Out of the Ashes Story – Callum Bell

Out of the Ashes 2021

A Hinterland Retreat that Made All the Difference 

How an FHT retreat workshop impacted the life of a young Scottish lad and how these events provide opportunities for young people to engage with the work of the Park Ecovillage, Findhorn.

This is a story of how the Findhorn Hinterland Trust and in particular its land manager Kajedo Wanderer totally changed my life. In the Winter of 2020, I was writing my dissertation in environmental philosophy in my home-city. The year before that, I was lucky enough to go down a rabbit-hole studying philosophy, environmental humanities and religions in Kyoto, Japan. When I came back to Glasgow in the thick of lockdown, I felt much angst about my life not reflecting what I was writing about, thinking about or dreaming of.

I love Glasgow – but going from exploring the many shrines, temples, forests, and mountains of Japan, to a winter of lockdown living in my childhood bedroom for the first time in five years was a blow. I was flying and then my wings were clipped.

Through my spiritual studies, I was increasingly curious about the idea of ‘manifestation’. I imagined living somewhere more rural. It should have a beach nearby, as the sea calms me down and my ancestors lived on Islay. It should have forests, as that’s where I feel most myself – ‘Callum Bruce Bell’ literally means ‘beautiful dove of the forest’. There should be a strong sense of community – my dormitory during my cherry blossom year in Japan provided me with the most powerful feeling of community I had known, and I needed more of that. I should have the opportunity to immerse myself in the arts wherever I was, because all that is good in my life came from a healthy diet of movies, music and books fed to me by my parents. I wrote all this on a piece of paper and then set it alight.

The next month, my environmental studies led me to the idea of ‘ecovillages’, and a quick Google search made me realise I did not have to leave Scotland to find one. Here was this place, Findhorn, that I somehow had never heard of despite living in Scotland for 22 years. Clicking onto their social media, I saw ‘Out of the Ashes camping retreat with Kajedo Wanderer, with the Findhorn Hinterland Trust’. Perfect! It began in summer, when I planned to travel throughout the UK following my graduation. This was my chance to dive into this place that seemed strangely aligned with everything I was hoping for.

As I arrived in the Park after a journey with four connections, my senses were overloaded with caravans, colourful clothes and houses, and accents from all over the world. Plus, it was a sweltering hot day. Was I still in Scotland? It certainly wasn’t Kansas anyway.

The first person who welcomed me was Kajedo, who is essentially the person who put out the invitation for someone like me to appear at that specific time. I was the only male participant on the Hinterland retreat, and the youngest by a decade or two, but I still felt I fitted in perfectly. Kajedo gave us tours of the Park’s history, of the land’s history, and led us through deep personal sharing’s around the Hinterland campfire. 

This was a totally new world for me. I’d been obsessed with spirituality since bingeing Alan Watts YouTube videos at 14, but somehow I barely knew anyone or did anything in the outer world associated with ‘spirituality’. In the sacred space held by Kajedo, I found myself talking about feelings and experiences that I’d mostly kept to myself for years because I knew I would’ve been judged for them in most other settings. The retreat was massively cathartic, and so I jumped at the chance to do Seva (selfless service in Sanskrit) on two more retreats over the following months.

I was gobsmacked hearing about Kajedo’s experiences in the Himalayas and with Native American teachers. The possibilities of what I imagine could happen in my own life began to expand and expand. I’m definitely not the most practical person, but I also got a massive buzz from clumsily starting the campfires and rushing to deliver food and tea to new participants.

At the end of the last retreat, I was sad that I probably wouldn’t be in Findhorn again for a while. Our group stayed on for an extra night and went to ecstatic dance. During a passionate, and (unusual for me at the time) sober dance, my life so far flashed before my eyes in a wave of gratitude as I knelt before a centrepiece which read ‘Art is Life, Life is Art’. Once the dance ended, we sat in a circle and Peter Vallance announced a graduate job that fitted my CV perfectly. Thanks to Kajedo and Hinterland and the Universal Hall, I’m still here over a year later. We’ll see what happens next.

Callum Bell


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Findhorn Hinterland Trust, Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) SC045806
228 Pineridge, Findhorn, Forres, Moray IV36 3TB