Outdoor Classroom Day 2019

Happy Outdoor Classroom Day 2019!

young people thrive through learning and engaging outside the classroomOn Outdoor Classroom Day we bring you ideas of how to get children outdoors in line with the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework guidelines.

Below are extracts from Reports, Papers and the Education Inspection Framework.

In 2014 the growing weight of evidence was finally recognised by Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education at the time, who stated that England was to become a “global leader” in teaching character, resilience and grit to pupils.

‘There is growing evidence that children’s social and emotional skills – their ability to respond to setbacks, work well with others, build relationships, manage emotions and cope with difficult situations – are associated with success at school, as well as positive outcomes in adulthood.’ (Education Endowment Foundation 2017 Report).

There are many different definitions however, probably one of the most compact and accessible definition of the terms ‘resilience’ and ‘character’ has been developed by ADEPIS (ADEPIS Report (March 2015) ‘Building Resilience and Character in young people’ as outlined below:

‘Resilience is the capacity of an individual to ‘bounce back’ from adverse experiences, and to manage positive resources and skills, such as ‘character’ and ‘grit’, that can allow minimising negative outcomes of adverse circumstances.’

‘Character is a set of capabilities (including application, self-direction, self -regulation, and empathy) and soft skills that allow people to achieve their potential.’

The ability to manage setbacks and build on them, seeing them in a positive light that young people can learn from is essential. As Einstein noted ‘Failure doesn’t mean you are a failure, it just means you have not succeeded yet’.

Get outside on outdoor classroom dayThere is compelling evidence built up over many years that children and young people thrive through learning and engaging outside the classroom.

In September 2019 OFSTED introduced the Education Inspection Framework (EIF) which is built around the ‘connectedness’ of the curriculum. Assessors will focus on quality of education with the curriculum extending beyond the academic to include broader development such as: personal development, behaviour and attitudes, character and cultural capital. This presents an opportunity to extend into the outdoors!

Below are some key notes taken directly from the OFSTED EIF:

Q: How can development of character/personal development be supported in schools?

Personal development:
28. Inspectors will make a judgement on the personal development of learners by evaluating the extent to which:

  • The curriculum extends beyond the academic, technical or vocational. It provides for learners’ broader development, enabling them to develop and discover their interests and talents.
  • The curriculum and the provider’s wider work support learners to develop their character – including their resilience, confidence and independence – and help them know how to keep physically and mentally healthy.

Everything we do is based in nature

Children can be supported in building resilience, confidence, independence and in knowing how to keep physically and mentally healthy.

The foundation of our work here at Circle of Life Rediscovery is built on the above qualities. Everything we do is based in nature.

Inspectors will make a judgement on behaviour and attitudes, including the extent to which:



‘Learners’ attitudes to their education or training are positive. They are committed to their learning, know how to study effectively and do so, are resilient to setbacks and take pride in their achievements’.

Q: What is Cultural Capital?
Early Years Inspection handbook p16:

Cultural capital
140. Inspectors will evaluate how well leaders ensure that the curriculum they use or create enhances the experiences and opportunities available to children, particularly the most disadvantaged. Some children arrive at an early years settings with poorer experiences than others, in their learning and play. What a setting does, through its curriculum and interactions with practitioners, potentially makes all the difference for children. It is the role of the setting to ensure that children experience the awe and wonder of the world in which they live, through the seven areas of learning.

We know that outdoor learning experiences can improve a young person’s feeling of well-being. A meta-analysis of 96 studies (see Report) shows that there are significant improvements in independence, confidence, self-efficacy, self-understanding, assertiveness, internal focus of control and decision making as a result of outdoor adventure programmes.

Outdoor Classroom Day 2019

 

What we see every day: Learning in a natural environment has a high positive impact on a child’s behaviour. This is linked to the quality of facilitation.

Key approaches in the outdoors enable:

  • Child led learning – allows children to discover interests in their own time and at their own pace. Intrinsic motivation and sense of agency is also developed.
  • Learning in nature – hands on learning with a range of natural materials to encompass all learning types including kinaesthetic learners, e.g. clay, sticks, stones. Nature as metaphor and deep investigation.
  • Physical health – wider range of movement in the outdoors such as, climbing, running, crawling, jumping and proprioception. Woodlands naturally provide logs, trees, hills, ditches, stumps which promote movement.
  • Mental health – research has shown being in the outdoors reduces stress. The community of learners provides a safe, emotionally literate, welcoming atmosphere.
  • Building resilience, confidence and independence – regular experiences in the outdoors provide opportunities for children to take supported risks at their own pace and to build on their abilities thus increasing confidence and self esteem.

Download the full document here: ‘Character and Resilience and the Outdoors

Forest School Shelters

 

Would you like us to build you an outdoor classroom? Visit our website for details!

 

 

Enjoy your Outdoor Classroom Day – we hope you manage to get outside today!


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryWe provide 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.

Follow us to stay in touch and find out about our events, training, CPD’s and family days:

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Forest Bathing in East Sussex

Forest Bathing: Retreat into Nature

Forest Bathing is an enjoyable and restorative practice which involves connecting with nature for health and well-being.

Forest BathingWith its roots in Japan, Forest Bathing is a gentle and restorative practice which involves bathing our senses and our whole being in the atmosphere of the forest. It brings together the beauty, healing and wisdom of nature with simple ‘invitations’ which facilitate deep relaxation and connection to both self and the natural world.

Forest Bathing is a powerful and pleasurable way to re-set the nervous system with benefits lasting long beyond the session.

Sessions include gentle walking, sitting meditations and ‘invitations’ which are simple, guided practices to help you connect more deeply with yourself and nature.

