Find yourself at Findhorn
So you’re a little bit sceptical of all this new-age mumbo jumbo? Well, so was Andrea Krudde – and yet she was utterly taken in by the philosophies of Findhorn
It’s the morning of my first day at the Findhorn Foundation and Community and I’m having a chat with Gretal, the owner of the bed and breakfast I’m staying in (one of the many houses that make up part of the Eco-village of Findhorn). ‘When we first came here, I went for a coffee on my own and I was staring out of the window and almost everyone that walked by was wearing a silly hat; I thought “what am I doing here?”’ Gretal soon learnt that Findhorn was a place where you should suspend your judgements; ‘later that evening we went to a concert at the Universal Hall and the owner of possibly the silliest hat I had seen earlier sat down and played the most amazing jazz piano set’. That was in 1983 and Gretal and her partner David have lived in the Findhorn community ever since.
Findhorn is one of the best known communities in the world and is a centre for adult education and personal transformation. It’s based around simple principles of group decision making, sustainable living and meditiation. It began in 1962, when Peter and Eileen Caddy, and their friend Dorothy Maclean, came to live in the Findhorn Bay Caravan Park. They never intended to start a community, but the trio were gifted when it came to horticulture and planted a vegetable patch in the dunes that resulted in the most amazing of gardens.
Dorothy had discovered that she was able to intuitively contact the intelligence of plants and receive instructions on how to make the garden grow. At the same time the group made important decisions based on guidance Eileen received from a meditative source she called ‘the still small voice within’.
Over time word of the gardens spread and like-minded people came to join them and in 1970 a young American named David Spangler joined the group. Seeing that an ‘education of consciousness’ was taking place, David helped to establish a unique curriculum. Pretty soon the community grew from 20 to roughly 150 members and the Findhorn Foundation was formed as an educational and environmental charitable trust. In the 1980s the Eco-village was built and Findhorn became a hugely respected example of an experimental community, with roughly 600 members exploring new ways of non-denominational spirituality and sustainable living.
Now, I’m not a follower of any particular religion and I like to keep an inclusive, open mind when it comes to the beliefs of other people. But talking to plants? Inner guidance? One friend was convinced I was going to come back ‘brainwashed’, jabbering away to a spider plant. Others thought I’d never come back. I, on the other hand, was quite curious.
My guide for the day is a lively man named Michael Mitton, a ‘child of Findhorn’ (i.e. he grew up here, left then came back again when he was a bit older). He bounces about like Tigger, waving his arms and tackling my questions about tree hugging hippies with humour and aplomb. Findhorn has moved on quite a bit since the 1970s and the rest of us are finally in a position to jog alongside them: ‘I guess we were a little ahead of our time, I mean you can get yoga tips from Cosmopolitan magazine these days, the world is coming around’.
He tells me that Findhorn is situated slap bang next to an MOD airbase, who are rumoured to hold a file on Findhorn. Michael tells me they’ve been categorised as ‘harmless eccentrics’ and though this might be true to some extent, you can tell that Findhorn is very keen to be seen as much more than that. Indeed, the enormously valuable and cutting edge research being carried out here, exploring possibilities of sustainable living, is laudable.
As I am here to experience a wee snippet of Findhorn life as a short term guest, I spend the rest of my afternoon at Cluny, an old refurbished hotel owned by the Foundation. I’m here to help prepare a massive meal for over 100 guests, staff and community members and am put to work chopping up organic turnip. If you’re tired, in a bad mood or your arm hurts, you’re encouraged to rest for a while. ‘Work is love in action’ is the philosophy here at Findhorn; which basically means that if I’m not putting love into preparing the food, I need to step back from it and focus on what I’m doing. I have to admit, Findhorn is really growing on me.
Everyone here is different, but united by a love for existence - working with the simple principle of not taking more from the earth than you give back. It’s praiseworthy really and you soon realise you’re only laughing because it makes you feel uncomfortable about some of the dishonesties in your own life. Is it religion? A wee bit, but it’s not as narrow as a ‘faith’. Simply put, it is a ‘community’ - something many of us city folk have forgotten the ins and outs of.
I leave feeling delightfully brainwashed; literally like my brain has been cleared out and re-organised. At the top of my list is my family, friends and boyfriend. And right at the bottom are bills, bum size, re-decorating the toilet and buying a new car.
Findhorn offers a range of workshops and events. You can visit for an afternoon (guided tours available Apr-Nov) or take part in an ‘Experience Week’. Short-term visits are available, priced at £14 per day (accommodation not included). The Findhorn Bay Holiday Park provides camping from £10 per night. Eco-chalets and caravans can also be hired. For more information phone 01309 690 311 or visit www.findhorn.org Andrea stayed at a Bed and Breakfast, 406 The Field of Dreams, from £30 per night. For more information phone 01309 690 570 or visit www.findhornbandb.co.uk