French Connection at Schumacher College

At the end of November, we were 28 experiencing a deep journey in the heart of the luscious green english countryside.

Social innovators, transition facilitators, activists, artists, most of us french and some belgium, swiss mexican, japanese … A world of origins and cultures was gathered there.

Our common points : our engagement for a positive change in society and a good friend, Olivier Maurel, social entrepreneur, generous connector and talented facilitator.

In February earlier this year, Olivier visited the Schumacher College in Totnes, South Devon, for a 3 weeks course.

Since then he has been willing to share the profound inspiration of this very special place with the ecosystem of change makers he has been connecting with for the past years through facilitating inspiring events and experiences on collective intelligence & inner transformation … nature inspired, hearty rooted and friendship bonding moments.

His proposition to us was about experiencing, learning, connecting together, with nature and with ourselves to inspire our actions in society while nourish our beings and our souls.

The Schumacher College is an international center for nature-based education on ecology, science and economics co founded by Satish Kumar, peace and environment activist for 50 years.

The inspiring titles of the programmes and short courses are : « Economics for transition » , « Ecological design thinking », « Holistic science », « Love is all » …

All of the courses are deeply grounded in an self-transformative ecological and holistic worldview. The classroom is the garden, the kitchen, the woods, the pottery barn and sometime one of the cosy spaces of the estate.

Life there is cooperative living based, locally rooted in the community of Totnes, one of the first transition towns and connected to a wider network or people striving for positive change in the world.

Learn more about this incredibly inspiring place visiting the website or watch this video.

What I really appreciated there is the alignment between values and actions, from the love the food is produced with to the kindness and openness of all teachers and staff.

It felts like home to be there, and even better since the (gorgeous) meals were ready without having to worry about it !

For 5 days, we have enjoyed a program specially tailored for « the french connection group » thanks to the attentive coordination of Della Duncan, californian economist, activist & journalist (visit Upstream podcast for more infos).

The very first day or our stay, we connected with our planet leaded by Stephan Harding (Co-founder of the College) to experience deep ecology through walking the whole history of earth for 4.6 kms (for 4.6 billions years) and stopping at crucial steps of evolution.
Each of our step being 500.000 years …

At the end of the day, Stephan used a ruler for us to witness how human history is only 8 mms on the face of earth.
And the industrial era, only 1/5 of the last millimeter.

What a wonderful way to understand and live through our bodies how humble and yet catastrophic the human influence is for the planet !

“The smaller we come to feel ourselves compared to the mountain, the nearer we come to participate in its greatness.” 
— Arne Naess

The next day, Julia Richardson told us about resilient economics, right livelihood & the Great Turning.

How to shift worldview, hold actions and create structures in respect of choosing life in everything we do ?

To addition, Richenda Macgregor fascinated us with a pottery making meditative teaching, where soul & soil were deeply engaged for a moment of beautiful magic.

We spend an evening by the fireplace and a morning chatting and questioning Satish Kumar and enjoyed his beautiful energy and joyful wisdom on a new trinity of « Soil, Soul, Society ».

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. 
He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. 
This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. 
Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” — Albert Einstein

We had an evening with Jonathan Dawson talking about the College history and the Economics for transition, while others could listen to the « Great Peacemaker » tale in the Darlington Hall cosy library.

We went on a Transition Tour of Totnes with Hal Gillmore and connected with the different aspects of a town engaged in transition for more than 10 years now.

The last day before we all went back to our life, harvesting of the major take aways of the week, the chance was given to us to deeply celebrate life and Gaia, by dancing the Earth Dance with Denise.
Then we walked to hug and honor a 2000 years old tree in the profoundly beautiful gardens of Dartington Hall. A deeply spirit rooted way to say goodbye to this precious place on Earth.

And we had deep exchanges either one to one or in group, in addition of the teachings.
We did a co-development session to help some of our group with a difficulty met in his/her initiative.

And together we chatted, we walked, we meditated, we danced, we sang, we laughed and we experienced the over-view effect (more on
We shared our hopes and fears and inspired each other with our projects & creations.

It was a few days when friendship, care and beauty prevailed … a great inspiration for our « back to normal » lives and essential support for our decisions and actions.

Thanks from the bottom of my heart to Olivier for the initiative, to the Schumacher team, students & volunteers for the warm welcome, to the group for the love we shared and to Life to allow us to experience such moments of joy.

Emmanuelle Roques Mindfulness activist & Artist Website & contact

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An lovely article written by Marianne (in french) “Dear Gaia …”

Photos Lise Gallois