Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Findhorn Taster Day 2: Communal Living at Findhorn

Tuning in…tuning out…focalising….attunement….the words swirl around me and I am slowly getting accustomed to relating to this place and the people around me.  I know from my exposure to travel that words are a unique component of culture.  So, why am I so surprised to find that the Findhorn Community is no different?   

It’s not just the words that define this community; it is also practices such as the observance of silence and the practice of meditation.   A moment of silence precedes the start of meetings or even day-to-day chores where everyone stands together in a circle holding hands while one person might help ‘ground’ the group to the activity that is about to commence.  It enables people like me, who would usually have a million things buzzing around our heads to let go of the chaos and become present.  I like the silence but I’m not so sure about holding hands.  Sometimes a piece of music will be played.  In the mood that is created we begin to feel our connections to each other, to think about our reason for being here and to feel grounded.

Many of the Findhorn communards will start their day at places like the nature sanctuary where they meditate before starting the day.  It is a practice used in decision-making as well as in resolving conflict.   In the silence that is created, people are more able to find common ground rather than disagreement.  I also like the practice of passing a talking stick in meetings.  The tradition of using a talking stick stems from indigenous culture and allows the person speaking to be heard without interruption.  It also ensures that people who are less assertive are given a chance to speak and to be heard. 

Findhorn is a smorgasbord of religious practices.  While the majority of people are in more ‘new age’ practices, the community may draw from and be inspired by Buddhist, Christian, Hindu teachings as well as various Indian Gurus.  Meditation and silence is a big part of their spiritual practice.  Meditation helps people to be connected to each other as well as within themselves.  It helps to diffuse conflict and assists with decision-making.

The Findhorn community also feel a special connection to the natural world.  Many of us in our group have also felt a connection to the natural world, so we can relate to this in our own way.  Many have often wondered about the habits of Prince Charles and his communication with plants.  Well, he went to school not far from Findhorn, which is probably where this connection stems from! 

Day Two starts with us attending their ‘morning worship’.  Taizé singing is an integral part of the worship of the majority of residents here.  This style of singing originated with a small monastery in a small village in Eastern France.  It is a meditative form of prayer, now practiced around the world, in which singing and silence play a major part to focus attention on the meditation and release the conflicts in your life.   

The singing is beautiful and I can understand why people feel drawn to start their day with such a practice.  After the communal singing, the community come together in dance.  Three dances from around the world are taught and danced with different partners, ensuring that you meet and greet the majority of people gathered here. 

On Day Two we also have a question and answer session where we get an insight into what it means to be part of the Findhorn Foundation as a staff worker.  Most workers don’t own their house but are provided with a place to stay, have access to meals at the community sessions for a Pound per meal and are paid a modest wage of 200 pounds per month.  They work about 35 hours a week and the attraction for most people who have given up their careers to be here is that there is no tension in constantly trying to find a balance between their work and life.  Work is considered to be love in action and people are here for personal and spiritual growth.

Decision-making is also an interesting process.  While they don’t practice consensus decision-making because that would give one person the power to derail a project, they will amend a project to try and accommodate those who might be opposed to it.  A negative outcome of this process appears to be endless meetings not unlike our mainstream work places. 

During the afternoon of Day Two, Ineke (one of our ‘focalisers’) shows us around the park and her home.  She lives in a mobile timber home, built according to sustainable principles and designed so two people can share it.  There is a bedroom with an en-suite at either end with a shared kitchen and living space in the centre.  As a staff member, she had to formally apply for housing.  If more than two people applied for the same house, then the community would decide who would live there.  As it turned out, other applicants pulled out of the process when they realised that the applicants were Ineke and her friend. 

She tells us it is a powerful thing to not have a sense of ownership over the place you live in but to be able to consider yourself as being the caretaker of the house and surrounding land.  While the people who live may not have access to loads of money they have made deep connections with the community that lives around them.  They have also found a way of life that is appealing and in sync with their values and beliefs.    There are other benefits.  A boutique allows residents to donate and exchange clothing.  There are many different type of houses from caravans to much bigger structures that are shared by single residents.  A café and shop also provide variety from the meals in the community centre.  There is a car pool service that serves a group of 35 people with a pool of 8 cars. 

This is just a glimpse into life here.  The park has evolved quite organically in the 50 years it has been in existence and while there were many detractors of the spiritual practices that were advocated here the community gained acceptance in the wider community when Eileen Caddy, one of the co-founders was awarded an MBE for her services to spiritual enquiry!

I have been welcomed into the Findhorn Community and been given a chance to experience communal during our stay here.   There are seven people in the house we are at.  I find it hard to relax completely when there are others living in the same house as me.  It was a good option during our stay here as we got to know some of the participants on a deeper level.  However, having to be quiet everyday as I make my breakfast so as not to wake anyone who might be asleep would be one of those factors that could be stressful over a longer period. 

While Steve and I wish to make changes in the way we live, I don’t think that communal living is the option that will work for us, at this stage of our lives.  We are 2 people who don’t feel particularly inspired by rituals and the repetition of spiritual practices.  I feel most connected to the Universe when I am alone in the bush, perhaps lying on a rock listening to the wind in the leaves of the gum trees above me.  

But this is just the start of our journey…there will be many more options to discover and experience and I am looking forward to what the future unravels…

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