Community, ecology, herbal tea… More lessons in life from Findhorn

Why have I just spent all afternoon on my knees, weeding tiny tufts of couch grass from a flower bed? I’d never do this at home. The reasons why I’m weeding are complex, but they’re all because I’m at Findhorn.

You can’t easily sum up the Findhorn Foundation in a paragraph, but here goes. It’s a spiritual community, eco-village and education centre in a beautiful setting near the sea in North-east Scotland, founded 50 years ago, and it’s been a major source of inspiration and practical learning for me since 1990.

Findhorn people talk about work as love in action, and they walk their talk: this is one reason I’m weeding.  At the start of any Findhorn work shift, there’s an attunement: the work team join hands, connect with the purpose of the task, and ask to be guided to do it well.  This really helps me feel that my mundane, repetitive task is worthwhile, and I stick at it cheerfully.

Since the start, the people at Findhorn Foundation have worked in co-operation with the spirits of the land and the plants, which they call devas.  You may believe it or not – I do believe in devas, and I find a sense of delight and nourishment in the gardens at Findhorn which is not unique, but rare: I feel it on other land which has been tended lovingly and consciously, such as Hazel Hill Wood or Hilfield Friary in Dorset.

If you’re interested in sustainability, Findhorn is well worth a visit.  It’s the only place I know in the UK which deserves the name eco-village.  They generate much of their own electricity, they have a plant-based sewage system, free minibus services, a range of eco-houses, and they grow much of their own food.  Some of this is at Cullerne, where I was weeding a flower bed: here they aim to make the whole place beautiful, not functional.

The Findhorn Foundation started in the Sixties, and there’s a good number of ageing hippies living here.  In fact the age profile of the community is worryingly skewed over 50.  The good side of this is the way they are pioneering new ways to support people with severe ill health or infirmity.

An interesting feature of Findhorn’s Community Care programme is that it trains those needing support in how to receive it.  Strong personalities can get bossy and stroppy when they are infirm, and they need to learn new approaches, such as gratitude, asking for help, admitting they can’t cope.  And those giving support need new skills, like valuing what they do, and making sure they don’t burn out.

I am back here to recharge my batteries, meet old friends, and learn from this community.  All of this I can do in an afternoon of weeding, if it’s at Findhorn!

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