Small twigs on the branch leaning out into the path of passers by walking through the gardens at The Park, Findhorn, seemed to me ready to find their way into someone's eye very soon. After giving the tree several days' warning of my intention, I was ready to swing into action.
The novice gardener in me figured where a cut would remove those twigs that were a danger and then I stopped, just short of cutting. I "tuned in", in the way I'd learned from Dorothy Maclean, whose contact with the intelligence in Nature in the 1960s and 1970s had led to the gardens on this windswept coast of northeast Scotland becoming famous for their unusual health and abundance. To my surprise, I was told to cut much closer to the trunk than where my own estimate had suggested. I cut where the Deva of the Rowan tree had directed me to cut. In my subsequent years there as gardener, I found myself watching as that tree evolved and developed new branchlets, always growing in directions that were safe for passers by.
Unknowingly, I had tapped into an energy, a source of wisdom far beyond my own imaginings. Here was information directly available, I was later to discover, for growing healthy seedlings, preparing the soil for planting, making compost, even for dealing with so called weeds and pests.
Dorothy herself had, in the early days of the Findhorn community, made contact with moles creating havoc in the gardens. She was to learn just how willing the beings in nature are to cooperate with humanity - given clearly stated requests, of course.
My own introduction to this way of working was an unexpected one and, in retrospect, I see that it began on the very first day of my five years spent in the gardens. I was to gather beans growing voluminously on tipi shaped climbing frames in the Original Garden where, some 38 years earlier, Peter Caddy had grown the 40 pound cabbages for which Findhorn was to become famous. It was a simple enough sounding job which I had set to with vigour until Kajedo, the then "focaliser" of the garden, suggested I slow down. Instead, I was to attune to the essence of the bean plant. Effective bean picking would come, not so much with speed as with presence, he said. That was my first learning in letting go of a taken-for-granted mindset of achieving - in this case, baskets full of beans to take to the community kitchen.
His invitation to view the garden as my classroom, and to work on my inner garden as I worked in the outer one, had left me humbled for the day, yet all the more ready for what seemed like one ongoing experiment in "thinking and doing differently". I had been inspired by stories of the often unorthodox actions of the founders of Findhorn, and knew I could learn from their legacy - if I could bring an open mind to the adventure. I had a feeling that would mean choosing to let go of some long held beliefs and "stories", not only about gardening, but about life in general.
So what was it about Dorothy Maclean and Eileen and Peter Caddy that had led to their garden flourishing in the barren beach sand of a caravan park on the edge of the North Sea? And what was the inspiration for a whole community to develop and thrive around them?
The three had been managing the Cluny Hill Hotel in the nearby town of Forres after undertaking studies in esoteric traditions and rigorous training in meditation in the early '50s. But finding themselves suddenly without a job, they had moved to the caravan park at nearby Findhorn Bay. Together with the Caddys' three young boys, they made their "interim" home in Peter and Eileen's caravan next to a rubbish dump.
Living a healthy life on unemployment benefits was, however, a challenge. So Peter set to to grow vegetables, which naturally did not thrive in the poor soil. Meanwhile, Dorothy had had messages come through to her in meditation, to feel into the nature forces such as the wind, and then the higher nature spirits of clouds or vegetables. She had discovered to her surprise that her entry into that realm was welcomed by those spirits. At Peter's request that she ask for help with growing the vegetables, she found she was able to attune to the essence of the garden pea, a vegetable she remembered with love from her childhood in Canada. In focusing on the essence of the pea plant and approaching it with deep love, she had found the doorway into the intelligence within the plant. And that intelligence had pointed out to her the potential power which humans had, to do "what is to be done" - for which they could have the cooperation of the unseen realms of the nature world - if they could basically "get their act together"!
These were realms, Dorothy explained in our time together, of unexpected lightness and joy, from which deep wisdom flowed with every contact, irrespective of the advice she had sought. Dorothy would later record in her own words the understandings she was given, including explanations of who these energies or beings in fact were, and their purpose. She was to learn that, although she couldn't see them, they were formless flows of energy, of colours brighter than any human could comprehend. Understandably perhaps, she chose to refer to them as "Devas", the Sanskrit word for "shining ones". I remember her commenting that you couldn't classify them according to any system made by human beings. As she experienced them, they were pure energetic expressions of love, freedom, joy and peace.
