Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing

Written by Marina Robb (Director Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC)

Spirituality is the innate aspect of being human. We have a natural capacity to be spiritual. The search for meaning and purpose in life is a central pillar of spirituality.

The UK school curriculum aims to “Promote the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental, physical development of pupils at school and of society.” (Section 351 of the Education Act 1996) Many of us who are practitioners who work with children, young people and adults, approach human development from a holistic perspective, with spiritual development being a key ingredient.

But what do we mean by spirituality?

Giesenberg (2007) defines it: ‘Spirituality is an innate part of a person. It is an awareness or consciousness of the surrounding world, a sense of compassion and love towards this world and anything in it shown through wonder and through activities and relationship with peers and significant adults in the child’s life.’

Spirituality mental health wellbeingFor me, it has always been connected to the bigger questions and unknowns of life, as well as the ‘ah ha’ moments and feelings of awe that you get when you experience something special. It has something to do with a ‘consciousness’ or perhaps ‘a group mind’ (like the morphic resonance that Rupert Sheldrake talks about), that permeates all of life.

There is understandably a hesitancy when we use the word ‘spirituality’ as it historically has been closely linked to religion and religious experiences. In more modern times, it has been re-framed to allow this ‘feeling’ of connectedness or mystery to be named without the dogma of any religion or tradition. To enable a discussion around this aspect of life, and to be ‘inclusive’ we are attempting to clarify a very real difference between religion and spiritual. However, experience is inevitably personal and emotional.

Adam et al (2008) defines ‘spiritual’ as, ‘the very sense of being connected to others (whether to people, creatures of things)’. It is intangible, goes beyond anything that is visible or tactile and is, in essence spiritual. Eastern and western mystical traditions focus on spirituality as a journey towards unity with other, ultimately a feeling of becoming one with other.

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing
Sal Gencarelle, who I will be co-leading our workshop on ‘Well-being and Spirituality’ on June 11th, describes spirituality as, ‘the science of connection’. (Join us live on a webinar on May 7th 2019). We will explore Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing during our webinar and workshop.

The word ‘spiritual’ comes from the Latin ‘spirare’ meaning ‘to breathe’. Elementally, it is linked to air, which moves through and within all of life, and brings well-being. I am often reminded by children about the essential animistic quality of life. In the early years, the child’s world has no separation between object and subject and everything is alive. This sense of aliveness and connection is foundational to most indigenous world view that see all of life as ‘subjects’ within life. This promotes a harmony with nature, and puts a ‘spiritual’ value on life, where the spiritual and physical are united.

Knowledge in this paradigm comes directly from experience and learning happens from the non-human and human alike. Our ancestral traditions are often written off as ‘primitive’ or ‘spiritual’ yet these people deeply felt the intrinsic ‘aliveness’ of the plant and animal kingdoms – from the trees to the stones. Long-standing earth-based cultures have this awareness and understanding and are experts in their fields. It is understood that although we ‘look different’ and grow and change at a different speed (e.g rocks or trees), we share the same essential materials and are exchanging atoms, molecules and hormones all the time. Humans and their galaxy have about 97 percent of the same kind of atoms elements of life. These are known as the building blocks of life and are the crucial elements: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and sulphur. We are made of stardust!

Mental Health is defined as:

“The emotional and spiritual resilience which allows us to enjoy life and survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in our own, and others, dignity and worth”. (Mental health Promotion: A quality Framework, Health Education Authority, (1997) London: HEA)

It is really interesting to me that to have ‘mental health’ we need emotional and spiritual resilience – two aspects that are often ‘unconscious’ responses and experiences in life. In way they also are opposite ends of the rational and logical parts of ourselves. Yet we know understand through neuroscience, that we have a ‘system 1’ (emotional, sense-based system) and a ‘system 2’ system (logical, super-intendent) and that to be well, we need to develop in all these aspects.

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeingMy mental health has been challenging several times in my life, sometimes in a big way, and often is small little ways. Defining our ‘wellness’ is often a measure of our ability to move through our pain and discomfort, rather than avoiding it. We can’t avoid pain in our lives, but we can learn to have perspectives and experiences that help us move to wellness.

We know that our experiences impact our lives and our ability to form healthy relationships. Our early experiences have a huge affect on our ability to cope with stress and on the development of our emotional and sensory processing systems. Traumatised children struggle to self-regulate across environments and find it difficult to trust and feel safe with adults. These children tend to experience the world through a ‘fear lens’ (Perry 2005).

I recently saw an image of a piece a paper with many dots on it – there was a red line joining dots to form a line across the paper. This was meant to show the story we tell ourselves about our lives. The story gets fixed on key events and we repeat this story until we believe this is who we are, and all that has happened to us. If we take a moment and look beyond the line, we can see hundreds of more dots, all experiences that tell us more about our lives and experiences. Doing this, helped me remember that the story of who I am and what has happened to me, is greater that the one line.

When we drill down under the surface, many of us don’t feel good enough, we lack confidence in what we know and struggle to speak out. We struggle to tell our story, to share our vulnerability – yet it’s in those places that are the treasure and core, unshakeable strength. Some interesting questions to think about:

– What has happened to you? (How is power operating in your life?)
– How did it affect you? (What kind of threats does this pose?)
– What sense did you make of it? (What is the meaning of these situations and experiences to you?)
– What did you have to do to survive? (What kinds of threat response are you using?)
– What are your strengths? (What access to Power resources do you have?)
– What is your story? (How does all this fit together?)

I have worked with vulnerable and challenged young people for most of my working life and my own lived experience of mental health difficulties in my late teens hugely impacted and transformed my life. Nature and healthy relationships were key to my healing and ability to thrive and make healthy choices. My worldview was influenced by different cultures who opened many doors to my understand of ‘reality’ and how nature plays a huge part in a feeling of belonging, place-attached.

