Head, Heart, Hands: Reflections on Life at Schumacher College – Dartington Estate – Totnes – Devon

It has been a few weeks since my last blog and you may wonder if I have given up on it, fallen off a cliff, or some other calamity. None of the above is the case. I have been very busy and my mind, body and spirit occupied with living in and exploring community, deeply immersed in intense inspirational learning and participating in co-creating some paradigm shifting concepts and frameworks for a sustainable and regenerative future. So I will start writing some blogs now of recent weeks, but maybe not quite in chronologiocal order, which does not deter from the depth and content. So stay with me!

Sounds ambitious ? Well it is of course when aiming to change the world, but no better place to go for such an attempt than the Schumacher College (named after E.F. Schumacher the author of the 1970s bestseller “Small is Beautiful” and proponent of Buddhist Economics), in South Devon, UK. The college is and has been a center of excellence for alternative learning and deep inquiry into the causes of our current local to global problems and predicaments on earth and a source of great insights and practices and approaches, which can heal the world.

Located in the picturesque English countryside of green rolling hills, wind-swept moors, sheer cliffs and beautiful beaches of South-Devon. Close to the ancient port and trading town of Totnes on the River Dart, with ancient history dating back to the Bronze Ages, Roman times, medieval trading center and the birth-place of the English Navy, of the Industrial Revolution, and much more recently of the Transition Town Movement, an approach for designing re-localisation of our lives, our livelihoods, re-invigorate our communities, and protection of our heritage, culture and environments – i.e also bringing the learnings from intentional communities into all our unintentional communities (and there is a Transition Town likely somewhere not too far from where you are – have a search). Ttansition Towns initiatives in Totnes are widespread and cover many aspects olf economic, social and cultural life and has achieved a good level of re-localisation of production (e.g. food and energy) and provides many local livelihoods. Woudl be woth a separate blog later on to do it justice what has been co-created here in Totes as and inspiration for other places. Hence change and innovation have been around this area for eons. Reinvigorated in the 1930s by the owners of the expansive Dartington Estate as a center of alternative agriculture, the arts and sciences. And for the last 25 years with extensive contributions and expansion of knowledge and practice by the Schumacher College, housed on the estate.






Now I could continue with a lengthy description of my experiences and encounters during my 2 weeks time at Schumacher College, but through Synchronicity, I came across a beautifully written piece of this experience by a previous but recent visitor of the college, which speaks from my heart and could not have written it any better. So instead of plagiarise this blog I encourage you to read it as it transmits the feelings and emotions of the Schumacher experience so well and I promise you will want to go there yourself as soon as you can. Go to the link here first Building and Economy in Service to Life

During my 2 weeks at the college I had the great opportunity to attend a couple of short courses:

Authentic Celebration: The Path to Collective Wisdom
Authentic Celebration combines the processes and philosophy of Dragon Dreaming with aspects of integrative psychotherapy, body awareness and mindfulness practices. We were working with the philosophy as a whole and a number of theoretical and practical aspects of Dragon Dreaming to explore the importance and the potential of true celebration for oneself and others. This meant that there were a combination of dynamic and contemplative group exercises, pair work as well as individual time and one-on one coaching.
Dragon Dreaming is a PROJECT design philosophy, yet everything we decide to see as a project can become a project, with core elements based on Australian Aboriginal Dreaming and Dreamtime. In this way, we were able to apply the insights of the course to every aspect of our lives, from building a house, to creating a business or organisation, design and artifact, system or service, raising a child or just actively and intentfully living and engaging with the context we live in. Or creating and Intentional Community !
With John Croft (creator of Dragon Dreaming), Lizandra Barbuto, Daniel Koerner and Satish Kumar, we had a beautiful fusion between education and therapy, mind and body, theory and practice, thinking and feeling, head, heart and hands was created… and the course was a deep and powerful individual as well as a collective exploratory journey for more resilience, understanding, gratitude (of the light and the darkness) action, compassion, care and kindness and happiness for the projects and people we engage with in our lives. After the week I have not only gained all of the above. had great celebrations, but also a close group of new friends and fellow dreamers from all around the world. If you come across Dragon Dreaming or a related course, I recommend you sign up to it straight away or at least check out the extensive materials available on it online

Transition Design Symposium and Short Course: New Solutions for Life on a finite Planet
After the week of intensive personal and group work and explorations it was time to change gears (which was a bit of a shock change over), into a public symposium on Transition Design, held at the medieval environments of Dartington Hall Estate.
The concept and ideas as well as framework of Transition Design acknowledges that change at every level of our society is needed to address the issues confronting us in the 21st century. Climate change, loss of biodiversity, depletion of natural resources and the widening gap between rich and poor are just a few of the ‘wicked problems’ that require new paradigms, frameworks, principles and approaches to problem solving. Lightheartedly Transition Design has evolved out of discussions between a Designer, an Anarchist and a Philosopher (all three were lecturing during the short course) from Carnegie Mellon University.

