Guiding the game

Standing in for Jonathan Dawson, Rhiannon Hanfman tells us about a game that has become an important


When Jonathan asked me to fill in for him again, I had just come out of a workshop called The Game of Transformation.

This workshop is possibly the most imaginative and original workshops offered by the Findhorn Foundation.

The Game of Transformation is just that — a game. Dice are rolled, pieces are moved, and players move towards an objective. The difference between this and other games is that the objective is not to win but to increase awareness and gain self-knowledge.

The idea of a game facilitating spiritual development is not new. I remember stories like Herman Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, where mysterious monks in remote monasteries play games with incredibly complex and arcane rules. This is something like that but it’s a lot more fun.

Nevertheless, there are complex and arcane rules so every game has five players and two facilitators or guides. The guides are known as Game Overall Directors, or G.O.D. I am one of them. One guide writes everything that happens down in a chronicle for the players and the other facilitates the process.

The game was the brainchild of Joy Drake, who lived at Findhorn in the 70s. She thought, wouldn’t it be nice if we had a game that we could play on long winter evenings, like Monopoly but with more consciousness. She worked on the idea and, with the input of many others in the community, something began to emerge.

The process was creative and experimental. Different things were tried. Some worked, some didn’t. In the beginning it was a light-hearted exercise but it soon became apparent that something deeper was going on. The game seemed to develop a spirit of it’s own. This presence or energy became known as the Game Deva.

The Game Deva is mercurial, humourous, one minute frivolous, the next profound. It’s a bit of a trickster that leads you down some awful road and only at the end can you see why you had to go that way. It is a joyous, life-loving spirit. At least that is how I experience it.
The Monopoly analogy fits but rather acquiring property and wealth, players acquires self-knowledge and self-acceptance. The game symbolically re-enacts the journey of life and each player enters the game with a purpose or intention. They are ‘born’, and are gifted with free will and intuition with which they can create their game. On their life path, they experience insights and setbacks; miracles and dark nights of the soul; opportunities to serve, appreciations and nature experiences, pain and joy.

How can a game, however complex, facilitate spiritual development and personal growth? I think it is this: we play games in much the same way as we live our lives. We react in the same way and make decisions in the same way. In our real lives much of this may be unconscious but in the structured environment of the game, patterns become apparent and what we do is reflected back to us very clearly. This can be a real eye opener.

The game in its various forms has been part of the life of Findhorn since its inception. In addition to the original version we use in workshops for guests, there is an abbreviated version, the Box Game, that is frequently played by departments within the Foundation to clarify their issues and by individuals for any number of reasons. The Angel Cards that are used ubiquitously here came from the game.

The game absorbed me completely last week as it tends to do and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love guiding the game and feel it’s a privilege to see my five players blossom and change so profoundly in such a short space of time.

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Is defeat in Stoke the beginning of the end for Paul Nuttall?

The Ukip leader was his party's unity candidate. But after his defeat in Stoke, the old divisions are beginning to show again

In a speech to Ukip’s spring conference in Bolton on February 17, the party’s once and probably future leader Nigel Farage laid down the gauntlet for his successor, Paul Nuttall. Stoke’s by-election was “fundamental” to the future of the party – and Nuttall had to win.
 
One week on, Nuttall has failed that test miserably and thrown the fundamental questions hanging over Ukip’s future into harsh relief. 

For all his bullish talk of supplanting Labour in its industrial heartlands, the Ukip leader only managed to increase the party’s vote share by 2.2 percentage points on 2015. This paltry increase came despite Stoke’s 70 per cent Brexit majority, and a media narrative that was, until the revelations around Nuttall and Hillsborough, talking the party’s chances up.
 
So what now for Nuttall? There is, for the time being, little chance of him resigning – and, in truth, few inside Ukip expected him to win. Nuttall was relying on two well-rehearsed lines as get-out-of-jail free cards very early on in the campaign. 

The first was that the seat was a lowly 72 on Ukip’s target list. The second was that he had been leader of party whose image had been tarnished by infighting both figurative and literal for all of 12 weeks – the real work of his project had yet to begin. 

The chances of that project ever succeeding were modest at the very best. After yesterday’s defeat, it looks even more unlikely. Nuttall had originally stated his intention to run in the likely by-election in Leigh, Greater Manchester, when Andy Burnham wins the Greater Manchester metro mayoralty as is expected in May (Wigan, the borough of which Leigh is part, voted 64 per cent for Brexit).

If he goes ahead and stands – which he may well do – he will have to overturn a Labour majority of over 14,000. That, even before the unedifying row over the veracity of his Hillsborough recollections, was always going to be a big challenge. If he goes for it and loses, his leadership – predicated as it is on his supposed ability to win votes in the north - will be dead in the water. 

Nuttall is not entirely to blame, but he is a big part of Ukip’s problem. I visited Stoke the day before The Guardian published its initial report on Nuttall’s Hillsborough claims, and even then Nuttall’s campaign manager admitted that he was unlikely to convince the “hard core” of Conservative voters to back him. 

There are manifold reasons for this, but chief among them is that Nuttall, despite his newfound love of tweed, is no Nigel Farage. Not only does he lack his name recognition and box office appeal, but the sad truth is that the Tory voters Ukip need to attract are much less likely to vote for a party led by a Scouser whose platform consists of reassuring working-class voters their NHS and benefits are safe.
 
It is Farage and his allies – most notably the party’s main donor Arron Banks – who hold the most power over Nuttall’s future. Banks, who Nuttall publicly disowned as a non-member after he said he was “sick to death” of people “milking” the Hillsborough disaster, said on the eve of the Stoke poll that Ukip had to “remain radical” if it wanted to keep receiving his money. Farage himself has said the party’s campaign ought to have been “clearer” on immigration. 

Senior party figures are already briefing against Nuttall and his team in the Telegraph, whose proprietors are chummy with the beer-swilling Farage-Banks axis. They deride him for his efforts to turn Ukip into “NiceKip” or “Nukip” in order to appeal to more women voters, and for the heavy-handedness of his pitch to Labour voters (“There were times when I wondered whether I’ve got a purple rosette or a red one on”, one told the paper). 

It is Nuttall’s policy advisers - the anti-Farage awkward squad of Suzanne Evans, MEP Patrick O’Flynn (who famously branded Farage "snarling, thin-skinned and aggressive") and former leadership candidate Lisa Duffy – come in for the harshest criticism. Herein lies the leader's almost impossible task. Despite having pitched to members as a unity candidate, the two sides’ visions for Ukip are irreconcilable – one urges him to emulate Trump (who Nuttall says he would not have voted for), and the other urges a more moderate tack. 

Endorsing his leader on Question Time last night, Ukip’s sole MP Douglas Carswell blamed the legacy of the party’s Tea Party-inspired 2015 general election campaign, which saw Farage complain about foreigners with HIV using the NHS in ITV’s leaders debate, for the party’s poor performance in Stoke. Others, such as MEP Bill Etheridge, say precisely the opposite – that Nuttall must be more like Farage. 

Neither side has yet called for Nuttall’s head. He insists he is “not going anywhere”. With his febrile party no stranger to abortive coup and counter-coup, he is unlikely to be the one who has the final say.