Exploring the healing powers of nature at The Hollies Centre

We are living in a time of increasing disconnection – from each other and from the natural world that we are part of says Thomas Riedmuller, co-founder and resident of The Hollies Centre for Sustainability near Enniskeane. Despite more electronic connectivity more people feel lonely. Despite more mobility nature seems to be further away than ever.

The Hollies Centre for Sustainability near Enniskeane has been offering training for nearly 20 years – in organic gardening, building houses with natural materials and other sustainable living skills. While these courses will continue to be offered, very often, visitors comment on the healing effect of the place itself, with its rocky outcrops, woodlands, wetlands and wildlife.

That is why the team at The Hollies decided to offer opportunities for more people to come and experience nature with therapeutic activities that are not very common yet: 

A new series of events invites you to tune into natural rhythms along with the seasons the way our celtic ancestors saw them –  this started at Imbolc  (beginning of February) and is continuing at the spring equinox with an event on Friday, March 22, followed by another one on May 4 to mark Bealtaine. The activities vary according to the time of the year but one theme will stay: a profound walking meditation in a large labyrinth built into the landscape. The original pattern of this symbol of unity and centeredness can be found in the cathedral of Chartres in France, built in the 13th Century when a visit and a walk inside the labyrinth was considered to be a substitute for a pilgrimage to Rome or even Jerusalem. At The Hollies, the labyrinth is surrounded by trees and rocky outcrops. Some trees are even incorporated into the pattern and walking it creates an interaction with them. Using the labyrinth with an intention will increase its therapeutic effect – doing it in a group and accompanied with a skilled facilitator will ensure that each individual experience is held safely. Times of transition or transformation, either personal or collective, are times of opportunity but can also be experienced as moments of anxiety and distress. A meditative walk of this labyrinth along with the delight of wholesome food foraged and prepared on site can bring calmness to the mind and nourishment to body and soul so that the sometimes dreaded change becomes a positive force of transformation.

Other opportunities for personal development are offered by Hollies resident Selvi Iyilikci and her horses: Selvi trained in an approach called ‘Equine Assisted Learning’. Through interactions with the horses, participants can heighten their sense of self-awareness. This process offers space for learning opportunities in the areas of self-development, exploring the meaning of relationships and the importance of building trust. This can be useful for setting boundaries, for communication and problem solving, as well as for your abilities of working in teams.  The role of the horse is that of a co-facilitator, contributing authentic and non-judgmental ´feedback´ with its behaviour. This method does not involve horse riding and does not require any experience in horsemanship. Selvi will offer full day introductions to the method, as well as individual sessions by appointment.

Selvi also trained in horticultural therapy. This goes beyond the realisation that working with earth is therapeutic in itself. In this approach you identify certain therapeutic goals and pursue them by means of spending time with the therapist in the garden. Of course, many people experience a therapeutic effect when they are gardening; and learning more about how to do this will continue to form part of what the residents and facilitators at The Hollies Centre are offering to groups and individuals. Also, foraging food and making natural remedies from ingredients that are growing all around us can be a deeply rewarding experience. I believe that nobody should be deprived of these abilities that were much more common among our ancestors. We want to make sure that the next generation grows up with a better connection to nature and to themselves. An important aspect of our work is therefore offering activities to school groups both primary and secondary and our monthly Forest School called ‘Mucky Boots’. Part of this offering will also be a children’s summer camp and a family camp in August.

Check out www.thehollies.ie for dates and bookings. Email: info@thehollies.ie.

Thomas Riedmuller is a co-founder and resident of The Hollies Centre for Sustainability near Enniskeane. He also teaches permaculture design at Kinsale College and UCC and works as a mediator helping people to resolve conflicts.

WCP Staff

WCP Staff Writer

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