For information on becoming a certified forest therapy guide please go here

Dancing the EarthDream
The Pedagogy of Nature Connection

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This is a series of weekend long workshops exploring different modalities of nature connection: the 8 Shields, Forest Therapy, The Way of Council, The Work That Re-Connects and other Indigenous-based practices. Ancestral skills will also be woven throughout the weekends.

It can be taken as individual weekend workshops or as a full series leading to a certificate of competency in the pedagogy of nature connection (CPDs available). It is for those who are just beginning their path of becoming a nature connection guide/facilitator, nature connection guides/facilitators wishing to expand their offerings or for those simply looking to immerse themselves in nature connection experiences. I am very excited to be offering this new program as a culmination of the last 10 years of my nature connection guiding. The program will be delivered in collaboration with several highly skilled guest teachers from different fields of expertise.

Should you wish to learn more about facilitating nature connection through these models there will be an opportunity in 2020 to apprentice with the leadership team. If you feel very competent in the content of the series of one weekend but would like to take the other weekends and gain the certificate of competency please contact me and we can discuss this (for example you are a forest therapy guide).

Sky’s ability to teach, conveying all the pertinent information while modelling what is possible to grow into, is phenomenal
— Betsy Delph, Forest Therapy Guide

The 4 Gateways to Nature Connection

Exploring the Heart, Body, Mind and Spirit as Gateways to Deep Nature Connection

May 18th-19th, facilitated by Sky Maria Buitenhuis and Marc Barker.

This is the introduction weekend to the series but, as all weekends, is also a whole journey in itself.

Connections can be found everywhere throughout the natural world, and connection to nature is inherent in each and every one of us - though in the static of everyday modern life, it can feel difficult to feel and maintain. This 2-day workshop encompassing experiential ecology will be a timeless immersion in nature - effortlessly re-calibrating us to the rhythms and flow of life around and within us. Both regenerative and educating, participants will gain skills and perspective to practice deep nature connection within their own lives and that of their communities, professional and otherwise.

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There are many different gateways to experiencing our truest natures. By considering the simple complexities of ourselves, we will explore the 4 Nature Connection Gateways of- Heart/Soul, Body, Mind, and Spirit - through sensory restoration, play, curiosity, and nature-based ritual/ceremony. We will be drawing from a variety of modalities such as the 8 Shields Cultural Repair and Nature-mentoring practices, Forest Therapy/Bathing, and Indigenous Medicine Wheels. The rich tapestry of Nature Connection Routines  woven throughout the sessions will include: sensory restoration and nature as life's guide, the art of questioning, tracking & bird-language, the transformational power of fire, understanding nature as a mirror for ourselves, and grief-tending, ritual & ceremony to heal our connection capacity. Throughout the weekend we will create a container of community to support us on our journeys and deepen our connection to self, each other, and the Earth.

For outdoor facilitators, forest school leaders, educators or simply those who desire to delve deeper into their personal nature connection journeys - The 4 Gateways of Nature Connection offers something for all of us to experience in the space of our busy lives. A Certificate of Completion will be issued at the end of the course for those wishing to take it as a CPD.

Marc and Sky are very much looking forward to weaving their experiences and skills  together in this exciting and connective weekend, collectively bringing 2 decades of community embedded nature connection practices.

Marc is very energetic and has volumes of information and inspiration about learning through nature. Very engaging with people and lots of skills to offer groups or individuals of all ages. From simple team games to lighting a fire by friction he will inspire you to be more creative. Our team at Comeragh Wilderness Camp was made stronger by interacting with Marcs mentoring program
— Comeragh Wilderness Camp, Waterford.

Core Session Descriptions:

The following sessions will be woven together through sharing circles, body movement, exploration, song and fireside time. There will also be a community space around the fire on saturday evening, a time for us to speak from our hearts and be held by the fire.

Day 1

Heart & Soul Session - Exploring Forest Therapy

Using sensory restoration to return us to a state of deep nature connection, creating a state of relaxation in the body, inner clarity and communication with the natural world around us. Through a series of invitations we will move through the archetypal journey of a forest therapy session, returning to the parasympathetic nervous system and experiencing our inherent connection as a species of Mother Earth.

Key concepts :

- the role of sensory restoration in deep nature connection

-  sitspot: the inherent simplicity of nature connection

- moving from nature connection to deep nature connection

- how to receive support from the more-than-human-world  and nature as mirror for our inner wisdom

- the Way of Council as a core element of nature connection

Body Session - Embodied Play

Coming to our senses and fully into our bodies, we can experience the flow of the moment and enter into deeper nature connection. Throughout the session we will be engaging ourselves through the timeless experience of play, seeing the world through the eyes of a child in order to awaken our own inner capacity for a multi-sensory relationship to the world around us and how to joyfully connect with it. We will explore play as both an innate ability but also a restorative practice in nature.

