Co-Creating with Nature: A Visit to Findhorn

timthumb.phpOn a northeastern shore of Scotland the ecovillage of Findhorn is situated on a tiny peninsula lodged between the Moray Firth and Findhorn bay. Fighter jets from the local air force base at Kinloss occasionally swoop overhead, their disquieting rumble rip through this remote outpost of civilization. On the ground, three large wind turbines, “The Three Graces,” turn silently among the dunes and sandbars. I heard about Findhorn as a result of research on ecological intentional communities for my master’s thesis which had already taken me to Ecovillage at Ithaca and Crystal Waters Ecovillage. Findhorn is famous for being one of the earliest and most advanced ecovillages of its kind, a model for other ecovillages around the world. A study undertaken in 2005 showed that residents at Findhorn have the smallest ecological footprint compared to citizens anywhere in the industrialized world. At just 8 acres per person, the average resident at Findhorn consumes just a little above half of the resources and releases half of the waste of an average resident in the UK.[i] Today the Findhorn Foundation is home to around 400 individuals and host to thousands of visitors each year who come for the workshops or to experience living in community.The village boasts 65 green buildings, four wind turbines, its own bank and community currency, UK’s first biological sewage treatment system and Community Supported Agriculture system. The Foundation received the UN Habitat Best Practice Designation in 1998, an award also won by Crystal Waters.[ii]

But more famously, Findhorn is known for its work in promoting spiritual consciousness to create a sustainable future for humanity and the planet. The founders of Findhorn did not read the Bible or practice any religious creed, but they developed a practice of listening to divine guidance through meditation and attunement with nature. Residents and visitors at Findhorn practice sitting meditation daily and engage in gardening, art, working in the community, and helping others as forms of spiritual practice. As stated in Findhorn’s founding principles:

At Findhorn, the principles of both inner listening and co-creation with nature are set within the context of being of service to the world. It was clear to the founders, as it is clear to us today, that humanity’s response to the challenges we collectively face must be inclusive, recognising our interdependence with all of life. Through changing our consciousness, by listening to our inner source of wisdom, and by co-creating with nature, we can bring about the positive and sustainable changes so needed in our world.[iii]

Findhorn’s holistic approach to sustainability which includes the physical environment, social justice, and spirituality, was particularly appealing to me. I determined that it was a place I had to visit.

Findhorn_Foundation_50th_Birthday_photo_-_Lev_is_on_left_of_photo_near_frontHaving arrived by way of London from Washington DC, I took the train to Inverness, passing through the charming English countryside into wilder Scottish hills. At the train station I was met by a purple and white shuttle named “Sir George” ready to take me and a few others to the campus. The others had come an equally long way from Portugal and Germany. The shuttle dropped us off at the “Park”, the ecovillage portion of Findhorn. The other portion of Findhorn is located at Cluny Hill, a large mansion about a mile away from the Park.

Unlike Crystal Waters or Ecovillage at Ithaca, the founders of Findhorn did not intend to create a sustainable development. In fact, they did not even have the intention of starting a community. Peter Caddy had been a long time practitioner of western esoteric spirituality when he met Eileen, the wife of one of his comrades in the British army. The two fell in love and in order to marry Peter, Eileen lost custody of her five children. Deeply troubled by the separation from her family, Eileen started a meditation practice to help her rebuild her life. Later she received revelation about how to start a community. Peter followed the guidance that Eileen received during her meditation sessions promptly and to the letter (Eileen’s spiritual writings are available from Findhorn Press). For a time, the two managed an impressive hotel near Findhorn called Cluny Hill, which flourished under their direction. Then suddenly, the owners of Cluny Hill terminated their contract, and Peter and Eileen found themselves without an income or home except for their caravan, which they parked in a dilapidated caravan park three miles outside of the village Findhorn.[iv]

(left to right) Peter Caddy, Eileen Caddy, Dorothy Maclean, David Spangler

(left to right) Peter Caddy, Eileen Caddy, Dorothy Maclean, David Spangler

Peter and Eileen were soon joined by their friend Dorothy Maclean, who shared their interest in New Age spirituality. Times were hard and Peter tried to grow a garden to help feed their little group and his three children, and he asked Eileen and Dorothy for spiritual guidance on how to grow vegetables in the sandy soil. Dorothy started to receive what she perceived as messages from angelic spirits in the garden who told her what they needed to make the garden flourish. Soon they were harvesting phenomenal vegetables including 40 pound cabbages. The success of the garden attracted visitors from far and wide, many of whom wanted to know their techniques so that they could reproduce their success. They were astounded to learn that the only exceptional technique the group used was attunement to plant spirits.[v]

