This 5th annual Edge of the Wild gathering was from 4 to 7 August 2016 and its theme was ‘Heartlands’.
With ‘Heartlands’, the call was to move beyond egoic and abstract ideas to connect with the longer histories of how people and cultures emerge from the land. As our own internal landscapes reflect our relationship with the environment so our theme spoke to the sensuous and lived ‘knowing’ of ‘my nature’, ‘my soulscape’, and ‘my body the earth’. The aim of ‘Heartlands’ was to offer the opportunity to share our poignant land-stories, tend the graves of our ecological ancestors and return to our roots. It was also a space for vital conversations about how the gathering remains connected to the earth and the relationships that sustain it; such as how we can ensure the gathering remains an expression of the ecopsychology movement? And might we renew our gathering with good heart at the threshold of a new paradigm?
Here’s an overview of the 2016 keynote speakers and their keynote titles:
Keynote speakers and their themes
‘The Wild Goose, the Condor, the Eagle and the Blue Jewel’
‘We believe the teachings of our ancestors will light the way through an uncertain future’
From the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers
‘Elements and archetypes: The Search for a New Inner Topography in Flatland’
“Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature… natural phenomenon… have slowly lost their symbolic implications. Thunder is no longer the voice of an angry god, nor is lightening his avenging missile. No river contains a spirit, no trees the life principle… no snake the embodiment of wisdom, no mountain cave the home of the great demon. No voices now speak to man from stones, plants and animals, nor does he speak to them believing they can hear. His contact with nature has gone, and with it has gone the profound emotional energy that this symbolic connection supplied”.
James Hollis paraphrasing C.G. Jung
In addition to the keynotes, the programme was a mixture of both led workshops and open space sessions. There was plenty of space for participants contributions and a rich and diverse open space session. The event’s flyer can be downloaded here and the full programme here.
Open space sessions
The Open Space session on the Saturday afternoon consisted of conversations, talks, workshops, explorations or experiences that emerged spontaneously out of our time together – this year there was a pop up singing group, for example. “How do we bring our visions for ecopsychology home?” was the theme. It turned out to be a rich afternoon, with everything from energy healing, discussions about the future direction of ecopsychology in the UK, through to a singing workshop!
Another highlight of the 2016 event was James Barrett holding a Dream Matrix each morning before breakfast, an event which has become a foundation of the the ‘Edge of the Wild’ gatherings.
Each days home groups had the chance to meet at an allocated time. We’ve found from experience and feedback that home groups can provide an important space in which to share and process your experiences of the gathering, and support when you need it, particularly if you are new to this community.
People coming to the gathering were, as always, invited to bring along their musical instruments, poetry, songs, stories and other short creative activities they’d like to share with others. There was rich sharing around the fire on the Friday evening, facilitated by Robbie and Fi and dancing on the Saturday evening with Jed Milroy and Jo Jefferies (of the Whisky River Boat Band and Homecoming String Band.
The programme consisted of the following workshops – please scroll down for more information:
- Healing and transforming responses to environmental crisis – Judith Anderson
- Mindfulness and nature connection – Nadine Andrews
- Art in the Wild – Joanna Callaghan & Branwen Lorigan
- Hunting the path of the heart in the wilderness of the Soul – Roger Duncan
- The Ecology of Dreams – Nuala Flynn
- Veganism: Going home – Sandra Higgins
- Learning from the Plant Spirits – Moira Lake
- Embodying Evolution; Embodying the Earth and Universe – Greg Morter & Dan Lupton
Judith Anderson – Healing and transforming responses to environmental crisis
In this workshop I will use the Tapas Acupressure Technique to work on our responses. Of the different energy psychology methods this one focuses the user on a series of statements whilst they hold acupressure points that connect the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual parts of them.
Judith Anderson is a Jungian psychotherapist who has included energy psychology methods in her practice for nearly a decade and teaches these to other therapists in UK through the Converging Streams course. For some years she chaired Psychotherapists and Counsellors for Social Responsibility, and is now on the Executive of Climate Psychology Alliance, recently helping to set up its new website. She is passionate about the need for psychological professionals to engage with Climate Change. Judith’s website.
