential for myself, the Foundation and the cause we both serve.
The journey to Cape Wrath is something I will never forget. I am deeply grateful that I was able to take this time to physically embody my transition.