Feb 202015

Findhorn photoBy Tina Boehm

I recently had the good fortune to attend Experience Week at the Findhorn Foundation Community in Scotland and want to share a little of my experience. My hope is that it may encourage others to venture overseas and have their own experience of a truly magical and unique spiritual ecovillage and learning centre in the secluded harbour of the Moray Firth in Northern Scotland. Findhorn is an ecovillage, spiritual community and learning centre and has been successfully running and growing for over 50 years.

I registered for and was accepted into the Experience Week in December 2014. This is a foundational program and a pre-requisite for longer Findhorn Community programs. Our group consisted of 11 participants and 2 “Focalisers” who facilitated and led the group – Between the 13 group members we represented 9 different countries – from Japan, Columbia, Africa and Turkey to name a few. The youngest was 27, the oldest (me) just turned 60.

It soon became clear that regardless of ethnicity, age, gender and educational background our shared humanity does not recognize these differences. It seems we all desire to love and be loved, to be known and accepted for who we are and what we bring to the world. We all shared the deep wish for a better world with more tolerance for diversity, and respect for the natural environment. It was our shared curiosity, openness and courage that created an amazing group dynamic and transformed each one of us in a profound and deep way during the course of the week. I believe we are all braver and stronger for our week together. I am sure we will each take this wonderful experience back to our own communities and on some level influence the world because of it. From this experience I believe we are making sense and contributing to a world that often appears to make no sense, given our current global financial, ecological and political challenges.

Findhorn Foundation has two main sites, Cluny Hill is an old Victorian Spa Hotel in Forres and The Park about 5 miles away was originally a Caravan site in Findhorn, and where Peter and Eileen Caddy and Dorothy Maclean originally settled in their old caravan, after serving as the Managers at Cluny Hotel until they bought it from the original owners. There is a free bus service which runs throughout the day between the two sites. I was based at Cluny Hill for the duration of my stay.

There were many highlights, but one thing I really loved about my week at Findhorn was the gentle and regular focus on co-creation and respect for “the intelligence” of the Nature and Spirit realms which was emphasized in the outdoor activities and regular ritual of “Attunement” with everything we participated in. During the week together we experienced and attuned to many aspects of community life at Findhorn from food preparation, home care, garden maintenance, meditation, personal and community sharing, Sacred dance and Taize singing, to name a few. This Attunement is rooted in an abiding respect for and awareness of self, others and nature, and I believe offers a gentler and kinder way of “being” over “doing” in the world. It fosters a deep peace in knowing that we are supported by seen and unseen intelligent forces and in alignment with the natural flow, and joy of each life which is the embodiment of Spirit. Rather than moving noisily, separately, and egotistically to dominate and exert control, we moved more slowly and deliberately and shared in the projects with mindfulness and gratitude for the gifts of life with purpose and in resonance with all beings, seen and unseen. It left me feeling a deep calm and ease of being with myself and others.

During our week together we had many opportunities to share our feelings and thoughts about our experience, with no expectation of feedback or need of response, or participation from those who, for their own reasons, chose not to share. We had visits and heard stories from Community members who voluntarily shared their own experience of living at Findhorn. We met Auriol, a wise and graceful elder who had been part of the community since it started over 50 years ago. She had been a teacher at the local Rudolph Steiner school in Forres. She was a wonderful storyteller, and had such great presence and ‘spriteliness’ about her which belied her 80+ years. We heard first hand stories from a variety of lovely souls about their lives lived in, and out of, the community. Without exception, everyone was fascinating and generous in their openness and willingness to share themselves in this way.

We also got to choose our Love In Action service through a process of Attunement. As a working community, serving others is considered as important, or more important than serving ourselves. It is a big part of how and why Findhorn has managed to remain successful and viable for so long. I “attuned” to serving in the Community kitchen at The Park, which provided another wonderful way to be with interesting and caring people preparing and serving food for up to 80 people from the Findhorn and wider community. Every lunchtime and dinner time. the Findhorn Community opens its doors to its neighbours and visitors, in exchange for voplunteering, or other contribution, recognizing the importance and value of being accepted and supported by the community at large. As this world-renowned Spiritual community continues to grow, it is essential to be mindful and inclusive of its neighbours. This has not always been an easy relationship to foster and develop.