Around the world, we know that economic growth alone is not enough to produce happiness. Happiness and well-being is actually reduced despite people in the UK or USA being richer, according to survey day (Global Happiness and Wellbeing Policy Report 2019).

Nature offers us rest-bite and restoration. It is a place of no-judgement and feeling the different non-human relationship that feels safe, once you get out there – sitting round a fire, allow the gentle movement of the flames. It is often mesmerising, uncomplicated and peaceful. In the cultural we inhabit, we present a particular version of ourselves, and in my experience nature allows us our freedom to be and discover ourselves in a new way.

Spirituality, mental health, wellbeing Workshop:

We will be exploring these themes during our webinar on May 7th 2019 (see below), and during our workshop on June the 11th in East Sussex (Spirituality and well-being Workshop).

You are invited to join Marina Robb and Sal Gencarelle on a Zoom Webinar meeting.

When: May 7th, 2019 8:00 PM London
Register in advance for this meeting here.
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

For more about Spirituality, mental health and wellbeing – buy Sal’s new book ‘Thriving in uncertain times’.


Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates about our courses, CPD’s, well-being & nature based training and events.

Nature Pedagogy – the teaching of nature within a nature-centric worldview.

Nature Pedagogy

NATURE PEDAGOGY AND GAMES FOR LEARNING - CPD course in AprilWhilst the use of the terminology ‘nature pedagogy’ may appear relatively new, developing a deep nature connection and understanding how our needs and interests can be met successfully though nature to provide a meaningful contribution to our lives, is our most ancient and biologically responsive blueprint.

As a teacher we often use this word ‘pedagogy’.  Simply stated, it is the method and practice of teaching.  It involves understanding the learner’s needs, their interests and providing relevant experiences that our meaningful.

 

Our modern culture is very disconnected from nature.  Our rational approach to this inconceivably complex and successful living system, is diminished to an object that we can exploit and deny our own animal heritage.

The development of our pre-frontal cortex, that defines human evolution, rest on a much larger sensory-based brain that thrives on relationships and filtering sensory information and feelings.    Our capacity to view nature as an ally, a necessary partner and great, great, great grandparent is determined partly by our capacity to be empathetic, to feel through our senses, and to see a much bigger picture of our past and our future.

The Big Questions?

I have been largely influenced by the big questions: Why? What? How?  I suppose I never stopped being the person who wanted to know why? Why do people believe in god? Why are some people more valued than others? Why is life unfair?  How do people know they are right? What happens when we die? Why is it so difficult for our society to create systems that look after nature – as an absolute priority.  I don’t think there are easy answers, and I know the different points of view are inevitable, despite nature as our common interest.

Nature Pedagogy, Well-being & Therapeutic training in East Sussex this yearWhat I have observed is that young children, particularly the early years have a wonderful facility to experience the world as animistic, that everything is a subject not an object.  A child can easily converse with ‘inanimate objects’ and are very comfortable immersing themselves in their own imagination, which for them, is real.   In the west this facility seems to diminish, whereas in earth-sensory-based cultures it usually prevails.

I have studied many different cultures and worldviews.  I tried for many years to square what seems like story-making about a mountain, or river, the apparent communication that many traditional people have with nature, as not real.  I can’t stop objectifying.  Yet, I have been fascinated by healing practices and the intimacy of those people with nature, all offering different ‘answers’ to those big questions.  How tantalising.

Recently I was listening to a Ted Talk on Animism and the Maori people and the presenter beautifully explained that their worldview is like belonging to a vast family – tree, the humans, the animals, the plants, the seas, the stars, are all family. He asked if we consider our pet dog as part of the family?  Yes, of course.  I know and love my dog Ruby, she doesn’t speak, but she communicates and empathises.  It is only a little more of a jump, and a lot more time,  to feel a meaningful relationship to land, mountain, or tree where  your worldview  transforms to a friendly, caring approach, with gratitude for life.

Our entire system is operated by nature’s own manual.   It is the primary way our neurological system is strengthened and extended.   With our natural senses intact, we can be happy and healthy. Without time in nature, our systems become dysfunctional and we are undernourished, mistaking shopping and screen life with life-sustaining human and nature connection. One cannot replace the other, it will never do that.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.Nature sends out a multitude of natural chemicals (at quantum level everything is energy) and we respond, even if we don’t know it.  This ‘serve and return’ between nature and humans is the way we grow, learn, and thrive.  Nature pedagogy puts us back in touch with our natural and original operating system. Not the human-imposed one, but one that sits in a large wheel of life representing all of life, as we can possibly know it.

From ideas of creation to the life cycle of a plant.   There are many models and methods, tools and skills that help us to find our way back to nature’s medicine, and to provide this for ourselves and our children.  Learning through experiences in nature, building psychological flexibility and pursuing important values increase our well-being and restores a natural balance in all of us.

Keep in touch to find out more about Nature Pedagogy and:

  • Approaches within nature education and key differences
  • Connection Practices & nature awareness games
  • Nature-centric models that inform our planning and holistic approach
  • Experiencing and activities that support an inclusive and nature-centric worldview
  • Indicators of awareness and attributes

Our work draws on best practice from Forest School, ecopsychology, ecotherapy, indigenous and western knowledge,  earth education and deep nature connection.

By Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery – Director.

Nature Pedagogy related CPD’s & Courses:

21st & 22nd March: Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth
This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles. The theme is ‘Alchemical Ash.’
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 17.00. Cost £175.

1st & 2nd April: Nature Play & the Therapeutic Space
An Experiential training for health and education practitioners wanting to work in ‘Green Spaces’.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 15.30. Cost £175.

