A few perspectives from my experience of the 20th Annual Global Ecovillage Network Summit at Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland. A beautifully exhausting hurricane week filled with deep connections, abundant inspiration, and challenging catharses. So much inner work and "interwork", so much love, so many discussions, so many projects... memorable beyond words! But here are some pictures and thoughts anyway. ^_^
For more context, I recommend reading Albert Bates' recent post on the event:
And for a deeper dive on the organizational history and developments at the conference, check out Sky Blue's excellent write-up:
All official and stuff! We had symbols on our badges, shared with just a few other attendees, as a way to connect.
There was an indescribably electric atmosphere in the Universal Hall just before the Opening Ceremonies. The grand feeling of an orchestra tuning.
We were blessed to have Ross and Hildur Jackson (left), the financial and spiritual parents of the Global Ecovillage Network, warming us with their presence throughout the conference. And Kosha Joubert's (center) tireless facilitation set a grounding, unifying tone for the whole experience.
Here's Kosha's inspiring story from TEDxFindhorn last year...
Ross also announced an influx of funding for GEN & Gaia Education, and challenged them to achieve financial independence within the next two decades, sparking excited discussions of new partnerships and projects. Nothing concrete emerged by week's end, but it became clear that the way forward for GEN must embrace a posture of listening and responding actively to the areas of greatest need around the world with which the network intersects.
"You are going to incarnate so much in the next 20 years," Robert Gilman (right) told us encouragingly. His and his wife's work in the early 90's catalyzed GEN and the ecovillage movement, and Robert has remained passionately involved over the last two decades.
Almost immediately, those of us who identify as young (haha) began bonding with a trip to Findhorn Beach. I'm so grateful for how our loving camaraderie blossomed and continued throughout the week. The beach is covered in ruins of WW2 tank traps and "whale watching" stations. The lichen-covered concrete being slowly subsumed by the ocean's patient advance.
We were asked to bring soil and water from our homes to mix together here. They will go to Japan for use in a peace ritual. I brought soil and water from Barton Springs in Austin. And that's my plucky armadillo companion, Barton, helping me with the ritual.
Deep, open sharing among the attendees was a consistent theme of the conference, to which the Universal Hall's pentagonal format lent itself brilliantly.
Spiritual teacher Thomas Hübl joined us via Skype, drawing from the mystical traditions to offer succinct metaphors of our contemporary challenges, and encouraging us to listen deeply to that barely-audible "Whisper of the Future" within ourselves and others.
Granted, he's a white male from Europe who looks a lot like Jesus, but he's also self-aware and speaks from his heart. Conflicted as I felt as an aspiring feminist and ardent challenger of the patriarchy, I have to admit this guy really gets it and is worth hearing.
Lunch, Dinner, and Tea Time together in Findhorn's beautiful Community Centre were fertile spacetimes for deeper connections, strategic discussions, and passionate sharing. Sitting outside together grounded and refreshed us amidst the relentlessly heady content of the conference.
A whole "strand" of sessions during the conference focused on "North-South Reconciliation", challenging us to share and process the deep wounds between the historical and contemporary colonizers and colonized. Within this context, the relationship between Israel and Palestine featured prominently. I was touched repeatedly by the authentic sharing between Aida Shibli, Mark Millstone Naveh, and others from the conflicted region. Together, they lit the Universal Hall Candle one morning, modeling a way forward of light and unity.
Trudy Juriansz's work with Analog Forestry inspires me greatly, as does the Findhorn-based Trees For Life project. I have profoundly felt the significance of forests on multiple levels over the past month, beginning in my Permaculture Design Course. And as a somewhat-practicing Buddhist, this quote hit me in the best way. Trees do so much for us, and ask so little in return.
Coming together for the Gaia Excellence Awards. There was some controversy, voiced by Robert Gilman and Hildur Jackson, over the giving of awards in general, and the significant projects necessarily excluded by such a paradigm. "Not that I claim any sort of parental authority, but... this feels like you're making me choose among my children," Robert said of how it felt being a judge.
Despite the controversy, gifts of 1500 Euro apiece were awarded by the panel of judges to three wonderful projects around the world — Común Tierra, Arterra Bizimodu Ecoaldea (who shared a portion of their award with Skala Ecovillage in Greece), and Better World Cameroon.
Barton and I were getting pretty exhausted by Day 7, as were most of the attendees. There was generally an edgier and more distant feel to our interactions. Remembering to take time away for self-care (as meditation, naps, or long walks in the pine woods around Findhorn) was often difficult, but necessary..
I was delighted by the sociocratic election of Daniel Greenberg (one of my personal heroes) to the GEN presidency. Daniel has kicked off so many powerful ripples in this movement, especially among my generation. He elegantly articulated that at the core of our movement is "a deep longing for inter-being," for connection with each other and our planet. This longing drives us to create ecovillages and sustainable communities of tremendous diversity, healing our world from the inside out.
On our final day, we had an intensive rotational "harvesting" of take-aways from the whole conference. Chief among these were the importance of listening to underprivileged voices, acknowledging and responding with genuine action to multiple crises around the network (Greece, Middle East, certain regions of Africa), and a deep reflection on our actual capacities as a network and as individuals.
During the closing ceremony of the conference, representatives from each of the countries in attendance came together in a giant circle. Despite visa issues, under-representation of the global "south", and other such shortfalls, I could still powerfully feel us modelling how a global community could feel. We convened as citizens of the world, fusing our unique cultures and personalities in a beautiful collage. The Many in the One and the One in the Many, unified in place and time, simply as human beings.
Saturday was bittersweet, full of lingering goodbye hugs and hopeful exchanging of contact information. We'll never again be together exactly as we were here during GEN+20, but likely many of our paths will cross in the future.
May the circle be open, but ever unbroken...