Planetary Permaculture Pilgrimage – Days 6 and 7

by Tamara Griffiths, Delvin Solkinson and Ali Ma

Day 6 : First Day of the Robin Clayfield Training

Joining with another Pilgrim, the ultra inspiring Ali Ma, we continued our learning adventure with renewed inspiration. After a 5am awakening before sunrise and a long drive we arrived at last at the fabled Crystal Waters Community. We had moved from sub-tropics into the tropics and got there just in time for the 9am start of class.

Robin welcomed us to Crystal Waters and acknowledged the traditional custodians of this land, the Gabi Gabi people, before we went into learning about our own learning styles — empowering us to take charge of our learning. There were a couple of questionnaires — one on how we learned, whether a visual, auditory or kinesthetic learner.

We were all visionaries!

We were learning in a beautiful rammed-earth classroom overlooking the valley of crystal waters. We have been having classes up at the eco-centre — a purpose built building initiated and paid for by Max Lindegger, one of the grandfathers of the permaculture community village. This intentional community space was created more than 20 years ago by a team of permaculture people. It’s the largest permaculture community design ever made.

Next we did a resources tour moving around the room and began to notice Robin’s extraordinary ability to facilitate the space. She told an inspiring story about the first ever permaculture conference which included 40 men and only 4 women. She began her path, along with Robyn Francis by doing a womens’ course and vowing never to lecture again. Instead she developed dynamic group processes that included students in all aspects of the learning.

With incredible skill in facilitation including amazing body language and sustained eye contact Robin held the space immaculately and modeled her incredible teaching techniques wonderfully. It was personally noted how she reached each of us in ways we can immediately improve and upgrade our facilitation skills — highlighting ways we can facilitate so people are in their comfort zone, so we can fly together.

Robin mentioned developing a fourth ethic: spirit care. She doesn’t use a white board or black board, instead preferring sticky carpet and butcher’s paper so people can read and add to it later.

Lunch and dinner were delicious vegetarian feasts with huge salads, some of the best food we have had at any permaculture course. We were cooked for by a wonderful Thai resident of Crystal Waters, and the food included Pad Thai — his mother’s recipe from southern Thailand.

We went outside for another game, enabling us to set our collective agreements for creating a successful and loving classroom environment. She explained to us that all activities have process and content. It’s important to jump between content and process, making space for ‘learning moments’. Robin also talked to us about accelerated learning and active participation, as well as holistic and motivational learning.

Another unique activity had us all writing on small pieces of paper about what creates a dynamic group. People who had the same ideas posted their ideas together until the cork board was totally full.

We learned about visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning and how to cater lessons to include all three and avoid language that caters more to one or another.

The classes have been awesome with the group settling in and getting to know each other through a variety of "glue processes" led by Robin. Last night we had an evening of trust games — and had a great laugh learning techniques and modeling a group of people learning with each other.

By the end of the day we were completely exhausted but also very happy to be at another evolutionary learning course.

Day 7

Day two of this creative facilitation training was as diverse as the tropical rainforest that surrounded our eco-classroom. Birds and cicadas sang outside while Kangaroos hopped by regularly.

We began with a name game and check in and flowed into a long deep recapitulation led by Robin as a visualization. It was a long process of really anchoring in what happened the day before.

Using puppets and passionate presentation styles, Robin introduced the 7 intelligences, encouraging us to learn how we learn as well as how other people do in order to connect deeper to dynamic teaching. Using a special card game we reviewed teaching techniques that relate to each of the 7 intelligences.

She acknowledged the value of alternative teaching spaces:
For example – creating a sand-box landscape to draw diagrams, maps and symbology that can be used in wordless, cross-cultural outreach.

There was a wonderful story told of a guy who was asked to teach about wind breaks. He chose to demonstrate this using the sand box. He gathered up chalk dusk from the base of the chalk board, filled the inner part of an empty pen tube and took it over to a set up landscape in the sand box. He had laid it out with mini trees, hills, contours and buildings. He took aim, and in one beautiful puff, blew the prevailing coloured chalk winds over the landscape and thus demonstrated the effects of wind breaks.

After tea we moved outside and had self-facilitated group discussion about learning styles including guessing what percentage of people learn from hearing, speaking, reading and doing. Robin is holding space for the process but letting us bond over figuring out the process.

Back inside, Robin talks about ‘art of creative facilitation’ in an incredible diverse way. It’s incredible how many different teaching techniques, strategies and methods Robin has already used in the course. Incredible!

We were introduced to concepts in course design as we explore target groups, training objectives and competency needs, as well as program design and details. Tamara, Ali Ma and I got into a group and selected three teaching techniques to guide our process : "Ritual, Sandbox and Treasure Hunt".