Nadine Andrews – Mindfulness and nature connection
This workshop is an experiential session where we use mindfulness as the basis for connecting with nature – the outer world of plants and animals that inhabit the woods and river around the site, and the inner world of our own psyches. We will practice various techniques and exercises for awakening the senses, transcending the ego-self, integrating mind with body, and attuning to rhythms and patterns of the living world. The session will also draw on the complimentary spiritual practices of Taoism and Druidry. Be prepared to get up close to your experience!
Nadine Andrews has been practising mindfulness for over 10 years and trained in mindfulness teaching with Bangor University Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice. Over the years she has completed many nature related training courses e.g. in biomimicry, bushcraft and tracking, wildlife identification, wild food foraging, mountain leadership, natural navigation, permaculture design and ecopsychology. Nadine is a certified and accredited coach with professional membership of Association for Coaching and work to the UK Network for Mindfulness-Based Teachers good practice guidelines. She practises Taoist physical arts and is a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids (OBOD). Nadine’s website.
Joanna Callaghan & Branwen Lorigan – Art in the Wild
A creative workshop exploring human relationships with the natural world. The objective of the workshop is to work creatively with natural materials to produce an art work based on the theme of the gathering: ‘my nature, soulscape’ or ‘my body the earth’ Workshop participants will be invited to use local, wild, natural materials and the creative process express their understanding of their nature or soulscape or body/earth. Participants will collect natural objects or ideas from the environment outside. We will offer a variety of ways to gather natural materials to use for the art making process without despoiling the locality. Working creatively with these materials attendees will be enabled to make art objects that express in some way their response to the theme. The workshop will finish with a respectful group reflection and discussion around ideas that have been stimulated by the creative process and the finished art objects.
About Joanna and Branwen
Joanna Callaghan is an artist and woodland manager. She organises and runs woodland wildlife educational events for the local community, and woodland craft courses for adults and children. Joanna has recently set up The Woodland Creative Project – a project that provides opportunities for artists, creative practitioners and aspiring artists to explore their creativity in a natural environment to enable a greater understanding of woodland ecosystems. Before she engaged in woodland work, Joanna worked full time as Head of Art Therapy at the Huntercombe Stafford Hospital. She has also worked as Head of Art Therapy at Oxfordshire Mental Health Trust. Her artwork has been exhibited at Ludlow Arts Festival, Shropshire; Clisset Wood, Herefordshire; The Gateway Arts Centre, Shrewsbury; Hatfield University, Hertfordshire; The Mill Arts Centre, Banbury; The Omega Centre, Rheinbeck, New York, USA; Time Square ‘Envision’ Film Festival, New York, USA.
Branwen Lorigan works with the creative and environmental industry sectors in Brighton & Hove on behalf of the city council and works on a freelance basis with artists developing art education projects. Prior to this, she worked in arts and education in New Zealand and England: as an art teacher, an art education manager and programmer for national visual arts organisations, the New Zealand Ministry of Education and a network of New Zealand tertiary visual art and design faculties. Website.
Roger Duncan – Hunting the path of the heart in the wilderness of the Soul
In this workshop we will explore how we might move beyond our usual cultural habit of perceiving our relationship with nature through the lens of the intellect, which is usually organized by a catastrophised narrative of Darwinian survival and Cartesian dualism. Informed by the work of Gregory Bateson, Henry Corbin, Rudolf Steiner and Meredith Little and Steven Foster of The School of Lost Borders we will explore how we can begin to break open the heart and communicate in a preverbal, imaginal language that we share with all nature. Working with council, poetry, nature and a form of deep reflective practice we will build a safe space to help us to touch into our own feelings in a way that we can begin to perceive nature and the human soul as part of the same sensually patterned landscape. Combining work in council and in nature and using imaginal mirroring we can open the doorway to the path of the heart and begin to read nature’s open secret and how nature can speak to use from this place. We will begin to explore the personal relationship between our own stories and what might be being asked of us personally in the service of healing the split between unhealthy human cultural patterns and the earth’s ecosystems. This workshop would be especially suitable for Scientists and Therapists who are unfamiliar with the work of the School of Lost Borders and other Soulcraft work, but is open to everyone.
