The Game

An insightful tool for personal awareness

One of the articles in Play & Humor (IC#13)
Originally published in Spring 1986 on page 45
Copyright (c)1986, 1997 by Context Institute

The following article describes The Game Of Transformation, which was developed by Joy Drake while she was at the Findhorn Foundation in Scotland. In its three-day workshop form, it is played by five players with the help of two guides who have been trained extensively to facilitate the process. A home version, "the game in a box," is currently being developed.

Further information about The Game workshops, availability of the boxed version, and the Angel Meditation Cards ® used in The Game is available from The Game of Transformation, 4218 Roosevelt Way N.E., Seattle, WA 98105, or 206/545-3739. This article is adapted from an article in One Earth (vol. 4, no. 5), the Findhorn Foundation Magazine (Findhorn Publications, The Park, Forres, Scotland IV 36 OTZ). Mary Inglis is a member of the Findhorn community and a game guide.

WENDY THREW A FOUR, and landed on a setback. It was her eighth in four hours and she didn’t hesitate for a moment. "I use my free will not to accept this," she said.

The two of us guiding the Game held our breath. It was early in the development of the Game of Life workshop, and the Game group were still sorting out some of the logistics.

By the rules of the Game, Wendy would now draw a card giving her "divine feedback" on her use of free will. The pack of "divine feedback" cards held an equal number of cards which said – one way or another – "Well done!" or "No, that action was misguided." Players had been using their free will fairly extensively – more so than in any Game to date – and a good third of the "Well done!" cards were already gone from the deck, due, in large measure, to Wendy herself receiving positive feedback on her decisions not to experience setbacks and pain on her path. Her chances of continuing to receive positive feedback were diminishing rapidly.

She drew a card. "All your actions on Earth are in harmony with Heaven," she read. "God is truly delighted to bless you."

God – or in Game terms, the Game Overall Director – breathed a joint sigh of amazement, heaped blessings upon Wendy, and made a mental note to make sure that in future the divine feedback cards were returned to the pack so that players always had an equal chance of receiving positive or negative feedback on their use of free will.

The Game went on – and against increasing odds Wendy continued to receive positive feedback every time she chose to reject setbacks on her path. Coincidence? Those of us who work with the Game believe not. Part of Wendy’s purpose in playing the Game was to experience God’s grace in her life, and it seemed she was doing just that, though perhaps not in the way she might have envisioned. Her "life" was presenting her with challenge after challenge, rather than with obviously joyous and light-filled experiences. But she was learning about grace at a deeply profound level, realizing that she did not have to be a victim of circumstances and that she, too, had a responsibility for co-creating the quality of grace in her experience. As she acted on the promptings of "God within," so "God without" responded.

Time and again the Game guides have seen similar situations occur. Players seem to draw to themselves precisely the types of situations or experiences they need to help them actualize their stated purposes in playing the Game – purposes which are worked on and clarified in some detail before the actual "playing" begins. A statistician who played the Game at one point said the odds against players drawing the particular combination of cards or experiences that they did were phenomenal.

The Game of Life is a board game originated by Joy Drake at the Findhorn Foundation. Her work on it began about ten years ago. "I wanted to recreate the Findhorn 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 three years," she says. "It was a way of distilling the essence of the educational process that happens as we begin to view the whole of life as a learning arena."

What would happen, Joy wondered, if people had to deal with specific examples of attitudes or behaviors that either move them ahead or set them back on their paths to wholeness? She began delving into her own experience and into that of her friends – and so the two main card decks in the Game, the Insight and Setback decks, came into being. Gradually, using the rich resource of people’s lives and thoughts, all the many aspects that make up the pattern and tapestry of human life began to be included in the Game – miracles, blessings, pain, purpose, insights, dark nights of the soul, intuition, angels, challenges, setbacks, free will, and the accumulation of "form" or material possessions.

Different "realms" of experience were created so that people could explore their relationship to particular areas of their lives. A framework came into being where players could be "born" into life and grew through the physical, emotional and mental realms, then into the "higher" realms of intuition, love, unity, and on into enlightenment.

And although players moved their "personalities" from square to square at the throw of a die, they were by no means passive participants in the process. Many of the squares required them to exercise initiative and imagination, to share on a deeply personal level and to make their own choices and decisions. What the Game was doing was providing certain parameters within which the players could create their own experience.

Angels were incorporated into the Game, too. An "angel deck" was created containing 52 qualities such as Compassion, Power, Grace, Light, Transformation, Surrender and Healing. Before playing, and after getting clear on their particular purposes, players would draw one of these cards as an inspirational quality to work with throughout their Game.

