We shall not cease from exploration…

I’m 65 years not old, sitting in a little lighthouse cottage on the tiny island of Erraid where the Findhorn Foundation has a small community of seven, deeply embedded in nature and its cycles.

I am here to take a break and just ‘be’, to tune into the pulse of the universe. I’m here to explore all that is left to be explored about myself and my contribution to this world as its crazy systems unravel at speed.

How can I help my human family create a lovelier world? What have I learned and what have I to say to the world? What is my voice and how do I introduce myself? Are an open heart, a curious mind, a wild spirit and dancing feet enough? Not to mention inexplicable joy…

It’s raining so I have no excuse not to get on with this exploration – too wet to ramble and be distracted by exercise; trying hard not to eat my feelings; not enough bandwidth for Netflix. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Perfect…and not so…

There is such a sweetness to looking out the window, past the window box nasturtiums and marigolds, through the misty rain to sheep on the island of Mull, also with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Can I fully surrender to the flow of life as they do…and also know when to take decisive action?

There are so many Yvonnes within this bodysuit I wear – body suit after bodysuit from infancy to womanhood. Over the last three years of concentrated self-reflection I have reinhabited each one, unzipped and peeled them off, one after the other, rewound back through the years, until I arrived where I began.

Feeling into that moment of conception I have cried tears of compassion for my innocence, for the innocence of all of us. And then as I fast forwarded through my life like a Netflix movie, I observed the times of fear, bewilderment, hatred, courage, compressed anger, love, recklessness, creativity, adventure, hard work, romanticism, selfishness, joy, shame, wonder, vulnerability, resilience, defiance, happiness, confidence, disintegration, expansion, self-compassion…and always, always an irrepressible life force and an impossible-to-ignore impulse to evolve.

And I’ve been asking questions I imagine many of us ask.

Have I been ‘real’ in my life? To what degree has my behaviour been a pattern, a survival strategy or a result of family and social conditioning?

How much has been a desperate ‘acting out’, or a mad distraction so as not to hear the scream from unattended pain deep within?

Is my love of exercise and my insatiable wanderlust merely part of this unconscious distraction strategy?

How and why did I create and then stay in unhealthy relationships?

What fears or weak inner structures caused me to abandon myself so often?

Are all feelings an illusion?

After two years of trauma therapy complemented by shamanic practices and an exploration of plant medicine, I have answered some of these questions. The months of lockdown created the spaciousness for me to integrate as I tended to myself in the kindest, most loving way ever. I howled, I sat in dark places, I brought my bewildered little girl home, I did breathwork and bodywork and released cellular tension. I knelt with my forehead on the earth and howled some more. I howled for my own lostness, for humanity’s lostness, disconnection and loneliness, for such wasted energy and blindness to the suffering of my own making, and for the beauty of life.

So where am I now?

I am evermore aware of my shadow and my light, and of the essence beyond all my questions. I like myself…mostly I observe myself. I notice where I am needy or numb, where I am too afraid to stand for myself and under what circumstances I can still so easily crumble. I feel my heart soften and expand more often. I am evermore aware of my antics. I smile. I laugh. Such foibles!

The divine spark that is in all of us shows up in my life more and more.

I vow never to be out of alignment in my actions again…watching this one with interest!

How I function in the world as a being of light is improving. I trust myself more.

I continue to explore what being a planetary citizen really means for me.

And what tales and insights from my life can help others?

My longing is to be of service.

“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.”

T S Eliot

My Hungry Heart – the road to Findhorn

At 26 I left Sydney to travel the world on my own for a year. I had left a marriage which I had wanted with all my young, innocent and needy heart, because I was restless, starved of something unnameable, and hungry to put myself out there to explore the infinite possibilities of life. My father said I had read too many books; he was probably right.

I didn’t realise that apart from the one small bag I took with me, I was carrying much excess luggage born of a childhood rife with tension, hostility, and a lack of tenderness and love, a malnourishment of an emotional and spiritual kind. That luggage, which contained unconscious defiance, recklessness, unfathomable pain and a hungry hungry heart, remained locked and bolted for some time.

At 38, and two relationships later, I was living the life I thought I wanted. After a year in Cairo,  then in Dubai, New Orleans and Aberdeen, I had an international lifestyle with endless travel, shopping trips to exotic locations filling my home with beautiful artefacts, excitement, adventure, a lively social scene and a healthy body. I had done an Experience Week at the Findhorn Foundation and found a temporary calm and some hope for a world I had given up on as violent and cruel. I felt safe and fed in some ways but was dependent on constant movement and tension to feed a gnawing emptiness.

At 40 my life took me to Sarawak, North Borneo, and because I was not working, and had help in the house and garden, even planning the next trip, the next excitement, the attempts to be always doing, did not fully fill my time. The lack of busyness created a space for issues from my childhood to surface and I began to work through a self-study guide by Eileen Caddy and David Earl Platts called Bringing More Love Into Your Life: The Choice Is Yours.

At 45, now living in The Hague, I knew that on some level there was something very wrong. I was  increasingly dissatisfied with endless travel and the indulgence of expat life – there was so much of me leftover. I felt starved again, hungry for something, thirsty for something. Not realising the ‘something wrong’ was within me, I did what so many of us do, I began an affair…something outside, something new and exciting to fill a deep dark well of emptiness, the depth of which I was totally ignorant.