A young American spiritual teacher, David Spangler, arrived at Findhorn in 1970. David focused on communicating Eileen and Peter’s messages to a wider audience. He produced hundreds of study papers and gave numerous lectures on the New Age movement, cooperative living and other topics that became the foundation of the community. He and his partner Myrtle Glines were instrumental in turning Findhorn from an esoteric group of spiritual practitioners into the epicenter of a growing New Age movement. As more and more visitors arrived, some of them decided to stay and help build their own accommodations. At the same time, Cluny Hill Hotel, where Peter and Eileen had begun their life together in Findhorn, had come up for sale. The Caddys purchased the property, worth 1.5 million pounds in 1975, for 60,000 pounds. By the time David and Myrtle left the community in 1973, the Foundation had grown from 5 individuals to 120.[vi]

Cluny Hill

Cluny Hill

In addition to Cluny Hill, the founders also decided to purchase the caravan park so that they could construct permanent housing on the site. In 1990 Findhorn began the Ecovillage Project and issued the “Findhorn Statement of Land Ethic”:

We are moving towards the vision of a new society: one that relates to people, the environment and the planet out of a sense of love, understanding and wholeness rather than fear and survival. Much of what we have accomplished in the past, our experience and learnings, have been on a consciousness and awareness level. We now wish to apply this awareness more fully to the physical level of how we live; to express the essence of what the Findhorn Community is through architecture, landscape and integrated ecosystems that harmonize the needs of people with the needs of the natural systems in which we live.[vii]

Using permaculture principles, the designers added to their site observations their notes about the spirit of the place. John Talbot, head of the Ecovillage Project, explained:

When a design is brought to the planning group, we discuss the plan and look at its siting, layout and technical merits, the architectural style and so on. But we also always go out to the actual site and meditate. We find the exact place it will be and see how it feels, try to get a sense of what the natural energies would like, and then share our impressions, and include these in our decision-making.[viii]

So far the Foundation has erected 65 green buildings in a dense layout harmoniously integrated into the natural landscape. The homes are designed to take advantage of passive solar heat and daylight. Super-efficient insulation and triple glazed windows conserve heat in the winter. Breathing walls provide natural ventilation and cooling in the summer. Recycled and locally harvested construction materials were used as much as possible. Several of the houses are built from old whiskey barrels, and if you scratch the walls, you can smell a faint scent of whiskey. Other ecological features of the buildings include district heating system with gas condensing boiler, roofing with natural clay tiles, rainwater collection, and local stone for skirting, patios, and pathways.

moya2

Art at the base of the wind turbine

Electricity for the Ecovillage is provided by four community-owned wind turbines located a short walk away. The bases of the turbines are painted with colorful symbols of hope and movement: rose petals, blue birds, butterflies and fairies in a swirl of pink, yellow, and blue waves. The wind turbines have a total capacity of 750kW. The first wind turbine erected repaid the initial investment of £75,000 in approximately five years. Three additional turbines were erected in January of 2006 with funding from the New Findhorn Development Ltd, Ekopia Ltd, and the Caledonia Renewable Energy Cooperative. Along with the wind turbines, solar photovoltaic systems and biomass produce 28% of the total non-transportation energy needs of the community.[ix] The community is currently investigating the potential of a microprocessor controlled load management system that will manage energy demand in the community to match supply from the wind turbines.

Despite the advanced technological features, the village has a rustic look and human scale that makes it feel very intimate and welcoming. Round houses built from large whiskey barrels cluster in groups along narrow winding paths through banks of flowers. Wooden houses painted different colors line walkways flanked by bicycles. Turf grass and pink flowers cover the roofs, some of which have solar panels. A small purple house labeled “The Sanctuary” stands in the midst of a garden overflowing with fox-gloves, June bells, lilies-of-the-valley, and leafy vegetables such as squash, pumpkin and kale. The morning sun glows through a beautiful phoenix stained glass window. A huge pair of glass wings flank the doors of the Universal Hall which holds a concert hall, conference center, dance studios and coffee shop. Colors and spiritual symbols are everywhere in this artistic community.