Research shows that Forest Bathing helps to:

  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Lower cortisol levels
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Lower heart rate
  • Boost immune system function
  • Improve empathy
  • Stimulate creative thinking
Forest Bathing in East Sussex – Relax, restore, receive

Forest Bathing Sessions

 

Join us on 9th November and/or 8th February for a gentle and nurturing day combining:

  • Valuable self-care tools
  • Forest Bathing
  • Nature Connection
  • Time around the fire

 

 

Date: Saturday November 9th and/or Saturday 8th February 2020.
Time: 11am – 3pm.
Location: Mill Woods, near Laughton, East Sussex.
Facilitators: Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery Director and Claire de Boursac, Nature as Nurture Director, Nature well-being practitioner, Humanistic Psychotherapist (BACP) and Walk for Health leader.
Cost: £65.00 per day (you are welcome to attend either or both days)
How to book: Please complete our online booking form where you will also find payment details.

Join us for Forest Bathing in East Sussex

 

During this mini-retreat, we will enter the darker half of the year receiving nature’s wisdom and support.

Like the animals, we will gather up what we need to nurture and restore us.

Further information can be found on our website.

 

Further details about Forest Bathing:

Does it involve swimming?
No. The sometimes confusing name is a translation from the Japanese ‘Shinrin Yoku’. We remain fully clothed (with option to go barefoot) and bathe in the atmosphere of the forest.

Do I need any experience?
No. You’ll be guided through everything.

Do I need any special equipment or clothing?
No. You’ll need to wear comfortable clothing suitable for the weather and footwear that can manage uneven ground. As it’s a slow-paced session I suggest bringing an extra layer to be on the safe side. Seating pads are provided for sitting meditations.

Do I need to be fit?
Forest Bathing is a slow-paced walk with some in-situ meditations. It is not a hike. You will need to be fit enough to be outdoors for the session length. There are periods when we are standing still and if this is uncomfortable for you there’s always the option to lean against a tree or sit on the ground. If you have any concerns about health and fitness drop me a line.

Do you forest bathe in all weather?
Almost. Part of the aim and also part of the joy of forest bathing is to engage in nature in her fullness. The woods are rather magical in the rain. Sessions will not run if it’s dangerous to do so – for example in high winds or thunder storms.

Is this a summer only activity?
Sessions run year-round. One of the joys of forest bathing is to witness the changing of the seasons and notice the beauty in all.

Is the session accessible?
It will depend on the session and the route. Please contact us to check. As we are often off the beaten track in the woods, with uneven ground the routes may not be suitable for wheelchair access.


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.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

Tel: 01273 814226.
Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
www.circleofliferediscovery.com
info@circleofliferediscovery.com

Deepening Nature Connection beyond Nature Contact – Earthwalks and Nature Connection

Earthwalks and Nature Connection

By Jon Cree

“Come forth into the light of things. Let nature be your teacher”
William Wordsworth (The Major Works)

“Surely any outdoor learning is a good thing and is creating nature connection, at least we’re getting them out there, nature teaches all the time”.

This is a mantra I often hear from outdoor and indeed environmental educators.

Having been involved in the EE (environmental education) /OE (outdoor education) movement for 40 years, I know this is not necessarily the case. In fact done badly, and without a congruent value system that dictates an educators practice, it can create disconnection from the natural world and the very ecological systems on which we all depend for sustenance and beauty.

Is the recent upsurge of the nature “connection” movement a good thing regarding the long term relationship with our planet? When we read and experience the breaking of ecological systems, as evidenced by the latest IPCC reports on climate change, the latest statistics coming from the amazon, where soya production is increasing the rate rain forest destruction due to our meat eating habits – I fear we have failed in our attempts to build connection and relationship to the planet in the contemporary EE/OE movement.

In this short article I would like to explore what we mean by nature connection, and raise questions about practises, such as Earthwalks, that embody this that could lead to regenerative systems.

Earthwalks and nature connectionSo what do we mean by nature connection? For me it is about a continuous relationship with the natural world and it’s ecological systems, i.e, the planet itself. It is about the improvised duet between our animal body and the fluid breathing land which we inhabit – a participatory relationship. There is an active dialogue with all life – between the human and the non human, between the inner mind and the outer world.

EarthwalksSteve van Matre, author of ‘Earthwalks – an alternative nature experience’, recently wrote; “…this (environmental education) is not a matter of planting seeds. That’s what most everyone in our field claims they are doing, but without careful cultivation, most of the intended growth withers and dies. It is choked out by other desires and demands on learners lives………most seeds did not and don’t make it”

Relationship takes time, effort and cultivation – it is not a one off field trip or a momentary wow atop a mountain or deep in a bluebell blooming wood.

What nature connection is really about, is rich first hand contact with the natural world that engenders reverence, respect, kinship, joy AND, importantly, love and understanding. A key to cultivating these emotions is a deep ‘knowing’ of the ways the ecological processes of the planet operate and how we as humans are part and parcel of it all.

Nature connection is reciprocal…indeed all relationships depend on reciprocity and that can only happen when we humans recognise how we are fed physically as well as emotionally by the natural world.

Steve van Matre goes on to say; “…in a loving relationship there are three entities; two people plus the relationship itself…”

I take from this that for both people to gain from this they have to sacrifice in the
relationship. In our relationship with the natural world we have taken the relationship for granted and not sacrificed enough and now the natural world is kicking back in the many environmental ways it only knows how to kick back (rising temperatures, surging methane, species loss etc).

Earthwalks and Nature Connection with Jon CreeDeveloping this relationship and knowing what to sacrifice takes intentional time. When we are open to it and know the workings we can see ourselves as part of this vast interconnected web and really connect rather than have that all too brief in-comprehensive contact that is often equated to connection. What, as Van Matre states, we need to do is to “sharpen our senses and open our minds…letting nature flow into us and to really deepen our understandings in order to ‘give back’ rather than take”.

 

Sustainable development has often been construed as something that can help human growth, and make meaning for ourselves. However after thirty years of sustainable development speak we are in a worse situation and the term has meant, in the end, more growth – we need new language and dialogue.

As Herbert Girardet has said we now need ‘regeneration’ not ‘development’.

Just having nature contact does not necessarily enable learners formulate a deep integral meaning of what our true ecology is which can then enable a regeneration of our planetary systems and ourselves. It does not necessarily help us understand the basic energy flows and material cycles – how sunlight flows into our veins to enable our ancient friend carbon to move and connect all living beings on the planet.

