The Findhorn Foundation describes itself as, “a spiritual community, ecovillage and international center for holistic education,” Their mission is to “help unfold a new human consciousness and create a positive and sustainable future.”
Elly, who led our opening ceremony, took us on our tour of Findhorn last night. It was a pleasant evening with a smattering of rain. We were all in good spirits after a morning of writing and an open afternoon full of naps, individual and group adventures. Several of our company ended up being brought home—smiling and happy—by a policeman, but that is their story to tell.
Elly led us through an amazing conglomeration of gardens, communal buildings, co-housing units, and ecologically-sound houses. We stopped often, taking pictures and jotting down observations in our notebooks. Findhorn was a quirky, unusual place. Who, for instance, could resist a sign like this?
As we meandered through a fascinating array of buildings and gardens, Elly related the unusual, new age beginnings of this now world-famous community.
All that the Foundation is today manifested initially from the “spiritual guidance” one woman—Eileen Caddy—began receiving in meditation in the late 1950’s. According to the official Findhorn website:
“The Findhorn Community was begun in 1962 by Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean. All three had followed disciplined spiritual paths for many years. They first came to northeast Scotland in 1957 to manage the Cluny Hill Hotel in the town of Forres, which they did remarkably successfully. Eileen received guidance in her meditations from an inner divine source she called ‘the still small voice within’ and Peter ran the hotel according to this guidance and his own intuition. In this unorthodox way – and with many delightful and unlikely incidents – Cluny Hill swiftly became a thriving and successful four-star hotel. After several years however, Peter and Eileen’s employment was terminated, and with nowhere to go and little money, they moved with their three young sons and Dorothy to a caravan (trailer park) in the nearby seaside village of Findhorn.
Feeding six people on unemployment benefit was difficult, so Peter decided to start growing vegetables. The land in the caravan park was sandy and dry but he persevered. Dorothy discovered she was able to intuitively contact the overlighting spirits of plants – which she called angels, and then devas – who gave her instructions on how to make the most of their fledgling garden. She and Peter translated this guidance into action, and with amazing results. From the barren sandy soil of the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park grew huge plants, herbs and flowers of dozens of kinds, most famously the now-legendary 40-pound cabbages. Word spread, horticultural experts came and were stunned, and the garden at Findhorn became famous.”
People from all over the world began flocking to Findhorn, including many young Americans and Canadians, inspired to look for new ways to live during the sixties. Findhorn was at the heart of the fledgling environmental movement. An eclectic range of new-age ideas were born and fostered here.
Findhorn grew slowly and organically—inspiration always waiting for serendipity and money to appear. And yet the community did steadily greow, and it continues to evolve.
Findhorn has just celebrated its 50th birthday. Today 150 people live in residence. Another four hundred live in the extended community surrounding Findhorn. Dozens of non-profit organizations, all committed to the betterment of the earth, make their home on these grounds. What all the members of Findhorn have in common is being on a conscious spiritual path and the desire to live in community.
Top visionaries and thinkers from all over the world come here to lead workshops in process psychology, non-violent communication, and sustainable development, to name just a few. Thousands of people from all over the world have attended these programs and then taken the teachings back into their home communities.
In 1998, the Findhorn Foundation became an NGO-affiliated with the United Nations, promoting sustainable development efforts around the world.
And Findhorn practices what it preaches. It’s the largest community with the lowest carbon footprint in all of Europe.
As the community continues to expand, transform and grow, the core ethos remains: “Work is love in action.”
You can see it everywhere. The main thing I was visually struck by as I walked through the grounds was the obvious commitment to beauty.
I loved these garden gates:
And these stairs:
This is a building under construction now—dedicated entirely to singing. The acoustics inside create a lovely resonance. We know—we tested it out ourselves. Our singing sounded lovely. Even just a speaking voice sounded beautiful inside.
What I found the most interesting on the tour was Findhorn EcoVillage. There, “sustainable values are expressed in the built environment through ecological houses, innovative use of building materials, and applied technology in the Living Machine sewage treatment facility and electricity-generating wind turbines. Sustainable values are also expressed in the community’s social, economic and educational initiatives.”
The Findorn website says the EcoVillage, started in 1985, is the largest single intentional community in the UK. It represents a “synthesis of the very best of current thinking on human habitats.”
The EcoVillage includes 55 “ecologically-benign” buildings, a biomass boiler that has reduced carbon emissions by 80 tons a year, numerous solar water heating systems, and it utilizes four wind turbines for power—creating more power than is needed by the community.
What I loved most were the homes themselves. Some are made with recycled tires filled with sand. Others with straw bales covered up with plaster. This building had a hole in the side just so you could reach in and feel the hay:
There was the Whisky Barrel Cluster, a group of homes made from recycled Douglas fir vats, initially built by a cooperage in Craigellachie to age whisky. Now these barrels have a new life, housing an entirely different kind of spirits—those committed to new age philosophy, spirituality and sustainable values. Elly assured us that there was a way to remove the inside layer of the wood so the homes no longer smell like a distillery:
This building was my favorite. It’s called the Nature Sanctuary and its roof was covered with sod and turf:
Inside, there was magical round enclosure, seats covered with colored cushions and a design on the floor that tracks the path of the moon over the course of a year.
On our way out of Findhorn, we passed the beautiful Moray Arts Center with this stunning sculpture in front:
The last thing we saw as we left the grounds, for the more earthy environment of the Kimberly Pub down the road, was this reminder:
Those in our group less inclined toward angels and more toward whisky were eager for the second part of our evening to begin. It was an exceptionally warm summer night by Scottish standards. I’d warned everyone to bring jackets and gloves and hats—we’d needed them when we scouted out the pub last week—but all of those extra layers weren’t needed last night. They remained stuffed in backpacks or tied around our waists.
I’d dreamed of a pub night for our group, but this was one was far more magical than I could have imagined. The twenty-minute walk from Findhorn to the pub stretched along a stunning strip of coastline. The sun was setting as we walking along the roadway and the sky was an ever-shifting panorama none of us will never forget:
We gathered at outdoor tables in front of the pub, watching a triangular moon rise slowly in the sky. Writers drank pints of Guiness stout, beers or soft drinks, depending on their fancy, talking among themselves and to locals sitting at nearby tables. As I looked around, I could see people scribbling things in the little notebooks I’d given them, and of course, that made the teacher in me very happy.
The best part of the evening came when a group of traveling singers, drummers and dancers from the Ga tribe of Southern Ghana began an impromptu set of traditional call and response songs at a nearby table. The rhythms and harmonies of Kakatsitsi were flawless and joyful. Their voices were the perfect musical accompaniment to the evening.
When we told them that one member of our group was celebrating her birthday, they came over and serenaded her with “Happy Birthday” another jubilant melody from their country.
I couldn’t have possibly ordered up a more perfect night.