Summary & Collated Notes

Topic: Mindfulness in the Woods

Speakers: Robert Black and Sebastiana Black see www.robertblackcounselling.co.uk   www.robertblackcounselling.co.uk  and  https://www.yourexpressivevoice.co.uk/  https://www.facebook.com/MindfulnessandNature

Webinar Style: ‘In the Thicket’ – Topical Presentation with short Q & A

Total Number Registered: 247

Total Number attended: At 8pm: up to 151 max & averaged 148 (first Half hour) – Dropped by 30 people when split into break out rooms.

Please see webinar recording for Robert and Sebastiana’s full Talk and Q&A.  

  1. Welcome from Chairperson (Sarah),
  • Update from the FSA (Sarah):
  • Intro to this webinar’s topic & Welcome to Robert and Sebastiana

Robert started by defining mindfulness using author and international mindfulness teacher and trainer Jim Kabat-Zin’s definition from his book Full Catastrophe Living, 2013 “Paying attention in the present moment, on purpose, with a kindly, curious attitude” – see his PowerPoint presentation attached. 

He highlighted that the senses are always present in the moment and the mind is prone to go elsewhere.  The mind has common modes – autopilot (we don’t even experience the moment and miss it!) and follows thought(s) which takes attention away from the moment, it wanders!

If we are to pay attention to the moment, we can more fully experience the world and we can choose to bring the mind into the present

We can do this by focussing on the senses, breathing and by noticing the mind going into these two modes and choosing to come back to the moment.

He dispelled some of the myths around mindfulness – for example its purpose isn’t relaxation although this can happen.

Robert then did a few exercises – focussing on the hand and then the breathing

He then shared another definition which fits with nature-based mindfulness practise.  When we are in nature and away from concepts and all the signs of culture we can tune into ‘preconceptual’ awareness and see things for what they are not for the concepts and thoughts we lay upon them.  Nature and the sensory nature of nature can support attentiveness to things and how they really are Culture clutters.

Robert finished with a Wendell Berry poem bringing nature and mindfulness together;

“When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Sebastiana then shared her thoughts on the benefits of mindfulness practise, especially with children, see her presentation attached. 

Mindfulness helps self-regulate.  Sebastaiana sees mindfulness as a thermostat rather than thermometer i.e. it helps keep the body and mind soothed and regulated.  We can co-regulate if we, the practitioner, are also mindful and calm and ‘at home’ with our bodies, feelings and thoughts in the moment.

A number of frameworks were shared such as Dan Hughes PACE where practitioners can mirror and share to bring about mindfulness through our actions that embody;

Playfulness, Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy.  All of these four working with the children’s interests in the moment.

Empathy and mirroring can be important in being with the person and the moment – stimulating mirror neurons

Daniel Siegel’s ‘Wheel of Awareness’ is a useful tool for maintaining and integrating sensory awareness with mindfulness;

Dysregulation can be brought back to regulation through a number of exercises.  She then shared some exercises with us.  

5 things you can see

4 things you can hear

3 things you can touch

2 things you can smells

1 thing you can taste – and somethings seeing someone else taste something stimulates our taste! or one thing that you like?

Getting to know a tree with all your senses

Cloud gazing and seeing clouds like thoughts that change – drawing the outlines of clouds with figures

Sensing and savouring walks – focussing on things you notice and staying with it like a bee visiting flowers.  Drink in the objects by spending 20 seconds with the said object and using as many senses as possible to experience the object then moving to the next object that takes your attention.  Learners often need help with this but with practise it works.  Research shows that just this 20 second helps rewire our brains for attentiveness and delight.

Copying movements or shapes of natural objects with our bodies – like a tree, cloud, flower, rock etc

Yoga pretzel cards are a good aid to working with the body to self-regulate and mindfulness.  We shared bee and elephant breathing through the cards

OPTIONAL HALF HOUR (9 – 9.30pm)

Attendees who wished to remain had 2 choices:

  1. To continue discussing and asking Robert and Sebastiana questions
  2. To join a sharing circle, community building, uplifting session (Jon)

Participants joined relevant room

Mindfulness Q&A? attended

Matt or Nic or Sarah to fill in this bit

Sharing Circle – had over 51 to start with not sure at end

Jon started off sharing this time of year and the elderflower harvested and making of champaign and cordial.  Plus an elderflower meditation he did in the presence of an elderflower tree -that lead to his poem;

I am Elderflower

Two halves of one

Airy and light, earthy and wan

I am wedded to edge and hedge

Not so bold as foxglove but just as potent

A devil-slayer

I am a starry-eyed, bride-tossed bouquet

A constellation of sparks

Just beyond the throat

I am a sweet dewy mourning glow

What would this summer be

Without my fragrant, airy show

I am the guard blessed by bounty

Full of magic and mystery……ME

And I breath as if imbibing

The very soul of Elder’s place

The clatter of song and scents

Drum into me the Fire blower…..

