Edge of the Wild   The Annual UK Ecopsychology Gathering

(Image by Gordon Sheret (2015 delegate)

Workshops 2016

The gathering begins on Thursday 4 August and closes on Sunday 7 August.

There will be two workshop slots on Friday afternoon (5 August) with a tea break in between. Each workshop slot is of one and a half hours duration.

Workshop slot 1 (14:00-15:30)

Learning from the Plant Spirits (part 1) – Moira Lake
Embodying Evolution – Greg Morter & Dan Lupton
Mindfulness and nature connection – Nadine Andrews
Healing and transforming responses to environmental crisis – Judith Anderson
Art in the Wild – Joanna Callaghan & Branwen Lorigan

Lia Naor and Susan Becchio have withdrawn their workshops.

Click here to download the most up-to-date workshop flyer.

Workshop slot 2 (16:00-17:30)

Learning from the Plant Spirits (part 2) – Moira Lake
Embodying the Earth and Universe – Greg Morter & Dan Lupton
Veganism: Going home – Sandra Higgins
Hunting the path of the heart in the wilderness of the Soul – Roger Duncan
The Ecology of Dreams – Nuala Flynn

Click here to download a pdf of all the workshop proposals.

Moira Lake

Learning from the Plant Spirits

Type of workshop: Outdoor

This workshop will take place in two parts over the course of Friday afternoon. Participation in part 2 is dependent on attendance of part 1.

Description of workshop

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.

How the workshop relates to the 'Heartlands' theme

This workshop fits perfectly the ‘Heartlands’ theme of the conference. We will honour and reach out to the spirit presences inherent in the land and perceptible just beyond the usual limits of ordinary reality. We will explore the constant activity of co-creation between humans and all beings associated with the land. The focus is on meeting the spirits of the place – in particular the plant spirits – where one is, both at the Gathering and at home. This workshop will help the human participants to deepen their heart connection with the spirits of the land, through developing the perceptions of the ‘heart mind’.

About the presenter

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, www.hearthstarhealing.com.

Greg Morter & Dan Lupton

Embodying Evolution; Embodying the Earth and Universe

Type of workshops: Indoor/Outdoor - interactive and experiential

The presenters are offering two distinct workshops on Friday afternoon either side of the afternoon break. Participants will be able to sign up for one or both workshops.

Description of workshops

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.

How the workshops relate to the 'Heartlands' theme

“Our internal landscapes reflect our relationships with the environment.” This key 2016 theme fits with the intention of the workshop. Our hope is for people to gain insight into their embodied unity with all life on earth, through simple cosmological teachings and reflective Mindfulness practices. Our personal experience is that this felt-sense bodily knowledge has transformed our sense of place, giving more-than-human perspective on our predominantly human perspective.

About the presenters

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.

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. Further details at: http://universewalk.co.uk

Roger Duncan

Hunting the path of the heart in the wilderness of the Soul

Type of workshop: Practical

Description of workshops

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.

Places limited to 20 people

How the workshop relates to the 'Heartlands' theme

Gnostic Alchemists made no distinction between the study of nature and the study of the human psyche or Soul and as such can be thought of as the original ecopsychologists. However, they did make a distinction between the ‘lesser work’ similar to modern psychotherapy and the ‘Great work’ learning to a cultivate a personal relationship with the earth through the path of the heart

About the presenter

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.

Sandra Higgins

Veganism: Going Home

Type of workshop: Lecture style

Description of workshop

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.

How the workshop relates to the 'Heartlands' theme

Humans share this planet, its land and its nature, with billions of other species. When we move beyond the egoic, human ‘I’, we see that every life matters, and matters equally. Human nature appears to be inherently empathic, compassionate, altruistic and good. But when we examine our relationship with the non-human world it is clear that we have assumed an unnatural and false position of superiority. We have become speciesist beings, living lifestyles that are predicated on behaviour that is narcissistic, lacking in empathy, exploitative, destructive, and violent. Our apparently benign, socio-culturally sanctioned choices have consequences for others that are so violent that they are carefully hidden from us by those who profit from them.

By a process of cultural inheritance, we lose our natural childhood connection to our own animal nature, becoming so desensitised so that we consume without conscience. As a result, every year we unnecessarily breed, torture, and kill billions of other animals. Historically, they are older species than us. They were once free, autonomous, survivors in the wild. Our domination of them occurred a very short time ago in the history of human evolution. Since that time we have created havoc with the natural world causing species extinction at a rate that is thousands of times greater than the natural, pre-human rate. We are destroying the very earth that every living being depends on for survival. This fact weighs heavily on the psyche.

One of the most significant contributors to environmental destruction and climate change is animal agriculture.

Veganism is a way of living peacefully, in harmony, and respectfully with others, avoiding unnecessarily exploiting other sentient beings. By bearing witness to the truth that others experience as a consequence of our lifestyle choices, we can begin to live according to reality instead of myth; we can begin to live in alignment with our values and our true nature. By eliminating the greatest cause of natural destruction we can begin again to embrace our Home. By recognising our own animal nature we can stop harming them, and begin to relate to them as different, but equal earthlings with whom we share our Home.

About the presenter

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.

Sandra’s previous presentations include Neuro-Psycho-Social & Neuro-Cognitive Models of Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at Psychology Conferences in Ireland, the UK, Europe and the Australasian Traumatic Stress Society. She gives regular workshops on Veganism & Compassionate Living and is an active member of In Defense of Animals (IDA) List of Therapists. 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.

Nadine Andrews

Mindfulness and nature connection

Type of workshop: Outdoor

Description of workshop

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!

How the workshop relates to the 'Heartlands' theme

Mindfulness practice helps cultivate mind-body integration and a relationship with the world based on close observation and compassion. This workshop is about building a relationship of care with a particular place and its inhabitants.

About the presenter

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. Nadiine 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).

Susan Becchio

Earthwalk Nature Teachings

The presenter has withdrawn this workshop.

Lia Naor

Ways of knowing: Revealing the hidden parts of who we are becoming through deep immersion in nature

The presenter has withdrawn this workshop.

Judith Anderson

Healing and transforming responses to environmental crisis

Type of workshop: Experiential

Description of workshop

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.

How the workshop relates to the 'Heartlands' theme

Working in this way can be thought of as deeply congruent with the eco-psychological project as it is based on inter-connectedness.

About the presenter

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.

Joanna Callaghan & Branwen Lorigan

Art in the Wild

Type of workshop: Practical

Description of workshops

A creative workshop run by Joanna Callaghan and Branwen Lorigan 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.

How the workshop relates to the 'Heartlands' theme

Gathering natural materials from the local landscape to use creatively is an activity that has been undertaken by humans for millennia. This workshop recreates that activity in a simple and accessible form. Participants will engage with natural materials through handling them and working creatively with them. The art works produced will, therefore, be grounded in our knowledge of the earth around us. The workshop directly takes on the themes of ‘my nature’, ‘soulscape’ and 'my body the earth'. The finished art objects, the making process and the interaction wth the natural materials themselves, will enable discussion around our individual understandings of this theme.

About the presenters

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 works 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.

Nuala Flynn

The Ecology of Dreams

Type of workshop: Imaginal, experiential

Description of workshop

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”.

How the workshop relates to the 'Heartlands' theme

In sharing dreams we bring the inside outside, sharing the profound mystery of spontaneously occurring poetic imagery – full of feeling, which may be attributed to the heart as the organ of the imagination.

I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the heart's affections and the truth of the imagination.” Keats

About the presenter

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.


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