Key Concepts:

- Predator/prey relationships for heightening the senses

- Animal forms and senses

 - The importance of free play and how to facilitate it to release our innate ludic capacity

Day 2  

Mind Session - Following Curiosity

An exploratory invitation to delve into the realm of our imagination and how it relates to the Earth. Following our curiosity, we will practice the  age-old arts of tracking and storytelling to more deeply relate to the natural world both outside ourselves and within our minds. We will begin to read the book of nature by becoming more aware of the ever-active ecology of an area and have some stories to share about what we discover.

Key Concepts:

- Holistic tracking (including the 6 core       tracking questions)

- The Art of Questioning and the sacred     question

- Mind’s Eye Imagining

- The Art of Wandering

 

Spirit Session- Nature-Based Ritual and Ceremony

The role of the sacred in deep nature connection will be embedded throughout the weekend program,  as well as being specifically explored during this session. Learn and explore the elements of creating nature-based sacred space.

Key concepts :

- what do we mean by ‘sacred’ and what is its role in nature connection

- the difference between ritual and ceremony

-  the core elements of creating sacred space

-  the role of grief tending in the journey of returning to a state of deep nature connection

 Past participant testimonials

Thank you very much. It was lovely to connect with other people who also have this deep drawing towards the natural environment. I loved that you both spoke so naturally and fluidly from the heart. Mark’s story telling was beautiful, filled with imagery and feeling. I also loved Sky’s words of wisdom. It’s evident she has a deep connection and understanding of what she is speaking of and promoting. I hung on her every word.
An opportunity to witness how to weave a program together. Marc and Sky complimented eachother in their facilitation, it felt beautifully balanced. I felt inspired to co-create kindred yet unique programs in Scotland. There was empathy, learning, solo time and community.

Returning to Belonging

An Immersion in Forest Therapy and the Art of Guiding

June 15th-16th, facilitated by Sky Maria Buitenhuis

With guest faciliator Shane Furlong

This weekend will include both experiential forest therapy sessions and taking a deeper look at the archetypal journey of what it means to return to a felt sense of belonging to the natural world that is our home. We will also explore how, in these modern times, one can be a guide for others on this journey.

Forest therapy is a gateway to restoring sensory and sensual intimacy with the natural world and in particular, as a climax ecosystem, forests. We will be exploring the stages of healing, from the sensory to the sensual to the reflective. During forest therapy we move from ‘nature connection’ where we are humans connecting with the natural world around us, into ‘deep nature connection’ when a sense of communication with the natural world around us enters our experience and we restore ourselves to a feeling of belonging as a part of the natural world. How is it to meet Mother Earth...not just as an intellectual concept where we know we receive everything we need from the Earth...but as an embodied experience where we feel held, seen and supported beyond the practical needs of life? We will be exploring what this means in a modern context......experiencing what it is to venture outside of the consensus reality of Western Culture out into a wilder landscape to find meaning for our lives. We will then spend time discovering the art of guiding, exploring what it means to be an ally for others as they make this journey. When we step out of the hierarchal roles of teacher and expert, as a guide we can offer tools to others making this journey, in recognition that every person has their own unique wisdom and is whole in every moment.  The primary therapeutic relationship occurs between an individual and the forest but how can we help open the door to this experiencing for others?

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Forest therapy is a guided experience of deepening our connection to nature- the nature of self, others and our environment, exploring the concept ‘Guided by Nature, We Heal’. As we return to our senses through slowing down and noticing the present moment, we reach an inner stillness. From this place of inner stillness we are given the opportunity to hear our own inner wisdom speaking, as mirrored and supported by the forest . This practice is an immersion in forest environments as it is here where mother nature has been given the freedom to fully express herself in the most diverse way possible - a climax ecosystem. Trees also hold a special place within the web of life. They are long-lived and deeply rooted, while also reaching for the skies, sharing their wisdom without judgement. During this practice you will be guided through a series of connective invitations, moving between moments of solo connection time and group sharing.

Repairing Our Relationships

Restoring health-full Relationship with Self, Each-Other and the More-Than-Human -World through The Work That Re-Connects and The Way of Council

July 6th-7th, facilitated by Sky Maria Buitenhuis

With guest teacher to be announced

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Often when we find the delight of returning to the innocence of noticing the world around us and all the beauty that is found there we often also meet our sadness of all the ways we have not had this in our lives. This weekend we will explore both the delights and the sadness, recognizing them as two sides of the same coin that must be befriended in order to fully heal.

