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I went to live in Findhorn in 1981, when I was just past 30, and I was there for 7 years. During that time, I worked in the Publications Department and Cluny Housecare, before managing the Phoenix shop and then joining the Guest Department, where I led quite a lot of experience weeks. Findhorn is a community with about 150 members and 200+ friends and associates in the neighbourhood. It was founded by Peter and Eileen Caddy in 1962. It is about 30 miles east of Inverness in Northern Scotland. It is still going !

First I want to say, that in my opinion, the Findhorn Experience week is THE thing to do if you are at a crossroads in your life. When I did mine in early 1978, it opened doors for me, and it was the best thing I’ve ever done. In the Expereince Week groups I have lead there, with over 300 participants, not all had such an extreme experience as my own, but many did. It all depends on how ready you are – how well you prepare yourself for a ‘step forward’, and whether you are willing to ‘go into the unknown’.

From a personal point of view, I made many wonderful friends from all around the world, went to the sauna at least once a week for 5 years (which helped to get some of the previous stresses sorted out), and generally became very much more comfortable with myself. I did lots of workshops too. I joke that my stay there was worth 2 PhD’s to me ….. and it was.

Findhorn to me has three or four great successes to give to the world :-

  1. The process of attunement is used for decision making. This ‘checking inside’ as a group is particularly effective in personnel work, and is the standard procedure there if someone is a). joining the community (is it right that they live there now?), or b). joining a new work department. It can also work well with other decision making, but if the meeting ‘sets off in the wrong direction’ in the first place, then little can be done.
  2. The process of ‘sharing’. If everyone takes time out to attune together (to each other and to the task) for a few minutes before starting work, and then takes time to share how each one is feeling and what is happening in their lives, then in fact, the work is done much better, as you can make allowances for someone who may be struggling. There is nothing worse than having to work next to someone who is having a bad time but won’t talk about it (Findhorn may sometimes go to an extreme with this). However, it is astonishing what a group can do in 30 minutes if everyone’s energy is 100% there.
  3. The use of ‘focalisation’ of work groups. This has elements of facilitation, but also of management and leadership, however a focaliser may also just be the person who is ‘most in tune’ with the ‘spirit’ of that activity. This added to the general meditative approach works very well on the small scale work groups of 3 to 8 people. The group is definitely stronger and works better than an equivalent bunch of people with a manager. The personal and group needs can all be gracefully met, simultaneously.
  4. That a group really can get together and create its own village and lifestyle.

However, this is the point where, it seems to me, the problems begin, and these methods do not extend well into the overall management and leadership of the community. I have no easy answers to this (or at least, not many that I want to air in public !). The one thing I would mention here is that I think the legal structure adopted is a problem. For some quite good reasons, the community became a Foundation, a Registered Charity, but this places limits on them which are not suitable. I think it would be much more comfortable and natural as a Co-operative.

To me, there are also problems stemming from the start of the community. When it all began, Eileen Caddy began to have an inner voice giving her instructions as to what needed doing. She would tell Peter these, and he would go and do them. Gradually, people began to visit and help, later to stay, and slowly the community began to form. Peter was active, perfectionist, goal-oriented, indomitable, and charming. He got things done. As it developed more, having such a paternal figure and driving force was no longer appropriate, and the group era began. (Peter died in a car crash about 12 years ago, Eileen still lives there). For some reason, the group structure there is (to me) essentially 'feminine' (it is implicitly passive towards ‘spirit’) and the active, dynamic 'Peter' energy (‘masculine’) is not easily generated there, and, in fact, it is often fiercely resisted. Accordingly, though the community continues, it makes slow progress with continual financial problems, though I hear it is in good heart at the moment.

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