Nature Sanctuary

Nature Sanctuary

On my first evening in Findhorn, the facilitators of my “Experience Week” group gathered everyone in the Community Center for an orientation. Middle aged and Scandinavian, Sofia and Maria presided over our group sessions like benevolent matrons. The number of individuals in our group was 21, and as I looked around me, I noticed that they were all white, except for myself and another Asian woman from Hong Kong. The age of the participants ranged from 21 to 70 and was fairly evenly distributed. No one was particularly well groomed but no one was disheveled either. We look like a bunch of intellectual hippies. As we introduced ourselves and explained our reasons for being there, it seemed that everyone was working on their personal growth in some way, with the desire to have more peace, harmony, and spirituality in their lives. One couple ran an ecovillage in Germany and were looking for insights to improve their community. Sofia and Maria led us in our first attunement, where we held hands and meditated on what we wanted to get out of our time at Findhorn. Then they invited each of us to pick an Angel Card. The Angel Cards were invented at Findhorn and has become a popular tool for guidance seekers everywhere. Each card in the deck is printed with an inspirational word, such as “Clarity,” “Healing”, or “Intuition.” You draw from the deck randomly, and that word becomes your “angel” for the day or the issue for which you are seeking guidance. Mine was “Resilience,” the perfect word for someone interested in sustainability and dealing with my personal issues at the time. Then one of us drew a card for the whole group to guide in our time together. The word was “Play.” We laughed because despite our serious aspirations for our time at Findhorn, the message was, “Have fun. Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Angel Cards

Angel Cards

The next day I took a tour of the waste water treatment plant, an unusual first stop but one of the ecological features that the Findhorn community takes exceptional pride in. Developed by a couple of scientists in the 1960s, the Living Machine at Findhorn is one of the first natural sewage systems installed in Europe. It is equipped to handle all the wastewater from the ecovillage of 300+ individuals. Glass walls enclose a bright and airy space that smells like a wetland. Sewage arriving from buildings is first held in three closed tanks buried outside the green house. Solids settle in the tank and the anaerobic environment promotes the growth of anaerobic bacteria which breakdown the organic material. Water from the underground tanks flow into a closed tank inside the greenhouse, where a filter system removes odors from the water, from which it passes into four open tanks planted with a wide variety of wetland species. The plants, along with the nutrient rich water, promote the growth of bacteria, fungus, snails and other animals that also help to purify the water. At the end of the process, the water is pure enough to be used for irrigation in the garden or reused to flush toilets. The system requires little energy or maintenance to operate and uses no chemicals. Even in a power outage, it will function with a minimal amount of backup power. [x]

living machine

Living Machine and greenhouse

In the afternoon the group worked on the garden. The gardens around Findhorn provide nearly all of the produce for the community during the growing season. Gardening is at the heart of Findhorn because not only has the community always relied on the land to provide them with food, but it has been integral to their spiritual practice as well. In the early days of Findhorn, Dorothy Maclean, one of the founders, was famed for her communications with plants. In her writings, she recorded communicating with the “angel of the garden,” who told her how to make compost, what to put in it, when to turn it and apply it. “Humans have to help nature in this endeavor,” it told her, “they cannot expect us to do everything for them.” Dorothy also communicated with “devas,” a Hindu word she used to refer to the spirits of specific plants. For example, there was the deva of cabbages and the deva of sweet peas. Each represented the full potential of the plant and could communicate to humans what it needed to flourish. The devas told her when to plant, where to prune, how much to water and to give thanks when harvesting. Early visitors to the Findhorn garden were amazed by the results cultivated on the poor soil. In 1968, Professor Linsay Robb of the Soil Association wrote upon visiting the Findhorn Garden: “The vigor, health and bloom of the plants in this garden at midwinter on land which is almost barren, powdery sand cannot be explained by the modest dressings of compost, nor indeed by the application of any known cultural methods of organic husbandry. There are other factors at work, and they are vital ones.”[xi]