Roger Duncan, MSc, trained as a biologist, Waldorf educator, and wilderness rites of passage guide with The School of Lost Borders before becoming a Systemic Family Therapist. He was one of the pioneer tutors of the Ruskin Mill Education Trust working for ten years as the woodland manager and setting up the wilderness experience and transition programs. He is former Deputy Principal and Head of Education and Therapy at Ruskin Mill College, Glos, and works as an Outreach Family Therapist in the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service in the NHS and in private practice. Roger has spent the last 35 years exploring connecting between nature and psyche and how to great innovative delivery systems to facilitate experiential encounter with the imaginal world. He is writing on ecopsychology and is interested in pathways that this work can be brought into mainstream education and therapeutic practice. Roger’s website.
Nuala Flynn – The Ecology of Dreams
If we take dreams as the unmediated wild imagination, and view their images and words as living beings, we can begin to appreciate how we neglect and exploit them, just as we do the natural resources of the earth our home. They too are the “other than human” that we ignore, interpret, dismiss. The living word and image of dreams are endangered species, the “flora and fauna of the night”.
In this workshop, we will work experientially with dreams as embodied imagination. The approach is the original work of Robert Bosnak. The genealogy of his work is traced to alchemy, the science of the imagination, via Jung Hillman and Corbin. It is a radical phenomenology, slowing down and attending to the rich associations, plus sensorially to the particular qualities of the images that we encounter deepens into an intimate experience in which the images reveal their perspective to us. It becomes apparent that each element in the dream belongs in its ecosystem.
We will work a dream, maybe that has already been shared in the social dreaming matrix, but in a different and complementary fashion. It may feel like a risk to work a personal dream in a group, and it is a privileged participation in someone’s most intimate life. In an atmosphere of respect, witnessing and tracking our own responses to the feelings evoked
by dream images we begin to realize that, even though intimacy feels personal, we can create a collective state of intimacy with the dream that feels important to the dreamer and for everyone. The process includes reflective sharing of experience. You don’t have to remember a dream to participate, to become part of the dreaming. We will be restoring dreaming to the growing ecological consciousness, in which “one touch of nature makes the whole world kin”.
Nuala Flynn is a psychotherapist and artist. Her work is to support an embodied capacity for imaginative connection and empathy to, self, other and world. She has worked with adult survivors of childhood institutional abuse for 15 years, has a private practice offering therapy, dreamwork and supervision for individuals and organisations in East London, as well as being a Social Dreaming Matrix host. She has completed the Marion Wodman Foundation Bodysoul Leadership Training, and has trained in Embodied Imagination with Robert Bosnak. She is grateful for the wellspring of her ancestral landscape and imagination in the West of Ireland. Nuala’s website.
Sandra Higgins – Veganism: Going Home
We have an innate capacity for empathy and compassion that enables us to resonate with how others feel, even if they are different to us, and to act in ways that prevent their unnecessary suffering. These capacities are the cornerstone of social justice. They are what unites us with all of life and with the earth that sustains us. Yet, we lose these capacities towards non-humans as we grow from childhood to adulthood. There is no ingredient in the lives and bodies of non-humans that humans need for their health or wellbeing. Therefore, we use other animals for reasons of taste, tradition, and convenience. For these trite reasons, we cause billions of other lives to suffer and die horribly and unnecessarily every year. Thus, by living as non-vegans, we participate in the most violent acts that have ever been perpetrated on this planet both in degree of intense suffering inflicted and in the number of victims harmed. This violence is not congruent with the values that we claim to hold dear or with our nature. By living as non-vegans we live according to myth rather than reality, disconnected from our home as part of the natural world. This workshop will explain how and why this happens, illustrating how our inherited speciesism dates from a relatively short time in the history of human evolution. The workshop will explore the consequences of disconnection from the earth and from other forms of sentient life for ourselves, for others, and for the planet. It will conclude by demonstrating how we can reconnect with our true nature by being vegan, and how this reconnection has the power to alter the evolution of the human species.