17th April: Nature Pedagogy and Games for Learning
This workshop brings together new thinking around ‘Nature Pedagogy’.  This includes exploring the models, methods, worldviews and values that underpin our teaching practice in nature.
Location:
Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex. Time: 09.30 – 15.30. Cost £95.

25th & 26th May: Landplay Therapy
Post qualifying training for Play Therapists, Counsellors and Psychotherapists. This two -day training will provide you with the tools you need to extend your therapeutic practice to include indoor and outdoor sessions.
Location:
Brook Farm, Messing, Essex Time: 09.30 – 16.00 Cost £165.

Visit our website for full details.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com

01273 814226

 

Therapeutic Play: Connecting with Nature helps heal adverse childhood relationships.

Therapeutic Play & Nature Connection

Connecting with Nature helps heal adverse childhood relationships.

Therapeutic Play - Circle of Life RediscoveryFor over 20 years I have witnessed the power of nature, therapeutic play and safe space to heal young people with challenging behaviour.  These have included ‘targeted’ groups of young people, some at risk of early pregnancy, others with violent behaviour from pupil referral units, children and young people with mental health difficulties.

All these programmes, days and camps have taken place in a natural setting and were held by experienced practitioners.   The combination of a natural setting with competent adults is a perfect combination for connection and well-being.

Challenging Behaviour & Therapeutic Play

All schools will have young people that display challenging behaviour, and part of our work is to understand what this behaviour is communicating and how to meet them in the most empathetic, authentic and boundaried way.

The difficulties that result in challenging behaviours are sometimes referred to as ACE:  Adverse childhood experiences and they are more common than you think.  The original adult-based study found almost two thirds of participants experienced 1 or more ACE and more than 1 in 5 experienced 3 or more ACES.   This has raised the profile and urgency of addressing the needs of children, as the impact on later life shows the potential devastating outcomes from ACE’s, and the cost to society.

Therapeutic Play courses in East SussexAll of us can benefit from therapeutic play and training that helps us understand how best to support young people.  The greater the trauma, the greater the need for professional support.  However parents can be supported to improve relationships with their own children and at the same time, their sense of well-being.

You can download the questionnaire and have a go yourself here.

Green Intervention

If you work with vulnerable groups you are likely to have been drawn to this kind of service because of your own history, which is a blessing and can be triggering when you are not conscious of your own adverse experiences.

The great news is that what we now know is that the relationship that we have with a trusted adult in our early childhood and beyond can mitigate the impacts of ACE’s on mental and physical well-being.  Furthermore, spending more than 20 minutes in the outdoors can reduce stress-related hormones like cortisol and adrenaline.

Research shows that a little stress is necessary for us as it creates a tension that can be good for learning, but too much stress increases our tension, confusion and anger. It can become toxic.

Green exercise optimises your mind-set to improve alertness, attention and motivation, it prepares and encourages nerve cells to bind to one another, logging new information and spurs development of new nerve cells from stem cells in the hippocampus – all good news for healing and restoration. That’s why experienced Forest School practitioners, green intervention facilitators using long term programmes can really make a positive difference to the current lives and future potential of children and young people.

All of us are likely to have difficulties at some point in our lives.  Being disconnected is the source of almost all human problems.  ‘Connection’ enables satisfaction in relationships and starts with those primary (parents/carer) relationships.

As practitioners in education and health working with children and young people, we have a responsibility to provide a safe space to learn skills and strategies so that we can offer a connection-friendly environment.   This includes using effective communication, providing therapeutic spaces and managing our own behaviour.

Nature Connection

Nature connection is a way of opening up your senses which over time results in a satisfying kinship with nature, another nurturing relationship.  Forests and natural environments are considered therapeutic landscapes and have demonstrated many positive psychological effects.

Nature connection and Therapeutic PlayExposure to forests and trees lead to increased liveliness, and decreased levels of stress, hostility and depression. Playing also releases natural endorphins and offers us a way of learning and expressing ourselves on our terms and not through adult lens.  Being in nature can have a profound positive impact on a person’s sympathetic (i.e., fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (rest-and-digest) nervous systems. Essentially, people feel less stressed and more rested.

We are advocating the need for a new hybrid approach.  This model combines what we know within neuroscience, how we respond to stress, the impact of negative experiences, with how nature provides the ideal restorative environment for all ages.

Therapeutic Play

If you would like to learn more, join us at our 2 day course:

Therapeutic Play, Mill Woods, East SussexNature Play & The Therapeutic Space – 1st & 2nd April 2019.

An Experiential training for health and education practitioners wanting to work in ‘Green Spaces’ and will include:

 

  • Therapeutic nature play.
  • The Forest School Continuum.
  • Exploring effective strategies for working with children displaying vulnerable and challenging needs.
  • Establishing Trust: understanding the fundamental importance of safe space/s and how to utilise it.
  • Psych-ed: Understanding difficult behaviours and the connection between sensory input, emotional response and behaviour (with the impact of ACE).
  • Explore your own triggers and inner landscape.
  • Play ideas: child-led and adult-directed e.g ropes and clay.
  • Key communication strategies: creative, reflective and empathetic skills.
  • Increase the tool kit to include more sensory-based games.
  • Develop understanding of Attachment Theory and how it relates to emotional insecurity.
  • Play skills include sand, puppet and music.

Click here to see full details about this two day course or visit our website for details.

Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryCircle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

If you are keen to hear more about events and training please join our newsletter here.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

info@circleofliferediscovery.com 

01273 814226

 

First by the heart before understood by the mind – Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

Ecopsychology, Environmental and Art Therapy in practice.