In Australia? Come out to learn from the maestro of creative facilitation with Robin Clayfield author of Teaching Permaculture Creatively at her Creative Community Governance and Decision Making Workshop on Monday, November 21.

Also there is still a scholarship position to join us for the upcoming chance of a lifetime teacher training with one of the grandmothers of the permaculture movement: Rosemary Morrow — who wrote Earth User’s Guide to Permaculture and the accompanying Teacher’s Notes — on November 24 at Crystal Waters.


  1. Tamara, I feel like a kid looking into a candy store, seeing all the beautiful things you have been doing.

    So, all of you were visual learners, not auditory or kinestetic?
    I wonder if Permaculture naturally attracts visual mindeset people over the other kind?
    I’ll keep an eye out from now on (yes, I’m another visual person)

    Will Robin be Facilitating at APC 11?
    Will you, after that wonderful training?

    I won’t regret I wasn’t there yesterday, I will look forward to being in one of your upcoming courses.

  2. Hi,

    Re: Feedback

    Totally support permaculture. One thing I really appreciate about the movement is that there’s (meant to be) no dogma attached to it. It’s “Permaculture Science”. Bill Mollison speaks and writes about this point, as do the current permaculture teachers he taught.

    In that light, can I please bring up a point for feedback? I’ve noticed some postings using words with very religious connotations – eg “Pilgrimage”. This type of wording can give people an impression of permaculture that isn’t accurate – especially to new comers – and even more so if they’re from a science background. Can a more appropriate word be used other than “pilgrimage” and “pilgrims”?

    I appreciate a pilgrimage can be to do with morals, but everywhere I look its predominantly to do with religion and “faith” (ie. beliefs based on no evidence – which is obviously not science)

  3. Would the word Trek work better for you Rob? Or even Adventures? These guys have not implied anything metaphysical anywhere in this series of articles or others they have written. Its just a simple play on the letter P. Great work guys, Please continue to keep us all Posted on how the Pilgrimage is Progressing. I am living a little vicariously through this series, wish I was still hanging out with you guys, keep up the great work.

  4. So a simple play on the letter P causes a bit of what I feel is appropriate feedback. Is it really so simple? Is “pilgrimage” the sort of word to “play” with when it comes to permaculture?

    Does this mean it can be “permaculture science” for one group of people, and “permaculture faith” for another? If so, it’s “permaculture murky grey area” in that case.

    This situation doesn’t help students, especially when they’re at the early stages of considering the permaculture concept, and even more so when they come from a science background. Can we consider promoting a clearer definition of permaculture, specifically relating to any dogma that may or may not be attached to it?

  5. Science can just as easily be dogmatic as any other solution to life’s problems (philosophy, religion, etc). Sometimes the things that bug us show us more about ourselves than about the thing itself. “Everything that irritates us about others, can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” -Carl Jung

    To me, Permaculture can be a religion, a science, a solution, a way of life, a system of morals//ethics, and more, depending on who is involved. Different people bring different experiences to the table, and also interpret things through the lens of their experience. Psychology (my area of expertise) is the same. Psychology can be a science or it can be an art (just look at Modern Clinical Psychology in comparison to the work of Carl Jung or the Transpersonal Approach.

    I, myself am reading these comments through the lens of my understanding of people, human nature, and human psychology. So maybe the real question here, Rob, is why does the word Pilgrimage offend you so much? I’m not having a stab, but looking for the deeper meaning here. Are you from a science background? Do you have doubts that Permaculture is unscientific or ‘airy-fairy’? We all have our own content that we bring to relationships and communities and that’s what creates richness of culture and experience. If we all adopted one paradigm as the overarching and universally correct ‘absolute’, life would be dull and one-dimensional and many would experience a lack of meaning because we are DIFFERENT and that’s GOOD!

    Hope this sheds some light. I loved reading about what you guys are up to. It sounds as you’ve had a marvelous time. Whether it’s been a pilgrimage, a journey or an scientifically defined experience, the main thing is that you found meaning there. We are creatures in search of meaning and we find it in different ways because we are individual. The problem with religion is that it can become ‘the only’ or the one authority and, which leads to it becoming unquestionable. Science is no different. The risk is there for it to become a religion (i.e. unquestionable and over-arching), yet the reality is science cannot explain one iota of the nature of consciousness. In fact, science cannot prove through it’s own highest hallmark of evidence (the double blind clinical trial) that consciousness is within the brain. In fact there have been many studies to prove otherwise.

    I’ll finish with the essence of how I feel about all of this. To assume that an amoeba doesn’t have some form of consciousness is only arrogance (or anthropocentrism). Love to you all! This isn’t critism, just constructive thought. I’m more than open to hear other opinions on all this.. in fact.. I encourage it.. that’s how we learn. :)


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