I went back to the Findhorn Foundation to decide between the two men in my life. There, in Cluny library, I listened to Eileen Caddy’s tape called The Challenge of Change, recommended by a friend from my 1992 Experience Week.  When Eileen talked about a plant whose roots were too big for its pot, it was as if a lightning bolt had pierced my solar plexus and I had an instant and irrefutable gnosis – ‘this is not about the men, it’s about you and you need to live at Findhorn’. To my credit and my amazement I obeyed this inner voice. Within the month I arrived at Findhorn with two suitcases and an openness to whatever life offered. The curriculum was just that – to open my heart and to help create a space for others to do that to – a step towards a more conscious, loving, heart-centred world.

20 years on, how is my starved and hungry heart now?

My heart has been deeply nourished by living in a community with like-minded people from all over the world. I’ve also felt a deep satisfaction at being part of a life-long learning centre which provides the opportunity for people to open their hearts in a safe, non-judgmental space, bringing more love into the world and shifting consciousness to a knowledge that we are all part of the same life force on this planet Earth.

It has been interesting to bring people from the business world to Findhorn. Many of these people, who often hold positions of great responsibility, arrive overwhelmed and depleted, feeling disempowered in the very systems they are trying to change. The world may see them as privileged and powerful but they, too, have starved and hungry hearts. Here they can express their challenges, feel heard, experience some silence and reconnect with the natural world.

And in many ways, I am a slow learner. Old habits do die hard. I notice how, when stressed, my default position can still be to return to the adrenalin junkie, the sugar junkie, the keep moving junkie.

I know that there are billions of starved and hungry hearts in this world.

I know that lack of love and compassion for myself was/is at the root of my hunger, and is at the root of the world’s hunger. Only I can feed my hunger.

I know that it is only by going into and through the pain of disconnection and trauma, in a felt, bodily way, that I can release the past and accept myself as I am. A work in progress. J

I know that all the ills of this world – personal, social and planetary – lie in lives starved of meaningful connection with self, others, the Earth, and of something far greater than all of this – spirit.

In this way I see COVID-19 as an ally. Humanity proved that it could actually stop the madness of unbridled consumerism and fossil fuel consumption which was on a track to destroy our planet, if the danger was immediate enough. COVID continues to bring into focus all the systems that don’t work and by momentarily allowing some spaciousness back into our lives, perhaps we as a species will begin to see what truly matters. Perhaps we can begin to heal the splits within ourselves, between people, between cultures, and between us and the rest of the natural world.

I know that my personal journey of healing and wholeness is my contribution to planetary healing.

And I know that at Findhorn I have been participating in the building of a new world where we are all nourished at the deepest of levels.

It was a great gift to be given the life I thought I wanted while I was still so young. Realising that on some level I was starving to death in the midst of material abundance meant I still had time to course correct. Imagine struggling all my life to reach a point of supposed ultimate happiness only to find out too late that this was not it at all!

The Elephants in My Room

Most of my life the elephants in my life were too awkward, too uncomfortable, too embarrassing, too close to the bone – it was better to ignore them and hope they’d go away. But the problem with baby elephants is that they grow into huge elephants with dangerous tusks, long trunks that can pick you up and dash you to the ground, and a trumpeting which deafens.

My childhood was full of juggling elephants, side-stepping elephants, letting sleeping elephants lie. At that age I didn’t even know that was what I was doing. There was no emotional literacy in my family. Communication was raw, uncontrolled and often vicious. Tension was ever present. There was no capacity to look objectively at what was happening or to develop any self awareness around personal boundaries, what was and was not acceptable behaviour. I lived with unconscious fear and learned early to shut up and navigate the unspoken tensions with care.

In relationships it has been extraordinary to realise how many elephants can fit into a room, squeezed and jostling till I can hardly breath. They have represented issues of power, sexuality, freedom, money, vulnerability, equality, anger, neediness, volatility and blame, often nursed over years but not spoken about.

Sometimes the elephants were very quiet and life went on…and sometimes they hovered close in and intense, creating an atmosphere I could cut with the proverbial knife. I can remember sitting on the sofa with a partner, watching a couple passionately kiss and sensually make love on screen, something we had not done in years. I felt the trunk tip of a gigantic elephant of enormous complexity, tapping me on the shoulder. I inwardly squirmed, felt unbelievably awkward, held my breath and said nothing.

Why is naming even one elephant so hard for me, for any of us?

In this case I feared a radical change in the status quo with unimaginable ramifications. I was too invested in the relationship. I feared our inability to navigate our way, unfacilitated, through the potentially volatile mire of unexpressed rage. I doubted our capacity to have a curious conversation without blame and that it would instead escalate to fury with no one to point out our blind spots and shadows. I lacked courage. I was afraid we could never explain or understand each other, partly because we were not sufficiently aware of our own demons or able to articulate our inner processes. It had all been building up for too long and we were each too full of the wrong that had been done to us by the other to really listen … and too much love had been lost. Better to push those elephants away and cook dinner.

As so often happens, eventually the elephants took charge of the room, and we left to go our own ways. I feel such a sadness at this wasted opportunity to learn from the school of life. Had I or we had the courage to name the elephants and been able to listen to each other without the emotional charge of accusation, hurt or blame, we might have come to a deeper understanding of what it is to live and learn and truly love.

And so I am tending to my own inner education, observing my actions and my motivations and understanding where they come from. I can only face my own fears, take responsibility for my part, learn my lessons and vow next time to have the courage and integrity to confront an elephant as soon as it is born.