Sandra Higgins, BSc (Hons) Psych, MSc Couns Psych, MBPsS, is Director of The Compassion Foundation of Ireland. She has a special interest in the practical application of the non-violent philosophy of veganism in clinical settings. She studied Pure Psychology at The Open University, and at Trinity College, Dublin where she obtained an MSc in Counselling Psychology with Distinction. She also trained at The Positive Psychology Centre, University of Pennsylvania, The Human Animal Connection Unit at The University of Denver, Colorado, and The Institute for Humane Education, Maine, United States. Sandra is a Certified MB-EAT Instructor (Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Instructor) and Intuitive Eating Instructor and has trained in working with Trauma & Dissociation with the UK ESTD (European Society for Trauma & Dissociation). She is also a Schema Therapy practitioner. She is the author of ‘The Power of Compassion’ (2nd ed) in Halpin, M (2014) ‘How to be Happy & Healthy’, ‘The Seven Natural Elements of Mental Health’, Ashfield Press: Dublin. Sandra runs Go Vegan World, the first abolitionist public advertising campaign in Europe, now expanding across the world. She founded Ireland’s first vegan sanctuary, Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary Ireland, which is home to more than 100 non-humans who have been rescued from use for food.
Moira Lake – Learning from the Plant Spirits
This workshop has two purposes: firstly, to share a little of my experience of working with plant spirits, and the profound healing and teaching they offer; secondly, to support participants in starting to experience this for themselves. I have worked as an energy healer and shamanic worker for a number of years, and formerly practised as a psychotherapist and ecopsychologist. Plant spirits play an important part in my healing practice.
Our time together will be primarily experiential, and will include some talking and discussion, as I share the understanding of the world and life from which plant spirit work (and all authentic shamanic work) arises. Participants will be supported to experience the reciprocity of awareness within the more-than-human world, and the spirit dimension behind ordinary reality. There will be both group and individual experiences of meeting plant spirits and receiving teaching from them.
As this workshop requires facilitation of a somewhat altered level of consciousness, as well as some teaching about a way of experiencing the world which is likely to be unfamiliar to most participants, it is essential that an experience of genuine depth can emerge without the pressure of a narrow time frame. For this reason, this will be a three-hour workshop; divided half-way with a short break. The workshop does not require any familiarity with plants or with shamanism – only a moderate willingness to encounter marvels.
Moira Lake has worked as an energy healer, shamanic healer and astrologer for over twenty-five years. She also worked as a Gestalt psychotherapist for over twenty years. Moira was an early member of the London Ecopsychology group in the mid-nineties. For more information on her background and work please see her website.
Greg Morter & Dan Lupton – Embodying Evolution; Embodying the Earth and Universe
1. Embodying Evolution
Where is our Heartland? Our response to this question is that our Heartland is the place our hearts are located – our bodies. In this workshop we will discover how, during 4 billion years of evolution, our bodies, senses and minds have gradually emerged. We will then use guided Mindfulness practices to explore our ‘felt sense’ of our bodies in the context of this new knowledge. Can we sense the deep ancestral heritage within us? Our intention is to facilitate these teachings in a simple and accessible way and our hope is that we will end up with a deeper and more embodied understanding of where we belong on this Earth.
2. Embodying the Earth and Universe.
We would also like to offer a second complementary workshop: ‘Embodying the Earth and Universe’. In this workshop we will shift perspective to the scale of the whole Earth. Four and a half billion years ago the molten Earth entered a gravitational relationship with the Sun. A billion years later, when photosynthesising bacteria began capturing the Sun’s energy, the relationship became more subtle and creative. A complex dance began, in which rocks, life and the atmosphere co-evolved, and from this dynamic process we emerged. How does our sense of ourselves change when we realise we not only live on the Earth but also arise from it? We then shift scale again. The greatest discovery of science is that the Universe itself is evolving. It began 13.8 billion years ago as an immense fireball, which gradually transmuted itself into elements, stars, planets, life and ultimately the ability to reflect on itself. Is it possible to conceive the entire Universe as our Heartland?
Places limited to 25 people.
About Dan and Greg
Dan Lupton grew up in the country and has a lifelong love of wild creatures and places. Through 30 years meditation and wild being, his recent focus of meditation has focused on embodied experience of his unity with all life on the earth and in the universe. It is such a simple truth that we are unavoidably integral with all nature, and cannot separate ourselves from the fact of our indivisible place on the earth, though this is so often ignored or avoided. Dan hopes more people can live more often, from this sense of connection. Dan’s website.
Greg Morter works as a gardener and particularly enjoys hedge laying and growing fruit and vegetables. He has a lifelong fascination with nature, the Cosmos and the origins of things. In 2009 he began “Walk the Story of the Universe” in which he tells the Cosmic story over a 13.8 km walk, scaled so a metre on the ground represents a million years in time. Greg’s website.
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