The intentional living project is an effort to understand sustainable communities and how relationships can be built to thrive. We will not only to look at what groups are doing to sustain the planet’s physical resources, but also how communities flourish regardless of their environmental stance. We will be traveling around the world to visit people who we think might have something to show us about living intentionally.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Findhorn Foundation

So here I am sitting in The Elephant House, the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling began writing about Harry Potter. I can see the Edinburgh Castle and the Greyfriars Church graveyard from the window. It makes Hogwarts all the more believable. It is day six of waiting out the volcano - if all goes well we fly back to the states tomorrow. However hard it was at first to accept the fact that we weren’t going to be able to keep our schedule, I am grateful now for the extra days to reflect on the last six weeks, and in particular the most recent week at the Findhorn Foundation.

Panorama of the Universal Hall

When I began planning this sabbatical focused on intentional living one of the first websites I found was the Findhorn Foundation. Its homepage said, “spiritual community, education centre, and ecovillage”. That got my attention. Then I discovered that they had a special week focused on eco-villages and I sent in our deposits. I had no idea what to expect but I knew I wanted to go.

I now can’t imagine this sabbatical without it. It is by far the largest and most complex of all the communities we have visited. It has evolved over time and continues to evolve. It is an eco-village and an interactive educational model for sustainability. It is a spiritual community. It is a creative and innovative community. It is an unfolding experiment. There is just no easy way to explain Findhorn. Even after a week of living and working in the community I am not exactly sure how it functions. But it is clear at least from my experience, that it is doing something right.

At the beginning of the week one our leaders, or focalizers as they were called at Findhorn, shared with us the following two statements about sustainable/intentional communities:

1. In communities that last - there is almost always a glue that holds the community together.
2. Sustainability must be fun. If it is isn’t fun it isn’t sustainable.

Findhorn definitely had a glue. Again easier to experience than to describe but it was about the way they connected to one another and to creation. They called it co-creation with nature. What does that mean? For me its something to do with the fact that the vision of being an eco-village does not come out of a moral or ethical obligation to care for the earth but out of a deep sense of connectedness, of oneness with nature and with all creation. This connectedness is not just an idea, it is something lived out in a very simple, very consistent manner. They take time to do what they call an attunement. Before any task, any activity, they hold hands in a circle and become aware of themselves, of one another. They listen for the spirit within. They listen to the elements around them. They pay attention to the energy of the group. They attune to themselves, to one another and to creation. It is a very powerful, simple practice that holds this incredibly diverse, incredibly complex community together. there is much more to say about this - but probably for another post.

I also cant remember a time when I have laughed as much as I did. This experience was fun. Lots of fun. And not superficial fun, but deep, satisfying, real belly-aching fun. And it wasn’t just our group of 25 that was having fun. People were on a whole, happy. Yes you could say it is easier to be happy when you are living in a commune of sorts on the northeast coast of Scotland. But then maybe there is something to learn here, about how people relate to one another, to themselves, to the larger world. There was an ease and a grace among this community that is rare. And I believe it has something to do with the glue that keeps them together.

Is Findhorn perfect? By no means. Does it have all the answers? Of course not. But as far as intentional, communal, sustainable living goes, it has wisdom to share. I am walking away from this eco-village Experience Week with a deep sense of gratitude, not only for the incredible people I met from around the world, (In our group of 25 participants we had people from Australia, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland, United States, England, Wales, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Slovakia, Spain, Canada, and the Netherlands) but also for the way it engaged my mind, body and spirit. I haven’t felt this whole in a long time. This thread of connection continues…

More to come…

1 comment:

  1. Hey Erin and Joe!
    Great blog. I love your description of Findhorn and your time there, Erin. It was such a blessing to meet the two of you. Keep an eye on your mailbox - I am sending a little something your way. Hopefully you will be home to get it soon.
    Happy travels,