We are really looking forward to Ian Siddons Heginworth coming to run a 2 day workshop for us in March ‘Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash’, an ecopsychology and practical therapeutic training.  Ian is a highly experienced and creative practitioner who is both insightful and accessible.

Please sign up to our newsletter here to receive future updates about our courses and trainings.

Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.I have owned his book ‘Environmental Arts therapy and the Tree of Life’ for many years, and am forever impressed by the depth and breadth of how his writing links our psychology with nature, and in particular the Celtic wisdom of the trees.

For those of us who work with nature as a source of healing, learning,  creativity and inspiration, these days will lead us to understanding how our true selves are intimately entwined and connected to Nature and her cycles.  Ecopsychology, art and environmental experiences are therapeutic. From the physical experience, the absorption of plant hormones that lower our cortisol,  to emotional and psychological experiences that are supported and unravelled through nature’s language of metaphor.

About the Workshops

The training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles and promises practical ecopsychology where we can explore our difficulties and let nature transform them.   At Circle of Life we offer transformational programmes and approaches that draw on old and new wisdom and all of us are willing to learn more about how nature’s gifts can help us to ‘be’ in life, and live in a connected and fulfilling way. We also know that exploring our ‘shadow’ (See our course in April – Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space) and feelings are necessary to be mentally well and enable us to transform and change.  Our work with all ages and background in nature repeatedly shows us the power of nature for long lasting well-being.

Ian’s fine work explores our masculine (the active and outward parts of ourselves) and the feminine (the feeling, inward part of ourselves that receives form the world).  It offers us a way to reconsider our daily life as the year turns around through the months and seasons.  It shows us how we can reconnect to the disowned parts of ourselves that are the compost of our health.

As a Forest School trainer and group facilitator, I hope to integrate the practical knowledge of working and offering activities through the year, with the psychological benefits that nature and these methods affords us.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

This intimate relationship with the living world was not unusual for our ancestors.  Trees have always been of paramount importance.  There is enormous cultural and medicinal value of the trees.  For us in the West, our Celtic ancestors lived in a forested land and a secret form of written language was called the Ogham.  The earliest known form of Ogham was the Tree Ogham or Celtic Tree Alphabet.  Each letter was associated with a name of a tree. The Celtic year had thirteen months with each month associated with a tree.

Ogham Tree Alphabet

 

 

“Each month has offered us the Tree of Life in a different guise” Ian Siddons Heginworth.

 

 

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Alchemical Ash

This training will apply the therapeutic use of natural materials, natural locations, natural themes and natural cycles. The first of two workshops will be held over the Spring Equinox and focus on the Ash – Alchemical Ash. In ancient Britain the Ash was associated with rebirth and new life.  The beginning of March is the time of year when we feel the promise of Spring and we long for it’s arrival, but winter is still here. By the end of March, it will have arrived!

Exploring the Natural World and the Feeling Self – Suffocating Ivy

Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

The second in Autumn, ‘Suffocating Ivy’ – associated with death as well as life, as the female body gives life, so woman brings death. “September comes and the night creeps in…  Even before the leaves start yellowing we know autumn is here….Life is beginning to pull inwards.”  For the Celts, the ivy  is considered the strongest of trees because it can choke and kill anything it grows on, even the great Oak.  The Ivy can help us to meet that which blocks our path to freedom.

 

If you would like to find out more about our ecopsychology and practical therapeutic trainings with Ian please visit our website.

We look forward to meeting you under the trees at Mill Wood finding our freedom, love, innocence and renewal but perhaps not before we meet our loss and feelings felt too by our heart.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery

ANON: Poem found in the Plough Inn, Myddfai, Dyfed, 1998

“Beechwood fires are bright and clear, If the logs are kept a year. Chestnut’s only good they say, If for long laid away. Make a fire of Elder tree, Death within your house shall be.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold.

Birch and fir logs burn to fast, Blaze up bright and do not last. It is by the Irish said, Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread, Elm wood burns like churchyard mould, E’en the flames are cold.  But ash green or ash brown, Is fit for a queen with a golden crown.

Poplar gives a bitter smoke, Fills your eyes and makes you choke, Applewood will scent your room, With an incense-like perfume. Oaken logs if dry and old, Keep away the winter’s cold.  But ash new or ash old, Is fit for a queen with a crown of gold”.

Ian Siddons Heginworth - Ecopsychology, environmental and art therapy in practice.

 

Ian is a leading practitioner, innovator and teacher of environmental arts therapy, a practical ecopsychologist, Author of ‘Environmental Arts Therapy and the Tree of Life’.

Please see his website for more information.

 

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

Circle of Life RediscoveryTransforming education, health and family through nature.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Tel: 01273 814226

Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

 

Forest School Training Level 3 – why train to be a leader?

Forest School Training Level 3

A recent Facebook post asked if you can run a Forest School programme without completing the Forest School Training Level 3.

Forest School Training Level 3

The short answer is, you don’t need qualifications to take people outdoors, nor to necessarily offer great learning and development practice. If you are a parent, you like all of us have a ‘duty of care’ to young people and when you work with other people’s children, you need to abide by Health and Safety law and insurance requirements.

Why does anyone study?

Hopefully to improve themselves, and learn how to be better at what they do. The more we know, the more we understand how many skills and attributes are actually needed to work with groups.  How do we safely (yet wanting risk) support the whole development of children? How to we facilitate them towards a ‘good enough’ sense of self, and co-lead them on a journey to health and fulfilment?

