International Women’s Day 2019

International Women’s Day 2019 –  Celebrating women and our internal connection to nature’s cycles

I am delighted to be celebrating International Women’s Day on 8th March 2019! I will be going up to London on March 9th to the WOW (Women of the World) festival to spend the day with men and women, to be part of a global movement that believes a gender equal world is possible and desirable through empowering women and girls.

Particularly excited to listen to Naomi Klein, a renowned activist and writer, who in 2016 was awarded Australia’s prestigious Sydney Peace Prize, for ‘inspiring us to stand up locally, nationally and internationally to demand a new agenda for sharing the planet that respects human rights and equality, and for reminding us of the power of authentic democracy to achieve transformative change and justice.’

While we act politically, there are private aspects of being a woman, that is rarely talked about as women: our menstruation and bodily hair! If you squirm at the mention of this, you are not alone, with shame about our bodies and monthly periods.

As Dr. Christiane Northrup says in her book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom “Nothing in our society – with the exception of violence and fear – has been more effective in keeping women “in their place”, than the degradation of the menstrual cycle.” Shame, stigma and misinformation surrounding menstruation are contributing to serious human rights concerns for women and girls (UNFPA Report), underscoring the ways period shame and misinformation undermine the well-being of women and girls, making them vulnerable to gender discrimination, child marriage, exclusion, violence, poverty and untreated health problems.

A recent survey found that 73 percent of women across the world hide their periods from others, and 68 percent are afraid to talk about their periods with men. Then there is the cost of sanitary products which prevents young women from attending school because they are unable to afford menstrual products. They miss school every month because they cannot face the shame and fear of going to school using socks stuffed with tissues, old torn T-shirts or newspaper. In these families, menstrual products are an unattainable luxury. Read more here.

These things do matter for half the population.

International Women's Day 2019There are many cultures who view menarche (the first period) as an initiation into womanhood, where a girl gets to be honoured by a coming-of-age ceremony or ritual. There are increasingly women who are reclaiming this natural cycle for themselves and their children.

At Circle of Life Rediscovery Camps for young women and other programmes, we always make sure there are healthy conversations and sharing about our feelings towards our bodies and menstruation, listening to different women’s experience of sex, babies, monthly bleeding, relationships and celebrating the inner wisdom that we have access too.

“To see your cycle as the enemy can set you up for more suffering. But working with and within it’s rhythmic imperatives can be your foundational path to healing.” (Wild Power 2017).

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.

Indeed, we so focused in the next moment, that most of us are also entirely unaware of Earth and moon’s influence on us! The earth rotates every 24 hours at 1000 miles per hour, the moon rotates around the earth, all the while spinning around the sun. We are entirely linked to the forces of life that are always moving and changing.

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. (Find out about our Nature Pedagogy workshop April).

It is less common however to notice that our everyday life is also influenced by the moon cycle. We are 70% water after all. This is particularly true for women, as their internal landscape and emotions are mapped closely to the moon. It is easy to forget that half the population from puberty has their ‘periods’ every month. Practitioners working with adolescent young people supporting healthy emotional and physical development are not educated to know how this internal cycle and understanding of our bodies is central to our mental and physical well-being.

Much of my work is with people with mental health difficulties. Findings based on the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS) shows that brighter and poorer young women are particularly vulnerable to mental health difficulties showing a sharp increase of girls under age of 18 admitted to hospital in England (2015 -2016) because they had self-harmed after cutting (285%), poisoning (42%), hanging themselves (331%). “Some people say that physical pain is easier to tolerate than emotional pain.” (Dr Nihara Krause, consultant psychologist).

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. Empowering young women (and young men) to have the language and understanding of what is occurring physically and emotionally, provides a larger context and framework for what they are experiencing.

Most cycles, like the moon, are 28 days, and our bodies have internalised this rhythm. Like the phases of the moon, we have phases in our cycles: ovulation and menstruation. This is associated with the waxing moon reaching fullness in tune with ovulation and fertility (during the constructive phase) and the waning moon and dark moon (during the deconstructive phase) coinciding with menstruation and being a time of retreat and inner vision.

Menstruation is the night of the cycle, which as in story telling represents a state of consciousness “when we are closer to ourselves, closer to essential ideas and feelings that do not register so much during the daylight hours” (Estes 1998, p.329). Estes, Clarissa Pinkola Women Who Run With The Wolves (Rider 1998).

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 - International Women's Day 2019

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.

“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 - International Women's Day 2019

 

(Note: Some of you may have noticed I didn’t talk about stigma around body hair – I don’t think our society or this blog is yet ready for that.)

Happy International Women’s Day.

Marina Robb – Director, Circle of Life Rediscovery CIC.

 

 

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.

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

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