Geoff Dalglish answers the call of the heart and finds home
‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time’
Poet, T S Eliot
What and where is home?
Is it a physical place, a collection of bricks, mortar and wood, or perhaps simply a state of being? I’ve walked with this question over the past decade and continue to do so, fine-tuning my personal definition of home.
According to poet T S Eliot, home is where one starts from.
It can be a shelter from storms that rage around us and batter our inner and outer landscapes. A sheltering tree when we need to pause and figure out our next steps. A place our feet might leave, but not our hearts. Or that safe place of our earliest recollections, if we were lucky enough to have been born into a loving and nurturing family environment.
Countless seekers have arrived at the Findhorn spiritual community for the first time and described a profound sense of coming home. But what does that mean? Is Findhorn that famous geographic place in the north-east of Scotland with the pioneering Park Ecovillage at its heart? Or is it simply a raised state of consciousness?
I’ve decided that home for me is anywhere where my heart is wide open. Where I feel that prickle of excitement and a knowing that I’m intimately and joyfully aligned with my soul purpose. It is a feeling. A feeling of limitless unconditional love, joy and peace. And it bubbles up at the most unexpected moments, filling me with gratitude.
I encountered it in Spain while walking the legendary Camino de Santiago.
I met it again on a punishing trek through six European countries and four mountain ranges as an ambassador for the World Wilderness Congress. I walked as if I were a wolf, trying to imagine all that this demonised predator might meet on its migration between northern Italy, France, Andorra, Spain and Portugal.
And there it was again in California during the source-to-sea Walking Water pilgrimage that invited the co-creation of a new and more loving relationship with the Earth, the creatures, the waters and each other.
At Findhorn and on the sacred Isle of Iona it is ever-present for me.
I encountered it again tonight when I tuned in to a Facebook singalong led by singer-songwriter Susie Ro Prater. She believes: “Singing together is an advanced technology that brings us, almost instantaneously, out of our heads and into our hearts.”
After living in Devon in the south of England for the past eight years, she has discovered a gift of the pandemic and lockdown and created an album called HOME – Live & Locked Down.
“I never really lived here until this summer of home sweetness,” she says. “Before I was always on the move, with never time to rest long enough to appreciate this place on a deeper level. To really listen to the land … it is awesome that everybody is home, making beauty together. My nervous system is finally able to rest into this feeling of home. Hallelujah!”
And halfway across the planet on South Africa’s famous Garden Route, I unexpectedly meet that magical essence while searching for a bed for the night. I arrive at Wild Spirit nestled on the sacred land of Khoinania to discover a small and mostly transient community of soul explorers focused on wellbeing and regenerative living.
It feels rather like a playful hippie gathering, although I quickly park any judgments when I meet some of the participants and learn of their wonderful work to create a more loving world. I’m impressed – and even more so when I chat to 70-year-old founder Jenny Lawrence. She created this ecological and spiritual watering hole in 1979 after a year-long stay within the Findhorn Foundation.
Jenny reflects on that year in 1977/78: “My first impression of Findhorn was a deep sense of arriving home in a community of human beings who shared similar dreams and were living the way we are meant to live. It felt natural and right and nourishing to be there. Having met co-founders Eileen and Peter Caddy on their inspiring workshop tour around South Africa in mid 1977, I had spontaneously committed to becoming a long-term member, not realising that God had another possible plan for me.
“The rich kaleidoscope of experiences at Findhorn all activated and deepened my commitment to be of service in the world, in whatever form that might take. Since the age of 17, when I read about the kibbutzim in Israel, the idea of rural community life made sense to me, in contrast with metropolitan nuclear family living, which had been my upbringing in suburban Johannesburg. What I discovered at Findhorn way exceeded my expectations. The warm camaraderie, the rich variety of daily activities, the cultural events, the well-structured social organisation, all blended into a colourful day-to-day lived experience which superbly prepared me for what lay ahead.