Garden attunement

Garden attunement

Instead of communicating with “devas,” today visitors are led in a simple process of “attunement” to help them become attuned to nature while working in the garden. We stood in a circle and held hands. A moment of silence helped us become aware of the present moment, after which head gardener Dana said a brief blessing to “allow the angel of the garden to help us with our work.” As we pulled the weeds from the celery bed, Dana told us stories about the Findhorn gardens. The founders of Findhorn always worked with the assumption that plants are sensitive to the people who work with them, and they listened for messages from the plants about what they needed to flourish. During attunement, the garden itself is considered a member of the team and any intuition the gardeners receive from the garden is taken into account while making decisions. In one instance, the gardeners at Cluny felt during an attunement that the garden did not like what they were intending to do, but they went ahead and did it anyway. As they uprooted and replanted, the team leader stabbed herself with a pitch fork and had to be taken to the hospital. An hour later, someone else stepped on a spent matchstick, and another gardener fell down the stairs and twisted her ankle. These accidents were taken as signs that the garden did not like what the gardeners were doing. Positive confirmations of attunement also happen in the garden, as when the Cullerne gardens began to respond to the gardeners’ meditations and produced peas that continued to be harvested until December and foxgloves that grew over two meters tall.[xii]

It did not take long for us to reap the rewards of our handiwork because the celery showed up on our plates during the communal dinner. In addition to celery, an abundant buffet filled with organic vegetables from the garden, sautéed and raw, tofu and beans, chicken and rice filled the table. The huge dining room at Cluny has exceptionally tall ceilings, recessed windows that overlooked the gardens, and a red and blue carpet that harkened back to its hospitality origins. The din of chatter and silverware filled the dining room as dinner commenced. These communal meals are offered three times a day, all prepared by a rotating staff of resident chefs and visitors.

Cluny Dining Room

Cluny Dining Room

Preparing three meals a day for hundreds is a lot of work, as I soon learned. For the remainder of my stay, I was put on the dining crew responsible for getting the dining room ready for the midday meal. The day started early. After getting up at seven o’clock, we were shuttled to the Cluny campus where we meditated for half an hour in one of the many beautiful meditation rooms. Breakfast was served from eight o’clock until nine, with fresh eggs from local farms, after which the kitchen and dining crew began to prepare for lunch. The work always started with an attunement. The crew assembled around a table, lit a candle, and we were all invited to share something about ourselves. Because of the constant flux of visitors, frequent introductions were necessary, but members also shared other things as they got to know each other. One morning, Jessica, a young woman who had been staying at Findhorn for a month, shared that she was having a difficult time that day because of her relationship with her boyfriend. For the most part we were happy and excited to be at Findhorn and taking part in the community living. After the round of sharing, we all held hands and Jim, the dining supervisor, asked the angel of the Cluny dining room to help us with our work. Each of us then volunteered for a task. Sven volunteered to vacuum. Jessica decided to wash the dishes, Jim took up wiping the tables, Marjorie would pick and arrange the flowers, and I would prepare the tea.

Easy! I thought, as I had been a tea drinker all of my life. But tea at Findhorn was serious business. The community drank tea five times a day, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner, at the 10:30 morning break, the 4:00 afternoon break, and whenever people happened to wander into the dining room wanting tea. Jim showed me the cupboard where all the tea was stored. An amazing variety greeted my eyes: green tea, black tea, rooibos tea, earl grey, yerba mate, peppermint, chamomile, and specialty blends made from Findhorn herbs and flowers. Each one had its own pot and brewing instructions. A tray with six tea pots was always prepared. While the water was boiling, I cleaned out each pot and strainer from the breakfast tray. Then I scooped the loose leaf teas into the strainers. Green tea had to be brewed at a lower temperature and the leaves removed after three minutes in order to allow only the delicate flavors to seep through. Black tea could remain in boiling water for six minutes, and the herbal teas came with their own instructions. I also had to clean and refill the cream, honey, jam and butter bowls. By the time all this was brought out to the buffet table, it was  time for the 10:30 break and throngs of people poured through the dining room doors for tea. The crew was allowed to take a break as well and I used the time to explore the gardens that surrounded the mansion or read the local paper by the bay window with the spectacular view. After the break, the process was repeated for lunch. Another crew took over for the afternoon and we were relieved from our duties.

