Image by Bianca Mentil
The planet does not need more successful people.
The planet needs more storytellers,
peacemakers and lovers of all kinds.
— The Dalai Lama
All you need is love.
— The Beatles
A Magical Gateway
I was extremely fortunate in that very soon after leaving university, a gateway came stalking me. (Yes, we need to know that what we are looking for is also seeking us out.)
It took the form of my bumping into a friend who happened to tell me about a mysterious spiritual community in Scotland called Findhorn, which he suggested I visit. I was then in my early twenties and the idea felt very right. I knew nothing about communities or what I might expect. He added: “They are a group of people who all live in caravans on a small caravan site. What is best known about them is that they grow huge vegetables there and I am informed that they are so enormous because they are tended with love!”
Huge vegetables. A spiritual community! Love. The idea was intriguing to say the least, and the very next morning, I was on the train up to Scotland. I took a taxi from the station to Findhorn, and – I remember this moment so vividly – the exact moment the taxi went through the gateway into the community, I had, quite literally, the experience of having entered another world. It was as if I was hit by a blast – yes, it felt exactly like that, it was so intense and so immediate – of huge happiness and peace.
Experiencing A New Story
In those days, the community was not the enormous entity it has subsequently morphed into, but consisted of a small group of people living, as my friend had said, in caravans. I arrived at Findhorn about the same time as the Beatles brought out their hit song “All You Need Is Love”. My friend was right. Love really was the cornerstone of this extraordinary place.
I remember being greeted very warmly by the couple who ran the community, Peter and Eileen Caddy – who subsequently became lifelong friends – and I immediately felt at home. I sensed they were genuinely pleased to see me, not because I was particularly “special” (the myth my parents had always rammed into me for no other reason but that I was their son) or because of any ridiculous “social connections” (again “so important to my parents” myth) but because I was a fellow human being, and for the Caddys, all human beings are special and precious and so need to be honoured and respected as such.
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In fact, the way they treated me was the way they treated everyone, and I observed that after a few days of being enveloped by what I can only describe as a warm love field, I felt a deeper kinship with my new little “family” than I had ever experienced with my own family.
Dropping The Pretences
Love, I learned, brings up everything that it isn’t, and it certainly did that for me. My first few days at Findhorn were actually tinged with sadness, as the warmth and camaraderie around me served to highlight how cold and cut off and stiff-upper-lipped so much of my life up until then had been, with all the emphasis being on “show” and “doing what was right by society” as opposed to what was real.
In no way were my parents bad people or neglectful of me, and I never want to make out that they were wrong. They were good human beings and they did their very best for me, but it was a best according to myths they believed in, which were limited, devoted almost entirely to the outer world and to life’s surfaces, and consequently devoid of real depth.
I realized, too, that none of us can ever give out something that we ourselves have not discovered inside ourselves. What had been lacking in my childhood, I saw, were the ingredients of genuineness and soft love. I had not been related to in a way that encouraged who I truly was as a human being to be “outed” or celebrated. On the contrary. I had been trained to be a “reflector of my parents” values, with the intention that my presence should somehow enhance them in some way, and reflect back positively on them.
Being here at Findhorn, I felt able for the first time to see that I had on a mask that I had worn all my life – a special face that was not really me and that I put on to present myself to the world – and that it was possible to drop it, especially if one was interacting with others engaged in a similar mission. I realized that Findhorn was a kind of training course to help you to be yourself!
Yes, I had gone through a gateway and entered a world where people lived with heart and soul, based on the idea that we are not in actuality separate from one another but all deeply interlinked despite – indeed, because of – our many differences. I began to experience with my heart (as opposed to just knowing with my head) that in truth, we are all abundant human beings with a deep right to be, and that our true way is to honour and support and share ourselves openly and honestly with everyone around us. If conflicts came up, which they did, I found people dealt with them with integrity, without always having to be right, which was exactly the opposite to what occurred in the world that I had come from.
Here, for the first time in my life, I had the direct experience that it didn’t matter what social class you belonged to or what colour your skin was, how rich or “cultured” you were, or how you looked or what job you had. All those considerations that were so central to the world I had come from were, here, no longer of consequence. And it felt so liberating. Here, we were all human beings together, some of us white-skinned, some of us not, some well educated, others not, some old, some young. But none of this mattered.
We were all human beings together participating in our shared humanity. Above all, I observed that the wisdom both of the children and of the elderly was respected. Again, how different this was from the world where I had come from, where children were seen as not worth listening to, while old people got shut away in care homes as a ghastly embarrassment!
I had the profound experience that everyone in this little caravan site was my brother or sister in spirit. We all belonged to the larger family of humanity. I had stumbled into the direct experience that something much greater than our differences linked us all up together. And it felt so profoundly nourishing.
I decided then and there that I had touched into what life really needed to be about and that if we all learned to operate at this level, our world would be mightily different. It could work. I realized that I simply could not go on doing many of the things I had been doing and living the way I had been living, and that I was not only going to dedicate my life to finding out more about this new world, but, most importantly, that I had to try to “take it home” with me.
I stayed for ten weeks in that community. No more. But it was enough to establish a toehold in a new way of being that I have sought ever after to build upon. When I left, I felt rather lonely; I found that many of my old friends started distancing themselves when they discovered that I no longer shared their values and so was no longer a part of their tribe. It was not until some years later when I decided to go and live in California that I felt I was beginning to come home!
