Who should attend workshops at Le Phare?

The opportunity of the second half of life

The workshops at Le Phare de Morillon are designed to inspire and expand the latent potential through Self-inspired change. Typically, people attending these workshops will share a number of things in common:

  • Usually over 35 years old and approaching or in what can be described as the ‘second half of life’
  • A nagging feeling that there is an unfulfilled potential in their current life and a growing desire to create a more meaningful and fulfilling rest of their life
  • A sense of being at a ‘Life-changing Turning Point’ in life and a desire for personal and Self-inspired change to reflect their need for individual uniqueness
  • A genuine curiosity to explore what the wisdom about ‘the meaningful life’, relationships and personal well-being means for them as an individual
  • A desire to expand oneself by tapping into the energy and power of nature
  • A desire to understand personal motivations as well as the real motivations behind the behaviour of others
  • A desire to explore these things in a small group setting with like-minded people in a comfortable and inspiring environment.

Writing your first book

That elusive first book and an abundance of ‘Cubic centimetres of opportunity’

I like to think that there is a great and deeply personal book lurking inside everyone. The problem most people find is getting the time, the space and the encouragement to get that elusive first book out there. After all it takes quite a bit of courage to pull all those thoughts and feelings out of yourself and into a published or self-published book which will be read critically by others.

Have you ever considered that your first and subsequent books can be an ultimate form of self-expression driven by a combination of coincidences and synchronicity? It was Carlos Castaneda who described coincidences as ‘cubic centimetres of opportunity‘. You can only grasp them, as they fly past you at high speed, if you open your eyes and you actively decide to hold on to that opportunity as a means of realising more of your unfulfilled potential.

Over the years I have met many people who have had a burning desire to write all different kinds of books but somehow their internal ideas and images have never made it into a printable book.

At Le Phare de Morillon we have designed a long weekend ‘Getting your first book started‘ workshop in beautiful surroundings and nature to help a few more people turn that first ‘Self-expression’ book into a reality. Getting started is the important first step along a path to getting that book published.

I was lucky with starting my first book. A published author of business books asked me to co-author a book with him. He had a publishing contract for the book and we had the support of the company that we worked for. I had no choice about writing the book, we had a contract and a deadline. Even so it was hard to get started and to create something  out of a jumble of thoughts and experiences.

The second book flowed from the first book which I had to write in eight days due to a publishing deadline. We scrambled into action and eight days later we had the book for the publisher. It was hard work but I learned that if you know your subject and you use a structured formula then a book can be created and written very quickly. But I knew inside that I didn’t want to just write business books.

I knew that what I really, really wanted to write was an Executive coffee table book that contained  a huge amount of useful leadership wisdom that could benefit tiring and stressed Executives to gain a unique perspective on their true direction in life and work. The book needed to have huge range of scope that could be absorbed by busy Executives in small doses or ‘bite sized pieces’. The image of the book was in my head and heart in 2001. It took until 2010 for me to turn that burning desire into a reality.

Self-inspired change guidebook

Self-inspired Executive change guidebook

I spent much of those ten years travelling in business, exploring interesting faraway places, reading books, taking photographs and attending a huge range of Self-change courses. I wrote down some notes in a small journal but this elusive book just didn’t appear.

I learned that the same wisdom that is talked about by modern thought leaders and famous gurus has largely been written about for many, many centuries. I questioned why anyone would want to read a book that had absolutely no new wisdom. What was the point of me regurgitating historical texts?

From this book it became easy to create other books.

Books written at Le Phare de Morillon


What did I learn from writing, editing and publishing eight books? I think that I learned a great deal:

  • You have to be inspired to really, really want to write the book in your heart – it is not so much about the money because very few authors make much money. Traditional publishing is about publishers making money
  • It helps to have a place that inspires you when you are writing particularly if you are surrounded with natural beauty
  • When an image of your book is ready in your heart it will flow easily
  • It helps to write a journal every day about what is important to you. This gets you into the flow of writing and past the mental blocks that keeps your pen ‘shy’ and wary of paper
  • I like to write in multiple places during a day. I find that it is easy to use up the energy and inspiration of a single location or desk. It helps to move around
  • Writing the draft of the book is only 50% of the task. The editing, design and publishing of the book is at least 50% of the effort that you will have to put into your first book
  • Deadlines help but there is no point having a deadline if it means creating something that is incomplete and unsatisfying
  • It helps to spend time with other people who have written or who are writing books. There is a strong sense of encouragement that comes from a shared experience of getting to that first book
  • Having friends and/or family who can encourage you and constructive comments about your work are important. Books flow much better when they are shared and the author is open to advice and positive critical advice.

Le Phare de Morillon – quiet spaces to expand and write



Le Phare de Morillon – the Gayatri Mandala herb garden

Some days Le Giffre valley can give you  the inspiration to create something unique. At the same time it challenges you strongly to make those ideas happen in a positive way. It really challenges you to tap into the wisdom of the valley with more than a little humility.

Cluny Abbey herb garden

I found a monastic herb garden at the Abbey of Cluny in France which inspired me to create a new herb garden in Le Phare de Morillon. My first attempts were beautiful to begin with but they soon became overrun by weeds and the more delicate herbs suffered from heavy clay earth and the cold. I soon realised that I did not have enough sunlight because the herb garden was on the west side of the chalet.

I made a plan and then went to Bali. In Bali I changed the plan again.

I was introduced to the Gayatri mandala, an ancient piece of sacred geometry, by a friendly Balinese guru. I wondered what to do with this knowledge and to test out why it was important to me.