“Forest School is an inspirational process, that offers ALL learners regular opportunities to achieve and develop confidence and self-esteem through hands-on learning experiences in a woodland or natural environment with trees. Forest School is a specialised learning approach that sits within and compliments the wider context of outdoor and woodland education.”
(From www.forestschoolassociation.org)

Forest School Training Level 3 – a learning community

Endorsed Trainer - Forest School TrainingThe Forest School training (I am an endorsed trainer from the UK Forest School Association – a charity) is very comprehensive. It provides a learning community in the outdoors, with embodied learning experiences – leading to a recognised and valued qualification.

Forest School is an approach not a copyrighted name. So there are people and organisations who are offering Forest School without training. The problem with this, as in all fields, is that you don’t have any way of knowing the quality or standards of practice.

This is not to say the quality of non-trained staff may not be great, just it’s more likely trained people will really provide the ethos, values, multiple skills, observations, have self-reflection, empathy, practical skills and instil a real love of the natural world.  Not many people or other qualifications give this range of pedagogy and skills.

Insurance

Most insurers will insure what you say you do. If you use knives and fire (the physical, psychological, emotional developmental benefits are huge), then they would expect you to have some training in this, for relevant ages. Not all great Forest School sessions use fire or knives because the point is to develop a child’s self-worth, and whole development, not to be a great crafts person, though they may choose to develop those skills.

Quality Training

Forest School Training in East Sussex with Circle of Life RediscoveryThe best quality Forest School provision, is to get trained by people who take you into nature and model practice with all the benefits that direct contact with nature provides.

There are lots of great trainings around the world that teach people to effectively work with young people in the outdoors. I am not attached to one model, but appreciate how much thought has gone into the model, and there is not much missed out.

 

Like any training, it’s often the dynamic relationship with the trainers/the people/the place & season, the resources that make the ingredients of great experiences.

Values of Forest School

Forest School, like many long term nature connection education programmes under other names, have spawned in various countries in recent times, which share common values.

At the heart of Forest school is valuing every learner and the contribution they make to the learning community.  This means working with learner’s needs, interests, motivations and preferred ways of learning, and alongside this recognising the intrinsic value of the non-human world.

Respect and humility are core values that all Forest School practitioners work with, which means giving ‘power’ over to our own learners for their own learning – through providing choice, tempered with compassion for the non-human.  In a nutshell this is a holistic form of education creating a vibrant nature-based learning community.

We also offer Forest School Training in Ireland!What we are hoping to arise from these values is the building of resilience, creativity, self-worth, emotional literacy, connection to and caring for the non-human world, so our planet and society thrives.  The important aspects that make Forest School special are the playful ‘equal’ ‘relationships’, and the deeply empathic connections that develop. But that is not all!

When children and young people feel that they are ‘enough’ are supported to have ‘agency’ and their experiments and mistakes valued, they turn out be creative, critical thinkers. Being able to play and master skills, lays the brain networks of learning and development that are life-long attributes and prevent mental ill health.

Principles of Forest School

There are a number of principles that have been explicitly expressed, see UK Forest School Association website, that are underpinned by the above values.  These principles (in our words) are;

  • Developing a relationship between learners and the natural world that features mutuality and compassion.
  • Facilitating a long term programme of regular contact with the natural world that make deeper, caring nature connections.
  • Working in a learner-centred way whereby an ‘equal’ learning community is developed where there is a combination of autonomous and communal learning, featuring joint decision making regarding the learning. Forest School follows a constructivist approach whereby the learning, in and of, the real natural world and themselves emerges.
  • Risk taking in a safe context is encouraged, enabling learners to move into their learning zones where they can manage their own risks be they emotional, physical, cognitive or social risks.
  • Developing the whole person, supporting cognitive processes and fostering creative, resilient, physically healthy independent learners.
  • Practitioners who are qualified and continually reflect on, and develop, their own learning and Forest School facilitation.

Forest School is seen as a relatively new phenomena – the term being devised in 1993 by a group of nursery nurses at Bridgewater College who established their own ‘Forest School’ after visiting some early years settings in Denmark.  Forest school is based on many years of tradition of outdoor learning and pedagogy.

Whilst a practitioner plans, considers last week’s evaluation, risk assesses all sessions in advance, the day brings it’s ever changing surprises!  As practitioners we are responding to ourselves, others, nature and the resources available all the time to enable a holistic, healthy and ‘in the moment’ experience.

Many years of research have left us without any doubt as to why and how nature fosters healthy child development.  The combination of allowing children to play, in the outdoors, enables the ideal context for young people to grow, learn and be happy.

“A child’s neurological systems naturally seek out the sensory input they need on their  own – they determine how much, how fast, how high works for them at any given time.  If they are spinning in circles it is because they need to; if they are jumping off a rock over and over, it is because they are craving that sensory input.  They are trying to organise their senses through practice and repetition.”
Sue Waite (Natural Connections).

Forest School Training Level 3 with Circle of Life Rediscovery

Our Level 3 Forest School Training provides the knowledge, understanding and skills needed to prepare learners for employment as a Forest School Leader.Our Forest School Training Level 3, trains us following our natural operating biological, evolutionary and sensory system. This approach to learning and developments forms an essential part of a healthy life, that we hope will form part of every child’s school experience.

Our next course takes place in March 2019 in East Sussex and the dates are:
Part one: 4th – 7th March
Part two: 29th April – 1st May
Part three: 20th – 21st May

 

Course Two
Part 1: 26th, 27th & 30th September and 1st, 2nd October 2019.
Part 2: 27th, 28th February and 2nd, 3rd March 2020.

Find out more about our Forest School Training Level 3, please visit our website.

2018 Feedback:

“I have learnt so much but at the same time it wasn’t hurried and there was time to enjoy the activities. Personally, I feel more relaxed after training outside.”

“I loved the games, songs, craft activities, learning theories, it was magical.”

“You have inspired me so much through your creativity, I felt like I was in a very nourishing environment, you were always there for the group and very supportive.”

