By Yvonne Cuneo
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 from 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.
Over the last ten years my life has felt even more meaningful. In 2009 I helped create a new stream at Findhorn called Building Bridges, to bring this impulse of an open-hearted way of life in harmony with the rest of nature to a broader spectrum of people. Building Bridges also works with social inclusivity and bespoke groups, but my passion has been to bring business professionals and NGOs to the Foundation.
Through programmes such as Authentic Investor, Climate Finance, Leading from the Future, The Findhorn International Forum on Sustainability (FIFS) and others on topics such as Water Security, Unblocking the Future, Systemic Risk, Corporate Strategy for an Open Society and Local Economic Forum we have helped people to find a supportive ‘tribe
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. I am so nurtured to know we have built a community of professional people who support each other to work for something they believe in, who hug when they meet in meetings in the big cities of the world and who return again and again for their ‘Findhorn fix’.
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 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. 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!
And what of the Findhorn Foundation and Community as 2020 comes to a close?
As the forms and structures of so many systems dissolve, here at Findhorn we are also heading towards the ashes in many ways, from which the buds of new growth will no doubt appear. But right now we are morphing into something of which we cannot yet know the form. Holding in faith that there will be a phoenix rising, what will it look like? And of course we mirror the world – we are all in the liminal space between caterpillar and butterfly in some way.
The past months have seen the tension between acting fast in a top-down way from legal and financial necessity and more participatory styles of decision-making in a traditionally heart-centred, inclusive and often slow-moving culture.
There is also the tension between individual lives and needs, and the needs of the collective, especially when the collective is many things – a local spiritual community and spiritual home to a huge global family, a beacon of light to the world, an NGO, a business, a family, a charity and part of an aspiring ecovillage. It is not easy to make tough decisions towards radical change when the organisation is both business and family, built on decades of dedicated love and service.
I notice that the Foundation and the community which has grown up around it are becoming more closely intertwined. An age-old tension of ‘them and us’ is transforming. Everywhere radical change is happening and all feelings are present, from excitement to anger to surrender. For a ‘centre of transformation’ we are not always finding that transformation so easy.
A positive step I see is that in being forced to act radically to ensure survival, some unhealthy cultural norms have been shaken up. There is always the danger of long-term co-workers, especially those who are residential, becoming institutionalised and dependent on a parent-like organisation. The collective redundancy consultation process woke people up to the need for new thinking and caused a wave of creative entrepreneurial proposals which saved some jobs.
Redundancies are happening however, and though challenging, can bring new directions and a more self-reliant attitude. Some are understandably overwhelmed by the sudden loss of job, home and even visa to stay; others feel relief to be nudged into a new phase. There is also the possibility of a more nimble, flexible organisation, encouraging people to create their own self-employment and contracting or partnering with them when needed.
We are all making friends with insecurity, uncertainty and a lack of stability. I think all organisations are making it up as they go along and it is obvious to me that the ‘how’ things are done is as important as the ‘what’. Terrifying and wonderful, sitting in this unknown space.
Going forward I know we intend to continue to listen from the inside, determined to hold true to the principles of co-creating with the rest of the natural world and having everything we do be an example of love in action. Meanwhile things will unfold…I am part of that unfoldment and also a curious observer. Ask me again in six months…