Findhorn 009Over the next few days, I also got to perform a few of the other tasks in the dining room. Some of these tasks required working with machines, all of which were given names and treated with the same respect as if they were people. For example, the dish washer was named “Leonardo”, whose lid the accompanying sign said should be closed “like a gentle whisper in a spring morning.” The vacuum machine, “Blue Angel,” had a smiley face painted on it and “Betty,” the milk dispenser, came with the picture of a Findhorn cow. These simple reminders made a profound difference on the working environment. It was easy to feel that we were doing the work as a service to the community in a spirit of love, and that work itself, bookended by attunements, was a meditation as beneficial to us as to the recipients of our labor. Even the menial task of cleaning toilets was made more fun when accompanied by a toilet brush named Benny. Of course we were also not required to work all day and given generous breaks every two hours. The ritual of beginning, taking a tea break, and ending each session with an attunement gave a rhythm and sense of deliberateness to the work that is usually lacking in the hustle and bustle of our usual routines. With everyone in the community pitching in, the result was that everything got done with less effort and more pleasure than it would take for every family to do everything for themselves.

Cluny Garden

Cluny Garden

Findhorn’s ecological experiments would not be possible without its flourishing economic model. The main revenue generator is education, which attracts visitors from all over the world interested in recreational retreats, workshops on spirituality, ecological design or community living. Visitors taking part in Experience Week pay 300-700 pounds, depending on their level of income, which includes room and board. Those who stay long term can elect to become members of the community and work full time for the Foundation. They may lead workshops, do administrative work, work in the gardens, kitchens, or housekeeping, or become part of management. Members receive room and board, full participation in the community’s activities, and 200 pounds a month. The average length of stay in the community is six months.

In addition to education, the community supports a variety of entrepreneurial activities. The Park is home to a coffee shop, a general store, a gift shop, alternative medicine center, a graphic design and printing shop, a pottery studio, a weaving studio, and a private school for children 3-13. These businesses allow the community to keep money circulating in the local economy. Additional businesses serving the numerous guests who come to the community include Findhorn Bay Holiday Park, which caters to campers and caravans, Findhorn Press which publishes books about Findhorn and by Findhorn authors, and Findhorn Flower Essences, which produces herbal tinctures from Scottish wildflowers. Both Trees for Life and Living Technologies Ltd. (the company that produces Living Machines) are headquartered at Findhorn.

Findhorn caters to a relatively wealthy population in a somewhat nonessential capacity, and during a recession, demand for its workshops declined and income for the community dropped. In keeping with its goals of social justice and co-creating with nature, it strives to offer assistance to help low income individuals participate in its programs and subsidize the cost of transportation. Most people who come to Findhorn use their savings and many cannot afford to stay indefinitely. The high turnover rate is a problem for a community that depends on skilled labor and a sophisticated understanding of its mission. Findhorn’s geographic isolation also makes it difficult for it to participate in a global economy.

To improve the Foundation’s finances, Ana, the current Foundation focaliser, seeks to reach a larger audience while staying true to the Foundation’s mission. She explained practically: “The educational programs at the Foundation are strong but they are not enough to cover our overhead. We can no longer afford to target to the same New Age, middle-class market. We are looking for innovative ways of carrying out our mission, such as working with disadvantaged youth, helping governments with sustainable developing, and working with organizations on group dynamics and conflict resolution. We want to help people awaken to God, whatever that means to him or her.”

Findhorn is also a founding member of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN), which unites 15,000 of ecovillages throughout the world. GEN hosts conferences and workshops to exchange best practices on ecovillage building and links leaders from ecovillages in developed and developing countries. In 2004, leaders at GEN convened at Findhorn and created a standardized two-week ecovillage design curriculum which is taught at other ecovillages and environmental education centers. In addition to ecological renovations, Findhorn’s community process has also made them sought after organizational dynamic and conflict resolution experts to other ecovillages, corporations and government agencies.

