Thursday, 29 March 2018

A Wonderful Day

A few weeks ago I ran The 2018 Gentle Parenting Retreat, it was a great success, and I really want to tell you about it and celebrate with you and those who attended with photos from the day and some ideas to extend the workshops.

Here was the premise:
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We began the retreat with a little get to know you session, I asked each mama to write a question on a slip of paper to put in a basket and pull out one at a time, we had some really great questions including who would you invite to your fantasy supper? What is your favorite building? And Name an event in your live that changed you for the better.  We didn't manage to answer all the questions so saved them for use later, but it was really great to find out more about everyone there and help them to relax and get to know each other better.

We then moved into the room that we were using as a studio and began our creative session with a guided meditation.  I wrote the meditation myself based on the guided meditation in "The Rainbow Way" By Lucy H. Pearce. The meditation invited the mamas on a journey to their own inner sacred creative space where they could feel safe to express their creativity.  After the meditation we began the storytelling art piece I had planned.  This piece was based on an exercise created by The Dulwich Centre, designed to help vulnerable young people, and is now a process used around the world. I was also inspired by the words of Nathan B. Weller when I was writing my narrative for the guided piece.   The point of this exercise was to help us to focus on different aspects of our life, how we spend our time, where we have come from, our skills, dreams, hopes and the legacy we intend to leave behind us when we're gone.  All these make up our story.  When I was planning the activity at home it helped me realise what is important in my life and where I need to focus my attention to make the most of my life.  It also helped me realise what I have to give, and how little of my energy I positively spend working on the things I want to be my legacy.

We tried to maintain the meditative feel in the room and in our own head spaces whilst I read the instructions I had written for the art piece.
When the drawing and writing part of the process was complete we opened up the space for more conversation and we added colour with chalk pastels to our Tree of Life pictures.  I chose chalk pastels because their colour is so pure and vivid. We filled in our trees with the colour to transform the piece from an illustration of a process into a piece of art that is visually appealing, inspiring and uplifting.

After the art pieces were finished I closed the session by reading a poem called "Advice from a tree" by Ilan Shamir.

advice from a tree, my ALL time favorite poem. has been since my first yoga class :)

Beautiful finished pieces:

Aren't they beautiful, and all so different and colourful.

We then enjoyed a yummy vegan lunch and began the afternoon session run by my good friend Vicki Clubley-Moore which was a vision board workshop.  She gave us a beautiful guided meditation followed by some journaling prompts and the workshop for making the vision boards. It was a really inspiring workshop and helped me gain more focus on what I want my life to look like.

It was a really great day, so lovely to chat with the like-minded mamas who attended and I am so grateful to them for committing to their own self care and trusting in me to provide a good day for them.  I am so thankful to each and every one of them for their beautiful contributions to the day, and look forward to running another day in the future.

For the mamas to came to the retreat (and anyone else who has completed the Tree Of Life exercise, here are a few activities to take the experience further:

You may have done some journaling about this already as you completed your drawing of the tree, but you can add to this after by way of reflection.  From writing about where you have come from you might need to journal a bit about how your upbringing has influenced you now both positively and negatively, you could consider how negative experiences have informed your life in positive ways. As you wrote down the things you do daily you might have noticed that there aren't many things you do just for yourself each day, you might like to journal about what ways you can include more things in your day that nourish you.  When considering your skills you might want to write about what skills you want to develop or new skills you would like to learn. As you reflect on your values, you might like to journal about how you are instilling these values in you children and link this to your legacy.  When reflecting on your hopes and dreams consider ways in which you can achieve them.  You might have had thought of things you want to do to achieve the legacies that you wrote down; things to enable you to leave behind the things you want to pass on. You can journal and list these and form goals and schedules for you to achieve them.

Letter Writing:
You might like to consider writing letters to those people in your life who have passed on legacies to you.  You could thank them for what they have done and let them know how important they are to you.  You could also consider writing letters to your children telling them about the legacies you wish to leave them (something for them to read in the future).

Art extensions:
You may have found yourself particularly inspired by the use of chalk pastels in this activity and would like to experiment with them further, here are some random time lapse videos on youtube to give you some ideas and inspiration:

Also take a look at Pinterest HERE for more chalk pastel inspiration.

You might have felt inspired by the idea of trees and like to explore this further a google or Pinterest search will provide you with an abundance of inspiration and ideas.  For example you could experiment with creating a blow paint tree like THIS, a hot glue gun tree like THIS, you could also explore wax crayon rubbings of the bark or leaves of the tree.
Another avenue you might like to explore in meditative art and healing art therapy.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Happy Mothers Day

My mother is pretty awesome.

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It's really only since I have been a mother myself that I have gained an insight into exactly how awesome my own mother is.

I have always been thankful for everything she has given me, my ethics, my faith, my passion for the environment, my resilience, my self-confidence, and everything else that I am because of her.  

She would take us to local farm shops to buy us fresh organic vegetables.  She set up a wholefoods co-operative from her home so we could eat the best food she could get hold of.  My mum always put us first paying for dance lessons, gymnastics, instrument lessons, and all the clubs and groups you could imagine, driving us here there and everywhere for lessons, exams and shows because she wanted us to have as many experiences as possible.  She took us to church every week, nurturing our faith and helping us to become part of the family of Christ.  When I suffered terribly with eczema she explored every alternative therapy possible and paid for Chiropractor visits when I suffered from back pain. My mum always encouraged me to give things a try and always do my best.  She always encouraged me in school, helping me through my tears with late night maths homework, reading through my endless stories and marveling at my drawings and painting.  She can knit, sew, do macrame, cross stitch, she made all my dance costumes, she is basically the embodiment of a supermum.

My mum was the ultimate imperfectly natural mama,  She was always makeup free, never ashamed of her body hair, wasn't one for deodorant of perfume and thriftily bought almost all her clothes from charity shops, she also breastfed all of us and cooked virtually all our meals from scratch (including an array of puddings most nights if memory serves me correctly).  She grew her own veg on her allotment, baked her own bread and dreamed of living a self sufficient life, with bookshelves filled with gardening books, recipe books and John Seymour self sufficiency guides. She was a full time mum but if never occurred to me to think I couldn't be anything I ever wanted.

Even now my mum continues to inspire me, she hasn't stopped or slowed down like some parents her age, she still works, volunteers, makes, and continues to learn new skills and gain more knowledge in all aspects of life. 

It is only since becoming a mother myself I can look back in awe at my mum, a mum of four, who would take us all round the supermarket and not lose her shit.  I do all my shopping online because the thought of taking even three children round Sainsburys is just too much!  She never doubted her abilities, never sat weeping that she was doing it all wrong, there was no Facebook in the 80s and 90s to vent, rant or ask for advice. And yet we all four of us turned out pretty damn good even if I do say so myself. She absolutely did her best for us with the information that was available at the time. 

She gave me the confidence to do things differently than everyone else, she taught me to swim against the tide and to stand strong and tall in the face of criticism of your beliefs.  She taught me that it was ok to do the opposite of what everyone else was doing if you believed it was the right things to do.  It is because of this that I have chosen to parent the way I do, natural term breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing,  home educating, gentle parenting with non-punitive discipline.  It is because of her that I have perused a vegan lifestyle, trying to live the creative life and moving towards a more sustainable, self sufficient lifestyle.  She didn't necessarily do all off these things herself (though I strongly believe that she probably would have given the luxury of access to the information about gentle parenting etc that I have,) but it is because of her, and not, as many might assume, in spite of her that I have. 

So I want to say thank you mum, I am me because of you. 

Friday, 23 February 2018

Gentle Parenting Retreat 2018 - Your questions answered

It occurred to be recently that there may be a few unanswered questions about the Gentle Parenting Retreat 2018 that people might have so I have put together this little list of potential questions to help you understand what the retreat is all about and maybe encourage you to take this opportunity for a day of self care:

What's the Gentle Parenting thing all about?

I have called this retreat a "Gentle Parenting Retreat" because I want all the mamas there to have common ground between them.  It's such an important part of our lives and it is what has brought many of us who already know each other together, so it makes sense for this common ground to unite us on this day of community and sisterhood.  Gentle parenting describes a way of parenting that leads with kindness, gentleness and understanding. Gentle parents try to meet their children's needs through keeping their babies close, listening to them and responding to their needs, because of this they tend to lean towards attachment parenting techniques such as co-sleeping and baby wearing (but not always), and they discipline through connection rather than exclusion or punishments. All mamas who relate to these techniques would be welcome at the retreat, and any mamas open to the gentle parenting philosophy and would like to move towards this approach would also be very welcome.

Do I have to be arty, creative or be able to draw?

There is absolutely no need to be arty or have any art skills whatsoever to take part in this retreat.  Many of us have bad memories of school art lessons which have sadly tainted our feelings towards creative activities.  As women we are inherently creative beings, we have the ability to create life and by embracing this side that is part of us all, we can feel more fulfilled, relaxed and empowered. The piece you create at the retreat is just yours; you don't have to show anyone, you won't be graded, it won't be exhibited. You will be invited to share your piece with the group but there is no obligation to do this if you don't want to.

It sounds a bit hippy-ish and New Age which I am not into, does that mean the retreat isn't for me?

Not at all. There is no religious element to this retreat.  The guided meditations are not to do with emptying your mind or communicating with God or the Universe (though you can incorporate this element if you want to), they are about relaxation and exploring your inner world. This retreat is suitable for anyone of any faith or none at all.  You don't have to wear tie-dye, do yoga, be vegan or love unicorns, though if you do, that's awesome too!

It sounds like you all know each other, will it be weird for me if I don't?

It's true that some of us who are attending the retreat may already know each other, however there are people coming who don't know everyone so you won't be alone if you don't already have friends in the group. What's more, we are a very friendly bunch, everyone coming is very welcoming and kind and you are sure to leave with friends even if you arrive without any!

I am on a budget, how can I justify the price?

By making self care a priority.  Self care IS important and your £54 isn't just about having one day away from your children; the benefits you will gain from this day will carry through into the year ahead and will enhance your family life.  The price is competitive compared to similar day long retreats and includes:  the use of the beautiful Renewal Centre and all its facilities from 9.30 till 4.00, a delicious lunch with drinks, teas and coffees and snacks and afternoon tea, the morning creative workshop with all art materials provided and the afternoon vision board workshop with materials provided.  Take a moment to think about what else you might spend this amount of money on and the value you get from those things, for me the value of this day long retreat is certainly on a par with or more than a meal out, a massage, a hair cut or spa day.

If you would like to come to this retreat but you feel cost is a barrier to you, please do get in touch.