The words ‘re-connect’ are often used when speaking of the need for humans to restore an intimate relationship with the rest of nature. How have we become disconnected and how can we heal this divide? During this weekend immersion we will be using the modalities of the Way of Council and the Work That Re-Connects to feel and/or communicate our personal feelings of disconnection, may they be grief, confusion, numbness, anger or other, and through this find our own sense of creativity and empowerment in our lives. If nature connection is truely to bring about cultural repair we must include connection to self, each-other and the more-than human-world. We will spend time in circle and on the land to listen to ourselves, each-other and the more-than-human-world, healing the divide by sharing and moving through past and present dis-connection. We will also spend time discovering the joyful and heartfelt opportunities to connection that are within and around us in every moment, we only need to take the time and space to notice, engage and cultivate trust.

The Way of Council is a simple yet profound way of coming together and sharing our unique experiences. These heart-centered sharing circles are a place to speak from your heart and to be listened to from the heart. As humans, we have since time immemorial sat around fires to share our stories. This is therefore a new yet ancient way of coming together to share and learn. As we share and listen we cultivate trust for each of our unique learning journeys through life. The processes of finding words to express ourselves and being listened to and witnessed, and of listening and witnessing to others, are in themselves transformational and healing.
Supported by some simple practices, you will be invited to come together in circle with others, and share what is comfortable for you.

The Work-That-Re-Connects is a body of work founded by Joanna Macy. It is based on the premise that when we allow ourselves to fully feel our response to the ecological crisis on Earth we allow our inner landscape to be freed of blockages and hopeful action naturally and spontaneously emerges. From a place of gratitude we strengthen ourselves through feeling all the endless ways in which we are supported by life. We are then ready to move into giving space and voice to our heartaches. When we are washed clear of this layer of our heartache we find ourselves moving forth into new territories of creativity.

The Nature of Questing

Our Animate Earth as Mirror and Guide

August 10th-11th, facilitated by Sky Maria Buitenhuis

With guest teacher to be announced

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During this weekend you will experience the ancient practice of vision questing by way of doing your own individual ‘firequest’, sitting through the night with your own fire.

To seek for meaning in life, to quest for a vision, is an inherent human experience throughout life. When we take the time to connect with the natural world around us, in a slow, intentional and attentive way, nature acts as a mirror, revealing our inner natures and re-wilding our inner landscapes. Through the mirror of nature we see ourselves. Vision questing, that is to go out alone into the wild landscape with the intention of seeking guidance for ones life, is a shared experience of indigenous cultures, the remnants of which still exist in the desire to go for a walk to ‘clear ones head’ or to sit quietly in nature when in need of respite.

This weekend invites participants to take part in this nature-based ceremony by completing a ‘firequest’. This is an invitation to create, sit with and tend to your own fire through the night, learning what the fire and the night has to share with you and teach you. The full ceremony will take place from sunrise to sunrise and you will be sent out from a community fire that will also be held through the night nearby. Sunday will be dedicated to integration practices and group sharing.

The Healing Map

The 8-Shields Model of Deep Nature Connection and Cultural Repair

Sept 21st-22nd, facilitated by Sky Maria Buitenhuis and Marc Barker.

This weekend is the culmination of the series and will take stock of how the deep nature connection practices that have been explored lay the foundation of cultural repair. The 8-Shields model is a map for understanding and navigating both this foundation and what grows out of it.

Just as the compass helps us navigate the physical landscape, the 8-Shields map of deep nature connection and cultural repair helps us navigate the cultural and inner landscapes. We will look at and experience the core routines of deep nature connection and the 7 sacred attributes of deep nature connection that grow out of these routines when we integrate them into our lives. Then we will explore the natural cycles, the days, seasons and the particular energies they hold, as a map for human life and mapping your personal gifts and intentions moving forward.

The 8-Shields is an in-depth system for creating cultural repair in the modern world whereby we can once again create and foster healthy relationship to self, each-other and the natural world around us that is our home. It was created in response to the embodied and intellectual dis-connection humans hold within Western culture. It’s design incorporates and is based on an incredibly rich body of research into the wisdom universally held by indigenous cultures that has remained relatively intact against all odds of cultural oppression and in many cases cultural genocide.

Where: All weekends take place at Dancing Moonlight, Oakfield, Co. Galway

When: All weekends begin at 9:00 am Saturday morning and finish at 5 pm Sunday afternoon (there is an option to arrive Friday evening).

Cost: All costs are sliding scale. Sliding scale is offered in recognition that we all have different financial resources. Those who can give more financially support those who have less, financially, to attend. How much you pay depends on your personal circumstances and is left up to the participant to decide.

€170-€190 early bird per weekend is available up to 2 months prior to the workshop starting date, full price is €190-250 per weekend.

The price for all weekends, and the certificate of competency in nature connection, is €850-€950 early bird (available until March 21st) and a full price sliding scale of €950-1250.

Payment is by bank transfer upon registration.

Accommodation: Camping on site, with dinner (Saturday) and Breakfast (Sunday)provided, is included in the price (camping is also available on Friday night at an extra cost of €10).