The robustness of an economy depends not only on how much income is generated but also how many cycles it is used. When goods and services are continuous bought or sold within an economy, wealth is generated each time the money passes hands. Findhorn has adopted LETS, Local Exchange Trading System, or alternative currency system, to help money stay within the community. The Eko, the local currency of Findhorn, is valued on par with the pound and can be used at community businesses. The local credit union also accepts the Eko and uses it to provide low interest loans to the community. It is estimated that the first issue of 18,000 Ekos in 2002 made eight full spending cycles generating a turnover of 150,000 pounds.[xiii] The economic impact of the Findhorn Foundation in the local region is substantial. A study conducted in 2002 calculated that the community generates 400 jobs and over 5 million pounds of business annually in northern Scotland.[xiv]

hildegard in forestOn the last day of my stay at Findhorn, our group was treated to a visit to an old growth Caledonian forest protected and restored by Trees for Life, a conservation organization founded by one of Findhorn’s residents. The beautiful emerald hills that are emblematic of Scotland are the legacy of centuries of environmental degradation, a green desert compared to its former forest glory. Less than 2000 years ago, the highlands of Scotland were covered in a vast temperate rainforest spanning over 1.5 million acres. Literature bears witness to this primeval forest in the legends of the Celts and King Arthur. Ancient peoples cleared the forest for timber, fuel and agriculture. Large tracts were taken during the Industrial Revolution. The forest’s brown bear and the wild boar became extinct by the 10th and 17th centuries respectively, while the last wolf was shot in 1743. Grazing red deer prevented the forests from regenerating. Today only one percent of this forest remains in isolated fragments.[xv]

In the 1980s Findhorn gardener Alan Watson started regenerating native forest at the Foundation’s properties at the islands of Erraid and Iona. His efforts were so successful that he expanded his vision to regenerate the Caledonian forest across Scotland. “At first I had no idea how to proceed,” said Alan, “I had no experience of working with ecology or forests, no money and no access to land. But I had a passion and positive vision for the forest’s return.” Trees for Life began regenerating the forest around Glen Affric, the largest portion of the remaining Caledonian forest in northwestern Scotland. Workers and volunteers put deer fences around new saplings, planted thousands of trees all over Scotland and removed non-native trees. As of 2009, the organization has planted more than 800,000 trees and helped to restore 11,250 acres of land. The organization also runs educational programs for schools and government groups. With Trees for Life, Alan recognized that the ecological work of Findhorn cannot be limited to the ecovillage itself. “This forest is not to be used for sustainable timber production,” Alan says, “We want it to be a link between the human world and the nature world, a place where humans can experience the magic of nature.”[xvi]

In the shade of the old growth forest, a quiet presides like that inside of a large church. Roberto wraps his arms around a huge beech tree with a 12 foot diameter. A small river cut through the forest, forming pebbly beaches, stony islands, and rock grottos. The group dispersed as everyone wandered to find their own hangouts, some climbing into trees, some wading into the river, and others finding cliffs to overlook. I waded out to a large rock in the middle of the river to watch the water parting and rushing behind me like a swath of silk. The forest is probably where the force of nature is most palpable, an inexhaustible place of mystery and imagination, enchanted by day and menacing by night, a place embedded in our subconscious whether or not it has been a part of our experience.

As I sat there thinking about my experiences, looking up into a canopy of pine and ash trees, it occurred to me that Findhorn’s philosophy of co-creating with nature is the key to sustainability. We cannot live in the wilderness; our survival requires that we alter nature for our own benefit. But nature also benefits from our help, as in this forest which human endeavor restored to a primeval-like condition. The traditional environmental rhetoric of reducing our human impact on the environment implies that whatever we do is necessarily harmful to nature and nature would benefit the most from a world without humans. But that is not how nature operates. In nature, animals and plants all have a place and contribute to a balanced ecosystem. Could we, as intelligent beings, contribute to the thriving of the world? Could our activities not only be not harmful, but actually beneficial to the other species that share our planet? Just like growing a garden, human intervention doesn’t always have to be destructive; we could help create a more thriving world that would sustain us as well as everything else.

The feminine energy of Findhorn makes it a particularly healing place. The forces of creation, caring, and community are dominant here. As I got to know the individuals in my Experience Week group, I also got to know their stories and see the effect that Findhorn was having on them. There was Sofia from Denmark, who came to Findhorn after her divorce, and found solace in the wild landscape of Scotland and the supportive community. “I tell my children that I live in a castle overlooking the sea,” she says, “Living at Findhorn is a dream.” There was Sean, a young man who recently came out of a relationship and was learning how to feel love. As we talked and walked along the beach, it felt easy to trust and speak to one another. There was Roberto and Marina who were improving their marriage and struggling with the decision to have a child. There was also Stacey, a remarkable woman who healed herself after having suffered years of child abuse and who works at healing others. I came to Findhorn during a particularly dark time when I felt that I had lost everything I held dear. I only knew that I must do my work and finish school, and pretend to be fine when I felt anything but inside. But the endless northern summer sunshine, being a part of the community, meditation, and learning the story of Peter and Eileen Caddy who built a community from a cabbage patch all helped to dispel the darkness inside and fill me with a sense of renewal and well-being.