Gateways in Sacred Places
So if you want to make some radical changes in your life – if you also find there is something inherently toxic about the values of the culture surrounding you – then I recommend you start off by visiting Findhorn, or certainly somewhere like Findhorn. Today, there are many such communities scattered all over the globe.
If we position ourselves in the environment of people who have already begun making some of the shifts we are also trying to make – that is, who are further along the path than ourselves – we will find, just as I did, that we can get carried along in their slipstream. In other words, when people around us are genuine, it reflects our own lack of genuineness back to us, as well as begging it to come out of hiding. The key thing is that we begin exposing ourselves to new models of what it means to be human. Yes, we can read books like this one, and they are certainly helpful, but they are no substitute for being in the actual felt presence of soulfulness.
Also, just because we may have had some uplifting experiences, this is no guarantee of them remaining with us. If I pretended to you that on returning to my flat in London I was totally changed, now loved the whole human race unconditionally and all my snobbery and prejudices had vanished forever and I was now completely immune from the world of glamour and show, I am afraid I would be lying! But what was important was that I had had, as it were, a “sneak preview” into another world – into another way to be. I had been directly shown that all of life does not have to have the artifice and soullessness of the old story, and that other, more tender and more beautiful and compassionate worlds exist and are there to be embraced.
What Findhorn did for me was give me something new to aspire to and work towards, and I think all of us need similar kinds of experiences when starting out.
Change, however, tends to be gradual. Old stories take time to fade away inside us. Gaining access to a new way of seeing the world and actually having it take root inside us are two very different things. Much of what keeps us all wired into our old mindsets and why we often find it so hard to let them go, even if we realize that they don’t make us happy, is our own particular wounding. And this needs confronting, as what unites all of us is that we are all emotionally wounded in some form or another, some of us much worse than others.
We therefore may need something more than just living in soulful environments. I found, for example, that there were all sorts of parts to me – stubborn, sad, angry, resistant, hurt and immature parts – that kept me locked into my old mindsets and that these wounded parts would often kick back if things got too good, as the old story, being about separation, scarcity and suffering, has a strong charge to it and doesn’t want to die.
My own personal journey, therefore, has involved me having to confront parts of me that feared real intimacy, that had difficulty in truly opening my heart, and I found later that a large part of me resisted all the new abundance of being that I was starting to draw to myself. Yes, underneath all those pretensions and posturings dwelt a sad and insecure little boy who actually didn’t feel good enough and was rather afraid of the big bad world and what it might demand of him!
It has taken a lot of inner work over the years to allow myself to begin embracing the soulful well-being that is the birthright of all of us.
Today, we face many new challenges. We now live in a hyper-complex and a post-truth – and I would also add, post-shame – world. Our planet is in great trouble as a result of the ways we have been treating her and certainly her immune system is infinitely more compromised than it was in the days of my early Findhorn revelations.
Yet by the same token, there is a far greater urgency for change and, not unexpectedly, there are many more “soulful activists” emerging out of the woodwork in every country. Many millennials are showing huge spiritual maturity and I know that something profound is guiding my 20-year-old daughter, who is currently doing a degree in human rights, psychology and global politics.
However, if we really wish to make deep changes both in our own lives and also in the life of our society, we cannot be Pollyanna-ish. We need to be very clear just what it is that we are dealing with.
What I have discovered over and over again, both in terms of my own life and in my experience of practising as a psychotherapist for many years, is that the way to improvement – the way to make things better – is to have the courage to confront what is worst. Please try to absorb what I say not only with your head as mere intellectual information but also to experience it with your heart.
If you want to do the exercises at the end of each chapter and respond to the questions which I ask, I suggest you buy yourself a big notebook. The longer and more comprehensive your responses are, the more they will serve you. You might also want to copy down my questions and then write your responses afterwards.
* What was your childhood like? Was there soulfulness around? What were the stories about yourself that were “given” you and that you took on? How much were you encouraged to be yourself? A lot or very little?
* How did you feel reading about my experiences at Findhorn?
* Having read this chapter, what thoughts or feelings does it evoke inside you?
* How mired do you think you are in your past? Make notes of those areas where you think your life is least soulful.
©2020 bySerge Beddington-Behrens. All Rights Reserved.
Excerpted with permission from the publisher, Findhorn Press.
Publisher: Findhorn Press, a divn of Inner Traditions Intl.
Gateways to the Soul: Inner Work for the Outer World
by Serge Beddington-Behrens
In this guide about engaging in inner work to bring change into the world, Dr. Serge Beddington-Behrens reveals how the healing of our personal wounds combined with the growing of our soul life leads us directly to the addressing of world problems. Sharing inspirational stories from his own personal journey of becoming a transpersonal psychotherapist, shaman, and activist, he shows you how, by transforming your inner world, you begin creating important positive ripples that reverberate around all areas of your outer one.
For more info, or to order this book, click here. (Also available as a Kindle edition.)
About the Author
Dr. Serge Obolensky Beddington-Behrens, MA (Oxon.), Ph.D., K.S.M.L., is an Oxford-educated transpersonal psychotherapist, shaman, activist, and spiritual educator. In 2000 he was awarded an Italian knighthood for services to humanity. For forty years he has conducted spiritual retreats all over the world. In the 1980s, he cofounded the Institute for the Study of Conscious Evolution in San Francisco. He is also the author of Awakening the Universal Heart.