In the far north of Scotland, next to the tiny fishing village of Findhorn, lies the Findhorn Foundation. A spiritual community, ecovilllage and center of holistic learning established over 50 years ago and known throughout the world simply as ‘Findhorn’.
Numerous books have been written about this pioneering community, including The Findhorn Garden and The Magic of Findhorn, along with the autobiographies of the three founders; Flight into Freedom and Beyond, In Perfect Timing and Memoirs of an Ordinary Mystic.
Co-workers in the Findhorn Foundation speak of ‘the transformational field’ and I wonder what this means to the lay person?
Having lived and worked there for over six years, deeply immersed in the culture and actively engaged in the organisation, I understand it to be a place where we go through our own journey of personal and spiritual growth, supported by the community around us, all dedicated in various ways to a more conscious and sustainable way of living in the world.
Together as rough stones, we tumble along in the often messy nature of day to day life, rubbing up against each other sometimes in conflict or dialogue, service or play, movement or meditation, slowly polishing each other into rough diamonds somehow a little brighter than before.
It’s not always fun and games. It’s not always light and easy. The light illuminates the darkness and the shadows we might be reluctant to face, the ways of relating we’ve developed over the journey of a lifetime that could just be getting in the way of our own conscious evolution.
The choice we all face is to dare to go there. The places within us; patterns of behaviour, still painful wounds and limiting beliefs. The many gifts we struggle to claim and celebrate that make us uniquely who we are. To place our faith in the greater vision. This isn’t just about us as individuals or as a community, it’s about our contribution to the world as a transformational learning center (TLC).
Within the culture of the Foundation, especially within the flagship program known as Experience Week, the ideal introduction for first time visitors to the rhythms and principles of community life, we talk about personal and planetary transformation. The humble Indian sage, Mahatma Gandhi, shared the spiritual truth, ‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change.’
A transformational learning center invites us to do just that and open to the possibilities. It might feel scary, exciting, challenging or intense to step into the transformational field of a TLC, yet these are places that have mostly grown up out of a deep commitment and dedication to personal growth.
Creating an atmosphere of safety is one of the basic building blocks. We need to feel safe in our vulnerability to let go of our defences that create a wall to closer connection. Connection with ourselves, each other and the world around us, to spirit and nature, within and without. Each TLC is values driven and this is of primary importance. Honesty and integrity, passion and purpose are inherent in the most inspiring people, the most empowered leaders. Those who recognise that life is an ongoing journey of transformational learning.
Each TLC is built on a myriad of tools, skills and practices and offers a range of programs, workshops, retreats, conferences and events all designed to facilitate the transformational journey. Meditation, yoga, compassionate communication, the Game of Transformation, attunement, appreciative enquiry, sociocracy, process orientated psychology, ZEGG forum, World Cafe, are just a few of the many tools and practices embraced.
Within the highest expression of a TLC all staff and volunteers, throughout all realms of the organisation regardless of role, as well as participants and guests, actively engage in the transformational field, often in mysterious ways. We don’t always know which workshop we’ve signed up to join. If we can be open to our souls journey, inner wisdom often guides the way.
Of course I might book in for a program clearly called Conscious Communication and immerse myself in seven days of learning with friends and peers. Or I might become enchanted by a phrase I come across, such as Principles over Personality, and life presents itself with an opportunity to unexpectedly explore this very theme. I was recently involved in a long distance professional relationship that was becoming increasingly challenging, we just couldn’t seem to find the meeting place of shared understanding. Have you ever been involved in a similar struggle?
I called upon the support of a dear friend and mentor to become an additional presence in a conversation to explore the concerns. Between myself and the other party it quickly became heated and passionate at times, before settling into a calmer and more centered place for constructive dialogue. In feedback afterwards my friend and mentor shared, “I’ve learnt something about you. You’re not afraid to speak your truth.”
Although the conversation wasn’t my finest example of conscious communication, I valued the feedback. Much of my Findhorn journey has been about finding my voice, being in touch with the wisdom of my body and the message of physical sensations, learning that a range of emotions have a valid place in my life and that I have valuable thoughts and opinions, as well as spiritual wisdom in the form of inner stillness or intuition.
Feeling the call to Findhorn, my TLC, which I often describe as my University of the Soul, I’m endlessly grateful for the ongoing gifts as I become more self aware and discover greater depths to my being. It’s not always comfortable and I’ve learnt to be comfortable with the discomfort, to sit in the unknown and become more present moment by moment. My all time favourite practice, inspired by my favourite book, the 90s classic The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, supports me in mindfulness as a way of life.
Is Findhorn unique as a TLC? Yes and no. The founding principles; Inner Listening, Love in Action and Co-creation with nature are uniquely Findhorn and our focus is spiritual rather than psychological, although both elements are present. Yet there is a Network of TLCs around the world.
Omega Institute in upstate New York speaks of ‘Awakening the best in the human spirit’. The New York Open Center in the gritty heart of the city, is perhaps the worlds largest urban center of holistic learning – mind, body, spirit – dedicated to Explore. Fulfil. Transform. Mind. Transform. Africa based in Kenya describe themselves in their very name. The Haven on Gabriela Island, BC, Canada describe themselves as a Center for Transformative Learning. Hollyhock on nearby Cortes Island, BC, as a Lifelong Learning Center. The Findhorn Foundation is dedicated to ‘Transforming Consciousness in Everyday Life’. This is to name just a few and we know far more exist than we’re aware of, all making a transformational difference in the world, contributing to the culture of connection, self awareness, positive activism and social engagement the world needs today.
What are some of the qualities demonstrated by a TLC community?
- Willingness to dialogue and stay in connection in times of conflict, deepening into understanding of self and other, with the patience it needs to go to those edgy places
- Ability to self reflect and recognise patterns of behaviour that might not be serving a situation
- Grounded and practical learning opportunities in experiential and educational format
- Practice in giving and receiving feedback, recognising that any feedback given quite possibly contains at least one tiny grain of truth and there are ways it can be shared gracefully
- A loving culture, experienced in knowing when to support and when to challenge, that values honest, heartfelt, open communication
- Listening with open hearts and open minds, simply listening, without judgement, criticism, question or interruption
- Understanding that relationship is as important as business, that time is needed for both and warm hugs are welcome
- A sense of humour and ability not to take ourselves too seriously, remembering that lightness and presence can diffuse many a situation
- Embracing the essence of the Serenity Prayer – the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference
These are just a few of my musings and I invite you to share your own.