The week ended with an offering of Biodanza, a community dance, without words in which participants invite and allow playful and joyful dance, connection and contact with others. All of them seemed open, caring and extraordinary. I loved the permission and encouragement to dance and move to music and explore being with others in a safe and con-sensual sacred space.

Findhorn has been going through a profound Change process in recent times. They call it Living The New Story. It is described this way in their catalogue:

“Goes beyond recognizing what no longer serves and releasing anything that holds us back. Living the New Story is to allow our story to change and be changed in response to what is being asked of us in each moment. It is to open ourselves to bringing into being that which we perhaps cannot even imagine yet. It is the freedom to fulfill our highest potential…”

I am going through my own Change process as I moved into my 60th year. I still feel profoundly optimistic and privileged to be alive at such a time of great change and opportunity. I am inspired by the courage and openness of the Findhorn Community and know that they continue to be a force for good in the World.

Many of the participants I was with during our Experience week decided to stay for a few extra days after the program ended. I was sad to leave them all, and I wished I had allowed for the opportunity to stay longer and explore more of what Findhorn and the community has to offer. All in all it was a wonderful week. I met many amazing people and have made life long friends with some of them. My hope is to return some day for a longer stay, to re-connect with the people I met, and share more of myself in playful sensual delight. I am so grateful I had this chance, and invite anyone who is interested to explore more of what Findhorn has to offer. It is a unique and ever evolving community, not without its challenges, but one which I hope will continue to flourish and grow and become even more relevant as a sane and viable model for sustainable, meaningful community. In a world so hungry for a New Story and new ideas about how to live fully, lovingly and inclusively together Findhorn provides a model for how this might look. I encourage anyone who is interested to check it out www.findhorn.org.

My sincere thanks to Rachel Davey and Christine Lines of the Findhorn Foundation for providing the Exchange Agreement and opportunity for me to visit this remarkable place.

 Posted by at 1:28 pm
Feb 202015

onlineslide-words-jumpingBy Susan Clarke. This article originally appeared on Susan’s blog susanbclarke.com

A while back I wrote a blog requesting others to share their Ultimate Result from taking a Living Alive Phase I program at The Haven.

I loved hearing from so many people, and decided I wanted to share some of the responses (without revealing anyone)!

Here’s is what people got out of the Living Alive Phase I program:

  • Faith in myself and my ability to connect.
  • Energy and purpose that I thought was lost.
  • The courage to identify when I am sticking myself, and to make a shift, while being gentle and compassionate with myself and others in my life.
  • Overcoming my desire to run because I don’t have the level of control I want. Also, being able to hang in and not have to get control.
  • A path for communicating and appreciating people who think, feel, and want something different than me.
  • Discovering the value in someone giving me honest straight feedback, and discovering the impact I am having on others – not collapsing but appreciating the realness!!
  • Getting to see my patterns, work on them, and not change, but become compassionate and faster at self-correcting and moving forward.
  • A new love of life that isn’t dependent on someone else being different!!
  • Discovering my own voice and the value of speaking up and sharing my experience.
  • These are just a few of the wonderful nuggets I got back.

    Many of these responses came from people who had taken the program two or more years ago and wanted to let me know the results were sticking!!

    I believe in this program and I am thrilled it is going to be offered in a new format. I think the Integrative Living Alive Phase I will be different because it has a built-in method for integrating the learning as you go.

    So often people at The Haven will say: “but this isn’t the real world.” Now, frankly, I don’t buy that line, but I do get it is a special place where most everyone is coming with a mutual purpose to learn and play in self-discovering. I also appreciate that taking that back into day-to-day life with folks who may not have that same shared experience or commitment can be hard.

    That’s why the new format offers a different possibility.

    Learn and Integrate Over 8 Months!

