Constellation workshops with Marcos Frangos at Hazel Hill Wood

So here we are, early Spring, and I’m writing this blog to set out my stall for the three forthcoming constellation workshops at Hazel Hill Wood 11-12 May, 21-22 September, 14-15 December

This blog is to give you a feel for these workshops. I want to also share a little about the name: “Wellspring of Wellbeing”, and how that relates to my constellation work and approach. I’m hoping to provide some useful background to constellations, especially if you’re new to this, and I’ll also share the broad format for the workshops so you’ll know what to expect when you come along.

Marcos HeadshotA mini biog for Marcos Frangos: At work I have two main roles: I manage a charity that owns a magical 70-acre educational woodland called Hazel Hill Wood with eco-buildings where we run a variety of workshops. I also run my own company called Wellspring Change that provides consultancy to individuals and organisations around wellbeing and organisational change. I frequently weave constellations as a tool into all my work.

Some personal information: I’m of Greek heritage, and I am a UK citizen. Both my parents are Greek, from the Aegean island of Chios. I was born and educated in the UK, and have lived in Winchester (South of England) for over 15 years. I started off my professional life as a trainee architect, I then studied and worked as a person-centred counsellor and subsequently enjoyed a career in inclusion of disabled people into buildings. I have a long-held interest in people and organisations and what makes them tick, how we make meaning out of the challenges and opportunities before us. A few years ago I did a formal two-year training course to become a facilitator of constellations in Oxford, with ‘Core Constellations, Theory & Practice’. This provided exposure to many different approaches to constellations. I have been privileged to learn from very experienced and gifted facilitators: Albrecht Marr, Vivian Broughton, Barbara Morgan, Jan Jacob Stam and many others. I continue to do my regular personal and professional supervision work with a constellations peer group in Oxford, and I am also in 1-1 psychotherapy.

So, why “Wellspring of Wellbeing?” The name “Wellspring of wellbeing” is what I use for my constellation workshops and is inspired by the Greek “Zoothoxou Pigi”. It literally means the Wellspring of Life. Interestingly this name is often synonymous with the Virgin Mary in the Greek Orthodox tradition. I resonate with this name because I believe each of us can access our own wellspring of wellbeing. It’s that part of us that deeply knows, that deeply understands what we seek, that recognises what we need to learn through our experience to become more fully present, more fully expressed and more vital as a human being. My personal image when I think of a wellspring of wellbeing is an ever-present flow of water that springs forth directly out of the earth – like a bubbling brook through our inner landscape – always in flux and flow.

_MG_1174The concept of ‘flow’ is central to me in life and in constellations. When you’re in flow, you probably recognise that experience of things falling into place with ease, of serendipity and meeting just the right person at the right time. In this state, we’re open to experience and to learning and life feels exciting, limitless and creative. Conversely when we’re out of flow, or feel stuck, there are often inner reasons why we’ve closed our connection to our inner wellspring – out of fear, self-limiting beliefs, past traumas etc.  All of these can lead us to create ‘stories’ that we tell ourselves. In one sense, these stories are helpful, they help us to survive, often through very challenging life circumstances – perhaps they even kept us alive. I tread with deepest respect for these stories – they have a purpose. But, they can limit us too. In a future blog I’ll share a story about how wild elephants are tamed that relates to this theme.

So what are family constellations and how can they help? This approach is borne out of the work of Bert Hellinger and is often referred to as “Family Constellations”. Bert developed this approach over 30 years ago working with families by looking ‘systemically’ at the whole family system to understand the challenges facing the individual. Within his work as a family therapist he also integrated many years of being a missionary priest in Africa working with indigenous tribes who taught him about shamanic traditions that consciously include working with the ancestors.

P1030014No person is an island. We are all part of multiple systems to which we belong, to our birth family, our national heritage, our ancestors, our organisational systems at work, the professions we belong to, our religion, our belief systems and so on. The systems that we belong to can be complex: consciously or at a sub-conscious level we are in a continual dance between ‘belonging’ to the system, which is a very fundamental need, and the impulse to ‘individuate’ and be a fully expressed human being. The tension arises because if we are fully ourselves, the chances are that we will at some point challenge the systems we belong to and their norms. Systems have a life and organising mind of their own, they too like individuals, are in continual flux trying to reach as balanced a position as possible given continually changing circumstances. Systems too will try and organise themselves to achieve as broad an integration of all the aspects within them, but they also exclude that which threatens their coherence.

