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12 May 2008


How people come and go at Findhorn but how often they leave a positive legacy behind them...

By Jonathan Dawson

This week, as many others, our community newsletter, the Rainbow Bridge, carries news of one or more members leaving the community. In an ecovillage of around 500 souls, this level of turnover does not present too much of a problem.

There are still several people here who first came to Findhorn in the 1960s and a good number who have been here for 20 years or more, so there is little danger of a loss of institutional memory.

Compare this to a much smaller community, of around 20, where I used to live in Dorset. The high rate of turnover there left very few who had spent more than a couple of years in the community. As in many other intentional communities of this size, this threatened the stability and indeed the very survival of the community as lessons needed to be learned over and over again, amidst much often acrimonious process.

One of those whose departure is announced in this week’s Bridge is my friend, Hide Enomoto, who will be returning to Japan with his wife and daughter, Maho and Minato, after spending a couple of years here in Findhorn.

Hide has been a graceful and gentle presence around the place. A life coach by profession – in fact, he has written the most authoritative book on the subject in Japan – he has been here to learn about community-level sustainability, with the aim of going back to Japan as a more effective change agent.

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He has worked closely with us on the UNESCO-endorsed, month-long Ecovillage Design Education training programme we run here each autumn. In fact, I am unable to think of him without remembering one particular exercise he led in this training.

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Deceptively elegant and powerful (in this respect, much like Hide himself), it invites those in dialogue to listen deeply to what the other is saying and to begin one’s reply with ‘Yes……..and’ (rather than some variation of the usual ‘Yes…….but’) – irrespective of how much one disagrees with what has just been said.

It sounds like there is a fair potential here for creating shallow and superficial consensus – no? And yet, provided your interlocutor is not truly off the rails, it is astonishing how effective this little device can be in building empathy, encouraging deep listening and identifying ‘both/ands’ where only ‘either/ors had previously appeared to exist. Try it!

Now, having recently completed a Transition Town methodology training and having richly learned from and contributed to our own community here, Hide heads off today on a tour of UK sustainability initiatives before travelling back to Japan, where he hopes to be instrumental in helping the ecovillage and transition towns models to land.

At the recent Positive Energy conference, I likened ecovillages like Findhorn to eco-monasteries – I remain fascinated by the parallels between today’s ecovillages and the Celtic monasteries of the 5th, 6th and 7th centuries. Both, it seems to me, are centres of light and learning that while being somewhat artificial and difficult to replicate, are nonetheless powerful places of refuge and study where folk can come to regenerate and find inspiration and new knowledge to take back to their home places.

Seen in this light, Hide is following an ancient and venerable lineage. I have a strong hunch that the world will be a better place for his having spent time with us here.