It took three difficult years for me to learn to release my rage and accept Spirit as something I can neither control nor change. My resentment surfaced again when my visa expired and I had to return to Canada. I like having my own way, and Spirit often pushes me along a different path. But tonight I’m at peace. It’s 3:30 a.m. and I’m sitting alone in Cluny sanctuary, wide awake. A remembered thread of Taizé song whispers in my head. The silence, the flickering candlelight, the shadows, the small stained-glass light, so familiar, so loved, enfold me.
It’s the second night in a row that I’ve left my single bed, lit the Sanctuary candle, wrapped myself in blankets and waited for either enlightenment or sleep. My angel card for the month is Awakening. I hope devoutly that doesn’t signal four weeks of insomnia.
My angel card for the month is Awakening. I hope devoutly that doesn’t signal four weeks of insomnia.
When I signed up to return to the Foundation for a month, I hoped to reestablish the pattern of spiritual practice I remembered from my five years of living here – Taizé singing, meditation, prayer, a sense of the sacred in every mundane activity – practices I have let slip in the fourteen years since I left. I haven’t changed in any fundamental way but my spiritual practice has slowly eroded. It needs a kick start.
Our group angel is Intention, which gives me hope. There are ten of us including the two focalisers. We represent a range of countries: England, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Brazil and Canada. A forty-year range in ages. Everyone has been here before, some many times. Almost immediately we slip into a depth of sharing I rarely encounter anywhere else. I feel as if I’ve come home, even though I remind myself daily that Cluny Hill is not my home, and hasn’t been for years. But here in the sanctuary at night I vibrate with happiness. I’m here. I’m back.
I don’t usually have insomnia. But I am prone to headaches that come in my sleep and threaten to turn into migraines if ignored. It’s been that way for nearly thirty years, ever since my husband died. The only solution is medication and sitting up. At home I curl up in a reclining chair and drift off to sleep listening to music. No recliner here and no music except in my heart. Just the sanctuary, and the sense of welcome.
In the next few days I revisit Taizé singing in the Park on Sunday and in Cluny during the week. Meet people I knew and loved when I lived here. Create an intention for the month and draw insight and setback cards from the Intuitive Solutions deck. See synchronicity everywhere. My insight card reads: “Open to a miracle in your life now. Trust and surrender to the greatest truth.”
I blink back tears. For me a miracle would be the willingness to love without barriers or expectations. The greatest truth? That I did love like that once but . My setback card says: “You are set back by your FEAR in the present situation.” I think of my husband, the only person I’ve ever loved without barriers. Since his death I have been afraid to love so deeply.
But the next day Dorothy McLean’s Doorway Exercise, designed to open the heart, challenges that fear. We’re asked to identify and relive a moment of happiness and tranquility; my mind flashes to the morning of my wedding day, my certainty as vast and radiant as a sunlit sea. A moment of beauty, and I’m back in Vancouver singing Fauré’s Requiem with my choir, hearing those exquisite harmonies. More moments, each bringing expansion, tears, a sense of acceptance, beauty and gratitude. Whether it’s the meditation, or my lack of sleep, or the Findhorn energy at work, my heart vibrates like a tuning fork.
That evening we watch the Opening Doors Within DVD featuring Eileen Caddy. I’ve had the book for decades but somehow missed the DVD. Neither the DVD nor the Doorway Exercise say anything I haven’t heard before but somehow each one impacts me at a deeper level. I have the eerie impression that I’m meeting my younger self, the person I was when I lived here. But now I feel how much I’ve changed; the passionate anger and furious resistance are diminished to a mere echo; the loving acceptance surrounds and sustains me.
That night in the Sanctuary at 4 a.m. my heart glows with warmth. By now the headache threat is gone; this is just insomnia.
I even wonder whether the headaches have been not a plague after all, but rather an invitation to rise, meditate and love, to awaken to Spirit. And then the insomnia ends and I sleep through the night.
In the third week we have four days of silence. I’ve never done that. Never wanted to either, so I’m nervous. To my surprise, it’s not bad. The focalisers have made it easy for the uninspired. We can sing Taizé before breakfast, write in our journals and read the inspirational books they provide. I relinquish my murder mystery and begin to re-read Eileen Caddy’s autobiography, Flight into Freedom. Twenty years ago I raged at God for turning her conventional life upside down. Blamed him for the loss of her five children to her ex-husband, the years of uncertainty and hard spiritual work, the eventual abandonment by her second husband. Now I marvel at her struggles, her achievements and her serenity. We meditate a lot, but break it up into chunks, sitting, pacing slowly in the room, sometimes walking at a slow meditative pace outside. We wear ‘In Silence’ badges and eat meals at the silent table. Life in Cluny clatters on around us but we’re separate. I feel unexpectedly peaceful. Others in my group battle the head cold that threatens to derail spirituality but I survive. Aside from illness, I assume they are as relaxed as I am.
But I’m wrong. In the post-retreat sharing some of the others admit they’ve been struggling with worries about home situations and old issues of anger, grief and fear. Their comments remind me that when I first heard about the Findhorn Foundation, a friend said: “You can’t run away in the Foundation. Your issues surface, whatever they are, whatever you’ve been avoiding, and you have to confront them. That’s what brings about change.” I didn’t really understand that until I lived here. The four days of silence bring it all back.
In Canada I write, both in a journal and in personal essays that I share with a writing group that always pushes me to probe more deeply. So most of my old issues don’t bully me because I’ve poked and probed them into some kind of perspective. Singing in a choir, like the Taizé singing in the Foundation, has regularly by-passed my logical left brain and opened my heart; I’m softer, not nearly as brain-dominated as I used to be. Writing and singing, I now see, have formed my spiritual practice at home. My old issues are so familiar they’re almost friends. Almost.
But when Kathy Tyler, Findhorn Foundation Trustee and one of the creators of The Game of Transformation, does a session with us and points out that the core issue of fear can interfere with every aspect of spiritual life, I’m shattered. I’m not just afraid of loving deeply and being abandoned; I’m afraid of the demands of Spirit, of failure, of vulnerability, of living fully. Kathy says fear tightens the muscles in the back, shoulders and neck, restricting blood flow to the brain, limiting the energy exchange between heart and head. The memory of headaches stretching back over three decades makes me close my eyes and shudder. “You are set back by your FEAR.” I try to imagine a miracle in which I refuse to let fear dominate me but I can’t. I dissolve into tears. How can I work with a spiritual practice if I’m afraid of where it will lead?
That night I’m back in the Sanctuary. I don’t waste time seeking sleep or enlightenment. I ask for help to recognize and stand up to my own fear. Over and over and over.
When the workshop ends, my angel-to-go is Responsibility. As I’ve always been tediously over-responsible; this has never been one of my favourite angels. But this time I realize that I need to take responsibility for my fear, to live with more awareness, more courage, more trust.
Four months later daily life once again gobbles up time that would be better spent in meditation and prayer, but I have far fewer headaches and I’m aware of more opportunities to love. The fear is still there but I recognize it. Sometimes I can beat it back. When I wake at night I picture energy moving freely from heart to head and back again. I write, I sing and I feel at peace more often.