Atuning To Nature

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 get into action.  The novice gardener in me figured  where a cut would remove the 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 60’s and 70’s had led to the gardens on this windswept coast of north east 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  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, invariably growing in directions that were safe for passers-by.

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 of healthy seedlings, preparing the soil for planting, making compost, even for dealing with so-called weeds and pests.

And it was a source of information significant not only for gardeners.  Clearly, information was -  and is - there to guide us humans in our dealings with any aspect of nature, whether cultivated, managed or wild.  Recognizing that science clearly does not have all the answers, I wondered whether this approach of ‘listening’ for and working with the intelligence in nature, known at Findhorn as ‘co-creation with nature’, could give us guidelines for care of Earth at this critical time. I was to discover its application from relocating ants in the garden through to supporting the rice farmers of Thailand to improve their yields.

Dorothy Maclean

However, 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 5 years 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. A simple enough-sounding job to which I had set to with vigour until Kajedo, the then ‘focaliser’ of the Park Garden, suggested I slow down.   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 that I could learn from their legacy  if I could bring an open mind to the adventure.  Which, I had a feeling, could mean choosing to let go of some long-held beliefs and ‘stories’ not only about gardening but about life in general.

Dorothy, Eileen and Peter outside their original caravan

So what was it about Dorothy Maclean and Eileen and Peter Caddy that had their garden flourish in the barren beach sand of a caravan park on the edge of the North Sea? 
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 50’s.  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. Dorothy meanwhile 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 the growing of 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 her focusing on the essence of the pea plant and approaching it with deep love, she had found the doorway in to 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 would 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.    The understandings she was given, Dorothy would later record in her own words, including explanations of  who these energies or beings in fact were and what their purpose was.  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. She therefore 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 human-made system, being as she experienced them, pure energetic expressions of love, freedom, joy and peace. As the overlighting intelligence or soul essence for every species on the planet,  they hold, she said, the ‘blueprint’ or archetypal pattern for its perfect growth. She explained the process of their work as vital life force directing energies through a vibrationary interplay of what we humans would recognize as sound and light, in order to materialize 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. They described for instance, compost-spreading as a unifying process and talked about the principle of growing variety rather than a monocultures as 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 recognize their (the devas’) role in channeling powerful forces and qualities such as calmness, endurance and fine attunement, into Earth . Their messages, it seems to me,  have as much relevance to humanity now as they did to two people building a garden forty-five 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 realize, 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’.    The devas were however by no means a uniform bunch as their common source would suggest.  Each had its own distinct qualities and there was no mistaking that of the robust, long-stemmed and many-thorned Floribunda Rose, compared with 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 my weeding mechanically for instance, may not in the big scheme of things , matter.  But I do know that the habit of first mindfully and respectfully warning the weeds of my intention, for example, 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 being ‘love in action’.   I would watch the ripples of this consciousness flow out and touch others, just as it clearly had enlivened the plants we had been working with.
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.    However 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 fertilizers and pesticides create damage underground and beyond our fenceline in creeks and rivers.   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 for bringing our gardens, our suburbs, our planet into balance is  right here, as close to home as the back lawn or the drying wetland down the road.

Article by Helene Fisher, originally published in Nova Magazine