Constellations are a wonderful tool to help reveal sometimes hidden dynamics and forces that are influencing the individual in the dance with the system(s) in which they’re operating.

How is a constellation set up in a workshop?

A constellation is usually focused around an individual that I normally call the ‘client’. Let’s imagine you’re the client. We’d start by sitting side by side in the initial part of the process and my role is to help you clarify your inner question. For example it might be a question about next steps in your career, or perhaps a more existential question like: ‘I want to feel more alive’ or ‘I don’t understand why I am so unhappy’. Through a process of deep listening and enquiry, I try and help you get as clear as you can about what you’re seeking, so you can formulate your inner question into a succinct sentence that resonates deeply for you. This is an important part of the exploration. Sometimes we find that your first presenting question actually has its roots in deeper sub-questions, which Bert Hellinger called ‘movement of the soul’.

Round House Hazel Hill WoodOnce your intention is clear, we establish who are the key players or the key aspects in your question. It’s not only people that are represented in a constellation, you can represent anything in a constellation, for example someone might represent a country or a nation. Imagine we’re co-creating a movie, and you’re the Director and it is you who decides which parts are needed to be represented in the first scene to place your inner question in the right context. Other parts or characters might of course come in as representatives in later scenes, but I like to start a constellation keeping things simple.

Representatives in constellations

Once we’ve agreed who needs to be in the constellation, I’ll invite you to choose fellow participants to ‘represent’ the different aspects of your inner question. One by one you choose and then physically place each individual representative somewhere in the room where we are working. We then stand back from the constellation and observe the movements that follow for the representatives. It’s like a 3 dimensional sculpture of your question, with human beings representing the different forces and dynamics. The role of each representative is to embody the representation as fully and authentically as they can.

As a representative you’re not following a script like you would as an actor. You’re invited to express and embody what shows up in you. I often say to representatives ‘use ALL your ways of knowing’ and follow your inner movements and promptings as honestly as you can – it’s not about winning the Oscars for best dramatic performance. There is no special training required to be a representative, I believe we all have the capacity to step into another person’s life situation and feel into what’s happening.

Nourishing Resilience: Seedlings of Change

On July 21, Wisdom Tree hosted a highly successful day at Hazel Hill Wood, on the theme Nourishing Resilience For You And Your Work Community.  It felt like a day of planting many seedlings of new ideas and contacts.

NR3Our diverse group of over 20 people, from near and far, included professionals in organisational development, coaching, health and psychotherapy.  The day offered methods and space to explore our own resilience and wellbeing, and how to grow these within the organisations we work with.

Wisdom Tree’s natural systems model of resilience was one of the key resources, and two of the sessions were spend out in the wood, experiencing this model and applying it for ourselves.

Fortified by a delicious lunch, we moved on to explore ways to nourish resilience, including the various approaches Wisdom tree offers.  We received a lot of positive and creative feedback, and the day generated many useful ideas and contacts which we will explore in coming months.

For example, several participants were excited by the idea of ‘Creative Away Days’ at Hazel Hill.  Bringing work teams to the wood immediately creates a sense of relaxation and opens new perspectives: one-day events could achieve a range of objectives, such as teambuilding, creativity, everyday resilience skills, and more.NR5

The day also seeded some useful insights on how Wisdom Tree could extend its range of programmes in the workplace: for example, building on the Resilience Toolkit already used successfully with several clients.

Here are a few quotes from feedback forms:

“I thought the day had a really good balance between structure & flexibility and gave me a great space to reflect. Share and nourish my own resilience and how I might use similar tools with clients”

“I learned from seeing you each facilitate especially easy, light touch and talking from position of experience”

“Thank you, an inspiring day. See you in year for a top-up!”

“I am taking away some new tools to use”

“Excellently structured, resourced and presented day”

Why Do Men Need Men’s Groups?

