The Spirit of Findhorn

 

Two decades ago I wrote a short article about the ‘Spirit of Findhorn’ for Network News. I forgot about it until last week when a conference organiser at the Findhorn Foundation asked me whether they could reprint that article to help promote their coming Autumn conference. I replied. ‘Yes of course you can.’

Re-reading the article I quite like it still. Most of all, however, I find myself pondering how I am also in an awkward situation. On the one hand I am deeply involved in a project to mainstream a holistic and person-centred approach to spirituality; so I have to appear acceptable and sensible. (Great I have a Ph.D. from LSE etc.) On the other hand I have written a book on angels and fairies, and here I am too writing an article about the angel of Findhorn. (Whoops. This is a bit woo-woo and flaky and bonkers.)

So this is what I say to people who are snobbish and sarcastic about fairies and angels. I say to them: Have you never felt the beauty of landscape? Have you never felt the presence of a tree or mountain or river or ocean or cathedral? Where is your poetic imagination ? Why do you lock yourself in a realm devoid of mystery and imagination? Etcetera!

What follows is my original piece for Findhorn. If you are interested in their Autumn conference click here
On the other hand you might want to join me for the Diploma in Practical Spirituality and Wellness that I am leading at Findhorn starting in October in four four-day slots. More info here

 

THE SPIRIT OF FINDHORN

People often ask me about visiting Findhorn and I also often have an intuition that people need to visit Findhorn. I also often find myself saying this:

“Even if the workshop is rubbish, even if the workshop facilitators are rubbish, you will nevertheless have an extraordinary experience. There is a spirit to the place that transcends and permeates even the worst events.”

This, I know, can sound like faint praise. But it also acknowledges one of the most important realities about the Findhorn foundation: It has an extraordinary and wonderful spirit.
The spirit of Findhorn. What do we mean by this? We mean that there is some kind of mythical and energetic being, some essence, which is at the very core of the place. This spirit of Findhorn can equally be called the ‘over-lighting angel’ of the place.

In tribal societies, in classical Rome and Athens, there was no problem about discussing the spirits, gods and goddesses, and angels. Every activity had a spirit. Every place had a spirit. Athens was over-lit by the great angel and goddess, Athena. There is a myth that this being went on to over-light Constantinople and then London.

If a flower can be over-lit and coloured by a fairy, if a mountain can have its huge and sweeping mountain spirit, why can’t a wonderful human community also have its angel? Anyone with the slightest sensitivity, if they choose to sit in silence and to open their psychic awareness, immediately feels and senses this presence that permeates and over-lights everything at Findhorn.

When I first came to Findhorn and sat in the sanctuary, I swooned at the magnificence and beauty and healing nature of this wonderful angelic presence that is companion to the whole community.
Sometimes people forget that a human community is also an eco-system, as fantastic and complex as anything in the Amazon rain forest. And like any eco-system, it has its nature spirits. Human beings are, despite appearances in the industrialised world, not separate from nature and Gaia. We are part of nature and we too have our great nature spirits that work with us, as individuals and as communities.

I would dare to suggest that the Angel of Findhorn has a magnificent history of being involved with human communities. Within her energy field she carries lovingly tolerant and understanding patterns of how humans can behave and inspiring blueprints of how fully perfect this community can be.

Even the most cynical of visitors may quickly become seduced by the quality of silence at Findhorn. What is this quality? It is the atmosphere of the Angel’s energy field inspiring us to something new and more loving.

Every time I visit Findhorn, I am touched, moved and educated not only by the people, but by the ever present spirit of the place. I am grateful and I seek to encourage everyone and anyone to enjoy a similar relationship.

For the Findhorn Co-Creative Spirituality Conference:
https://www.findhorn.org/programmes/co-creative-spirituality/

For the Diploma in Practical Spirituality & Wellness:
https://www.findhorncollege.org/programmes/applied-spirituality.php

Gut and Nirvana

What is the connection between the state of your gut and spiritual wisdom?

If you are up-to-speed with developments in medicine you will know that there is substantial evidence now for the health connection between the lower intestine and the brain. This is so well evidenced that some hospitals are performing poo transplants, replacing unhealthy with healthy faeces. The condition of the gut is implicated in so many illnesses. Some of them are obvious, such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity and cancer. Some are more unexpected such as autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other mental health conditions.

Spiritual traditions have known about the gut’s importance for millennia. You can see it expressed in drawings and sculptures of many goddess figures and Buddhas. These images show a contented being with a large but very comfortable belly.

In most traditions of meditation, self-healing and internal martial arts, there is clear guidance to be at ease in our abdomens – to ground, centre and earth our bodies. When we do this, our stomachs relax and sink. There is a shift in our physical and mental states. We become calm in our bodies. Our centre of gravity drops down into our abdomen and is no longer in the chest or head. The feeling is good and comfortable. From this stable and agreeable state we can then meditate and do our spiritual practices more effectively.