How do we then enable the deeper connection that is required to restore and regenerate the ecological systems that are currently at tipping points? I fear that much EE misses the reciprocity, the giving back to the cycles of life (AIR, WATER and SOIL), the giving of gratitude to the natural world, when taking children and learners into the woods.

If we are to have true connection we need to get off the paths and develop rich close contact with the natural world – it is more than a view from a mountain top or momentarily ‘seeing’ the bluebell wood. Earthwalks are defined as “a light, refreshing touch of nature that focuses on reawakening individual senses and sharpening perceptions fostering joy, kinship, reverence and love for the earth and it’s life”.

This multi-sensory walk that has a ‘flow’ to it encourages new perspectives; viewing a log from the perspective of a small creature, tracing our own ‘veins’ and seeing how they are reflected in the patterning in a tree or leaf veins, taking off shoes and socks in reverence to nature and, without the use of sight, revelling in the reverence for natures grandeur and ‘ordinary’; finishing with genuine gratitude.

In the new Earthwalk book there are many experiences that can be woven to take people to a deeper place of ‘contact’ with nature that encourages ‘connection’. When you combine the joy, kinship, reverence and love, that are fostered in an Earthwalk with a deeper understanding of the ecological system we are ‘experiencing’ then we can encourage a deeper ‘gut and body’ felt connection. A multi-sensory approach to nature connection is essential and Earthwalks are one way of starting to reinvigorate.

I leave you with four questions about nature connection to intentionally and mindfully consider when looking at this deeper connection question;

  • What does constitute deeper nature connection practise where we can rewire and really understand the workings of the planet?
  • What routines do we have to embody to realise a regenerative relationship and not see nature as a separate entity – as an IT, but as a whole where there is a unity that can regenerate?
  • How do we gain new perspectives through daily routines?
  • What sacrifices do we have to make for the natural world in order to reinvigorate dynamic restorative ecological systems that can include the young whippersnapper – ‘human’?

Earthwalks event with Jon CreeIn the end it is not just going out into nature, making contact and knowing what it can do for us in terms of learning and development, we need to feel this two way relationship between ourselves and animate natural world. Nature connection, as opposed to nature contact, is about letting nature into our everyday lives and making US and IT a WE, fulfilled and integral.


Earthwalks with Jon Cree

If you want to know more about Earthwalks, in particular how to facilitate these dynamic experiences do consider attending the leading Earthwalks workshop with myself and Circle of Life Rediscovery on 23rd November 2019:

What you will gain:

  • An introduction to earth education and where Earthwalks ‘fit’ in our programmes
  • A chance to plan and review your own Earthwalk
  • Experience two different Earthwalks
  • In-depth analysis on leadership, mechanics, and flow of an Earthwalk
  • Tools and confidence to lead Earthwalks
  • An update on earth education developments

Please visit the website for more details.

Date: 23rd November 2019.
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree.
Cost: £95.00.
Location: Parkwood Campsite, Poynings, East Sussex.
Time: 09.00 – 17.00.
Booking: Please book online here.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life RediscoveryWe provide 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.

Listen to the Earth Speak

A year long course for women: our wisdom, connection, nourishment and belonging visualised and celebrated.

Led by Marina Robb and Eleanor Darley

Women in Nature: Listen to the Earth Speak

Listen to the Earth speak. Meeting by the fire, in the woods, listening and tending to our well-being, deep in connection, ceremony, plant knowledge, ceremonial practices, laughter and reflection.

This offering is a year course to energise, nourish and celebrate you as a woman; acknowledging your physical and natural connection to the Earth, nature’s rhythms, your wider community, kinships and culture. It will offer the support to build confidence, belonging and vitality of being.

 

There are many ways of understanding how connected we are to nature and our relationship as women to natural cycles. It is very easy in the modern, externally focused world to forget that our well-being comes from knowing our internal landscapes, and how the external and internal influence each other.

Linking the small and large perspective with the larger forces were and are often explained through show a map in the form of a wheel or circle. All the while, we know that we can only see a small part of ‘reality’. The most common maps place the earth & humans on the earth in the centre, where from our perspective the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. The influence of the sun on life is fundamental, without which life as we know it could have never evolved or exist.

Listen to the Earth Speak - a nourishing year course for women

Our menstrual cycles really affect how we as women feel and following our cycles can hugely help us to harness the different qualities through the month.

As an introduction, the following moon wheel enables us to see how our internal cycle links to the qualities of the seasons and phases of the moon. We can use this to apply how we may feel during a day, month or season. Whilst the sun and moon appear to move from East to West from our human perspective, in actual fact the earth, moon and even the sun (albeit at different speeds) are moving anti-clockwise from West to East!

MOON WHEEL DIAGRAM – Your Inner Seasons

Moon Wheel Diagram

Your menstrual cycle awareness, ‘the act of knowing and valuing your unique cyclical pattern of energy and mood throughout the menstrual month, paying attention to where you are in your cycle at any one time, respecting your feelings and energy levels, working with and within the changing energies, leveraging this as a life management and facilitation tool’ (see A Pope & S. Wurlitzer, Red School) is a key part of knowing ourselves. When used well this awareness and knowledge lead us to an increase in health and well-being.

I am now peri-menopausal and moving towards my menopause. I know that understanding my internal seasons and moving into this new phase is also part of a natural continuum and stepping into another experience. I am certainly not alone, and have many wise women’s support ahead of me.

Marina Robb

“Women are the archetypal anchors for the power of the feminine, and when we reclaim our feminine power – by restoring our ways and practices – we integrate the power of the feminine into our lives and back onto the planet” (ibid).

Tell your story so the story doesn’t tell you.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC.

 


Listen to the Earth Speak – Course detail:

Please download our flyer to share with others.

More information: Please visit our website to find out more.
Location of course:
 Mill Woods, off Park Lane in Laughton, East Sussex, BN8 6BP.
Fee: £995 for the year course.
Who should attend: open to all women over the age of 21 years.
How to book: please complete our online booking form.