Men generally grow up seeing other men as competitors, and mostly have poorer support networks and interactive skills than women. Perhaps that was useful when fighting for the last bison on the plains, but it doesn’t help most men in 2015.

These days, most of us need high emotional intelligence and collaboration skills just to get through the average week. For men, these talents need to be learned in adult life, but where? Men’s groups provide a safe, supportive space for what can be a vulneraElder and the Ashble process.

I have been co-leading men’s groups for 20 years, and I am repeatedly moved by how the safety and simplicity of a circle of men is so affirming. Women don’t realise how much self-doubt most men carry: in a group of men, the first big gift is realising you are ok and accepted as you are. It’s also a great place to learn how to express, hear and interact with feelings.

A weekend retreat with no more than twenty men is long enough for a deep exploration, and there’s also a lot of fun and playfulness that emerges when a bunch of men, even strangers, feel free and safe.

Hazel Hill is a 70-acre conservation woodland retreat centre, near Salisbury, which I’ve been running since 1987. Being outdoors with plenty of space to hang out together round a fire, roam alone, or do some physical conservation work, is an ideal setting for men’s groups, and this wood has been used by many over the years.

On the August bank holiday weekend, I am co-leading a men’s group at Hazel Hill with Nick Mabey. Nick has lots of experience with Mindfulness, and almost none with men’s groups, and I’m the opposite. We’re excited by this combination, and because even we don’t know what we’ll be doing. Our aim is to create a sense of fellowship among the group and with the wood, and then explore the issues and questions which are hot and current among us.

50 Shades of Twilight: The Magic of a Wood in Spring

twilight in woodsTwilight is a special time for me in nature: and especially so at Hazel Hill Wood in Springtime.  Very recently, I sat on the deck of one of our buildings, facing west as the light very slowly faded.

Whilst the stages of the dawn chorus are well known, twilight too is a great time for birdsong: in different corners of the wood, I could hear a range of birdsong, with calls and responses.  The trees are not yet in leaf, so the bare outline of the branches provides exquisite sculpture against the last of the light.

The best bit of the whole experience was when the owls started calling, which was when night had almost fallen.  From where I sat, I could hear them calling as they flew in a huge circle around the wood: such a beautiful, evocative sound.  In traditional folklore, the owl is often seen as the gatekeeper between the worlds of the dark and the light, and this is certainly when their presence is strongest at Hazel Hill.

We go through several phases of spring flowers at Hazel Hill: from the snowdrops, through the primroses and wood anemones, with the climax being huge areas of bluebells, vibrant in colour, and sweetly intoxicating with their scent.  The bluebells are at their best in late April and early May: so if you would like to share this and many other woodland delights, join us for the Natural Roots of Resilience weekend, April 24-26.

Unwinding with Trees

HHW Women under treeMany of us find it hard to relax and switch off these days: busy lives, change and uncertainty, hours connected to smart phones and the rest, all contribute.

Spending time at Hazel Hill Wood is a great antidote. We don’t have mains power to charge your appliances, the mobile signal is poor, Wi-Fi hasn’t been invented in this neck of the woods.

This week I arrived at the wood after a busy, exciting day in London, with my head buzzing.  I took myself off to sit at the foot of a favourite beech tree, and within 10 minutes I was really unwound.

I can’t explain why sitting with your back to a tree (or hugging it!) is so relaxing, but many people find that it is.  Maybe it’s just being in a beautiful woodland setting with clean air and lots of birdsong, but I believe there is a wisdom in trees which can nourish us if we let it.

This is just one of the many sources of resilience which we will be exploring on the Natural Roots of Resilience Weekend which I am co-leading at Hazel Hill Wood, April 24-26.

Welcome

DSCF1591Hazel Hill is a beautiful, secluded 70-acre wood and sustainable retreat/education centre, seven miles from Salisbury, which offers unique scope for people to deepen their connection with nature and learn about living renewably.

The programme includes retreats, conservation, men’s and women’s groups, and the wood is available for group bookings. The facilities include heated bedrooms and sleeping lofts, indoor group room, camping area, compost loos, good showers, and a hot tub.