Playing the Game

Life is a song – sing it. Life is a game – play it. Life is a challenge – meet it. Life is a dream – realise it. Life is a sacrifice – offer it. Life is love – enjoy it.

Sai Baba, Indian spiritual master

Is it possible that a board or table game featuring packs of cards could be a tool for transformation and recreate the soul’s journey through life in a miniature version?

Game018To someone who’d rarely played anything more provocative or challenging than Monopoly or 30 Seconds, the idea seemed at best fanciful, although I was intrigued as to why it is played so often within the community and how it could justify regular training courses for facilitators that last up to 14 days.

I was also very aware that people from around the world would be converging upon the Universal Hall in July to play a large-scale 40th anniversary version entitled The Planetary Game – the theme of this week-long international gathering being Engaging with the Emerging Future.

So I was hooked, and in the spirit of journalistic investigation I signed up for a four-day Game of Transformation, joining a trio of other players and two experienced guides. I set a personal intention to “create a loving, inspiring, joyful and sustainable life wherever I am” and vowed to contribute love, empathy and deep listening to the game.

What followed was often astonishing and ultimately deeply inspiring, providing each of us with valuable insights and greater clarity. It also quickly built an atmosphere of love, trust and willingness to get right out of our comfort zones. Often there can be fun, laughter, tears and emotional upheaval.

Joy Drake and with Kathy Tyler

Joy Drake (left) with Kathy Tyler

The Game of Transformation is a board game originated by Joy Drake at the Findhorn Foundation in the 1970s, with Kathy Tyler, Mary Inglis and many others helping create variations, refinements and the famous Angel Cards that can be used on their own or as a tool of the game.

Joy recalls: “I wanted to recreate the Foundation experience in a way that would allow people to learn the lessons and receive the insights that this environment provides without having to come and live here for years.”

What would happen, she wondered, if people had to deal with specific examples of attitudes or behaviours that either move them ahead or set them back on their life paths to wholeness? She began delving into her own experiences and that of her friends, and so the main card decks in the Game – the Insight and Setback decks – came into being. Gradually many aspects of human life came to be incorporated including miracles, blessings, pain, purpose, angels, challenges, intuition, free will and even dark nights of the soul.

One of our players experienced a dark night of the soul and donned dark glasses while withdrawing from engagement with the group to make the experience real and invite authentic and penetrating insights. I felt distress for her predicament and longed for her dark night to end so that she could return to the loving embrace of the group.

The game aims to recreate in miniature the soul’s journey through life, providing a context in which people can see their lives from a wider perspective, and look at and assess the value of their particular patterns and of their attitudes and responses to life.

Game017It offers players the opportunity to contact inspirational energies and to allow these to penetrate their lives, to take risks in a safe environment, to break unhelpful established patterns and to try new responses and behaviours – and to get often invaluable feedback from the game, fellow players and guides.

More and more it encouraged me to trust my intuition. And after drawing the angel card of Joy I found myself having fun with the process as I identified strengths, blind spots and limitations, finding fresh perspectives with which to tackle current challenges.

By the end of the four days I felt better equipped to deal with my challenges and more cheerful and confident about my next steps, even identifying specific actions I would take.

Long-term community member Mary Inglis, who has been involved with the game since its beginnings and who has run the Game office here since 1987, remembers the power of the 1989 New Year’s Planetary Game when all 80 participants were plunged into a world crisis and dark night of the soul as a result of misuse of will by one of the five playing groups, which represented Economics.

Our two Game facilitators Liza Hollingshead and Susan Miles

Our two Game facilitators Liza Hollingshead and Susan Miles

Players representing the playing groups sat on the life-sized path in the Universal Hall in black hooded cloaks and wearing dark glasses, symbolically cut off from their souls.

This was a reflection of the possibilities of the planetary situation in which a world crisis could be precipitated through actions in the economic sphere. So how could it be dealt with here in the Planetary Game? How could we transform this experience in some way to transform what is happening in our world? What did each person need to do?

The Governance group rose to the occasion, using its free will to create a structure which took all those who chose to participate through the dark night out into the other side.

The hall lights were tuned off and Angels holding candles stood in front of the players in the darkness.

They’d been invited to: “Imagine you wake up one morning and all your worst fears about an economic crisis are realised. How would this look and feel for you, for those you love, for your city, your country? What is happening to people all over the globe…? Place your hand where the dark night of the soul feeling is most intense. Hold the pain with love …

“Now be aware of your angel and the source of light and loving power within you …

Game016“Playing groups and Angels – radiate love, life and power to your players. And players – when you feel you have enough love, life and power, remove your cloaks and go to your playing families. In your families, ask for guidance. What is the significance of this dark night? Holding both the pain and the light, find a soul group of people to share with, sharing practical suggestions as well as feelings.”

Slowly the light returned. Hushed voices became more animated. Tears gave way to laughter and love flowed. Somehow the crisis and the journey through it had allowed people to come together and connect at a deeper level, recognising more clearly what in life is important.

For more information about the Game at the Findhorn Foundation please contact

Geoff Dalglish

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