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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- That a group really can get together and create its own village
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.