STORY — Katherine Collis: an Iona Love Story

Words by Katherine Collis (first published in 'Love, Miracles and Magic' by Geoff Dalgish)

“It was not until resting in the silence of the Traigh Bhan sanctuary that I understood what Iona signified.” — Katherine Collis talks about falling in love – with the Isle of Iona, the future husband who guided her there, and with the Findhorn community.

Katherine Collis (photo by Terry Duffy)

THIS IS A love story – of falling in love with the Isle of Iona, with Roger Collis who guided me there, and with the Findhorn community – a remarkable place demonstrating the transformative power of living a love-infused life.

Findhorn is where I married Roger and gave birth to twins: our firstborn who survived, and her sister who didn’t. It was here I found a family of kindred spirits who understood and treated all life as sacred.

These loves have marked my journey, bringing people and places together into deeper connection: the wedding of Iona with Findhorn, the integration of contemplative life with the practical, the spiritual with the ordinary, and the personal with the planetary.

Mystical Awakening

My journey to Findhorn and Iona began with a mystical awakening during a car accident when I was 10. I left my body and found myself in other realms, an experience of remembrance and lifting the veils between this world and beyond.

This soul awakening provided the discovery of an inner compass. Through dreams and synchronicities – reading certain books, meeting the right people at just the right time – true north pointed me from California to Scotland in search of those who could teach me more about what had awakened.

Sunrise over the Isle of Mull, as seen from Traigh Bhan
Caravans on Pineridge at Findhorn Caravan Park in the 1970s

Visiting Findhorn for the first time

My first Findhorn visit was in April 1971. On the last stretch of road approaching the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park I felt a sensation of joy and anticipation. As I came closer an immense love filled me, a sense of heightened awareness, my heart expanding, of feeling fully alive. The caravan park itself was thick with presence, its intensity so strong that I can still feel it vibrating in my cellular memory today.

On outer appearances this was simply a caravan park, housing a small yet diverse community of 45 residents clustered at one end. Despite different backgrounds, ages and religious upbringings, they were united in the practice of inner listening to the God within, co-creating with nature and acting in love.

Living at Findhorn

Through this simple yet profound way of living and working together, a magnetic energy was generated that permeated the whole area… the land, the gardens, the caravans and bungalows, inspiring visitors like myself who were inexplicably drawn from many corners of the world.

The founders did not see the growing community as an isolated centre, but rather as part of a much larger impetus of Spirit embracing the need of the planet. There was a shared understanding that we were in training, preparing to apply our learning in service to a global community that was in the throes of rapid change, calling for a new vision.

Coworkers attunening in the gardens from the Findhorn documentary made in 1975 by Moving Pictures California
Approaching Iona from the sea

Iona Pilgrimage

Before returning to live at Findhorn, I hitchhiked to the Isle of Iona. I had been introduced to Roger Collis who had visited the island. As part of my pilgrimage, he insisted I walk to the north end to meet Jessica Ferreira and visit her sanctuary, a place that had impacted him deeply.

Upon entering the Sound of Iona and approaching the island from the sea for the first time, I was inexplicably overcome. Tears spontaneously began streaming down my face. Before even stepping onto her shores, I had crossed into the timeless presence of the Holy.

I was surprised that the island was so small and almost treeless. Other than the historic Abbey, religious houses and crofting community, there seemed little else. Yet in walking the wilds of the island and shorelines, experiencing its beauty, and sitting in the ruins of ancient chapels, it seemed I was surrounded by hosts of angels.

Love of Iona

It was not until resting in the silence of the Traigh Bhan sanctuary that I understood what Iona signified. I was immersed in a spiritual school, one invisible yet filled with the presence of all those who over the centuries had worshiped and prayed and listened deeply to the heartbeat of God. And in listening carried the Light of inspiration into the world to meet the challenge of their time.

What Iona taught me was this love of Creation, a love of the Earth, a love seeded in the ancientness of her stones – reminders of what is held in the heart and destiny of the Earth itself. As Jessica explained it was also about awakening a love for the future – a conjoining of one’s personal call with the World Soul and the consecration of her sanctuary, which was dedicated to the planetary Christ consciousness emerging for our age.

The sanctuary at Traigh Bhan
Our retreat house Traigh Bhan on the island of Iona by the sea
Traigh Bhan house on the Isle of Iona

Fifty years later

Fifty years have passed since Jessica, Roger and I became friends and Traigh Bhan was passed into the stewardship of the Findhorn Foundation. Thousands of individuals have deepened in the peace of Traigh Bhan’s sanctuary and the connection between the two centres continues to grow. The eternal, ancient wisdom so evident on Iona is exquisitely wed to the transformative vision of building the new, demonstrated by the Findhorn community.

I am ever grateful for the wisdom I receive from both centres. The light of each shines as a beacon, dispelling fear, igniting vision and courage, and offering promise and hope for the future. Each is an affirmation of the power of living from the inside out, of having faith in acting on one’s inner knowing. Most of all, they are a reminder that love is the most potent gift of all, a timeless wellspring ever present, that gives us the key to a world made whole.


About Katherine Collis

Katherine Lane Collis is an educator, spiritual counsellor and retreat facilitator from United States. Her first visit to Findhorn was in 1971.

Katherine lived in the Findhorn community between 1971 and 1973, and she and Roger have returned often. Traigh Bhan was initially intended as a wedding gift, but in recognising its purpose as part of a global ‘network of light’, it was then entrusted to the Findhorn Foundation. Katherine and Roger were the first custodians.

Roger and Katherine Collis
Katherine and Roger Collis

Pictures from Iona...

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