This story is from my book Pivotal Moments
After my visit to the Samye Ling monastic community, I got a lift over to the Findhorn centre in Forres, northern Scotland, where I was going to spend a few days. The Findhorn Foundation was one of the inspirations for Alternatives, so I thought I would visit the source. Findhorn was founded by Eileen and Peter Caddy and Dorothy MacLean, and its impact has been felt globally, with thousands of people travelling to the centre each year to attend programmes and share life with the community that lives there permanently.
I had no idea what to expect, but my few days were to prove transformative. Everyone who visits Findhorn is invited to work in the community so as to experience the inner spirit of the Foundation. I volunteered to work in the kitchen, helping to prepare a couple of meals. My experience of work generally up to that point had been that it was a fairly disconnected activity, something largely done in return for money. I believed that work’s major purpose was financial remuneration, rather than emotional or spiritual gain.
There is a line in The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran that says, ‘Work is love made visible.’ And I was about to experience this for the first time. Before we started work in the kitchen, we did an ‘attunement’. This involved standing silently in a circle and holding hands with the other kitchen staff as we dedicated our work to being of service to each other and the people we were going to feed. We thanked nature and the earth for the abundance of food. As we stood there, we consciously connected to our own inner spirits and acknowledged the spirit in each other. We asked that our work and the food we were preparing be infused with love. Then we checked in with our feelings, as anyone who wasn’t feeling brilliant would be offered a little support and given some TLC by the others.
Wow! This short ritual blew my mind. I could actually feel the intention in the room. I wasn’t doing work that was impersonal: I was going to be feeding the people I’d met, as well as those I would soon be meeting. It was beautiful – I had a tangible experience of the inter-connectedness of all life. As a result, I experienced real joy in simply cutting carrots and chopping cabbages. And it’s an experience that has stayed with me to this day. Even now, I say a little prayer before I write, speak or coach, in which I ask to be of service. I never know what impact something I say or do might have.
One day, I visited the centre’s bookshop, where I noticed that although quite a few people were reading books, not so many were buying them. When I asked the assistant whether she and her colleagues minded this, she told me, ‘We consider they’re blessing the books by reading them.’ What a concept!
I spent an evening at Findhorn in the meditation room, where I experienced a sense of profound peace. Over the course of several hours, I meditated on my friends and family – as well as various people who either made me angry or irritated – and then sent them gratitude for being in my life, and blessings for their own happiness. It was a wonderfully liberating thing to do.
I’ve been back to Findhorn for a couple of short visits since and enjoyed the spirit of the place and the natural beauty of the surrounding area. If only we could all carry a little bit of Findhorn in our hearts!