“Findhorn has been a perennial source of inspiration over the years of following my inner calling. With the assistance of many, including my parents, who joined me for the 1983 World Wilderness Congress at Findhorn, helped to purchase the land and subsequently spent their last 22 years here, we have developed a small centre on this sacred land. Following a ravaging mountain fire in 1998, we renamed the land Khoinania, in honour of the original Khoisan people. Perched on a hilltop in the heart of the Garden Route, it directly adjoins the Tsitsikamma National Park.
“From time to time, I have returned to Findhorn to attend specific conferences related to my own field of work. At one such conference, I was deeply honoured to be invited in as a member of the Findhorn Fellows, following a brief sharing on my environmental campaign to save the southern Cape coastline from inappropriate commercial exploitation. This initiative, which consumed me for several years, did lead to a successful tightening of protective environmental legislation for the whole South African coastline.
“Whereas I had followed a disciplined daily meditation practice since the age of 18, what was new to me at Findhorn was the group attunement practice at the outset of any activity. I just loved this and have encouraged it here at Wild Spirit. We now hold a daily attunement at 12 noon. We ring a loud cowbell and everyone is invited to stop wherever they are for a few moments to attune in heart coherence towards creating an energy field of peace, imagining ourselves linking with other centres all over the world.”
Looking back on her initial Findhorn immersion, she remembers: “I was often challenged by sporadic doses of inner conflict about the choice before me: Either to remain in the warm and supportive embrace of a well-established community or to return to my country of birth to start from scratch, alone. The contrast of these two worlds has been ever present. Even now at my recent meetings with Geoff, his moving stories of his life at Findhorn brought up strong pangs of nostalgia. It took courage to go it alone and in the early days I did feel very alone!
“My greatest personal reward over these many years has been an ever-deepening attunement to the exquisite wonderland of Nature around me, with the great indigenous trees, the wild flowers, the baboons, the buck, the bushpigs, the caracals, the owls, the sunbirds and my beloved menagerie of domesticated animals which utterly delight me. They remind me every day to relax, to live fully in this moment and to enjoy this precious life.
“Here we were truly blessed to enter lockdown with a crowd of 48 internationals from 14 different countries, fortuitously trapped by the circumstances. We jokingly referred to ourselves as ‘prisoners in paradise.’ This all happened very suddenly. Once we heard news of the impending lockdown, I had a momentary flash of inspiration to officially close the lodge and open it as a ‘refuge centre’ for travellers who could not fly out of South Africa.
“We all lived together for several months, surrounded by our lush green forests, fresh running streams and the changing moods of the Tsitsikamma Mountains. We offered guests half price rates if they could afford it and, if not, we agreed to ‘energy exchange’. We all had a real dose of enforced community living, meals around the fire together, no masks or social distancing, except for those on necessary shopping trips – and huge gratitude as we acknowledged our good fortune. We notified the police of our situation explaining that we were living as one large family, while respecting the Covid protocols if leaving our premises. It all worked without mishap and with no illness of any kind among us.
“My original dream for Wild Spirit is being abundantly realised day by day. Every year we host a two-week Eco Festival with our Greenpop colleagues in midwinter and a magnificent five-day Conscious Music Festival with up to 500 participants over the New Year. For the rest of the year, we host workshops on themes including Awakening to Conscious Living, Biomimicry, Interspecies Communication, Bee Keeping, Permaculture, Yoga and others.
“Our small core group of long-term members shares the vision of creating a coherent, cohesive, nature-centred community with our main focus on welcoming and gently inspiring guests in the way of living lightly on the Earth.”
After two nights at Khoinania, I awaken in my comfy safari tent, aware of the pre-dawn sounds of lions roaring in a nearby wildlife sanctuary. There is a moment of disorientation and then the joyful insight: I’m in the wild Africa of my dreams.
My heart is wide open. I’m home!
Geoff Dalglish is a writer and spiritual and ecological activist dedicated to raising consciousness. He has walked more than 30 000km with climate change messages about treading more lightly and lovingly upon the Earth. He is an ambassador for the Findhorn spiritual community and ecovillage and is Odyssey’s ‘Pilgrim at Large’. To connect with Geoff email email@example.com or visit www.findhorn.org, www.wildspiritlodge.co.za and www.susiero.com