“It has made me more aware of the environment and really opened my mind to new possibilities in getting children involved with nature. Plus I have found my own calm!”

“The training has been an incredible journey. The leaders were so knowledgeable but not at all intimidating.”

Look out this year for a new book on Forest School co-authored by Marina Robb and Jon Cree! To hear about this plus our other events, news and trainings, please sign up to our newsletter here.

Marina.

Marina Robb (Msc; MA; PGCE)
Director:  Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC/Circle of Life Training
07966 514469
Email: info@circleofliferediscovery.com

Circle of Life RediscoveryMarina.Transforming education, health and family through nature.
Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

https://circleofliferediscovery.com/blog/

www.facebook.com/circleofliferediscovery

 

 

The Importance and Benefits of Nature to our Lives

The Importance and Benefits of Nature to our Lives

If you are ever in doubt about the importance of and the benefits of nature to our lives, download the latest ‘Living Planet Report 2018’.

The Children’s Fire

The Children's Fire

We need a system change that is underpinned by valuing nature. A simple thinking about leadership is called ‘The Children’s Fire’ by Mac Macartney, find out more here. It asks how we make decisions in the short and long term. In older societies, a fire was lit in the middle of a ‘council’ where decisions are being made – this fire is known as the ‘Children’s Fire’ and was there to remind the leaders of a principal law:

‘No law, no decision, no action, nothing of any kind will be permitted to go out of this ‘council of chiefs’ that will harm the children’.

The ‘children’ refers to the children of human and non-human alike. You couldn’t be a leader without signing up to this. We are living in times where we have forgotten the wisdom of our elders. We are pursuing ‘wealth and success’ wrongly believing this leads to happiness and satisfaction while damaging our ecosystem.

Time spent in nature can restore us and keep us well. There are so many benefits of nature.

The Benefits of Nature

A new year, indeed a new day, gives us an opportunity to reflect on what we care about and what we really value, even though we need help to change things.

What we need is to collaborate,  share our feelings and thoughts to keep well.   It is very helpful to understand that our lives are connected to other lives, that we are not really alone, and that who we are is reflected in the non-human world.

We can be the best we can be, when we feel worthy and respected.

“It is an invitation to a lifetime journey of deepening alignment with life.  It sets us a challenge. It invites us to walk in beauty, participate generously, appreciate the inner journey as much as the outer, and it defines value in terms of what we give, not what we pretend to own.” (Mac Macartney)

Download the full ‘Living Planet Report’ here.

By Marina Robb

Circle of Life Rediscovery – Director.

Circle of Life Rediscovery provides exciting and highly beneficial nature-centred learning and therapeutic experiences for young people, adults, and families in Sussex woodlands, along with innovative continuing professional development for the health, well being and teaching professionals who are supporting them. 

The Importance of Nature

The Adventures of Pumpkin Patch Nursery – Outdoor Classroom Day 2018

Outdoor Classroom Day – 1st November 2018

To celebrate Outdoor Classroom Day 2018 we wanted to share the adventures of a local nursery group, who come each week to do Forest School at our beautiful woodland site in East Sussex.

“Once upon a time there was a very brave and adventurous group of children who wanted to go and have fun in the forest.

Outdoor Classroom Day 2018They travelled on a bus for a very long time before arriving at the gate to the woods. They found their way in to the woods by following brightly coloured flags, sometimes they ran from flag to flag, excited to get to the forest and start to play. Other times when they walked carefully along the track they found animal footprints in the mud and sometimes they just followed their ears.

Once they were in the woods they had many many adventures…

They learnt all about the season of Autumn and what that really meant. They learnt about how the leaves change colour from green to yellow, to orange, to red, to brown and how the leaves fall off the trees on to the ground.

Picking blackberries for paint! Outdoor Classroom Day 2018

One week they collected blackberries and made brightly coloured paint, they painted pictures of the trees and made smelly potions in a big bucket and they collected autumn colours to create a rainbow on their colour cards.

 

 

Another week they searched for mini-beasts and found them hiding under logs, and amongst the leaves. They found spiders, beetles, ants and millipedes…that was a very exciting week in the forest!

The adventures of Pumpkin Patch Nursery

Over the coming weeks the adventurous children made dens and homes for the animals of the forest, they climbed trees and played hide and seek games, they collected wood and helped to build a fire using sparks, and they made popcorn on the fire and ate it, just like the animals in one of the stories they read.

 

Finally the children’s adventure had to come to an end…but not before they made mud cakes for the fairies of the forest to say thank you for sharing the woods with them and cooked toffee apples on the fire.

Popcorn over the fire!

 

Then it was time to sing goodbye to the woods, roll their logs back and get back on the bus and travel all the way back to Pumpkin Patch nursery.”

By Katie Scanlan

 

 

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery

If you feel inspired by the children’s story and want to get outside with your nursery children, or find out more about Forest School, then please get in touch by sending an email or call 01273 814226.

www.circleofliferediscovery.com

Working with Nature to Support our Mental Health

World Mental Health Day 2018

It is perhaps normal to think of our physical health. If you hurt your arm, you will happily share that information.  However if your mental health is suffering, it is harder to be comfortable to share that you are feeling stressed, anxious, and even harder to get to a point where you may need to seek more help.

As a culture, we are particularly bad at talking about our feelings, what educationalists would call our emotional literacy.   Many schools across the UK do have programmes to help young people communicate what they are feeling, yet the teachers are rarely honest and open themselves!

Part of the difficulty is that we as adults, educators, health practitioners and parents are not used to sharing feelings and don’t have the communication skills to articulate what is going on for us.  We resist being open, as this feels exposing and dangerous.  What is it about our society that feels so unsafe to share feelings?

