Positive Energy Conference

Findhorn resident Mattie Porte shares information about the current conference on positive energy at

This is one of my favourite times to be here as a member of staff of the Findhorn Foundation. It's a time when our whole community pulls together, everyone contributing their skills and resources and talents to ensure our guests have a deep and meaningful experience. It's also a time when our community is enriched and enlivened by the co-mingling of thoughts and ideas and creative expression of both fellow community residents and guests alike.

It's my job to do the online reporting for our conferences so I have a bird's-eye view of what happens on stage and behind the scenes. Each day we bring reports of events and presentations to the Foundation's website. There's also a discussion forum for people to engage from afar.

This week-long conference has been in the making for 15 months, bringing together some of the world's leading thinkers, activists and practitioners to explore creative community responses to peak oil and climate change. And what better place to do so than right here in the heart of the Findhorn community itself.

Among the presenters are:

Joanna Macy, a teacher and author, is the creator of the Work That Reconnects. Drawing from Buddhist practices, systems theory, and love for life, her workshops empower environmental and social activists worldwide. Her many books include Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives Our World; World As Lover, World As Self; Widening Circles, A Memoir; and translations of Rilke's poetry.

Dorothy Maclean is a co-founder of the Findhorn Foundation and community. She continues to dedicate her life to teaching and supporting others to make their own inner connection to God and to nature's intelligence. Described as a true planetary citizen, she has recently released a new book, Come Closer: Messages from the God Within. Dorothy is our keynote speaker.

Richard Heinberg is one of the world’s foremost peak oil educators. He is a Research Fellow of Post Carbon Institute, a member of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and a core faculty member of New College of California where he teaches a programme on Culture, Ecology and Sustainable Community. He is the author of seven books including The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies.

Richard Olivier is Artistic Director of Olivier Mythodrama, a unique leadership development consultancy. He was a leading theatre director for 10 years. His work is at the leading edge of bringing theatre into the development of authentic leadership. Richard is the founder of Mythodrama — a new form of experiential learning which combines great stories with psychological insights, creative exercises and organisational development techniques.

Megan Quinn is the Outreach Director of Community Service, Inc. She served as Master of Ceremonies for the first, second, and third US conferences on Peak Oil and Community Solutions in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and at the Peak Oil and Environment conference in Washington DC in May 2006. Megan has a degree in Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. She co-wrote and co-produced her organisation's documentary, "The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil."

Rob Hopkins is founder of Transition Town Totnes, the first transition town project in the UK. Transition Towns are an emerging approach to enabling towns to prepare for peak oil and climate change and act as catalysts for the community to explore how the end of the age of cheap oil will affect them. They are based on the simple assertion that life beyond cheap oil and gas could be preferable to the present, but only if we engage in designing this transition with sufficient creativity and imagination.

The week has begun by encouraging participants to open to their creativity, to their passion. Joanna Macy is here to lead a two-day exploration of deep ecology while Richard Olivier will lead a one-day workshop on Green Leadership using the themes in Shakespeare's As You Like It. We then transition in the second half of the week to look at the many positive responses that are already emerging from communities around the world.

The last two days of the conference is a mini-event, From Crisis to Opportunity, in which we will be welcoming local members of the Moray community here in Scotland, along with Richard Lochhead, a Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP).

Unlike some conferences where the presenter speaks and the audience is simply the audience, this is different in that it is largely experiential. This conference requires pure presence, full participation, the courage to see what we've done to the world, and an unflinching dedication to the healing of the planet for future generations to come. In her opening remarks on day one, conference host Margot Henderson said, "We are calling for a great turning — a monumental moment of grace." She then asked participants to consider the question, "What am I standing for? As we stand here together, what am I standing for at this time upon the earth?"

Keynote speaker, Dorothy Maclean, reminded us that we are nature and we can use our minds to connect or disconnect. We have freewill, a choice about our fate. Joanna Macy echoed this and encouraged us to find the solidarity that is our birthright — to feel deep connection — and to dedicate our work this week to shedding our fear. This will help us take ourselves seriously as part of the self-healing of our world. Joanna believes that Findhorn is the perfect place to do this work at this time because we are unafraid of deep feeling.

The energy of the sessions, thus far, has run deep and there is a genuine desire among the collective to go boldly forth toward what Joanna Macy calls The Great Turning or others call the Ecological or Sustainability Revolution. But the exploration has really only just begun....

For more information about the Positive Energy Conference please visit the Findhorn website.

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For the first time in my life I have a sworn enemy – and I don’t even know her name

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

Last month, I made an enemy. I do not say this lightly, and I certainly don’t say it with pride, as a more aggressive male might. Throughout my life I have avoided confrontation with a scrupulousness that an unkind observer would call out-and-out cowardice. A waiter could bring the wrong order, cold and crawling with maggots, and in response to “How is everything?” I’d still manage a grin and a “lovely, thanks”.

On the Underground, I’m so wary of being a bad citizen that I often give up my seat to people who aren’t pregnant, aren’t significantly older than me, and in some cases are far better equipped to stand than I am. If there’s one thing I am not, it’s any sort of provocateur. And yet now this: a feud.

And I don’t even know my enemy’s name.

She was on a bike when I accidentally entered her life. I was pushing a buggy and I wandered – rashly, in her view – into her path. There’s little doubt that I was to blame: walking on the road while in charge of a minor is not something encouraged by the Highway Code. In my defence, it was a quiet, suburban street; the cyclist was the only vehicle of any kind; and I was half a street’s length away from physically colliding with her. It was the misjudgment of a sleep-deprived parent rather than an act of malice.

The cyclist, though, was enraged. “THAT’S CLEVER, ISN’T IT?” she yelled. “WALKING IN THE ROAD!”

I was stung by what someone on The Apprentice might refer to as her negative feedback, and walked on with a redoubled sense of the parental inadequacy that is my default state even at the best of times.

A sad little incident, but a one-off, you would think. Only a week later, though, I was walking in a different part of town, this time without the toddler and engrossed in my phone. Again, I accept my culpability in crossing the road without paying due attention; again, I have to point out that it was only a “close shave” in the sense that meteorites are sometimes reported to have “narrowly missed crashing into the Earth” by 50,000 miles. It might have merited, at worst, a reproving ting of the bell. Instead came a familiar voice. “IT’S YOU AGAIN!” she yelled, wrathfully.

This time the shock brought a retort out of me, probably the harshest thing I have ever shouted at a stranger: “WHY ARE YOU SO UNPLEASANT?”

None of this is X-rated stuff, but it adds up to what I can only call a vendetta – something I never expected to pick up on the way to Waitrose. So I am writing this, as much as anything, in the spirit of rapprochement. I really believe that our third meeting, whenever it comes, can be a much happier affair. People can change. Who knows: maybe I’ll even be walking on the pavement

Mark Watson is a stand-up comedian and novelist. His most recent book, Crap at the Environment, follows his own efforts to halve his carbon footprint over one year.

This article first appeared in the 20 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brothers in blood