Some ideas for improving access to nature connection if you or someone you are close to has an illness or disability, meaning they find it difficult to be outdoors.
Studies over the last few years have consistently demonstrated that being in nature is beneficial for both our physical and emotional health. From my own observations, I would also add that for many people connecting with the other living parts of Earth also brings increased levels of wellbeing to both the spiritual and social aspects of our lives too.
In my work as a palliative care nurse and as an unpaid Carer of several family members I have witnessed many instances where being able to be creative about how to connect with nature can positively influence the quality of life for people who are too unwell or disabled spend time outside on a regular basis. Over the past year I have become very unwell and currently spend most of my time in bed. This has given me a great opportunity to reflect further about how poorly and disabled people who for whatever reasons find being outside challenging, can benefit from nature connection.
These are some of the ideas I have collated. Most of which I use in my own life too.
Being aware of any sadness, grief or loss you feel about not being able to connect with nature outdoors. Even just reading this short article may generate difficult emotions. And that’s ok. I’ve found that talking it through with someone close to you or writing, drawing or any other creative expression can really help, as do other ideas mentioned here.
As well as hopefully providing some useful ideas relating to nature connection and immersion, an additional function of this article is to inspire further discussion about the urgent need for permaculture practitioners to address issues of privilege in accessing permaculture.
There are a huge diverse number of resources relating to the ideas I have written about in this article. If you need some extra inspiration or a starting point. Here are some of my current favourites.
Dave Jackson Aromatherapist
Writing by Flo Scott – Flo has written a number of articles in Permaculture Magazine and also has her own blog at http://permaculturedesigner.co.uk – In particular check out Flo’s most recent post “Top 5 things to do in an Indoor Garden”
BBC Radio programmes – all of the following are available as podcasts (or on iplayer for those in the UK)
Gardeners Question Time
Tweet Of the Week
Alice Fowler’s regular column in The Guardian newspaper
Plus books and YouTube films by Alys
Permaculture Magazine – available via paper or digital subscription plus lots of free content
Lots of fantastic books at Green Shopping
One of my current favourite books from Green Shopping, including many, many gorgeous photos, is No Dig Organic Home and Garden by Charles Dowding and Stephanie Hafferty
‘She Explores’ podcast
Facebook Group - I have recently created a Facebook Group ”Permaculture, Chronic illness and Disability” for anyone with an interest in the topic to join. There is already a very friendly and solutions focused culture emerging there, so please come along and join in if you are interested.
Hi again. Last month I wrote about my decision to commence a new chapter of my life and work as a Permaculture Practitioner, while living with a chronic illness. You can read that post here And so in today's post I am going to share with you some of the tools inspired by permaculture, which I am currently using to thrive and grow, both personally, and within my work. Some of the images shared are purposefully blurred or left in a format where it is difficult to read the details. Using the permaculture principle "Design from Patterns To Details", this is mainly because the actual content isn't really relevant to anyone but me. Though you may well find the design patterns I have shared could well be adapted easily to help your own life design.
In July last year, several months after I had become very unwell, I was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis. (M.E.) - at the time I was really shocked and scared by this news, and by the reality about how my life was probably going to be changed for the time being.
I know from my past designing experience that The Design Web by Looby Macnamara, is a really useful design process for managing and then thriving with, life changing events. So, in the weeks following my diagnosis, I spent some time exploring the new and very daunting situation I found myself in, by focusing on each of the anchor points, and then more time looking at how the process of the Design Web as a whole, could assist me. From this process emerged my "Daily Tool Box" and also my new annual Focus Word for 2018 - "Creativity"
Utilising The Design Web in this way has been invaluable in how I have coped and thrived with such a disabling illness. I plan to evaluate and review this design in a few weeks time at the Spring Equinox, connecting to the energy of balance demonstrated, as our light and dark times become equal.
In December of 2017, my Design Web activities were working well for me, in terms of my emotional and spiritual wellbeing, and I started to think about how I could carry on my work as a Permaculture Practitioner while living with an illness in which my physical and cognitive functioning was very much reduced compared to the year before.
A connection with pomegranates growing locally to us at the time (and which I love to eat), gave me the inspiration I needed to get some of my many ideas into a realistically achievable design format. Zoning is a tool often used in land based designing to help decide where to place the various systems and elements of a design. Zone 0- 1 being the area we observe and or visit on a very regular basis, and then through to higher numbered Zones which are visited much less frequently. The main aim being that the parts of a design needing lots of attention or use, (for example herb and salad crops, composting bin), are placed in a Zone nearest to the humans involved, and parts needing less frequent human attention, (for example coppicing for firewood), are placed in Zone 4 or 5.
In my design here I used Zoning to create a plan for how I could engage and connect with my permaculture interests, and within the limits my new living reality had created. At Zone 0 for each topic I have structured or "wild" thinking time about a subject. And then through to Zone 4, organising low key community 'in real life' or online events, which although feels quite impossible now, could be a realistic aim and hope to have over the next year.
My Daily Tool Box and Zones Table are placed in an easily observed area near to my bed, (where I spend 95% of my time just now), and so, (in the spirit of zoning), I am reminded of their applied usefulness many times a day. And as a result are already becoming an exciting and core part of my life so far in 2018.
It’s been a long, long time since I have shared anything here in the hub of Kt Shepherd Permaculture.
Throughout 2017 I had increasing and rapid problems with my health, resulting in being diagnosed with Severe Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, (M.E.), in July. I had been unable to do any work, (either nursing or permaculture), since May. And once I knew what was wrong with me I needed to put all my precious energy into figuring out how I was going to survive and get better from, this new and very disabled place I found myself in.
I pinned notices on my website, saying I would be away from my work, until my health improved
I have learnt over this time about the many levels of complexity - physically, socially, politically, emotionally, spiritually - that is the reality and experience of M.E.
I’m not going to use this space to focus on my illness. There is a huge amount of online information out there about these aspects of M.E. Two of my favourite resources I can recommend to learn more, are Unrest, (a powerful, beautiful film released in the months following my own diagnosis. And, the Phoenix Rising Website.
Towards the end of last year, I remained very physically unwell, in bed for over twenty hours a day, (on good days). But cognitively I had improved and I had started longing for more connection with my permaculture work again. I made the decision to accept the experience of the new reality I found myself in, instead of putting 100% of my time and energy into finding a ