As many of you already know, Support to Recovery is a mental health charity based in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. We have three strands to our work, wellbeing, creativity and environmental, today Harishta, volunteer for The Great Outdoors Team (TGO) is going to tell you a bit more about week one of their 4 week, Nature in you course, focusing on Fire
Summary of Week 1 and feedback
Nature In You presented one of its first 2017 contemporary Eco-therapy classes on the concept of Fire. Here we combined principles of Narrative Therapy with Mindfulness while we explored how this burning element can reconnect us with nature within and around.
Many inspiring individuals across Yorkshire joined the group and expressed their meaningful perspectives on what fire means to them while making a real life fire and bread!
While fire is known to be destructive, out of control and untamed here at S2R people found a new meaning to this burning energy. Participants talked about burning away negative thoughts, feelings, opinions, judgments, and worries to surrender to the flow of existence. Fire was instead seen as a resourceful energy that brings light, warmth and a function to cook food. To get the fire igniting we used a flint and steel to create friction under some fine sticks and cotton wool. A group effort was made as we encouraged each other to light the fire. Although the fire making wasn’t so straight forward and often took many attempts before we saw a spark. The struggle in the process was like a metaphor for life because when we are trying to burn our troubles away it takes deep reflecting, understanding, accepting, letting go – a process that in the mist of chaos is frustrating and painful. But the group effort reflected a thoughtful notion that contributing together allows us to resonate at the same frequency with a purpose and a sense of accomplishment leaving little time to stress and more time to enjoy each other’s presence in the present.
In our final activity we utilised our senses such as our sights, sounds and smells to develop a connection with our intuition or gut feeling which of course told us we were hungry – so we cooked bread! A great way to end the session. Here are some comments said by the participants.
“I want to burn my worries because worrying isn’t going to change anything”
“Living in the past or future I want to burn away that energy and live in the now”
“Seeing the bread being cooked on the fire is good to see it not being so destructive”
“Even though I couldn’t get the fire going I still felt a sense of achievement – Just coming here was a achievement”
“Even the struggle is part of the fire”
We leave you with a inspiring quote by Rumi and ask what does fire mean to you? Share your burning thoughts with us at
“Light up the fire of love inside and blaze the thoughts away”
Week 2 – Air
In our second session of Nature In You, S2R introduced the significance of Air and how this element parallels in our lives as well as the qualities Air represents.
To connect with Air through breath Jade our NIY team member guided us through some yoga movements where we practised breathing in awareness while finding our balance. This was followed by a mindful walk where we embraced the Yorkshire breeze. We had deep discussions about the air and clouds while visualizing our troubles as clouds passing by.
Here are some of the comments shared by our participants on the element Air:
“Fingers and frost like prints left on the window of the car look beautiful”
“The Fog has caused transport issues but we are fortunate to be in Yorkshire right now”
“A Breathe of air sustains the life within us”
“Thoughts are like clouds always changing but they all have the same quality that they only exist in our minds”
“I’ve always been drawn to the openness of a horizon – It gives me the opportunity to think about space”
“You have some thoughts like dark clouds that are threatening and some with a silver lining it’s like an analogy for life”
“Clouds are not completely clear but meditation isn’t about that it’s about acceptance and letting go”
Air has been commonly associated with virtues of vastness, openness and transparency with no boundaries between the inner and outer air. A powerful element that cannot be burnt, drowned or touched but can only really be felt when the breeze is in motion. With the movement of air we can also notice the trees, leaves and branches dancing to the sound of silence. And yet I wonder how such an element significant to our very existence goes unnoticed? Each minute we inhale and exhale Air 20 times which is approx. 29,000 times a day. Such a subtle process that I often take for granted. I then realised that also to love someone is subtler than to hate someone, to accept others is subtler than to criticise and to be at peace is subtler than to be angry. The subtle qualities that Air represents that sustains life within us also has the same subtle qualities as those of love, compassion and tolerance.
To realise Air is like a Fish in the ocean that knows nothing about the ocean. Until one day the fisherman catches the fish and the fish is gasping for air. Only when the fisherman lowers the fish back into the ocean does the fish becomes ecstatic instantly realising the ocean. What an enlightening experience! Similar to the fish we to only realise the element of Air, the importance of its nature when it is either in motion or taken away. The Buddhist describes this as an enlightening experience because he did not achieve anything new; he simply gained awareness of something, which was always there. Again this is similar to the qualities of love, which is not simply an emotion but a part of our fundamental existence.