While this is not therapy, we will be working therapeutically in some of the work we facilitate. On deciding whether this gathering of women is right for you we would love to hear from you by email, or phone call (01273 814226) so we can have a conversation, and welcome you with whatever you bring.


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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.  

 

Mental Health Awareness Week

Young Nature Leaders Initiative – Mental Health Awareness Week

It’s been an incredible journey on the Young Nature Leaders Initiative course with Circle of Life Rediscovery.  Spending a day out in the woods each month has been a wonderful and grounding experience and it has given me a tranquil space to feel connected to nature.

Young Nature Leaders Initiative If I was ever feeling stressed or anxious before the session, that was eased once I got to the woods as we always took some quiet time to listen to the sounds of the forest, relax and connect with our senses. This, along with the amazingly supportive facilitators helped everyone feel ready to engage and learn. We learned everything through practical experience making it so much more meaningful and memorable.

 

The art of square lashing!We met each month in the woods whatever the weather! From November to April, we experienced the woods through different seasons and what the seasons had to bring.  From fire lighting to woodland cooking, using tools to make animals from wood, charcoal pencils and picture frames, plant identification, nature games and woodland management, we have learnt so many new skills that we can apply to our future work.

Meeting new friends

 

The course has opened up new options for me and my future. It has taught me so many new skills as well as teaching me how to share those skills with children and adults.

 

Mushroom keyrings!I have now gained a Forest School Level 2 qualification. Being able to share this knowledge and help others find the fulfilment I have found in Forest School is really important to me and I hope to continue to do this. Since starting the course I have been volunteering at two Forest Schools which has allowed me to put my new skills into practice and has consolidated my desire to pursue outdoor learning as a career.

Having felt a bit lost a few years ago, my life didn’t really have any direction. There are so many pressures around us to look a certain way, feel a certain way and act a certain way. This course has enabled me to meet new people who perhaps feel the same and have taught me to be myself and accept myself – it’s a magical feeling and being in the woods only accentuates this. I feel excited about the future and my options.

Mental Health Awareness Week

If anyone reading this feels they are struggling, I would encourage you to share your problems and talk, take a walk in the woods, lie on the grass and feel the sun on your face. There are people out there who care and who can offer support. Never feel alone.


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.

We want to thank the Ernest Cook Trust for providing a key grant to enable our Young Nature Leaders training to happen. If you would like to make a donation to our funded work or find out about our funded programmes please contact us.

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

 

 

Mental Health, Wellbeing, Nature: Children need to go Outdoors

Mental Meandering and the Outdoors

By Kate Macairt (Director CLR)

Children of all ages need to go outdoors to support their mental health and wellbeing. Children need the enriched sensory inputs which outdoors can provide. This does not have to be a beautiful wild landscape or forest, there are wild spaces in every city worth discovering.

In her TED talk (30/9/16) Emma Marris stresses there is no division between humans and Nature. We are part of nature, we are part of the living system of this planet. She encourages us to take a short walk through the urban jungle and find how, no matter how much concrete we pour, time will open cracks and shoot new life. For a disenfranchised young person, the bravery of the little weed forcing its way through such obstacle provides a metaphor which system 1 thinking notices. (See my previous Blog on System 1 and 2).

Mental Health, Wellbeing, NatureConquering Nature has been a significant driving force in the evolution of humans.  The modern human brain still contains elements of our ancestor Neanderthal brain. What was absolute survival behaviour for early humans is still the brain’s default mode and when we are stressed by events in our life we will still adopt the same response as our ancestors: fight freeze flight.

The development of the human for rational logical thinking has set us apart, humans have always explored and questioned their place within the natural scheme of things and in more recent times struggled for domination over other animals, plants, rivers, rocks oceans. The success of the domination has been over whelming and in Earth time super- fast. As a species we have fast tracked the development of our cognitive thinking skills. We are amazing and can create anything we imagine, almost. But it is very clear that now we pay the price for thinking we are above or exempt from the natural system.  It is our young humans who will face the clean up after hundreds of years of irresponsible partying by so called grown- ups.

Perhaps it would be easier now to carry on trashing and abusing the hand which feeds us. Perhaps we do need more gadgets and systems which will help distance us from our nature. Implant chips so we can be read like a robot. Surrender our ability to find our way, turn on our lights, remember appointments and so on.  We should be treading with more caution. History clearly shows that it is not possible to change natural phenomena without there being a knock-on effect and these knock-on effects often create a less safe world for humans.

I am a child of the 1960’s and have grown up with awareness that this is no new argument but what has changed significantly I feel is the effect of the modern human world on children.  In 1989 Morris Berneman wrote ‘Coming to Our Senses’. An acknowledgement of how the evolutionary process has divorced us from our embodied experience of the world. He warns of the de-humanising effect of believing we are above or outside the natural world and the existential void that disembodiment creates.

Remember the two infants, our indoor and outdoor babies? (Again, see my previous Blog).  Let’s assume baby 1 continues to have predominantly indoor experiences, what sensory memories is she forming? Modern urban city life encourages us to stay indoors. From birth until she is three years old Infant 1 has been kept safe inside the aircon apartment, she gets to play with playdough while in her high chair and she likes bubbles in her bath. She has an Ipad on which she watches age appropriate cartoons, she loves Peppa Pig (consider how many products aimed at young children utilise animals with human characteristics, flowers and trees that can talk, and rural locations). There is a beautiful jungle mural on the nursery wall. Baby 1 has been kept safe from germs and is carried from building to car to building in safety seats. All the time her little brain is growing. A baby’s brain grows 64% in the first year of life.  Baby 1 is making the foundation ‘compost’ which will unconsciously impact on her future behaviour as she matures and faces new experiences

Mental Health, wellbeing, nature Baby 2 has also been inputting sensory data. Her arms have been stretching trying to reach the grass as her arm flops over she rolls and now she is lying on her tummy. She grabs at the green spikes which are waggling in front of her she pulls at the strands a chubby fistful of grass… and now to taste! As Baby 2 gets bigger she enjoys mixing mud pies, she will lift the stone and look for the woodlice that live there and she has found her own special place under a bush where some of her toys live. Both babies are safe and have working models of secure attachment. Both babies are having their basic needs met and both will grow up and no doubt do ok at school.  (If you wish to train to work in the outdoors, see our Forest School Training courses).