At Findhorn, the physical aspects of ecological design are secondary to its mission “to help people find God, whatever that means to them.” The community embraces the philosophy that nature is a sentient being from which humans have a lot to learn. It chooses to work primarily at the spiritual level because it believes that change must first come from within. As long time community member and past Foundation focaliser, Craig Gibsone, says, “We are not here just to reach higher levels of consciousness, but to solve practical and spiritual problems. My inner life gives me the responsibility to act. It sustains my motivation to do what I can, where I am, with the people I’m with.”

Findhorn is not a perfect place. Like any community, conflicts arise and people leave. The high cost of workshops and transportation means that its offerings are mostly taken advantage of by self-selected middle class individuals. The energy efficiency features of the ecovillage are not enough to offset the transportation emissions from the thousands of visitors who come here from all over the world. But people still speak of the magic of Findhorn. It started with the magic that enabled pumpkins to grow into pumpkin coaches. But the real magic that persists even after one has left is the knowledge that community can be found anywhere, and the healing power of nature is available in even the smallest garden.

Findhorn 044Click here to view more photos of the features mentioned in this article.

Works Cited

[i] Tinsey, Stephen. Ecological Footprint of the Findhorn Foundation and Community, 2006. <http://www.ecovillagefindhorn.com/docs/FF%20Footprint.pdf&gt;

[ii] “Findhorn Foundation and the UN – History.” https://www.findhorn.org/aboutus/ecovillage/united-nations/history/ Accessed July 28, 2014.

[iii] “Founding Principles” http://www.findhorn.org/aboutus/vision/founding-principles/#.U9e4j7EmRco

[iv] Caddy, Eileen. Flight into Freedom and Beyond. Scotland: Findhorn Press. 2002. Print.

[v] Caddy, Eileen. Flight into Freedom and Beyond. Scotland: Findhorn Press. 2002. Print.

[vi] Caddy, Eileen. Flight into Freedom and Beyond. Scotland: Findhorn Press. 2002. Print.

[vii] Walker, Alex. “The Influence of Mainstream Ecology ” The Kingdom Within Ed. Walker, Alex. Findhorn, Scotland Findhorn Press 1994. Print. p.118

[viii] “From Caravan Park to Ecovillage” < http://www.ecovillagefindhorn.com/findhornecovillage/jt.php> Accessed July 28, 2014.

[ix] “Renewable Energy Systems “. 2010. Findhorn Ecovillage. <http://www.ecovillagefindhorn.com/findhornecovillage/renewable.php&gt;. Accessed May 11 2010.

[x] “Ecological Waste Water Treatment “. 2010. Findhorn Ecovillage. <http://www.ecovillagefindhorn.com/findhornecovillage/biological.php&gt;. Accessed May 11 2010.

[xi] Walker, Alex. “The Influence of Mainstream Ecology ” The Kingdom Within Ed. Walker, Alex. Findhorn, Scotland: Findhorn Press 1994. Print. p.65

[xii] Riddell, Carol. The Findhorn Community: Creating a Human Identity for the 21st Century. Scotland: Findhorn Press, 1997. Print.

[xiii] Dawson, Jonathan. Ecovillages : New Frontiers for Sustainability. Schumacher Briefing No. 12. Totnes: Green Books, 2006. Print. p.49

[xiv] Dawson, Jonathan. Ecovillages : New Frontiers for Sustainability. Schumacher Briefing No. 12. Totnes: Green Books, 2006. Print. p.50

[xv] “Our Vision”. 2010. Trees for Life. <http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/tfl.visi.html&gt;. Accessed May 11, 2010.

[xvi] “Results of Our Work “(February 15, 2010): Trees for Life <http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/tfl.results.html&gt;. Accessed May 10, 2010.