It is only through reflection and realisation that we learn to appreciate the resourcefulness and importance of Air and the qualities it represents as well as other natural elements within and around us. Air just like love is something that is not mine. It is ours. And I guess even then it is still not really ours. It is earths. This reminds me that learning to let go of that which is not me or mine is to live like Air. When we let the wind pull us in its own directions we’re lead to a path of new learning experiences flowing with acceptance and openness to what awaits us. Either way that life takes us will be a lesson or a blessing. Resisting the flow of life will only burden us. To really flow like Air is to live in the present moment. The breath I took yesterday or this very second ago will not quench my need for air now nor will thinking about a breath I might take tomorrow. This very second I must breathe air. Similarly I must also live in the here and now to experience complete freedom of the past or future tenses. Living in this awareness raises me to greater heights than being something ever could. You begin to realise that everything is connected to you giving a greater importance and meaning to all things living within us and around. But we haven’t been able to connect with nature because we’ve spent so much time trying to connect with each other. Here at S2R we are finally learning to do both.
Finally to end the session we celebrated the existence of Air by singing from the bottom of our lungs while we embraced the air through sounds and vibrations. The song chosen was of African origin but the Air used was all the same. Just then I realize that this space is to be shared just like love in its boundless infinity.
What does Air represent for you?
Week 3 – Water
On Week 3 of our Nature in You course we began the session by recapping on how we have so far identified nature in many forms. It seemed that many participants began to recognize the significance of nature and its restorative effect within and around. This week we particularly focused on the Water element. Sam and Rachel our NIY team member’s lead us to one of Huddersfield’s famous narrow canals, which crosses the South Pennines. Once we arrived Sam introduced us to Water mirroring where we used the water to reflect on our internal thoughts and feelings and how we relate to the flow of water. Many of us also took the moment to be present and recognize the different qualities of water. Here are some comments said during the exercise:
“Puddles show cloud shape reflections”
“Water represents the flow of life and its impermanency that nothing stays still”
“Water is practical because it cleanses our eyes, bodies and we need it to survive. It also keeps trees and plants growing which is a part of keeping us alive”
“You can feel water in the air”
“Water creates a cycle with clouds”
During this exercise we also talked about the water cycle having three chemical states: liquid, solid and vapor. This can be seen in water formed by rain or the water we produce through tears. Members described the states of water in transforming emotions such as sadness or laughter, which are solid states within the body, into a liquid state through the release of tears when we are crying. Water then turns into vapor which eventually builds up into a cloud to finally be released as water again. This cycle of different states is comparable to the different states of difficulties in life. Like the transitioning of water, our difficulties also pass different phases relating to the impermanency and the flow of life.
To delve deeper into the parallels of water Sam further introduced the Kawa Model; a therapeutic model used by occupational therapists. The Kawa model embodies the notion of a River in relation to one’s own flow and journey of life, similar to that of a River. Each individual’s river of life flows at its own pace with different obstacles and learning lessons. The source of the river represents the beginning of life until the river finally meets the ocean which represents the end. However the “end” can represent different interpretations such as the end of an individualized identity where the meeting of the ocean is instead the beginning of connectivity, expansion and wholeness. Just like when a drop joins the ocean it’s no longer a drop but now the ocean. One particular participant described the Ocean to be like a pool of social consciousness.
To really put the River of life into visual perspective we headed back to the S2R building where we took part in a creative activity of using ink, feathers and various types of paper to paint how our current river of life looks as well as considering where we would like to be. This part of the session was a refuge for intense emotions and for others a reminder of pain. Non-the less Expressive art allowed us to express powerful feelings on a somatic level revealing emotions that are imbedded in our unconsciousness that cannot always be expressed through words. Each river of life displayed a rich and broad expression of art, inspirations, pain and love and the desire to merge with the broader picture of flowing like water. Sharing our thoughts on what our personal rivers mean to us and what resonates with us from other people’s rivers also allowed us to grow collaboratively, as each individual’s input allowed us to perceive the flow of life in various ways. We also realized that each river journey was difficult alone but together was a strong uniting force.
Week 4 – Earth
We started our session thinking about what the idea of earth meant to us, what ideas did it throw up in our minds, what did it make us feel? Then we ate an apple and thought about how it comes from the earth and becomes part of us when we eat it. Next we got our hands into the dirt and potted up some bulbs before getting back together to reflect on what we had learnt today and throughout the weeks of Nature in you.
What does the earth mean to you?