As the overlighting intelligence or soul essence for every species on the planet, they held, said Dorothy, the "blueprint" or archetypal pattern for its perfect growth. She explained the process of their work as vital lifeforce directing energies through a vibrationary interplay of what we humans would recognise as sound and light, in order to materialise all life into form. And their way of working was through love, an all embracing if impersonal love, which expressed itself through a free, unburdened joy in communicating what needed to be done in the gardens.
Their advice for the physical care of plants would often be accompanied by an explanation which clearly was intended to foster a deeper level of consciousness in us humans. For instance, they described compost spreading as a unifying process, and talked about the principle of growing variety rather than a monoculture as a way of helping to bring balance to the soil and thereby to the whole planet. Devas of large trees, for instance, were adamant about the need for humans to recognise their (the devas') role in channelling powerful forces and qualities such as calmness, endurance and fine attunement into the Earth. Their messages, it seems to me, have as much relevance to humanity now as they did to two people building a garden 45 or so years ago.
Practising the process of attuning to different devas was an evolving journey for me. I would find myself wondering where exactly the particular deva was, that I was tuning in to. And even that question, I came to realise, was a reflection of my thinking in terms of separation. Clearly, in its silent communication with me, a deva was as much within me as it was within the particular plant in question. I came to know the devas, whether of Tea Rose, Calendula or Lilac, simply as aspects of God, my core, that indwelling presence at the heart of all life, the divinity in all life as we would say in "Findhorn speak".
Yet the devas were by no means the uniform bunch their common source might suggest. Each had its own distinct qualities and there was no mistaking that of the robust, long stemmed and many thorned Floribunda Rose, for that of the spring Daffodils. Yet I'm aware of how easily I could, and still can, lose my reverence, can slip out of that sense of connectedness with all life, of being conscious of myself as part of an infinite whole. A whole within which my choice of actions, however small, affect other life forms, some of which are human.
Perhaps, for instance, my weeding mechanically may not matter in the big scheme of things. But I do know that the habit of first mindfully and respectfully warning the weeds of my intention gives them the chance to withdraw their life energy - which also happens to make them easier to pull up! That aside, I learned through the devas to look hard at my assessment of any plant as a "weed" to begin with! It was interesting to see also how the quality of my weeding, or any gardening for that matter, would carry over into the rest of my life. Taking the time to connect with the guests who had come to help and tuning in to the plants to be worked with, paid dividends in the form of clarity of purpose, harmonious interactions, motivation, openness to feedback and learning, and an ethos of work as "love in action". I would watch the ripples of this consciousness flow out and touch others, just as it clearly had enlivened the plants with which we'd been working.
Gardening consciously became a basis for perceiving all life as interconnected, to be held as sacred.
There are numerous aspects of the life of the thriving Findhorn ecovillage which can be traced back to Dorothy's original work with the devas. The practice of briefly "tuning in" precedes all undertakings and decision making, small or large. As a form of grounding and aligning with God or "spirit" (the term most used in this multicultural setting), it provides focus and common purpose. But it's the possibility of attuning to plants or animals or even "groupings", such as a woodland or wetland, that I believe makes this work with devas highly applicable today. We know that quick fixes such as artificial fertilisers and pesticides create damage underground and beyond our fenceline in creeks and rivers. We know the loss of precious biodiversity that follows the relentless spread of monocultures.
Can we stop long enough to listen for other possibilities? Are we prepared to explore a different way of doing things, knowing that every action we take has a flow on effect (usually invisible) on this one Earth we all inhabit? The wisdom needed to bring our gardens and our suburbs into balance is right here, as close to home as the back lawn or the potted petunia! See our most recent article on Findhorn Eco Village, "Treading Softly" in our Inspire issue May 2008. (Vol 15. No 3.)