The teaching is always the same. Be centred and at ease in your body. In martial arts and classical Japanese medicine there is a single word for this state – hara. To be in hara means to be grounded down in your body and at the same time kind and mindful.
All of this points to a very clear traditional understanding of mind-body-spirit integration.

This connection between the gut and our psychological state is so clearly demonstrated in anxiety and tension. When we are anxious our gut is tense, acidic and its microbes unbalanced. Our heartbeat is not integrated. Our breath is uncomfortable. Our brains are over-stimulated and it is difficult to think straight. We may sweat or shake or feel nauseous.

Most spiritual traditions teach the same quick and efficient way to manage that horrible state. It is very simple: belly breaths. These are soft, slow and calm breaths down into the abdomen. Just two or three soft breaths can work wonders.
These gentle abdominal breaths send reassuring messages through our neuro-endocrinal system. They are a signal that we are in control and consciously self-managing. Get your abdomen to be at ease – and it will ripple through your whole body, calming your heart, breath and brain.

But for me there is more to it than just the physical and mental wellbeing. There is also an important spiritual dimension. This is the crucial concept that the spiritual purpose of being human is to manifest love and compassion, and to become fully mindful and conscious. I am sure that many of my readers align with this philosophy: we are here to embody love.

And one thing is certain. If we are a bag of nerves, dealing with the frantic arousals of survival and anxiety, we cannot fulfil this spiritual purpose. On the contrary, we need a calm foundation, a gut that is at peace.

Our bodies need to be at ease so that we are oases of calm and blessing in a wounded world. So whenever you can and whenever you need, remember the universal strategy taught for millennia across the world: Gentle, slow, soft breaths down into the belly. Just two or three soft breaths can shift the mood. This is good for your health, your spiritual growth and everyone around you.

Happy breathing.

BBC Radio 2 Moment of Reflection

This is the text of my BBC Radio 2 ‘Moment of Reflection’ broadcast on 8 October 2017

 

BBC RADIO – MOMENT OF REFLECTION

 

The annual season of party political conferences has just ended
And I find myself thinking:
Political parties are a bit like religions.
There are
Strongly held beliefs.
Internal divisions.
Conflicts with those of other faiths.

But both of them – political parties and religions –are fuelled by idealism
– a wish to make life better for everyone.

People who are into religion and spirituality however
Don’t need power.
We influence through personal behaviour,
through modelling
how to live in a way
That serves and cares for others.

We are, I suggest, inspired by a personal connection
With life’s wonder, goodness and beauty –
By whatever name we call it.
And we are inspired too by a knowing that the purpose of human life
Is not
material success and status.
But we are all of us on a journey
Developing
love,
compassion
and wisdom.

So I have a prayer
May our politicians– here and across the world –
be inspired by those same high ideals.
Love
Compassion
Wisdom

Pause

Silence

*

You can listen to the audio of this here on the BBC website:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p05jh54q

If you want to listen to the whole interview that precedes the reflection, you can listen to it here on the BBC website. My interview starts at 7:40am
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b096xwzl

Your Daily Bath in Paradise

Your Daily Bath in Paradise

Published in Cygnus Review August 2017

Iceland Hot Spring

 

Your Daily Bath in Paradise – Earth and Fire

What kind of spiritual education do children deserve? Or to put it another way what would you have liked when you were a child?

This question was triggered for me when I recently helped develop a personal and social health education programme (PSHE) for a large secondary school. I started to think about what I had received and not received from my parents and schooling. There were some good things but there was also an awful gap.

Starting with the good things, my parents definitely gave me a sense of ethics, of what is right and wrong, of social justice. They gave me a sense of valuing every individual. From school I also learned about fairness and the unacceptability of bullying. There was a general ethic too that our work lives and careers should in some way benefit society. Good guidance.

But then there was the gap. Spiritually there was nothing. We had some Bible study at school, with dismal hymn singing and a shallow look at world religions. At home there was atheism and a suspicion of anything religious.

There was not a single person in my childhood who shared with me their sense of the sheer wonder, energy and beauty of nature and all existence.

And that is the very heart of spirituality, isn’t it? Our natural experience – by whatever name you call it – of the beauty and awesome benevolent wonder of life. Like many children I had a sense of this wonder. Watching clouds changing shape. Standing next to big trees. Sensing there was something deeply special about Jesus beyond the church pomp.

But no adult, parent or teacher ever affirmed this spiritual dimension to me. Like most of us I had to develop it alone.

*

Today many years later I work as a spiritual companion and mentor.

Probably the most important thing I ever do for people is this: I reassure and affirm that the spiritual dimension is real and true.

On top of that I encourage and challenge people to develop a spiritual life style in which day by day they consistently connect with and fully experience the wonder, energy and benevolence of life.

This spiritual connection I advocate is our only truly reliable fuel, support and nurture. One colleague recently called it her ‘daily bath in paradise.’

So thinking again of our childhoods I wonder if it would be useful if parents or teachers said to children:

Look. Feel. Sense. Notice how wonderful and awesome life is.