What Baby 1 lacks is the opportunity to explore her world in its true entirety.  The outdoors and all that it offers is an important part of our story, our personal story and our ancestral narrative. If we are to feel confident in our capacity to be resilient then we need to develop a positive relationship with our world.

A little boy of 3 years is on the beach, I am observing him and his mother from a distance. It is a beautiful sunny day he is following his mum, they are walking up from the sea shore across rocks. He scrambles over the boulders like a bear cub, all fours finding his balance, his little bare feet scrunch as he walks, a little gingerly at first, over the pebbles but in no time he is striding ahead. He is completely Master of his body moves and his quiet humming communicates his sense of satisfaction with life.  Some time passes, the same little boy is again returning from the sea following his mother. This time he slips and falls and for a moment he disappears behind a boulder,  then there is a wail!  Mum is quick to respond, has scooped him up and is hugging him. She picks him up, dusts him off and he is ready to start all over again.  Mum walks on and the boy continues his scrambling and balancing.

See our website for courses based around mental health, wellbeing, natureSo much sensory information has automatically been experienced and the boys developing Superintendent will have noted ‘I fell over, it hurt, but not for long’. He has felt confirmation that the world provides fun and satisfaction and he is completely justified in receiving it. When it goes wrong it hurts but mum’s hug has reassured him to continue. I know, not rocket science is it? But what you may not have considered before is how important it is for that activity to have been outdoors. The power of the event would not have been the same had the boy been in the JungleTumble play world climbing foam blocks and plastic balls.

The dislocation of mind and body may be an effect of Western culture’s preoccupation with individualism and materialism. Eastern cultures have traditionally maintained more awareness of the harmony of mind and body, this can clearly been seen in the difference between Western and Eastern medicine. As the global modern technological world continues to expand our understanding of what reality is in being tested. For several years I have visited and worked in South East Asian countries training child counsellors and psychotherapists to become Play Therapists. The same mental health issues are manifesting in the young of China, Indonesia, Singapore as in London, USA, France. It is our young who have to deal with the ‘knock-on’ effect of the new technology. The seductive allure of computer worlds have been masterfully attuned to our addictive natures.

I loose count of how many young people I have worked with and who supervisees are working with, for whom playing on-line games has replaced most other social events. It is very usual now for young people to spend more time online engaging with each other as an avatar than taking ‘the risk’ of actually going out and engaging with a more unpredictable reality. The problems with this retreat into an internal world of virtual reality is the limited sensory input, the lack of somatic experience to such an extent that the Self is negated and projected onto a computer generated character who becomes ‘Me’.  Circle of Life Rediscovery are running a new course in the Autumn – Mental Health, Resiliency Training in Nature. Please register your interest here.

A child who lacks resilience will be drawn to the computer game and virtual worlds like a moth to the flame. The bedroom becomes the sanctuary the outside world dangerous. I guess it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how that young person who lacks resilience and fears the outdoors world and what is in it, who is addicted to playing violent games in which success equates to body count, how the boundaries between realities may begin to merge until one day you can step out of the bedroom as your avatar and use a real gun or knife and kill real people.

The intense sense of loneliness and isolation from the physical world and others is at the root of most mental ill health.  It does not require amazing gardens or wild plains to find our connection. If you happen to be reading this and are in a busy street with traffic, or on a park bench look down at the ground. Envisage a 10cm square drawn onto the ground. Now look closer at what is inside your square, a magnifying glass is very useful. This is an enjoyable game to play with all ages and if you were to have a 10cm square piece of paper and colouring pens you could try and capture on paper what you see. For the young child this sort of focus activity is very beneficial for connecting System 1 and System 2. The important thing is to be allowed to draw what you want to draw: do your own looking, seeing, interpreting.

Another effective simple outdoor focus game is to prepare a collection of objects, for example petals, leaves, sticks, stones, sweet wrappers. Create one big pile of confusion with them all jumbled together. The game is to see how quickly the chaotic mess can be sorted into piles of same or similar. Again, there is no right or wrong way here. Sorting things how you perceive they should be sorted is satisfying and simple.  It is a child-led (or person-led) activity and is educational because of the intensity of the sensory inputs: the freedom within the activity to make choices ( or to negotiate if in teams) gentle connection between sensory System 1 and pattern seeking System 2.

Learning with NatureI recommend Marina Robb’s book ‘Learning with Nature’ for more ideas on outdoor games and activities.  Whether in a Park, fields, or a scrubby patch in the back yard I encourage you and your children to get out more. Smell, look, taste, listen, touch find out what is safe and what isn’t. Have fun, breathe more deeply stretch your arms in the air, feel your feet grounded on earth. It is never too late to add more enrichment to your sensory network; the ‘compost’ of your foundation brain.

“The whole of science and one is tempted to think the whole of the life of any thinking man, is trying to come to terms with the relationship between yourself and the natural world. Why are you here and how do you fit in and what’s it all about?”
Sir David Attenborough


Landplay Therapy – Two Day Training Course with Kate Macairt.

Landplay Therapy with Kate Macairt

 

Kate will be running her two day Landplay training in Essex on 25th & 26th May 2019. Please visit the Circle of Life Rediscovery website for further information and view full course information here.

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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.