Although the original idea for the Game came from Joy, she is quick to point out that many people have been involved in developing and refining it.

Some didn’t necessarily do this consciously. "I’d overhear people talking about wonderful things that were happening in their lives or about challenges they were experiencing, and I’d rush home to write an Insight or Setback card," she says. "Or I’d read a poem, or experience something in a guided meditation that would give me the idea for another Insight card."

But developing the Game also involved many hours of playing with Game "devotees" on makeshift Game boards, intense brainstorming and feedback sessions, and long philosophical discussions on the nature of pain, creativity, God, spirituality, the personality, wholeness, how the world works, and a variety of other relevant topics.

The Game is an approximately three-day experience involving five players and two guides, who take the role of G.O.D. (Game Overall Director). It 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. It offers people the opportunity to contact inspirational energies and to allow these to penetrate their lives, to take risks in a safe environment, to break established patterns and try new responses and behaviors – and to get feedback on this from both the Game and the other people involved.

For instance, one of the ways the Game works with intuition is through what is known as the "Intuitive Flash" coin. At any point a player can have and check out an intuitive flash that some particular action should be taken, either by him or herself, by another member of the group, or by the group as a whole.

"It’s something like big-feedback," said one player. "I began to be able to recognize the inner conditions that signalled that my intuition was correct. Since then I have been able to act on my intuition much more confidently and effectively in my life . . . and I have far fewer messy situations to deal with as a result of trying to force through some personal whim."

The Game is not a therapy, nor does it come out and "get" people. The guides let the players know what their options are and work with whatever they decide to do. But it is up to the players to decide how deeply to participate, and to make what they choose of the experiences that come to them.

For instance, a player who lands on a "service" square is required to ask another player – or G.O.D. – how they can serve them. That person will then tune into what they need at that time, and ask for it. Both people will then work out how that can be done, within the framework of the Game. This experience often confronts people with how far they are willing either to serve or be served.

A player who lands on a "miracle" square has virtually free range to create whatever would be miraculous for them at that moment. The miracle can have several "parts" and can affect just the player concerned, or the whole Game, or anything in between. Interestingly, this is often one of the more difficult squares for players. While they willingly and with great integrity plough their way through a series of experiences involving setbacks, challenges and pain, they are often thrown for a loop when given the opportunity to create a pain- free method of growth, for themselves and others.

There are two main card decks in the Game: the Insight and Setback decks. The Insight deck contains cards like: "You successfully resisted the temptation to gossip. Gain 40 degrees awareness." "You’re sensitive to the needs of your physical body. Gain 30 degrees awareness." "You were brilliant, firm, and steady in a rocky situation. Gain 40 degrees awareness." Players who draw these cards can just accept them, if they feel they are valid, or they can share a recent example of when the card applied.

Other Insight cards require more involvement: "Make a statement about power: act on it." "If you could change one aspect of yourself right now, what would it be and why?" "Take personal responsibility: move without rolling the dice for your next three turns."

There are also a number of "Ego Radiance" Insight cards which require recent and specific examples of occasions when the player concerned clearly expressed the particular quality named on the card – such as compassion, wisdom, humor, inspiration, or faith.

"Ego" in the Game is the term given to the essential self or "I", which can either be expressing itself clearly and radiantly, or can be clouded with distortions and blockages.

Insight cards usually bring with them the gifts of either "awareness" or "form." When players have the necessary amount of each in a particular realm, they can move on to the next.

This requirement for players to have a balance of both form and awareness in the Game reflects the fact that in life we need both an increasing awareness of what attitudes and actions contribute to a happy and holistic lifestyle, and the ability to "ground" these awarenesses in our daily lives and expression.

Like the Insight cards, the Setbacks also provide opportunities for growth, but in a different way. They highlight behaviors and thoughts that cause difficulty in our lives, and the cards bring loss of awareness, or pain.

For instance: "You’re bogged down with frustration at not being able to bridge the gap between your ideal and actual selves. Lose 20 degrees awareness or accept the pain of inner conflict." "Oh, God, this is so boring. Lose 30 degrees awareness or take two pain." "You were going so fast you missed the obvious. Lose 20 degrees awareness or miss a turn."

Other cards may ask the player to fill in their own content. An "Ego Distortion through Jealousy" (two pain), for instance, requires the player to give a recent and specific example of how and when this applied.