Bali permaculture farm

I was also inspired by a very practical and self-irrigating organic permaculture farm. I had some new ideas. However, my vision and the reality of the rubbish heap that was my front garden were somewhat different.

The starting point for garden renovation

My colleagues were getting a little irritated by my changes of mind and the cost and efforts of my latest/greatest ideas. They asked me to clarify what it was that I wanted. I did with 2 cans of spray paint:

Illustrating a new idea

There was some skepticism as it was getting late in the year and winter was fast approaching. I now knew why version 1.0 of the herb garden had not worked. Version 2.0 had some differences; more sun, warmer, access to pure fresh spring water, richer earth and next to the sounds and vibrations of a music academy. The great thing was that the existing herbs could be transplanted into the new herb garden.

6 tonnes of concrete and gravel later

The base of the Gayatri mandala herb garden started to take shape. It was cold and hard physical work. The angles and measurements had to be very precise and the weather was often unforgiving. The location meant that most of the work had to be done using manual labour.

The base of the Gayatri Mandala herb garden

After much effort, the base of the herb garden emerged. Gabions or small stone walls full of surplus rocks from the house provided a perimeter next to a new meditation area that is shaded by a 130 year old 100 foot tree. The gabions were designed to house many pots to allow vegetables and herbs to grow in the abundant summer sunshine and natural mountain irrigation using spring waters.

The Gayatri mandala herb garden

The master carpenter added the rest of the Gayatri mandala using hard woods from Siberia. The herbs were transplanted from the failing herb garden on the west side of Le Phare. The gravel was used to protect the herbs from slugs or (in French) limace. The earth was enriched with local compost and allowed to breath.

The local people in the Haute Savoie will warn you not to plant out the delicate herbs and  vegetables before the week of ‘Saints de Glace’ or the ‘Ice Saints’ in mid-May each year. It was a while before I tapped into this knowledge and wisdom but probably because I hadn’t been smart enough to watch what they did, to ask or to listen. There are always plenty of  lessons in life on offer from wise people when you are open to listening.

I learned in Bali and Cluny that the real trick to the gardens, spacious decks and meditation areas of Le Phare de Morillon was to create smaller and discrete areas in the right places. A morning yoga deck facing the rising sun. An evening yoga deck facing the western sunset. Organic food gardens facing into the sun of the south. Utility areas facing north where the sun was never going to create abundance but the mountain panoramas are easy on the eye and very inspiring.

The renovated Le Phare and gardens

I learned that people need different spaces at different times and in different weather conditions. The reality is that it is better to offer choice; indoors v outside, reflection v communications, quiet space v dynamic space, connection to nature v connection to human wisdom. In effect, a modular structure to personal learning and expansion that allows anyone to pursue their own path.




Renovating Le Phare de Morillon

One day in 2009 I went skiing from Morillon village with a good friend. As I walked from the car park to the telecabine I noticed a large farmhouse with a sign ‘A vendre’ or for sale. Little did I realise that most of the next decade of my life was going to be tied up with the challenges of this building.

The old farmhouse

Over the next few months, I negotiated a reasonable deal and took possession of what was a building that needed a significant renovation. My original idea was to convert the building into 4 apartments. My plans got nowhere. Nothing seemed to work until I decided that it should be a single building. Then everything started to come together; a master carpenter, a builder, an electrician, a heating and plumbing engineer all appeared to execute the new plan.

The plan was not without challenges. I discovered that there was little of the old building that was without problems. I soon had a skeleton of a farmhouse and a problem with the roof.

Skeleton farmhouse

Somedays it felt like the farmhouse was being held up by a tiny thread.

Not much to hold up a very heavy roof

Slowly the external walls were renovated and the farmhouse became more solid.

The internal structure was created by a master carpenter out of huge oak beams. I started to recognise the size and complexity of the project.

The oak frame takes shape

Slowly the rooms began to take shape. The precision of the master carpenter was a joy to watch.

Kitchen beams

Then there was a new and expensive challenge, the need to replace the roof. As the roof came off the building seemed to release an old energy as if it was able to breath again. This was more time and expense but it felt like the right thing to do.

Renovating the roof

Soon the farmhouse became a home, a yoga studio, an Executive workshop centre and a ‘home from home’ for winter skiing and summer vacations.

The inside of the chalet really took shape and traditional Haute Savoie oak beams with a galleried mezzanine added a real ‘wow’ factor.

Living and Dining area

What happens when you complete the renovation project that you have  been working on for several years?  As always a few more challenges. Perhaps they are best thought of as a few ‘more rocks in the rucksack of life’.

Tonnes of rocks, mud, gravel and concrete to shift by hand

All that was left to do was to sort out the gardens and to write some books including one about the experiences of creating Le Phare de Morillon or ‘The Lighthouse of Morillon’. The gardens and the new books took a few years of work but I never had any doubts that they would be co-created with others (see www.extuition.com).

A book about the challenges of life and renovation

The gardens? Well that is another story of co-creating something beautiful with the help of a master carpenter.

Creating gardens and permaculture in the Haute Savoie

The inspiration for the gardens combined the simplicity of the monastic herb garden of the Abbey of Cluny with the scared geometry of the Gayatri mandala and Bali.

The Gayatri mandala herb garden – a lighthouse in the Haute Savoie

What did I learn? The harder the challenge the more satisfying it is to create something that is traditional, peaceful, inspiring and beautiful. We hope that you will enjoy this ‘home from home’ in the Haute Savoie and the opportunity to use this peaceful place to expand creatively in your life and in your own way.

The renovated Le Phare and gardens