I am Elder, the fire blower

I am Elderflower

Postscript;  the name elder comes from the Anglo-Saxon eldrun, derived from aeld, meaning fire, perhaps because the branches hollowed of their pith were used for blowing on fire, but on no account must be added to flames!

Luke shared his elder experiences and recently making necklaces, and own personal barefoot walking for a few days!

Julie shared her barefoot walking with her early years outdoor and FS groups starting with sand and moving onto woodland surfaces as a means of bringing them into a more attentive and mindful space.  She also showed how mindful practise outside with natural materials is beneficial inside her setting regarding more attentiveness…see her book below

Janine then shared her more risky barefoot walking with her Forest School learners including marshy, stony surfaces etc etc…the children love it and are certainly more present.  See below for children’s barefoot walking resource that relates to mindfulness from the world-famous mindfulness monk Tich Nhat Hahn

There was then a discussion around how people are coping with the easing of lockdown and risk assessing – namely around the need for more handwashing.  People were using tippy taps away from water sources and allowing the water to flow into a stony area or soil, using ecological soap/antibac.  Julie uses the solar shower bag hung up and the flow regulated by leaders.  Each child brings along their own personal towels and are all kept in individual baskets – easier to clean than rucksacks.  The discussion moved to running Forest school in remote hilly areas (namely the peak district!) where transport of water is problematic.  Suggested that more responsibility needs to be put on the children and each bring their own bottles of cleaning water in 2 litre bottles.

Useful links and Resources

Sebastiana’s

  • The Kids’ Guide to Staying Awesome and In Control: Simple Stuff to Help Children Regulate Their Emotions and Senses – Lauren Brukner
  • Yoga Pretzels- 50 Fun Yoga Activities for Kids and Grownups (Yoga Cards) – Tara Guber, Sophie Fatus (illustrator)
  • Alex and the Scary Things: A Story to Help Children Who Have Experienced Something Scary -Melissa Moses
  • Mindful Brain and The Whole-Brain Child – Dan Siegel
  • Creating Loving Attachments: Parenting with PACE to Nurture Confidence and Security in the Troubled Child – Dan Hughes and Kim Goldings
  • https://www.heysigmund.com/mindfulness-for-children-fun-effective-ways-to-strengthen-mind-body-spirit/ Karen Young
  • A Still and Quiet Place: A Mindfulness Program for Teaching Children and Adolescents to Ease Stress and Difficult Emotions – Dr Amy Saltzman..  see http://www.stillquietplace.com/

Copies of Sebastiana’s slides can be found here https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.138.219/369.df5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/mindfl-sebastiana-1.pptx

Copies of Roberts slides can be found here https://secureservercdn.net/160.153.138.219/369.df5.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/mindfl-sebastiana-1.pptx

Other useful Mindfulness resources from Tich Nhat Hahn – Mindfulness books and resources, which include barefoot walking, include;

‘Planting Seeds; practicing mindfulness with children’, ‘Mindfulness Movements; ten exercises for well-being ’,  ‘A Handful of Quiet; happiness in 4 pebbles’.  Also worth reading his classic ‘Miracle of Mindfulness’ and for teachers, this is a very useful read ‘Happy Teachers Change the World; a guide for cultivating mindfulness in education’  See https://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/

For foraging useful magazine is at https://www.eatwild.org.uk/

When working with wood and elder recommend Richard Irvine’s blog see https://richardirvine.co.uk/2017/01/elder1/   Also see Richard’s book ‘Forest Craft’ published by the guild of master craftsman…..a highly recommended book when working with tools and crafts with children.

Finished meeting with coming together and Jon led a song written by Helen Yeomans, a choir leader from the south west which is about coming home to our bodies and souls;

“Home I’m going home

I need the land to feed my soul

Take me home, take me home

Over the green green hills

And far away”

Meeting ended 9.42 pm

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