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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How Theresa May laid a trap for herself on the immigration target

When Home Secretary, she insisted on keeping foreign students in the figures – causing a headache for herself today.

When Home Secretary, Theresa May insisted that foreign students should continue to be counted in the overall immigration figures. Some cabinet colleagues, including then Business Secretary Vince Cable and Chancellor George Osborne wanted to reverse this. It was economically illiterate. Current ministers, like the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Chancellor Philip Hammond and Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also want foreign students exempted from the total.

David Cameron’s government aimed to cut immigration figures – including overseas students in that aim meant trying to limit one of the UK’s crucial financial resources. They are worth £25bn to the UK economy, and their fees make up 14 per cent of total university income. And the impact is not just financial – welcoming foreign students is diplomatically and culturally key to Britain’s reputation and its relationship with the rest of the world too. Even more important now Brexit is on its way.

But they stayed in the figures – a situation that, along with counterproductive visa restrictions also introduced by May’s old department, put a lot of foreign students off studying here. For example, there has been a 44 per cent decrease in the number of Indian students coming to Britain to study in the last five years.

Now May’s stubbornness on the migration figures appears to have caught up with her. The Times has revealed that the Prime Minister is ready to “soften her longstanding opposition to taking foreign students out of immigration totals”. It reports that she will offer to change the way the numbers are calculated.

Why the u-turn? No 10 says the concession is to ensure the Higher and Research Bill, key university legislation, can pass due to a Lords amendment urging the government not to count students as “long-term migrants” for “public policy purposes”.

But it will also be a factor in May’s manifesto pledge (and continuation of Cameron’s promise) to cut immigration to the “tens of thousands”. Until today, ministers had been unclear about whether this would be in the manifesto.

Now her u-turn on student figures is being seized upon by opposition parties as “massaging” the migration figures to meet her target. An accusation for which May only has herself, and her steadfast politicising of immigration, to blame.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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