When we thought of Earth we thought about Layers of rock marking time back into history. Monumental distances through time marked in the rocks to be read. We thought about; the hidden things the earth contains. The jewels and treasures like gold, oil and diamonds. The buried treasures and the secrets left by humans. The minerals that give rise to life when they meet the other elements and the secret traces of past lives in the fossils and footprints from our ancestors.
We reflected on the increasing impact man is having on the earth, taking resources at ever increasing rates and replacing them only with landfill. What traces will we leave in the geology for our ancestors?
We recognised that while the earth is the source of our stability it is in fact always moving, sometimes slowly and sometimes with catastrophic speed. The Earths Plates are moving over one another, rivers, sea and wind are carving, depositing and reshaping day in day out.
This whole planet spins and orbits and sits within a galaxy that is also spinning and dancing to the tune of Natural forces that we can become aware of even if we don’t understand or even perceive them.
The apples crunched in our mouths and the juice ran into us. This solid object that sprang from the earth was forged largely from Water. As we swallow and digest the sunlight, water and minerals it contained became us. This food from the earth gives us energy to do things and provides building blocks to help us grow, repair and hydrate ourselves.
A tiny bulb, filled with everything needed to flower into something beautiful and inspiring before withdrawing back into itself until it’s time to grow again. Everyone enjoyed planting the bulbs. Digging in the black earth and placing a new life intentionally into that space, hiding it in the dark, providing it with nurture and willing it to grow. As we did this we thought about the intentions we have for ourselves and others and how, as we watch the bulbs grow, we could help our own intentions flourish.
It’s easy to read a paragraph like the one above. You imagine doing it and think “Yes, I get this” but it is not until you feel the soil on your hand and the warmth of the people around you, until you place that bulb into the pot and think about it growing and entwining with your own intentions that it clicks, takes roots as it were. The chap to my left said to me. “I read a lot, perhaps I read too much in some ways. Sometimes you have to learn by doing.”
Completing the circle
Coming together we looked back on the weeks gone by. The elements had shown us that they can be frightening and harmful, powerful and dangerous but also they hold within them great potential. They need to be balanced, respected and never taken for granted. The Elements we used are just one set of symbols. However we choose look at ourselves and the world we live we should strive to use, or sometimes just allow, the forces around us to help us be the best we can now. We can try to be aware of the forces at play and their ebb and flow. We can find our own place in the world, our Niche, and make the most of the skills and talents we have when the time is right.
What did we learn on the Nature in You course, how did it help?
Here are a few reflections
“…Doing a course like this would have been unheard of for me not so long ago but this is a fabulous space to start to feel better in. I recognise it now, looking after my mental health is just as important as looking after my Physical health.
“I’ve learned some great new practical things but I’ve also learnt from other peoples reflections, both positive and negative.”
“The communion of people is what I will take away from the course. I come here for the sweetness and generosity and that’s why I keep coming to things at S2R”
“This Course has been everything I expected it to be and more. Reflecting on fire has given me the energy to forget my problems. Between this and the mindfulness course I have learned to be aware of my negative thoughts and how to push away my troubles. I was in a very bad place but now I’m in a very good one thanks to the warmth of this group”
Look at the world around us
How heavenly and beautiful
So many colours in the sky, the sea and trees
Varied and vast
Yet the differences we see compliment this craft
The flowers so unique yet embrace the world together
As they gracefully sway to the dance of the weather
And yet each tree is a different age
But regardless the differences
The natural world shares the same roots of the earth
While the Sun bestows its light
An Equal nourishment from the above
How can we not be inspired by nature’s oneness love?
Similarly we have differences in the way we express
Who we are and our own spiritual quest
All coming from a different address
Yet seeking the same zest
So why is it so difficult for us to connect?
We have more in common than we suspect
We are all related like one big family
But the ego of identity minimizes the unity in humanity
It is unity that makes us whole
Unity is what fills our soul
When there is darkness and pain
Only together with love we can sustain
Bringing sunshine to that rain
United in the moments we call life
But its funny how we can sit on a train full of people
And yet feel so lonely and unequal
All these differences at the surface
But deep down we share the same human purpose
Spread like a billion stars
A thousand points of potential light in a broad sky
All made in the mirror image of Love
So I treat you all as my family
Finding common grounds
Through humour and sounds
And now life doesn’t seem so difficult
We are visitors on this earth
Different between time and space
But similar at birth
So lets follow this path of unity
And celebrate our community
Lets make unity a living truth
An over ruling positive force running through this reality
We are small like rain drops
But we shall follow this law of love
Together with no fear in ours hearts
Till we become the ocean of love
If you would like to know more about S2R, check out our website at http://www.s2r.org.uk