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


Recommended related reads

Berne Morris: 1989; Coming to our Senses
Brazier C: 2018; Ecotherapy in Practice
Jennings Sue: 2001; Embodiment-Projection-Roleplay
Kahneman D ;2011; Thinking Fast and Slow
Knight S: 2013; Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years
Louv Richard : Last child in the Woods
Oaklander V : 2007; Windows to  our children,
Robb M et al : 2015; Learning with Nature
Young Jon: 2001: Exploring Natural Mystery: Kamana one

Copyright

Neuroscience: Mental Meandering and the Outdoors

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the Outdoors –  System 1 and System 2

By Kate Macairt (Director CLR)

I am inside a box sitting by a window and the window is slightly open. Outside my window perched on a telephone line are 2 swallows; whatever it is they are communicating to one another, it is clearly something of great interest to them. Their chattering is a non-stop percussive melody, a complex composition with background hum of some power tool and a van pulling up below the window; I smell diesel. A gentle summer breeze licks my face and I watch how the verdant leaves tremble. My mind relaxes. My hand is holding a pen and might start doodling. I have escaped the box.

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the Outdoors

If this description resonates then no doubt you too were accused of daydreaming in class. I taught teenagers Expressive Arts for many years and that sense of absorption in the moment; a relaxed pleasure in simple things was a gift I felt was an important aspect of Arts education.

 

I have continued to explore and discover more about the human trait of Creativity and the relationship between creative release and emotional literacy. Ten years ago, I became a Play Therapist.

Day dreaming is important, and it seems easy to daydream outdoors in a place with a tree or flowers, grass, water, sand, mud.

“When we need to plan for an uncertain future, mental meandering can be the perfect tool. Daydreaming has also been shown to be crucial in boosting creativity and problem solving, by allowing the brain to forge connections between pieces of information we don’t link up when we are too focused”, Caroline Williams New Scientist 20/5/17.

System 1 and 2

I am no Neuroscientist but I am a Creative Therapist and the dual process concept resonates as a workable idea which has helped me understand my own thinking and feeling. Recent neuroscience has explored the concept of dual processing (see Kahneman, Kauffman,) – System 1 and System 2.

This theory helps us to understand where feelings come from and why feelings can sometimes manifest for what seems no logical reason – a sudden mood change. I have found that drawing a diagram (psycho-ed) to show how feelings connect to sensory memories has helped young people understand why they are struggling with the world and their sense of place within it.

My version of the science is a simplified, focusing on those aspects of the research which I think are relevant to feeling. System 1: the larger automatic intuitive super- fast automatic brain absorbs all information from the sensory experience of an event. What we hear, see, taste, smell, touch is transmitted into our system 1 at micro second speed and it can feel rather chaotic, especially if we find ourselves in a noisy, busy, hot/cold, place and are hungry (fast brain processing). We may suffer sensory overload. Observe a young infant in a large supermarket and you will probably see the effect of sensory overload it is certainly a location where the toddler tantrum seems to occur frequently.

I think of the System 2 mind as a Superintendent. It is this small frontal cortex area of the brain which tries to filter and make sense of all the sensory input – it needs to make logical rational sense of the experiences so that we feel safe. Superintendent has been identified as lazy and prefers to deal with subjects it has experienced before. System 2 does not like change and so when the flood of sensory information is being fired the Superintendent naturally connects with information it has already stored as memory or tries to find the best fit. System 2 superintendent gives things names – it helps with storing and retrieval of information. So sensory feelings become emotions.

The first time I heard strange chattering out of my window I could not name it. I did not know a swallow. Now I quickly recognise that sound. I am not sure what the power tool is exactly, but I am reassured by stored information from past encounters with power tool noise. Superintendent focused thinking helps me feel in control and safe.

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the OutdoorsNow consider the infant of 4 months. The baby needs to reduce fear and feel safe but everything is new and the memory bank is practically empty. The infant needs an adult to ensure safety and meet basic animal needs such as feeding, shelter. The infant needs to feel safe with Other and safe in her environment.

 

The baby’s system 1 needs to work hard in the first year of life. The ears, eyes, nose, mouth, skin need to learn what to do. It is through sensory experience that the infant begins to build a sense of them Selves in relation to Other and the environment.

System 2 needs experiences to be repeated, “again again” is Superintendent’s baby voice. Our brain needs repetition to help make sense of our Senses. The infant needs to build a firm foundation brain, a firm sensory network. Imagine two infants. Both are left alone for a few minutes. The first infant is in a bouncy chair in a living room. The room has electric lighting, a t.v is on and flashes colours in sporadic bursts into the room. The voices on the t.v are high and shrill full of excitement and energy, the baby wriggles in her chair and stretches out for the bright red toy in front of her. The air is heavy with the smell of cooking.

Neuroscience: Mental meandering and the OutdoorsBaby 2 has been put down on a rug on a piece of grass. The sky is blue and little clouds scud by. The sun is warm and the leaves on the tree twinkle, a butterfly lands on the rug next to the child. The air is full of sounds of the distant town, dogs barking, the wind in the bushes, and the sweet smell of freshly cut grass. The infant’s arms wave in the air.

Can you imagine both scenarios? I am not asking for judgement here as both scenarios are perfectly relevant. But it is the difference in sensory input that is worth focusing on. An infant brain requires enriched input, the infant brain knows what it needs. Carl Jung gave the world the concept of the Archetypes. In some ways the idea of these energy potentials held deep within the psyche seem to relate to the neuroscience concept of synapses waiting to be activated.

The Great Mother archetype is an internal drive which when activated will help the infant feel connected and safe. Secure attachment to the Mother or primary caregiver is boosted by secure attachment to The Great Mother: the earth. Only outdoors can the infant-child truly explore the world and what it is made of. Outdoor space provides room to stretch and try out body strength, to breathe air- although sadly it’s true that in our polluted cities aircon perhaps provides safer air. Man- made is good and we certainly wouldn’t want to get rid of our useful gadgets and inventions but again just consider the physical differences between a swimming pool and a lakeside or seaside beach? How does it feel to be beside the lake or sitting in the spectator stand?

If the infant is exposed to enriched natural sensory input she will unconsciously be creating a firm memory store which will become the foundation of all her future thinking. The early years are like compost making years which create a rich bed of experiences which feed and enrich all other experiences in the future. When we speak of Resilience I feel we are recognising this firm foundation in the child/adult’s mind. An ability to
bounce back is deep set. We need to keep feeding the compost throughout our life by ensuring diverse sensory experiences.

