Week 1 at Ecovillage Training, the Findhorn Foundation, Scotland

group workThe first week of our course is focused on the concept of People Care.  A successful community has to have “glue” to keep the people together.  At Findhorn, this glue is a diversity of spiritual practice which is held together in joy and playfulness.  This week has been an incredibly intense experience, with group discovery games, dancing, singing, and music; with permaculture, group dynamics, history, and looking to the future; with curiosity, honesty and tenderness.

To begin the program, we met our new family for the month in a large circle.  There was a candle in the center as the focal point of the group, representing light, hope and spirit.  We started with an energizing song with pounding on the floor and singing African lyrics.  “Aye Tikki tikki, aye eh!!!  Thump! Thump! Pat! Pat!, Clap! Clap!    We even clapped on the legs of the people beside us.  It was a clear contrast to the HANDS OFF culture of an office.  There is something so uplifting about such a simple game.  Everyone was laughing and getting out the new group jitters.

The people running the course are called ‘focalizers’ because they help to hold the space but are not put above the group in the psychological hierarchy.  Craig has lived and breathed Findhorn for 40 years.  He has a calm and affirmative personality that puts me at ease.  He exudes passion and youthfulness and calls himself Findhorn’s ‘feral elder’. Gabrielle is a young woman who was born into the Findhorn Foundation Community. She was a bit nervous but still has the presence of a good group facilitator.  

The first two days of the course were devoted to building group trust. We danced together in a circle to traditional Mediterranean folk music. Then we danced a spiral dance where Dave stood still in the middle and we slowly wound the group around him like a ball of thread.   All these exercises break down our barriers and help us to mix together and come in contact with one another.  The next day we played group discovery games which work with non-verbal communication and giving compassionate caring to others.  At the end, we had a group sharing sitting in a circle by a crackling fire.  It felt so close and open as if we had known each other for years or grown up together.  And that is what these games have been developed to do.

The program is an intense one, running for six days of the week, and usually three sessions per day each three hours. One stalwart of the community is that “Work is Love in Action”; meaning, everyone does KP (“Kitchen Party”) once a week – that is, washing up! We also have one session of work within the community, and for this Dave is working in Cullerne Garden, a market garden a few minutes walk from the Park campus. Kara is helping with the cooking and cleaning over at the Cluny campus.

Further into the week, we discussed the state of the world and delved into all the emotions that arose as we looked at the fragility of the system of our civilization. We came up with a new expression for when several related crises cause a catastrophe in the system; “Peak Shit”. We also looked at our definition of success in group work. We were challenged in groups of six to frame a window. Dave’s group finished very fast but some of the group members felt excluded and they all ended up feeling sad. Kara’ s group were the last to finish but the group felt happy at the end because they got along and had fun during the process. Another group got it done on time and were happy with each other as well. Success can be evaluated in terms of the task, the process and the relationships.

Eco-village training is an intense program that is about so much more than windmills. We are really learning about ourselves and how we fit into community and how that affects the state of the world.


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