    In the new format, for eight months, we will be together. Sometimes at The Haven, working deeply, and other times back at home. Plus, there’s an online community and virtual programming piece.

    The ‘real’ world meets the learning lab! Learn and test at the Haven lab, then go home and try things. Use the online community to share and get feedback as you go. Wow!!

    There are folks who doubt that the same depth of connection can happen online. Let’s face it, one of the best parts of The Haven is the simplicity of sitting in a circle and the amazing connections that happen through the resonance of a group process. However, our world is no longer just happening face-to-face. Most of us spend a lot of time online. Sure, it’s easy to say that online is impersonal, but is that really a story worth holding on to anymore?

    Follow this link to read an article by Rachel Davey, Executive Director at The Haven, printed in the Times Colonist talking about the importance of becoming more comfortable online and how Haven is ready to go there. Yes, we still love the simplicity and potential of a group process, but also do not want to stay limited there.

    Haven wants to expand and include! I am looking forward to the new adventure!

    If the any of those ultimate results above sound appealing to you and you are ready to step in, I’d love to hear from you. Join Toby Macklin and I, in September 2015 to launch the new Integrative Living Alive Phase!!

    Click here to find out more and fill out an application. If you are a fit, we will look forward to spending eight months with you, supporting you creating your ultimate results. That’s what’s in it for you!

     Posted by at 1:19 pm
    Feb 202015

    onlineslide-words-jumpingBy Rachel Davey. This article originally appeared in the Times Colonist Learning for Life February 3 2015.

    “Every minute spent online is a minute of face-to-face time lost.” Daniel H Wilson

    If New York Times bestselling author Daniel H Wilson is right, we are losing increasing amounts of face-to-face time. A study done in 2011 by the Internet marketing research company comScore found that Canadians are spending more time online than users in other countries. Canadians spent an average of 45.3 hours on the Internet in the fourth quarter of 2011, much of it spent on social media sites.

    At The Haven we don’t think that being personal and being online is an either/or, and our newest program, Living Alive Phase I Integrative offers the opportunity to blend both the virtual and face-to-face experience. This may come as a surprise, given that since 1983 The Haven on Gabriola Island has specialized in bringing people together, in person, in groups to experience programs in the art and science of living well, together. Our world is changing, however, and we believe it is vital to offer opportunities to live while you’re online.

    Living Alive Phase I has been offered at The Haven for the past 30+ years in an intensive, 26-day program format. Over the years, program participants have developed insights and skills to transform patterns of behavior and thought, discover their own personal resources and improve their communication skills. For this reason, we want as many people as possible to have the opportunity to take the program. It is not always easy to take 26 days away from home and work, so for the first time in 2015 we are offering the program in both as a 26-day Intensive and in the Integrative format, at The Haven and at home, onsite and online over 8 months.
    Living Alive Phase I Integrative is designed to maintain a high level of integrity to the core components of the Living Alive Phase I program while bringing in new ways of delivering the experience through virtual learning and community. It provides a unique opportunity to practice being personal in the virtual world as well as face-to-face. It also enables participants to apply, challenge and integrate the program content, allowing for a sustained learning period while minimizing the time away from home.

    To find out more about Living Alive Phase I Integrative and other Haven programs, go to the Haven web site or call The Haven registrars at 1 800 222 9211 x 1.

     Posted by at 1:06 pm
    Jan 262015

    pic-big-ellery_littletonBy Ellery Littleton. Ellery has been a Haven faculty member for 25 years. His next writing program at The Haven will be The Spirit Journal Intensive – May 14–18, 2015. A full description of the program is on our website.

    I first started keeping a journal regularly, seriously, about 35 years ago. I now allow myself to write about anything I want, without imposing any particular goals or restrictions. If the kitchen sink wants to be in there, I will put it in. I try to write honestly and with feeling, and allow myself to wander and speculate about … anything.

    Following are a few selections from some journal entries I made through December and January.