Landplay Training Course

Landplay Therapy with Kate Macairt

 

Kate will be running her two day Landplay training in Essex on 25th & 26th May 2019. Please visit the Circle of Life Rediscovery website for further information and view full course information here.

 


Transforming education, health and family through nature.

Circle of Life Rediscovery

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.

 

Recommended related reads
Berne Morris: 1989; Coming to our Senses
Brazier C: 2018; Ecotherapy in Practice
Jennings Sue: 2001; Embodiment-Projection-Roleplay
Kahneman D ;2011; Thinking Fast and Slow
Knight S: 2013; Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years
Louv Richard : Last child in the Woods
Oaklander V : 2007; Windows to our children,
Robb M et al : 2015; Learning with Nature
Young Jon: 2001: Exploring Natural Mystery: Kamana one

Author Kate Macairt
Copyright

Health, Well-Being and Spirituality

Health, Well-Being and Spirituality: An Unspoken Connection

By Salvatore Gencarelle

Health, Well-Being and Spirituality. The anguish that people are afflicted with has little to do with injury, physical disease, starvation, or other ills that historically caused great sorrow. Modern medicine and industry have all but eliminated those types of pain. The new illness that people suffer is from their inner world. It is more elusive, more subtle, and thereby more difficult to distinguish. If we cannot recognise the source of the pain, how can we stop or treat it?

Health, Well-Being and Spirituality with Salvatore Gencarelle and Marina RobbWhen we are in pain, we need to clearly identify the cause so we can take the appropriate actions. Pain is just a sensation that is intended to draw our attention to the source. Where are you hurting in your life? Where is your pain located? Is it physical? Mental? Emotional? Spiritual?

When we identify the source of the pain, we can make a distinction about the source. By naming it, we can begin to determine the cause.

The lack of congruence between the lack of connection in lives we currently live and our spiritual needs is the underlying source of misery. This is a low-grade misery that many people feel like a void at the centre of their being. This emptiness is a constant reminder that something isn’t right in this world.

I believe the inner pain that many people experience is caused by a spiritual disconnect and hunger; this pain is elusive, and so people often struggle to explain or describe the discomfort, except in metaphor.

Words like emptiness, loneliness, sad, tired, fearful, and apathetic are commonly used in attempts to name the pain. Not being able to find the source of such boundless pain and thereby not being able to do anything that adequately addresses the issue leads to hopelessness––this is real suffering; this is a suffering of the spirit. We have become so shielded and isolated from that which nourishes the inner being that we are starving for connection.

Explore and experience the restorative qualities and wisdom inherent in nature, whilst sharing ways and understandings that enable us to ‘Thrive in uncertain Times’Too many individuals live with hidden traumas and grief in ways that prevent them from deeply connecting or loving other people, the world, or even themselves. People’s internal connections and perception have become fractured and contentious, and people don’t know how to heal.

What does the current scientific research say about disconnection as the root cause of the lack of wellness? The cause and effect relationship between detachment and trauma is so vast that it’s difficult to distinguish because it permeates every aspect of modern society. Dr. Peter Levine, a pioneer in trauma research, says, “Trauma has become so commonplace, that most people don’t even recognise its presence.”

It can be said that the circumstances that caused the emotional/spiritual injury is not the essential problem but the disconnect from the self that happened is the actual issues. There are numerous coping strategies people have adopted that are not actually dealing with the issue but provide a way to lessen the suffering. Substance addiction is one such coping strategy. Addiction is an unsustainable strategy that Dr. Gabor Mate has studied for decades. Dr. Mate states that trauma represents events that disconnect one with oneself and that addiction originates in a person’s desperate attempt to solve a problem. The problem of emotional pain, crushing stress, lost connection, loss of control, and deep uneasiness with the self. Addiction is an attempt to relieve the pain.

Addiction is just a symptom of the real issue. I propose that that one of the most visible forms of the Disconnection Sickness is post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Working as a paramedic, I am familiar with PTSD. One aspect of my 17-year career was to offer initial therapeutic sessions with first-responders who experienced a critical incident stress event (events with the known potential to be internalised into forms of PTSD).

After learning about the symptoms of PTSD and having my own experiences with trauma, I began to understand just how pervasive traumatic stress is in our society.  I started to really look at the symptoms and realised that many people were displaying them. Some people manage to mask them; however, aspects of PTSD seem to be universal, even considered normal. Below is a list of symptoms associated with PTSD, see how many of these symptoms are shared complaints with the average person.

  1. Loss of interest in life and other people
  2. Hopelessness
  3. A sense of isolation
  4. Avoidance of thoughts and feelings associated with the traumatic events
  5. Feeling detached and estranged from others
  6. Withdrawal
  7. Depression
  8. Emotional numbing

Join our webinar with Marina Robb and Sal Gencarelle on Mental Health and SpiritualityHow do we heal from disconnection? We want to see a positive change in the world, nature and ourselves, but the question that we all face is what can we do as individuals? Returning to a connected relationship with nature is a critical step in finding true wellness.

 

Nature is the pure source for support of well-being via a connection. One of the beauties of this life is all unbelievable purity and help that we can receive from nature. All we must do is choose to engage with it. There is a reason why so many people go to nature for pleasure, for relaxation, and for renewal. Nature feeds our spirit!

The reasons that people are drawn into nature is because it’s a pure source of connection energy. Nature has laws, and those laws are dangerous when not followed, but it welcomes all with openness. Nature doesn’t judge us in the ways that we do to each other and ourselves. It provides an opportunity to feel a sense of connection without the layers of social criticism, tension, expectation, or demands. This is so refreshing to our spirit, mind, heart, and body.

Health, Well-Being and Spirituality: An Unspoken ConnectionNature provides a vital nutrient for our well-being. It also supports us to embrace change as nothing in the landscape is static. Nature helps free us of the chattering mind and the endless cycling of thoughts spinning between our ears!

 

 

When we enter into nature and find the peace and calm we’ve been desiring, then the ability to observe ourselves more clearly is finally possible. Through the healing nature provides we can find our true personal spirituality.