We offer tailor-made nature-based therapeutic experiences for children, young people and adults from all walks of life. We can work with young people and families who are experiencing challenges or emotional distress at school or home and are struggling to cope with day to day life.The importance of feeling safe cannot be underestimated.  This both comes from the individual and the container/society.  If the school, home, parent doesn’t feel safe, then it is unlikely to be an environment for people to share openly.  As adults working with young people, we need to be more careful, to provide the quality of listening and helpful words to support the journey of growing up.  At the same time though, I believe it is equally necessary for the adults to do their own work on feelings and to learn how to share what is going on for them and to take the risk of doing that.  I am not saying that we share all our baggage and personal stories, but I am saying that we feel able to choose appropriately what personal information we may say to support a meaningful connection, and to be an active listener.

The World Health Organisation defines mental health:

“Mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her potential, can cope with normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully and is able to make a contribution to his or her community.”

In our organisation, we believe in the power of nature to transform our well- being.  Over many years, through our projects,  I have witnessed an increase in physical and mental health, reduced stress and an increase in an aptitude for learning across the ages.  In effect through nature-based experiences we are able to transform education, health and family life.   Our model brings together practitioners who are comfortable with their emotions, skills at listening and care about others well-being.  All our projects support personal development, which means at times going to uncomfortable places and having difficult conversations.

Supporting young people with mental health issuesOur flagship project is known as ‘The Woodland Project’.  This is a partnership project with the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) and CAMHS learning disability and Family Intensive Support Service (CAMHS-LD- FISS).  One of our programmes offers young people who have diagnosed mental health issues a monthly day in the woods as a group.   The young people may live with a variety of mental health issues, from eating disorders, depression, anxiety, PTSD, Personality disorder and are some of the most articulate and vibrant young people I have ever met.  They do struggle to work positively with what they experience and are incredibly supportive of each other.

What can be challenging is how our culture stigmatises the young people and families who are living with a range of difficulties. Some behaviour is very cruel.  People share that they feel so isolated, as it is too challenging to access many community spaces.

We are currently running a programme for teenagers who are suffering from mental health issues

Natural spaces are often great levellers, where we can begin to feel relaxed (natural spaces reduce cortisol levels), and free ourselves to have different experiences in a group setting that re-build our self esteem, and give us a new and different perspectives on ourselves and the world around us.  Nature is a very forgiving environment, alongside all the multitude of benefits being outside in a supportive group provides.

Today is a day of celebrating our mental health and supporting ourselves and others to feel safe enough to feel, and be listened to.  My advice is to take a risk and share something that you wouldn’t normally –  the benefit is worth the risk and hopefully you will feel a little bit of joy!

Below are various personal videos about our Mental Health Project with Teenagers.

“The woods is a safe space to re-connect, it is healing and welcoming, I feel like I am not judged and I have learnt about the kind of person I want to be, without pressure and stress.”

CPD’s & Training Programmes

Courses and trainings

 

At Circle of Life Rediscovery, we run CPD’s and Training programmes for health and education practitioners:

 

21st & 22nd March – Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth. The theme is ‘Alchemical Ash’.

1st & 2nd April 2019 – Nature Play & The Therapeutic Space with Marina Robb and Kate Macairt.

23rd & 24th September – Exploring the Natural World & Feeling Self with Ian Siddons Heginworth. The theme is ‘Suffocating Ivy.’ 

In 2019 we are developing a 4 day Nature & Mental Health training programme for practitioners, exploring best practise from nature and well-being. Learn how to deliver ‘Green Care’ interventions. To express your interest, please click here.

Group Nature-based Therapeutic Interventions

We offer bespoke Nature- based therapeutic interventions for groups of people experiencing similar needs. These ‘green-care’ group packages are tailor made for particular client groups. Find out more.

Team Building & Away Days

We work closely with clients to deliver bespoke team building and away days for organisations, ensuring an effective and creative learning experience. We aim to draw out your skills, improve communication and confidence, give you a fresh perspective and to inspire! Contact us to hear more or call 01273 814226.

“It was the best away day I have ever been to and I would like to do it all again! The facilitators are enthusiastic and knowledgeable, it was a beautiful and peaceful setting and there was a good mix of sociable and quieter activities. I loved this away day and will have fond memories of the time we spent in your wood. The activities arranged for our team were simple yet meaningful. They were also thoughtfully put together, with activities that: required us to work together on a goal; pushed us (comfortably) to do new things; connected with our sense of fun and silliness; and some were quiet, solitary and mindful. Doing tasks we would never normally do together and never do in our workplace – making fires, using knives to craft things – helped us be and work together in a way that enhanced our team relationships. It rained, but we had a great time! Thank you.”
Dr Simon Tobitt, Senior Clinical Psychologist, Assessment & Treatment Service and Recovery & Wellbeing Service: High Weald, Lewes and Havens.

Donate

If you would like to make a donation to support the future of our Woodland Days to support young people and families, please contact us.

#WorldMentalHealthDay2018

Danza de la Luna with Abuelita Tonalmitl – Women’s Time Together

Abuelita Tonalmitl Bienvenido!

CLR in partnership with UK Moon Dance (Danza de la luna), Eleanor Sara Cihuaoctoquiani welcomed a Mexican Elder and companions to our Forest Haven in East Sussex!

We really value learning from other people and cultures, and couldn’t turn down the opportunity to have a day with a Female leader and ceremonialist, who for last 25 years has been offering ‘The Moon Dance’ in Mexico.

This is an ancient ceremony, where women would gather at a particular full moon, pray together, sit in circle, dance in circle under the moon.  The ceremony requires the participants to fast for four days and nights, to be able to ‘listen’ to their internal wisdom, in relationship to the non-human and larger stories of life. A female-based quest.

