Why would anyone be involved with any form of religion or spiritual practice? The family I grew up in was very open to our neighbours and friends practicing their faith, yet did not engage in any form of organised religion itself. The closest I got to connecting with something larger than myself was through walks on the Dutch beaches or in the dunes, feeling the expansion through nature.
As a young adult I wholeheartedly joined social activist groups, discovering there is so much wrong in the world, and making every effort to change it. The squatter movement in Amsterdam was the perfect place to start that, and was a very eye opening experience. Yet it did not leave much time for introspection.
My attention was very much focussed on fighting the wrongs in the world, looking at areas of injustice, and making alternative voices heard through demonstrations, supporting the squatters movement, organising events, running a magazine and a radio. I remember interviewing other marginalised groups, asking them: ”How do YOU want to live, what is the life you wish for?” When I asked myself that same question, I drew a blank! For a while I could not answer it. That’s when I noticed it was time for an inner revolution.
In my late twenties I shifted my attention, including more of my inner world.
What is needed to bring happiness on the inner? What could I do to actually create a better world?
This led me to a search which eventually brought me into contact with both Findhorn and Buddhism.
A hiking trip in the Himalayas of Nepal was extended with a Buddhist course in Kopan, a Tibetan Monastery just outside Kathmandu. It provided a grounded and practical explanation of the spiritual journey to awakening, to enlightenment, to reduce our limitations and negative habits, cultivate positive ones, and to be of service to our surroundings and to the world.
A chance encounter with a friend who had done Experience week led me to Findhorn. “Very good”, was her only description, which made me sign up too! Now, 26 years later, having lived and worked at the Findhorn Foundation over that period, plus engaged in study and meditation through Buddhism, I can reflect on what it has brought me and so many of the people I have worked with.
Here are some thoughts:
Regularly checking our purpose, our motivation, helps staying on track with what is really important, without all the distractions that may take us away from it. It may be creating a purpose for a specific period or aspect of our lives. Or it may be discovering what our purpose actually is, allowing the time and space for it to become more clear and present.
A daily time set aside at the beginning of the day for meditation, for reading an inspiring quote or text, helps us set the tone for the day, bringing hope and inspiration in our lives.
A moment of reflection at the end of the day helps to take stock. What were our challenges, and how did we deal with them? What could have been better? What do we need to let go of? Can we decide to try something different next time? Removing our unhelpful habits brings us to our wholeness.
What can we be happy about and rejoice in? What did we do well today? Celebrating our strengths is very important, and counteracts any guilt or low self esteem. It brings us joy, and helps us to achieve what we want in our lives.
Being aware of our thoughts, our words and our actions during the day, as each one of them has an effect. This can be practised anywhere, any time: while washing the dishes, responding to an email, driving the car, meeting a colleague etc. It brings a more realistic perspective in our life, being centred and fully present in any moment.
When we engage in spiritual practice, we may want to look for, or create, a support system. What like minded groups are there in our neighbourhood? What centres or individuals are on a similar journey? This will bring interconnectedness and companionship.
When we have more insight into our inner world, we are more and more able to influence it, so it will affect what we say and do. This is transformation. We then are in charge of our own life and the responses to whatever life brings us. It is very powerful, bringing power over ourselves instead of over others. This will increase the sense of satisfaction and happiness we all long for. When we see the challenges of our own development, we can be more compassionate to others as well. It also allows us to be of benefit to our surroundings.
At this time I can’t imagine my life without it anymore. The deepening of my spiritual practice has helped me beyond imagination in all aspects of life. It is not perfect, and not always easy, yet provides a sense of rightness, resilience and joy to my journey in life.
Margo facilitates the Spiritual Deepening Programme of the Findhorn Foundation, starting 18 November. More info here. She also regularly facilitates Spiritual Practice Retreats on Iona, as well as the original Game of Transformation. For a complete list of options and dates, see Iona and Game of Transformation.