These cards provide players with the opportunity to look at areas of difficulty in their lives and to explore ways of clearing them up. As they are dealt with, the pain is "released," and at times "form tokens" are given to symbolize the fact that a major step has been taken in handling a particular challenge.

There are a variety of ways of dealing with and releasing pain in the game, but usually the players themselves have to take the steps to initiate this. Some players carry pain around with them for hours, seemingly unaware that there is still a "blue tear" in front of them.

"I was staggered at the end of the Game to realize that I had never done anything about a piece of pain I got on my very first move," said one player. "It was still there when we finished playing. And I saw how often in my life I don’t take the time to clear up an area of distress if it doesn’t hurt too much. But of course it still hangs around."

Sometimes, however, the pain makes its presence felt more strongly. Three pieces of undealtwith pain lead to a state of depression, while five put the player into a dark night of the soul – immovable until steps are taken to get out of it. But a dark night is a way of growing too, albeit painfully – and on moving out of it, a player automatically goes to the next realm.

Of course, throughout the process, from the time that each player incarnates, they have the gift of free will. This can be used to create new experiences, to refuse any experience or card, to release pain or to change realms. Once the action has been taken, the player draws one of the divine feedback cards – and may then be showered with blessings (small cards with the names of different qualities), directed to take a setback card, or told to tune in and give themselves their own feedback on their action.

The purposes that the players bring to the Game are a key component in the process. Before play on the board starts, considerable time is spent clarifying these purposes – and a full day is devoted after play to integrating the experience. During this time players reflect on the events of the Game in the light of their purposes, and receive feedback from the other players and guides.

Purposes can be as broad ("to be filled with God’s presence") or as specific ("to create the space for a permanent physical and spiritual relationship with a woman") as players choose. They can deal with the present ("to increase my self-esteem"), the past ("to heal my relationship with my parents and to release them now that they are no longer alive"), or the future ("to gain clarity on my next steps") – although to some extent, of course, past, present, and future always overlap.

However, the most important aspect is that the players intend and are willing to achieve their purposes. It is this that allows the experiences that follow to fall into a meaningful pattern – rather like a magnet creating a coherent order out of random iron filings.

As the aim of the Game is for players to achieve their particular purposes, it is not important that they reach enlightenment, or any other particular realm. One player may be best served by spending his whole time in the emotional realm, while another may find herself largely exploring the realm of unity.

Participants in each Game also set a group purpose. This is an intention supported and energized by the whole group, and usually aims to bring light and blessing to some aspect of human affairs or some area of life on Earth. The whole Game is highly synergetic, and through working, playing and interacting together, the group creates something much bigger than just the sum of their individual purposes.

In the time I have spent working on the Game with Joy and others, both as a player and as a guide, I have found it to be a remarkably accurate reflection of life. By some intuitive and magical process, it has taken all the aspects of conscious living that Findhorn talks about and put them into a form where people can play them out and see how they are real in their lives. The Game works with wholeness – not just spirit, not just personality, but with both, and with how they interact together to enable us to become increasingly soul-infused personalities.

Perhaps the most significant thing I have gained is an insight into that perennial question that has beleaguered philosophers for centuries: the relationship between free will and determinism.

When I – or other players – set forth a purpose for playing, I am clear that my will is involved. I consciously and freely choose my direction.

Thereafter, however, I need to take the process on faith, trusting that the experiences the Game presents me with are allowing my purpose to unfold. I cannot always see it at any one particular time – when stuck in a dark night of the soul, for instance, with piles of pain in front of me, or when I am sitting listening unbelievingly to all the other players appreciating my unique and wonderful qualities that I seem totally unable to recognize.

But throughout the Game there are moments when I see how all that is happening is quite literally "on purpose." And during the period of assessment and feedback at the end, the intricacies of the unfolding pattern become even clearer.

I see how on some level I do choose all the specific events that happen in my Game – because I have previously chosen the direction or purpose that sets these events in motion, that calls them forth, as it were, to assist my chosen purpose to come about. I may not always like or think I have chosen the specific means that help get me where I said I wanted to go, and there are times when I feel completely out of control, a victim of fate. Yet I have to recognize that it is I myself who sounded the note which allows events to converge in a pattern around it.

This recognition enables me to trust the "game" that is playing itself out in my larger life. Together with all of us, I am here on Earth on purpose, with purpose. At times I see this clearly. At other times, I become lost in a morass of helplessness, uncertainty, victimization and distortions. But somewhere, somehow, the larger purpose is still there, and playing itself out. We get what we’ve asked for. It’s all part of the game of life.