    Sunday December 21
    Mary Helen has been deep into her annual pre-Christmas flurry of gift-wrapping and organizing, with bags and boxes of gifts piled strategically around the house. She is a wonderful wrapper, and her gifts are always elegant and beautiful, sort of like large origami pieces of art. She has her own method of remembering what has been stashed where in the house, and I sometimes attempt to simplify the process, to no avail. Eg. “Why don’t you put all the gifts in the same area – in the living room, near the tree, for instance, instead of in various rooms around the house?” Answer: “Because if I do it this way, I remember where everything is.” Can’t argue with that.

    I told Mary Helen this morning that there was no point in my making suggestions to her about changing some of her plans and established routines around these kinds of things, half jesting, and she took it lightly, hoping, she said, that I didn’t mind if she was so stubborn. And I don’t mind, actually. It’s part of her strength and toughness, which she usually keeps diplomatically on the back burner of her personality. Nice easy-going Mary Helen, if genuinely provoked – particularly by churlish or inconsiderate behavior – will occasionally pull the velvet glove off the wooden fist and give you quite a knock on the ego. To mix metaphors. I know; I‘ve got a few lumps to prove it.

    The Christmas tree does look beautiful, and I do stop and gaze at it for minutes at a time, after turning the star and the lights on in the early evening. There’s something eternally touching about the tree and the process of decorating it; something truly pagan, in the best sense, with a frisson of northern European Christianity. Powerful old archetypal images and cultural/racial memories are stirred up and there is a sound of cathedral bells somewhere in the distance. There is much that is beautiful about the whole Christmas season, a purity that is often obscured in this era of anxious materialistic yearning.

    Tuesday January 6
    I wrote an email to a friend this morning, which presents a pretty good summary of my thoughts and feelings at this time. In it, I said “I have been preoccupied with issues around aging; fears of aches, pains, illness, the loss of my precious store of marbles, death. I have been exploring the questions, “What am I afraid of? Why am I afraid? What can I do about it?” What I mostly do is write about it, as deeply and honestly as I can, and let my feelings and thoughts carry me forward.

    “My list of important things for me to do these days is pretty short and succinct: yoga, exercise, diet, writing. And creativity in general, including photography and offering writing programs. And, of course, paying close and careful attention to a few key relationships.

    “I continue to write at length several times a week, and have recently been spending a lot of time exploring the past, conjuring up the presence of certain ancestors in particular. These were my people, and I have been revisiting my emotional/spiritual homeland, which we all shared once upon a time. I know that, for people with a genuine interest in the inner life, it becomes more and more important to explore the past as we grow older. It just seems profoundly necessary as we evolve toward self-understanding. I have known this for a long time, but these days, I am living it large.”

    Monday January 12
    A January poem:

    an ever-so light
    dusting of snow
    fell before dawn
    in the last few minutes
    of dream time…
    and like my dream
    it was gone before noon

    Tuesday January 13
    Once again, I realize that no one is going to fix me; only I can do that. It is good to get help and intelligent guidance – and once in a while some intervention that really does alleviate pain and distress – but in the final analysis, it’s up to me to work to repair my own self-inflicted damage, and to come to terms with the vulnerabilities I have inherited right in the genes from my ancestors … More and more I appreciate that old Irish saying: “May you have a long life, good health and a sudden death.” I don’t want to linger on past a certain point if life isn’t fun and interesting any more.

    My spirits felt lighter yesterday and today as the physical load lightened up somewhat. I realize that when I am feeling anxious and depressed about my aches and pains, and health in general, it acts as a kind of lead weight attached to my emotions, pulling them down and holding them in a dark fog of despair from which it is hard to detach myself. I have been exercising some active imagination, as Jung called it, or guided meditations within myself, imagining that the heavy load, pulling me down, can be released and its impact reduced, by giving myself permission to rise above it, becoming more buoyant, floating up into a light space, taking away some of the power I give it by worrying about it. Does that make sense? I don’t know. Maybe; maybe not. It seems to help, however.