Last year, I had the opportunity to live in Mexico for 6 months, a well-planned sebatical to write (a new book with Jon Cree on a deeper enquiry into Forest School and nature-based practices), spend time with my youngest daughter (the older two boy are now adults) and to retrace some steps I left in my late 20’s, having lived in Mexico for a few years, where i  became a mother!

I had heard of the  ‘Moon dance’ several years previous, and having searched and seeked knowledge specific for women, I was eager to discover more.  

In the 1600’s, the ‘America’s’ were ‘discovered’ by the Spanish, the religious hierarchy at the time – who are responsible for some of the most horrific destruction of culture, in a very violent form.  Like in this land, people were killed for their beliefs, and documents & artifacts destroyed. We see this all around the world.

It is said that a man, perhaps a priest of the old cultures, saved a document that is now known as the ‘Borgia Codex’.  This is now kept in Venice museum. It is a historical and lengthly recording made on deer skin and shows among other things drawings of ‘the sun dance’, next to ‘the moon dance’.

 

Abuelita spoke of this history and the need for us all, men and women to reclaim our knowledge of this relationship to the earth and the wider context that we are living in.  As a group of women, to understand how oppression permeates our cultures – oppression that impedes men, women and children alike – that stops us living to our full expression – to know ourselves, so we can live well with the rest of life.  

I can hear a voice in me that is ashamed to claim and be vocal about the oppression of women, because there is always someone who is more oppressed.   Yet I know as a nearly 50 year old, how the knowing of women is often dismissed in both subtle and large ways. This weekend the Saudi women finally get ‘the right’ to drive!  I read the book ‘Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening’,  a few years ago.  These women were repeatedly arrested, imprisoned, humiliated to fight this fight. When we live in Southern England and have privileges, we forget so easily how different it is in different places, and how this still seeps into our lives every day.  Equality and equanimity are not the same things.

This visit provoked and awakened these things, as well as feeling a great unity and hope. That young women can grow up friends with their bodies, that they can understand how intimately their bodies and emotions are mirrored by the monthly cycle of the moon.  How we can harness this cycle to go within, foster mindfulness and befriend the darkness. How the natural world reflects us and provides well-being.

The older cultures hold something for the modern human.  This is not to say there is perfection there. But they hold a language and understanding of how things fit together, how natural law could fit with human law.  It is not them and us, rather how we at this time in history can draw on ancient wisdom from across cultures and enable the modern world to gain a sensibility to ‘the other’.  The ‘other’ that is more than human, the ‘other’ that is foreign, the ‘other’ that is feminine or masculine.

We have inherited ways of working that have been dominated by hierarchy, and we have had to follow ways of keeping order and control for we fear that we will loose what we have.    

How can we all be of service, young and old to each other? How can we feel the joy of giving, and not the fear?  In the present moment, all we have is right now, to have the pure acceptance of this moment and us within it, is a connected state of being.  In nature work, when we get into the flow, we feel this state of mind, it is part of the abilities that help us to live a healthy and happy lives.

Yet we have to have a vision of how life could be, and how we can contribute to that, to have meaning and purpose.  To imagine a world where we can live well, without harming ‘the other’ provides the steps towards that.

The Abuelita, encouraged us to confirm for each other what we know already. To not fear.  To listen within. To not defer to the cultural norm of some men. To remember.

For any interest in joining us on some women in nature days please email info@circleofliferediscovery.com

Contact Eleanor for information in the UK about the Moon Dance: eleanorsara@googlemail.com

International Day Of Happiness

On International Day Of Happiness we celebrate….

Celebrating on International Day Of Happiness!

 

A year ago today we launched The Woodland Project campaign to gain valuable funding from The National Lottery. Nine months on, after winning the funds, we are pleased to let you know on International Day Of Happiness, how the Project has been going and what we have achieved!

 

 

What makes us happy…

Since July 2018, the funding has enabled us to run the following days:

  • 13 FISS Family Days
  • 4 CAMHS Family Days
  • 3 Staff Training Days
  • 10 Parent Taster Days
  • 9 Teenage Woodland Days
  • 1 Teenage Woodland Camp
  • 1 Celebration Day

Support The Woodland Project on International Day Of Happiness

 

The Woodland Project in East Sussex offers days out in nature for families who have a child with a severe physical or learning disability, families who have a child experiencing mental health issues and 11-18 year olds who are accessing mental health services. The Woodland Project allows these families to spend quality time together, relax in their natural surroundings, free of distractions and judgement.

 

 

What would make us really happy

The Woodland Project is run by Circle of Life Rediscovery and Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. The project is funded solely through donations and external funding. We desperately need continuous funding to support the future of the project! If you are able to donate, please do so by the link below and please share!

“In the woods my son is calm and happy. We look forward to coming to the woods because he can be himself in a safe environment. I can be his parent, rather than just his carer.”

This project is one of the most valuable things we have. I don’t think of it as therapy when I am here, it feels like a family day.  It is difficult to find things we can do with my daughter. Here there are understanding people, who are able to keep her occupied which enables us to have a family day out. Often we are protecting her or others. Here it is relaxing, it’s not about protection and this is really, really rare.” 

“We have never used a service for the whole family before. We don’t get out much, I think this is the longest my son has spent outside in living memory. This is phenomenally good. He is safe and the girls are happily occupied, we haven’t had that kind of freedom before, today has given us a different perspective that it is possible.”

 

Circle of Life Rediscovery

As well as funded programmes, Circle of Life Rediscovery offers unique nature-based experiences across East Sussex. These included bespoke camps for schools, forest school sessions and enrichment days. Plus CPD’s, in-house training and forest school training for adults.