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14 April 2008

Talking to the descendants

Our second report from the Positive Energy conference at Findhorn

By Jonathan Dawson

Well, the Positive Energy conference was quite a blast. We had a little over 150 guests in for the entire week of the conference, together with up to 60 locals in for most individual sessions.

It seems to me that Findhorn does this kind of event especially well. A key moment in my own decision to come and live here was attending a conference, Soul in Education, in 2000. I remember holding in my mind those two words – ‘Findhorn’ and ‘conference’ – the one light, playful and creative, the other grey, heady and dull – and wondering how on earth they would manage to share the same space for a week.

In the event, I sat in on an event of such creativity and beauty – offering nourishment and stimulation to heat, heart and hands – that I decided to come and live here. It was by some distance the best gathering of its kind I had ever attended.

So, eight years later, to be in a position to host an event like this feels like a major privilege. Of the many rich images that remain with me from the week, two really stick out. The first was an exercise led by Joanna Macy, veteran deep ecologist and wise woman.

In this exercise, participants worked in pairs in a role-play – one as him/herself, the other as a human being from two centuries in the future, looking back to the current moment, the Great Turning, as Joanna calls it, and with many questions and appreciations for those alive now who had been part of the Turning of our societies towards sustainability.

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The conference hall was filled with deep and moving conversations across the generations and centuries, often with tears of love and appreciation flowing freely.

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This is powerful stuff, enabling people to see beyond the squalid constraints of late industrial, consumerist society and powerfully to envisage how it can all be turned around. This work is deeply redolent of rituals I have witnessed in Africa through which the living gain in strength from their contact with the wise perspective of the ancestors and those not yet born.

A rich mix of this kind of deep listening and inner transformation together with the more conventional presentations from those active in developing carbon-reducing models and projects out in the world was precisely what we were after.

The second image from the week that stays powerfully with me is looking into the eyes of Dorothy Maclean, the last surviving co-founder of the Findhorn Foundation community who delivered an exquisite presentation to the conference, and realising that in doing so, I was able to repeat Joanna’s ancestor exercise, but in real time.

So, rather than engaging in a role-play aimed at promoting cross-generational dialogue, I found myself suddenly face-to-face with this being who truly has effected a giant step in the Great Turning, contributing hugely to the store of well-being, health and happiness on the planet through the extraordinary power of her vision and service. Those sparkling blue eyes were my gateway of gratitude to the ancestors who are already guiding us in the ways of the Great Turning.

Something I celebrate about this place is that no sooner has one event run its course that we are on to the next thing. So, big and powerful as Positive Energy has been – and indeed, our own plans for building in greater resilience and further reducing our carbon footprint will roll on for the foreseeable future – all the while and behind the scenes, others were preparing for the next celebration.

This was a party to mark Dorothy’s 88th birthday – a wonderful evening of music and dance, recollections and laughter, last Friday celebrating this extraordinary woman.

For daily reports on the Positive Energy conference, visit
For images, visit