We are living in ‘transitional times. Transition Design takes as its central premise the need for societal transitions to more sustainable and regenerative futures and argues that design has a key role to play in these transitions (with the premise that we are all designers). It applies an understanding of the interconnectedness of social, economic, political and natural systems to address problems at all levels of spatiotemporal scale in ways that improve quality of life. Transition Design advocates the reconception of entire lifestyles, with the aim of making them more place-based, convivial and participatory and harmonizing them with the natural environment. Transition Design focuses on the need for ‘COSMOPOLITAN LOCALISM’, a lifestyle that is place-based and bio-regional, yet global and commons based in its awareness and exchange of information, knowledge, skills, ideas and technologies.
With this background around 100 participants (designers and non-designers with wide ranging backgrounds and experiences) and 16 panelists discussed various aspects and ideas for Transition Design, complemented by Open Sessions, creating a vibrant and stimulating and highly productive event. Which was continued during the short course (with about 35 participants, all of them highly experienced and accomplished practitioners in their respective fields), of lectures, design studio sessions, tutorials and evening sessions, with often deep and insightful discussions, discourse and dialogue amongst and between the varied disciplines and experiences of participants from many places around the world, not to forget the late night sessions in the woods or in the bar. Definitely one of the most inspiring but also intellectually challenging events I have attended so far, with many great connections formed during the event and as part of the Schumacher Community.
And last but not least the concepts and ideas from Transition Design are directly relevant and applicable for creation and living of and in intentional communities.



Transition Town Network

Schumacher College

Dartington Estate

Deep Time Walk

Dragon Dreaming
Transition Design Network

Author: Peter Gringinger

Cultural Creative | Evolutionary Activist | Change Agent | Whole Systems, Transition & Regenerative Designer, Educator, Leader and Facilitator | Peter is a cultural creative, working as radical evolutionary activist and change agent through the use of whole systems, transition and regenerative design to provide support through integral and participatory facilitation for individuals, groups, neighbourhoods, communities and organisations to co-create and co-design our sustainable futures of regenerative and thriving cultures, places, environments and local but globally networked livelihoods. Peter believes in order to tackle and resolve the many interconnected issues and threats we are facing we need to take a whole and integral person and systems approach so that we can strive to (co)-create true sustainability and regeneration of our presence on this planet and to create health and wellbeing for all (humans and non-humans). We have to work on creating bridges between the various ideas and views of the world, to embrace the diversity and work through use of transformative innovation to shift us into a new worldview of cooperation, abundance regeneration and using transformative resilience for a just and equitable future founded on self-reliant local but globally connected communities. Originally trained as a geologist and hydrogeologist and obtaining further postgraduate training in renewable energy technology (geothermal) and in environmental sciences and engineering, he has worked as consultant to support clients in managing challenging environmental impacts from past commercial and industrial processes and facilities, including the assessment and clean-up of polluted soils and waters, environmental risk assessment & management, water resources and waste management. Peter has worked on projects across Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Philippines, Austria, Italy and Iceland. His clients have included local, state and federal governments, organisations including those within the defence and private sector for the production and use of explosives/ammunitions and chemicals, infrastructure sectors of road, rail, ports and airports; private sector clients including manufacturers and petrochemical companies, as well as major property developers, financiers, lawyers, insurers and land owners, waste management companies including landfill operators. Hence Peter has extensive experience in Project and Program Management for small to large scale projects and programs. In recent years Peter has completed further extensive personal development, training and skills acquisition and capability in Sustainability, Permaculture, Sustainability and Integral Leadership, Participatory Facilitation, Applied Ecopsychology, Integral and Systems Thinking, Whole Systems, Transition, Sustainable & Regenerative Design, Ecovillage Design, and provides input and support for individuals, groups, communities and organisations for the co-creation and co-design of sustainable futures and provides advice for personal and organisational change and transformation. Peter was the Acting Head of Innovation for Gaia Education in 2017, is a certified Trainer with Gaia Education, an active member of the Leadership circle of the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN) Australia and a GEN Ambassador for Australia and on the National Committee of Cohousing Australia.

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