Singing under the stars

I’d been looking for somewhere to run a singing weekend to re-connect people with the natural environment and each other, and I knew as soon as I arrived at Hazel Hill Wood that it was absolutely perfect.

wood smokeThere’s something quite magical about the space and the energy that hits you as soon as you arrive. My group absolutely loved it – from spotting deer in the trees to the smell of the wood smoke mixing with the decaying autumn leaves, to singing songs about the moon in the moonlight and songs about forests under the trees.

The space itself was really homely and welcoming – so lovingly crafted and well thought through, and the well stocked kitchen met all of our food and tea and coffee needs.

Forest Ark Hazel Hill WoodEveryone wanted to know how soon we could come back – with more than one optimistically asking if we could just sneak back the following weekend and do it all over again.

Thank you to everyone who has put time and love into creating such a wonderful space, and to the woodland itself for allowing us to share our harmonies with it. We can’t wait to come back.

Xenia Davis, Choir leader/community musician/singing teacher

@xeniadavis

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.

Yoga & Woodland Workout at Hazel Hill

StoveSpring feels like it’s just around the corner, and with that energy we warmly invite you to shake off winter’s hibernation and stretch into our winter yoga and conservation weekend – we’ll be weaving together expansive yoga with rewarding conservation – you can wander through beautiful woods, practice a ‘cat pose’; warm yourself by log-burning stoves, try out some simple meditation techniques – and enjoy great company and shared meals. We’ll be planting Holly and Hawthorn trees, clearing some areas of the woodland to encourage greater biodiversity, and learning about coppicing Hazel.

We have a magical Saturday night planned, led by Agatha Manouche who has many years’ experience of running groups at Hazel Hill. Agatha will be taking us on a personal journey to reflect on what we wish for in 2016, exploring this turning-point in the year as winter transforms to spring.Forest Ark Hazel Hill Wood

Just 7 miles from Salisbury, Hazel Hill Wood is a 70 acre local woodland and centre for conservation, education and community events with a focus on strengthening our connection with nature and exploring sustainable lifestyles.

Our weekend runs from Friday 5th February at 6pm and costs from £70 including all meals and 2 night’s basic accommodation, and we end on Sunday 7th February at 3pm.

Winter woods“Jude, Louisa and I are excited to be running this event which for the first time brings yoga and outdoor activities together“ said Marcos Frangos, General Manager for Hazel Hill Wood and co-facilitator for the weekend.   “We’ll be carrying out fun and rewarding work in the woods, whilst also enjoying some innovative and relaxing yoga in the warmth of our wonderful off-grid buildings.”

More information can be found at www.hazelhill.org.uk or by visiting our Facebook page, and tickets can be booked via Eventbrite searching for Hazel Hill Wood.

Yoga & Conservation Weekend at Hazel Hill Wood, 5-7th February 2016

yogaAs part of the Hazel Hill Conservation Weekend in February, we will be exploring our inner nature through some gentle yoga and movement. Bringing inspiration in from the woods around us, we will playfully blend into our practice the lessons and gifts of nature such as flexibility, mutual support and fluency of movement. As well as balancing yoga and deep relaxation, these sessions will also offer some more dynamic movement, allowing us to energise and awaken our systems, ready for the conservation work outside.

There will be two classes over the weekend, along with an optional meditation each morning – all of which are suitable for any age or ability, and no experience is necessary. Please wear loose, comfortable clothes and bring your yoga mat if you have one, along with a blanket for the relaxation.

_MG_1174The sessions will be led by Jude Clements and Louisa Clark, who have both trained with Integral Yoga; a balanced approach for body, mind and soul.

We hope to see you at this lovely inner and outer nature weekend!

Back to Work: Drag or Delight? Find yourself or lose yourself in the daily task

roadworks-signAs we approach September, you may be going back to a regular job, or not.  Either scenario may leave you happy or blue.  August seems a good time to reflect on how work fits into your life.

I observe people talking a lot about work, but in a very selective way.  They talk about what they’re doing, maybe moan about the boss, but rarely say what work really means to them.  I believe that’s because work is so important, so personal, so bound up with their sense of self, that it’s too sensitive to talk about.

In the 1990s I led many weekend workshops on the theme Find Your Gift in Work: these groups gave a safe place and structures to explore how work and life can fit, and I feel honoured to have shared so many journeys.  These taught me a lot too: here are a few highlights:

  • Know what’s holding you back.  Do you have doubts or beliefs that limit you in your work?  For example, some people believe they should not earn more or succeed more than their fathers…
  • Are you re-creating your childhood family at work?  I was amazed in my workshops to see how often this happens.  For example, were you bullied as a child by your father?  Was the family always arguing?  Did you have a habitual role, such as the joker or the scapegoat?  Any echoes in your current work??
  • Reduce your financial needs.  It’s easy to feel trapped or pressured about work because of money needs.  Cut back on your needs, and free up your choices!
  • Understand about human sustainability.  I believe that environmental depletion and pollution has close parallels in human work: this is fully explained in my book, The Natural Advantage: Renewing Yourself.  If your work is exhausting you, you need a systemic view of the problem and how to change it.
  • Believe you can fulfill your passion.  First you need the courage to discover your vision, then you need patience and intelligence to make your dream practical.  You don’t have to jump off a cliff, you can find the right steps…

Whether you’re in work or out of work, if you’re unhappy about the situation, believe you can change it for the better.  And if looking within doesn’t give you the clues, look around you: notice what issues concern or excite you, and explore how you could make a difference.

All of these issues matter even more for most men, as their work is often central to their sense of self.  This is one of the issues you could explore on the weekend of August 28-31, at a weekend led by Alan Heeks and Nick Mabey: Manfulness, Mindfulness, Music and more.  For full details click here

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.

Tap into your own ‘Wellspring of Wellbeing’

wellbeing skyMarcos Frangos will be leading a constellation retreat at Hazel Hill Wood, Thursday 15 October 6pm – Friday 16 October 4.30pm

Both Spring and Autumn bring an amazing energy of renewal. These retreats will give you the time to explore the essence of your own wellbeing, and the habits and patterns that no longer serve you,  as well as what you can do to nourish the wisdom and strength in your personal ‘wellspring’.

Constellations provide a fascinating way of looking at an issue as a ‘whole-system’; participants in the group will physically represent aspects of your system or question and create a living 3-dimensional map. This can help reveal things as they truly are, not just as we’d like to see them!

Wellpring 1

Costs £95 per person includes food and basic sleeping accommodation, or single rooms available for an additional £20. For further information contact Marcos Frangos (m) 07881 425 804, e: marcosfrangos@rocketmail.com