The spiritual dimension is true, real and good.

Being reassured of that would surely be beneficial. It is the appropriate balance to the crude demands of materialism, isn’t it? It points to what really matters.

There is then a next step.

We then need to take regular time actually to experience our spiritual connection. Don’t just dip your toe in the water. Swim.

Here we meet the challenge.

I have supported many people in starting their daily spiritual practice. It is like a New Year’s resolution. The intention is clear. The fulfilment and self-discipline are unreliable.

People find it difficult to maintain a practice on their own. As a solution some people join a religious group for a group rhythm of worship or meditation. This can be very useful but also has risks such as fundamentalism and emotional harm.

*

So Yes I do want a companion, parent or teacher to point out and affirm the spiritual dimension of life. But I also want a realistic awareness of the self-discipline we need to develop a daily spiritual practice in which we consistently connect with the beauty and wonder of life. It is a balance of beauty and purpose.

I do not want to force spiritual discipline on anyone. But daily practice requires a clear purposeful decision, an act of will.

Some people might bandy back that human beings are already too wilful and we just need to surrender to a divine will greater than ours. To this I respond: look at the spiritual teachers who inspire us — are they weak and without self-discipline and purpose?

Spirituality is not just air and water. It is also earth and fire.

*

(If you want some help developing your spiritual practice my book The Power of Modern Spirituality may help.)

Rewards of Spiritual Practice

DAILY SPIRITUAL PRACTICE

Daily spiritual practice can transform you, calm your brain, integrate your heart and breath, and soothe your gut.

Daily spiritual practice can radiate to support, inspire and fuel your friends, colleagues, family and community.

Daily spiritual practice can transform and heal the world.


CONNECT
Connect with and soak in the wonder and energy of life.
Feel the deep unity of nature and cosmos.

REFLECT
Your soul is on a journey. 
Develop your heart. Expand your consciousness.
Be compassionately mindful of yourself and all around you.

SERVE
Wisely guide your livelihood and behaviour.
Always benefit the 
community of life.
Be benevolent, constructive and loving.


Daily spiritual practice can be done in the circumstances and style that best suit you.

No dogma. No mind trips. Celebrating diversity.

Transform Yourself • Transform the World


 

Spiritual Maturity in Times of Agitation

Spiritual Maturity in Times of Agitation

SPIRITUAL MATURITY IN TIMES OF AGITATION

10 November 2016

When the world is shaking with political upheaval it is easy to become distressed and overexcited. Unfortunately our vibrations of distress and agitation only make the situation worse.

We live in a huge interconnected energy field and people’s emotional and mental vibrations roll through this field like waves in an ocean.
If we are sensitive to these energy waves, then distressing mass events can influence us in a negative way, causing anxiety and depression. Even if you have a strong and upbeat disposition, you can be wobbled into temporary discomfort.

So what is the answer to our discomfort?

There is an aphorism which has arisen recently in spiritual circles which says, ‘When the going gets tough, the tough meditate.’

Yes I agree that is a good call. Centre yourself. Use your breath. Ground. Self-soothe. That will stop us from adding to the psychic pollution.

But I also want to look at it from a different angle and ask: What would serve the community of life? In times of danger and consternation, what can we do to look after others?

In response to that ethical question I suggest that the appropriate response is a commitment to be seen, to confront bullying and to protect minorities and the vulnerable.

There is here another relevant spiritual aphorism: ‘There is no merit in meditation when you can stand up and prevent abuse.’
But this requires courage. Coeur. Rage. Rage of the heart.

This ethical and righteous rage needs to be mindful, intelligent and wise. It also needs to be fuelled and inspired. The ultimate source of fuel and inspiration for our ethics and righteous hearts is our connection with . . . what shall we call it? …. The benevolent life force. God. Spirit. Goddess. Tao. Source. Life itself.

There are over one hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe. The size of our universe is beyond comprehension. It is an immense energy field.  In this context our planet is tiny. Humanity’s energy field is a speck, a blip, in the cosmos.

So when faced with humanity passing through one its regular upheavals, we need to feel the wonder and goodness of life, and not just humanity’s distress.

It is crucial spiritual practice that we expand our sensitivity and our awareness, so that we feel the energy and vibrations of the cosmos. It is crucial that we use our own particular gateways to connection whatever they are: Jesus, angels, Goddess or just an awed sense of the glory of the cosmos. Feel the natural world of earth, moon, the sun, the stars, the vast mystery.

Thus we connect with and are fuelled by the awesome flow and good energies of earth and universe. We are not wobbled by the disturbing vibrations of a disturbed humanity. In the words of Julian of Norwich, ‘All shall be well, all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well … for there is a Force of love moving through the universe that holds us fast and will never let us go.’

Then, at the very least, in times of social distress – centred and inspired – we radiate a benevolence, calm safety and goodwill that encourages the good in others. We do not add to the distress with more agitation.

And, at best, we have the courage to front off bullies, protect the innocent and continue to build heaven on earth.