Carol Sanford’s Seven First Principles of Regeneration – Further Reflections

Hey all. So I had the urge to surf along a little in the wake of the last episode, and reflect further on Carol Sanford’s Seven First Principles of Regeneration. Thus, in this episode I reflect on, unpack and further explore what Carol shared about the seven first principles and how they are enriching my own development.

My intention for the episode was:

I am continuing to explore Carol Sanford’s Seven First Principles of Regeneration…

in a way that supports listeners (and myself!) to better grasp and go experiment with them…

so that we realising together, any value they can bring to our lives, projects and the Making Permaculture Stronger journey.

Hope you enjoy and I look forward to hearing what you make of all this in the comments :-).

Further Reading, Watching, and Listening on Carol Sanford’s Seven First Principles of Regeneration

If, like me, you’re itching to dive deeper, I found this most helpful series of blog posts (and a separate series of short videos) where Carol clarifies:

Here’s a quote I really liked from the essence post:

Looking to existence, writing down our observations or collecting facts, will not reveal singularity. In order to sniff out essence, we must become trackers and look for it in the same way that native peoples follow the traces of animals who have passed by. Essence becomes apparent in the patterns that are specific to a person, those that reveal how they engage with the world, their purpose in life, the unique value they create as the result of their endeavors. The same is true for the essence of any natural system, community, or organization.

Carol Sanford

Finally, Here’s a 20m video (with poor quality audio but worth it) of Carol talking about what regeneration is. She gets into the Seven First Principles about 10 minutes in.


  1. I listened to two fairly recent recordings of Carol Sanford from mid-late 2021 and noticed a few points she was underscoring more than I’d noticed in the past (very likely I just wasn’t picking up on them before).

    1.) Regeneration as revelation
    Carol describes that she feels the core of the idea of “regeneration” is that of a process of simultaneous ‘revealing’ of the self, the beings we work with and those we nest within (and their nodes and field/s), yet with the idea of renewal or regrowth as an effect of regeneration. She credits her grandfather for imparting this nuanced understanding (that she continues to grow with).

    2. Instrument or tool?
    The other thing that struck me was when interviewer asked her about the “tools” she uses and she immediately interrupted to clarify that she doesn’t use tools, but that she uses “instruments”. I’d have to look up the exact wording of her corrections, but she explained something about how tools can be crude devices to achieve goals and instruments are more precise and provide ability to calibrate and measure..

    Wow! That threw me on my mental backside; having now to work at understanding what she meant and then to reinterpret so much of what I had believed to understand before.

    Well, I thought those were interesting and worth sharing here. Looking forward to hearing your upcoming podcast chat with Carol about her new book “Indirect Work” very soon Dan.

    1. Thanks so much for this Adrian. Can you share the links to these recordings please?

      I love seeing regeneration as equally including revealing and renewal/regrowth. Also I shared your comment with Carol, and she replied:

      “You have pretty sophisticated listeners.

      Instruments have depth, dimensions and adaptability to many uses and aims. e.g. musical instruments can play cross genres of music and settings. a microscope can be used to see and experiment with an infinite number of materials. a framework can be applied to anything we need to think about. a model is a tool for one proscribed use.

      Tools have a shallower, predefined us to achieve one purpose. e.g. a hammer hits and drives nails.” Carol Sanford

      1. So very much appreciate Carol’s response to my comments.. WOW! couldn’t have predicted that happening, but so great! Your rock and roll approach Dan really stirs things up.

        Here are the links regarding my earlier comment:
        “Inside Ideas: Educating & communicating ‘Regenerative’, with Carol Sanford”

        Bionutrient Food Assoc.: Carol Sanford — A Quantum Paradigm: Seven first principles of living systems”

        (Hey Dan.. on a technical side note: I had replied to this weeks ago and posted from my phone and the post did not ultimately appear here.. I suppose because I may have hit the ‘back’ button after posting (??), yet before the time that is offered to make an edit had lapsed.. and I believe this may have happened at least 1 other time in my use of the MPS comment field)

        1. Thanks Adrian. I think the issue is that when a comment includes links the site withholds it for my approval and I don’t get notified until I happen to take a look!

  2. A beautiful way to approach teaching a PDC! I am saving this comment so I can imitate this when I start teaching. I like it a lot that the students loved the lots of ways to go idea. Your sense of an intuitive-alive arts-craft while also fufilling an expandingly facilitative and educative social role is amazing. It’s a picture of how a whole new regenerative paradigm of society and culture would work. Thanks!

    1. I am flattered that you are inspired Susan. This is still an experiment in progress, but it has garnered very intriguing and promising results and I feel grateful to have had the liberty to try this out (hooray for the agility of small groups!).

  3. My working take away is that ‘essentializing’ is in the sincerity of trying (opening-up) to sense ‘essence’ and moreover it is in the relationship growing processes of that.. while also coming to appreciate that one’s development of understanding is a never-finished situation.. as the essence of the whole is also in process and so too is evolving. The processes of essentializing may be also unveiling one’s own essence (thus ripening potential for both).

    About nodes of permaculture education:
    I’ve had the opportunity to run a small group PDC spread out over 24 three hour sessions this past year as a living design process. I have not followed an existing lesson plan sequence. Several of the first sessions we’re all about exploring what I felt is the kernel of permaculture –a compassionate anthropocene era vision for Humanity and Earth living within her limits and abundance; coupled with a belief that a conscious human realignment with-as-for living systems is imperative.

    With just this we spent lots of time just trying out mentally and physically what this might entail (before even learning any of the established permaculture principles or ethics), harkening a time when Holmgren and Mollison had only a foggy notion.

    By the time we got to actually dipping into THE principles and ethics, they were unpacked as just one interpretation of the core concept (Mollison and Holmgren’s kick at the vision and hypothesis).. as well as not entirely novel, just specially curated.. this then allowed us to access the rest of the curriculum through this lens and the idea that permaculture is very much open and it’s all up for interpretation (majorly inspired by your tree chopping Dan). By taking this approach to learning about permaculture I was able to bring the class in at the ground level.

    As we moved into learning about processes, these were explored as a whole spectrum of approaches and attitudes to raise consciousness that there is no one right way (and that so much is not known). We looked at the idea of a maturation of one’s process from simple pre-planned procedures to one’s that evolve into more of an intuitive-alive arts-craft –also expandingly faciliatative and educative. The idea of processes occuring throughout whether or not one is consciously involved (or even involved at all) is also a powerful concept to share that resonated really well with the class (ie: the Field Process Model).

    All in all, I am really grateful for so many of the mind expanding ideas that are daylit here. The first principles and paradigm literacy work that you are interpreting with Carol Sanford have greatly expanded my notion of what it is to ‘observe and interact’ with the whole being of a (path-project-self-fellow-place). Thanks for opening space for this all.

    1. Adrian like for Susan this lands for me as really beautiful and important work you’re doing here. I think I’m going to have to ask you to share more in a podcast chat some time if you’re up for it!

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