Understanding Patterns

Here is the outline to my ‘Understanding Patterns’ workshop, available as part of my offerings through Charlotte Holloway Ashwanden. Enjoy 🙂

Pattern Understanding is a key part of holistic design. We are constantly nested within patterns, both visible and invisible, throughout our lives. Indeed, we can see patterns as a fundamental pattern of human experience. When we are open to patterns, we can feel how they function; and much of our relationship to patterns is based on intuition, which we cannot necessarily explain. So why is it important to understand patterns?

Bill Mollison and David Holmgren point out in the ‘Permaculture Designer’s Manual’ that patterns are something which we have an intuitive relationship with. But if we are to create effective designs which fit harmoniously within the systems we are part of, it is also important to consciously comprehend and communicate our understanding of patterns. This is where permaculture design is so useful, as it helps us to connect intuition and conscious design.

Here are some common natural patterns and their functions:


Conservation of energy

Vortex / Overbeck Jet

Cycling of energy


Rhythmic movement


Spreading over small spaces


Maximum cover with minimum materials used


Carrying energy over a wide area


Fitting together

2 thoughts on “Understanding Patterns

  1. Pingback: Understanding Patterns - The Permaculture Research Institute

  2. Pete Webb

    Re your article on Patterns on the Permaculture site
    Pete webb says:
    September 29, 2019 at 10:56 pm
    Thanks, again you bring such thoughtful and experienced observations in a way that they inform and create curiosity at the same time.
    Through years of embracing Permaculture in my life and then presenting its richness to others, I have found that these forms come alive as we apply them. I feel that this is what Bill and David intended too; ( an inner Permaculture; as individual as trees in a forest).
    There is a depth and richness of experience which words alone cannot communicate.
    Through the process of actually drawing these forms, they can awaken within us, our own sensitivity towards them and our intuitive understanding of them. They start to stand out, as through drawing them or dancing them into life or putting our own bodies into them or walking them while meditating, they and we share the same space and time; a time which most often expands.
    Obviously in the design process, they then become activated, if we allow them space, as each, inter-related element offers its own way of representing or communicating these forms. We initially use our flowing sensitivity to connect with others….places with mountains, rivers, houses, wind, trees of all shapes and sizes, animals of all expressions and people, a rich diversity of different consciousnesses.
    Thanks for bringing these flows to the surface of Permaculture in your articles. They are invisible until we allow ourselves to open to and experience them; accept them as ourselves.



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