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

Challenging Behaviour – A balanced brain means a pro social mind

Challenging Behaviour – how does the outdoors promote a balanced brain? This was a question put to me on a play structures course last weekend. I had been talking about challenging behaviour and the way ‘movement and making’ can help people of all ages regulate behaviour. So to the question. First what do I mean by balanced brain?

Join Jon Cree for Challenging Behaviour this June or NovemberI was working with a youngster this autumn, Jordan, who, providing he was succeeding with a task, was engaged and controlled…he had a penchant for sawing and took great pleasure in making clean cuts. However as soon as it got hard or he made a hash of sawing he would throw the saw down, stomp and withdraw shouting all his way to the gate of our forest school site.

This became a common occurrence. He would become, very quickly, dysregulated and have difficulty controlling his emotions and behaviours. He also developed the vocabulary and a basic understanding of psychology to try and wind up both his peers and teachers with some choice words!

He displayed a lack of balance. This type of behaviour could be indicative of a sensory processing disorder, ADHD, history of trauma or something else, he was seen as a ‘handful’ in school, where he was always in reactive state, whereas at forest school was more often ‘on task’.

What was happening in his brain at these outbursts was an imbalance of both brain chemicals and lower and higher order thinking. The more reflective brain was being dominated by the reactive brain. Neurologist Jak Panksepp would say the mid-brain pathways are not working in harmony, in this case a lack of control over his frustration saw him reacting with the ‘fast’ or ‘no I can’t do this’ brain….I was sure it wasn’t necessarily indicative of other conditions.

What was needed was time and practise at getting into the pre frontal cortex to recognise the emotions that threw Jordan out of balance and to think about self regulation. Jordan was 12 and at this age the pre frontal cortex…the higher order brain that thinks about feelings and helps regulate behaviour by bringing the brain into balance, is going through a developmental phase.

It is fine to feel frustration, in fact its good and healthy. It is how we respond to the emotion that’s important, not letting it call all the shots. In the moment what helps is ‘calming’ and an approach from us, the adult practitioners, who have a developed pre frontal cortex, that is non threatening, clear, calm, empathetic and soothing to help Jordan re-balance. What happens when his frustration kicks in is either Jordan’s hyper-arousal and he stomps in rage, or some people enter hypo-arousal where the freeze response kicks in and a rigid non-flexible adaptive behaviour is displayed.

What is happening when these two states are witnessed is the autonomic nervous system activating to release certain chemicals such as cortisol or adrenaline and neurotransmitters like noreprophine, opioids etc, that can lead to brain imbalance.

Find our more about Jon Cree and his Challenging Behaviour 3 day course

How does Forest School help bring the brain into balance? Daniel Siegel and Tina Bryson in their book ‘The Yes Brain Child’ propose through 7 daily ‘activities’ optimal brain matter is developed to create a healthy mind.

These include; sleep, physical time, focus time, down time, reflective time, connective time, play time.

While all these exist simultaneously at forest school (excepting sleep, unless you drop off in a hammock!) what the outdoors offers in abundance is physical and play time. One of the key mid brain systems Panksepp calls the PLAY system.

It has been shown that regular integrated play helps to stimulate both lower order thinking and higher order brain development, enabling a more integrated brain to develop. When in extended play mode, it could be through a hunting game or ‘playing with’ saws to see what happens when different techniques and materials are experimented with, then all kinds of higher order thinking and behaviours can develop.

These can include handling disappointment, sustaining attention, making sense of the world, overcoming fears of disappointment, tolerating frustration or coping with feelings of helplessness. Chemicals released through play can include serotonin, oxytocin, noreprophine all of which can counteract too many of the hyper and hypo-arousal chemicals.

Explore Challenging Behaviour in the outdoors with Jon Cree

 

The moving and physical activity at forest school beit running, dragging, swinging, climbing or sawing and chipping also helps both dissipate the reactive chemicals and stimulate resilient balanced brains.

 

When this is a regular programme eventually the combination of an empathic approach, plenty of integrated play, physical activity, daydreaming, a soothing green place and reflective time can see more balance and more pro social behaviour.

In the end Jordan will keep hold of the saw, regulate his behaviour and brain, discovering, through trying out how to make the most of technique and materials, the pleasure from ‘making’.

By Jon Cree

Jon Cree
Jon will be in East Sussex in June and November this year with Circle of Life Rediscovery delivering the 3 day course:  Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors.

 

Working with Young People with Challenging Behaviour, in the Outdoors.

This course is aimed at any educator who feels they want to engage and work with students in the outdoors who may be reluctant learners (of any age).

This course will delve into:

  • What challenges us as leaders in the outdoors
  • Theory on challenging behaviour
  • Up-to-date neural research; triggers and causes for challenging behaviour
  • Ways of dealing with ‘real life’ scenarios in the outdoors
  • De-escalation
  • How to transfer outdoor strategies into an indoor and other settings – including looking at the validity of sanctions and rewards.
  • Reviewing your own policies

Date: 17th, 18th & 19th June OR 20th, 21st & 22nd November 2019
Lead Facilitator: Jon Cree
Where: Mill Woods, East Sussex
Cost: £325 for the 3 day course, £55 for the Accreditation (optional). This Level 3 West Midlands Open College Network Accredited Course.
Time: 09.00 – 17.00.
Booking: Please book online here for the June course or online here for the November course.
More info: Please visit the website here 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.

 

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.

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.

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