    Thursday January 22
    “That’s the way writing often starts, a disaster or a catastrophe or some sort, as happened to me … And I think that’s the basis for my continued interest in writing, because by writing I rescue myself under all sorts of conditions, whatever it may be that has upset me; then I can write and it relieves the feeling of distress.” – William Carlos Williams

    As soon as I read this quote, I knew it was really quite a perfect concise comment identifying one of the reasons I need to keep writing: rescuing myself. There is something energizing and calming for me about writing; I enjoy the process and I feel better afterwards. It’s important to me to record what I think and feel and see; doing this helps me understand what’s going on within me, and how it affects my behavior. Writing is a form of meditation that brings me back to myself.

    If I don’t write, in a self-observational, analytical way, for more than a few weeks – or for more than a few days, these days – I begin to feel thick-headed, out of touch with myself, depressed. It’s a very subtle thing; most people, not even Mary Helen, really notice the difference, except to say periodically, “are you doing alright?”

    When I get asked this question, I know that it’s time to get back to the keyboard and open a channel for this mysterious inner self, this writing personality, this home-grown healer, this contemplative and perceptive “person within the person,” as Progoff put it. Once I have written “it” down, I can usually leave “it” alone for a while, or at least take some of the sting out of it.

    It doesn’t have to be a sting, always, that drives me to writing; it is more often, a pleasure and a gift bestowed upon myself. A deep sense of satisfaction comes from writing honestly and feelingly, about something or someone I love. I feel driven, also, to write about these kinds of things, not just the calamities; it is equal to the self-rescue impulse. The process helps me to bring a sense of renewal and refreshment to the sacred aspects of my life; to those things that bring the deepest sense of meaning and connection. The most beautiful part of the garden needs frequent watering; if it doesn’t get it, it tends to fade away.

    Another impulse to write comes from a need to record my experiences, to share them, to give them value, at least to myself. I write so I don’t forget, and to help my descendants – most obviously my children and grandchildren – remember as well.

     Posted by at 10:50 am
    Integrating: The Haven's word for 2015

    Integrating: The Haven’s word for 2015

    By Rachel Davey Integrating is a very fitting word for The Haven in 2015, a year in which: We will launch our first ever blended onsite/online Living Alive Phase I Integrative. We undertake some of the ‘front door’ projects of the Facilities Masterplan, integrating the new with the old on the property. Our programs and […]

    A new septic treatment plant for The Haven

    A new septic treatment plant for The Haven

    By Rachel Davey On your next visit to The Haven, you will see a new septic treatment plant on the edge of the forest opposite the Raven building. The need for this major new piece of infrastructure came from the discovery phase of the Facilities Masterplan. In the process of finding out everything we needed […]

    Thank you: from a Financial Aid recipient

    Thank you: from a Financial Aid recipient

    During the month of December, every donation to Financial Aid will be matched. Contact Louise Amuir (louise@haven.ca 1 800 222 9211 ext 222) or donate online via the Haven web site.  Dear Rachel and Louise The last week of August 2014 was the week that, with the generous financial aid support from The Haven, I was able to […]

    Christmas Poems

    Christmas Poems

    By Ellery Littleton. Ellery’s next program at The Haven is The Spirit Journal Intensive, May 14–18, 2015. As unofficial Haven historical scribe, I want to offer a few words to the greater Haven family, as we all go through the solstice, Christmas, and New Year’s rituals. Some of us were lucky enough to be able […]

    Thank you from two recipients of Financial Aid

    Thank you from two recipients of Financial Aid

    In order to provide Financial Aid at The Haven in 2015, we are selling Haven Holiday Granola and offering a Matching Pool for donations made in the month of December. If you are wondering about the impact of your giving to this program, these two letters from Financial Aid recipients say more than we ever […]

    Sylvia Edlund: Let's Face the Music and Dance

    Sylvia Edlund: Let’s Face the Music and Dance

    Rachel Davey writes: Our friend Sylvia Edlund died in hospital in Nanaimo yesterday, Tuesday November 11. Sylvia had been in hospital for a while with many different health challenges, and in the end succumbed to an infection. She was peaceful and comfortable in her last days. Sylvia was known by many at The Haven for […]

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