For more on this topic please see the upcoming book by Salvatore Gencarelle, Thriving in Uncertain Times, How to Find Well-Being Now and into the Future.

FREE Webinar:

To learn more on health, well-being and spirituality join Salvatore Gencarelle and Marina Robb (of Circle of Life Rediscovery UK Director) on a free webinar May 7th 2019. To join the webinar register here.

When: May 7th, 2019 8:00pm London time

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Workshop: Well-being and Spirituality: A journey into practices in nature that support our well-being and a deeper understanding of our spiritual lives.
A journey into practices in nature that support our well-being and a deeper understanding of our spiritual lives.
We will explore and experience the restorative qualities and wisdom inherent in nature, whilst sharing ways and understandings that enable us to ‘Thrive in uncertain Times’. Many of us have become so shielded and isolated from what nourishes our inner being that we are starving for connection.

Together, we will create a safe and welcoming container to ask good questions, identify where we are out of balance and remember our kinship with all of life.

Date: 11th June 2019
Hosted by: Salvatore Gencarelle and Marina Robb.
Where: Mill Woods, East Sussex
Cost: £95 for the day workshop.
Time: 10.00 – 15.30
Inipi (Sweatlodge) will take place at 6pm (arrival by 5pm). We ask for a donation of between £35-£55.
Booking: Please book online here.

Information: Please visit the 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.

World Autism Awareness Day

World Autism Awareness Day – whether we have a diagnosis or not (which can be helpful or not), we are all individuals and one response or label does not fit all.

World Autism Awareness Day is a day to celebrate us all

 

World Autism Awareness Day is a day to celebrate us all – especially those that are ‘different’ and find it more difficult to communicate with others in ways we expect or understand.

 

The popular term ‘neurotypical’ is stating that there is a ‘typical’ way that we interact
with others or not. In reality all of us find interaction difficult at times, and can be
supported in so many different ways, once we are understood. At the same time,
individuals can find it really helpful to understand how their ‘neuroatypical’ wiring,
affects their ability to interact with others and how they perceive the world around
them.

At one end of the spectrum, autistic people may have significant learning disabilities
and require 24-hour support in order to lead their lives, while at the other end the
person may be very intelligent and successful in their chosen career but require a
little support and understanding from others in some areas of their life.” (Forest
School and Autism: Micheal James)

Autism spectrum disorder is described as, ‘persistent difficulties with social
communication and social interaction’ and ‘restricted and repetitive patterns of
behaviours, activities or interests’, present since early childhood, to the extent that
these ‘limit and impair everyday functioning’.

The Woodland Project - World Autism Awareness DayOur funded Woodland Project which we run in partnership with CAMHS and CAMHS-LD-FISS offers family days out, parents days and a long-term teenage programme who are diagnosed with many labels. In the woods we are all people who are valued. We know it makes a positive difference to everyone involved and allows us all to achieve more than anyone imagined.

The days encourage families to put their worries to one side, mingle and laugh knowing that their child’s behaviour is not the focus of attention.  They support young people to feel safe, move through difficult feelings, find hope and be okay with who they are.

You can support the future of The Woodland Project by donating here. Thank you.

The majority of ‘autistic’ people present a level of difference in sensory processing
which affects them in their day-to-day lives. A recent workshop I went on gave us
various activities to give us a momentary glimpse into what it may be like to have
sensory processing difficulties. We had to undo and fasten buttons using washing up
gloves – not easy!

Next I walked around some cones looking through binoculars –my balance and sense of place was totally affected. Finally, the bit I enjoyed most was getting inside a stretchy sock, all tight around me. I experienced how safety can be increased by this touch and containment. And why so many young people I work with love getting inside hammocks or tight spaces.

We perceive the world and our place in it using our senses: sense of sight, sense of
hearing, sense of smell, sense of touch, sense of taste, sense of balance, sense of
our physical positioning and the strength of effort our body is exerting. These are not
the only senses – how we sense our internal feelings is also vital, as this lets us
know if we are hungry or sad.

Our bodies are always enabling us to ‘sense’ our world, and it is often through our bodies, in nature that we can learn to regulate and rewire ourselves to facilitate meeting our needs and providing an increase in well-being. Our new book co-authored by Marina Robb and Jon Cree will be published in Spring 2020. This will dedicate a chapter to the bottom up and top down strategies that we can apply in a natural environment – along with much, much more. Sign up to our newsletter to find out more.

The National Autistic Society recently produced a short film called Too Much
Information, which can be found on YouTube. The film shows the experience of
walking through a busy shopping mall from the perspective of an autistic child
experiencing an overload of sensory information. I would recommend taking moment
to watch this film if you have never experienced sensory overload personally.

Greta Thunberg - World Autism Awareness Day

Finally, on World Autism Awareness Day, I want to acknowledge the climate activist Greta Thunberg, who is diagnosed with Autism. Her protests have both called attention to climate policy, as she intended, but it also highlights the political potential of neurological difference.

 

An extract from: The New Yorker. See the full article here.
“I see the world a bit different, from another perspective, I have a special interest.
It’s very common that people on the autism spectrum have a special interest.”
Thunberg developed her special interest in climate change when she was nine years
old and in the third grade. “They were always talking about how we should turn off
lights, save water, not throw out food,” she told me. “I asked why and they explained
about climate change. And I thought this was very strange. If humans could really
change the climate, everyone would be talking about it and people wouldn’t be
talking about anything else. But this wasn’t happening.” Turnberg has an uncanny
ability to concentrate, which she also attributes to her autism. “I can do the same
thing for hours,” she said. Or, as it turns out, for years.

Here I am, sitting in Lewes, East Sussex. It is because of the many people who
have gone before me who acted, and people today, like Greta, that I am glad to be
part of a growing community to come, who values diversity and our uniqueness.

Today, on World Autism Awareness Day, thousands of young people are out on the streets across the world inspired by a young woman with Autism.

Marina Robb, Circle of Life Rediscovery Director

 

By Marina Robb

Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC – Director.

 

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

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.

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