The long, meandering path back to ourselves
25/10/2011 § 4 Comments
“It is the most distant course that comes nearest to thyself, and that training is the most intricate which leads to the utter simplicity of a tune.” Rabindranath Tagore.
Nearly 30 years ago I visited some friends in a village called Findhorn in the north of Scotland, east of Inverness. It is a beautiful and special place, a 200 year old fishing village on a peninsula with, on one side, a large bay where ospreys dive to catch salmon and, on the other, six miles of beach with views to the far north of Scotland. While there I learned that there is another, much younger, community on the peninsula. Situated beyond the edge of the village, this is the Findhorn Foundation or “the funny folk” as many of the villagers referred to them, a group of New Age spiritual seekers who had been drawn to this spot from various parts of the world. To me they seemed weird but fairly harmless.
24 years later, after many subsequent trips, I found myself travelling to Findhorn once more. But this time was different. This time, the prime reason for my visit was to go to the Foundation (to attend a conference). I had become one of the “funny folk”.
This story says a lot about the journey I have been on over the last few years. Having been a (relatively) rational and straightforward citizen respecting the conventions of society, I find myself more and more drawn to the fringes. I am less and less willing to conform, to be predictable and manageable. And I keep coming upon familiar places and seeing them afresh. The funny folk no longer seem so funny – is this perhaps because I have become funny myself (my family would say so!).
Yet I don’t feel I have changed that much. In essence all I have done is to recognize that I am part of nature. This is a small step but the implications are huge. It has required me to look at the world anew. And with it has come a dawning recognition that there are forces at work in the universe that are bigger than me, indeed than any of us, and that are working through me. Rather than resist or seek to control these forces, I have found I can just let go and trust. This isn’t necessarily easy but it is joyful – and I would choose joy over ease any day.
Perhaps I am just growing up. Like this blog. For the first six months of this year I wrote it religiously every week. But now I have dropped this discipline – instead I write it when I am drawn to. And that feels really good – I promised myself from the beginning that I wouldn’t force anything. At the same time in the early days it was important to discipline myself. Only once I have established a firm practice can I trust myself to do what feels natural.
It takes a certain maturity and confidence to act naturally. When we start out it seems simpler to let a religion or an employer or a parent or teacher tell us what is expected of us. Only once we have grown up can we start to trust ourselves and the universe.
The journey I am on is pretty hard to describe in a rational way – perhaps because to a large extent it is intuitive, and therefore by definition irrational. And for those of us who have relied heavily on the rational part of us for most of our lives, this is quite hard to accept. So I was delighted to find a book recently that describes the process really well. It is called “Nature and the Human Soul”, by Bill Plotkin. His style is a bit intellectual (the book itself is over 400 pages of small type – I haven’t read it all yet 🙂 ). But I have found it worth persevering with because it is clear to me that he is writing about what I am going through. It is about maturing into a different type of being in the world. His notion is that western society is stuck in adolescence. The path to adulthood is rough, rugged and meandering but also beautiful. It spirals towards a more mysterious, creative and unpredictable place where we recognize our oneness with each other and the entire universe.
If you are on this journey, this will all make perfect sense to you. If not, oh well, read one of my other posts 🙂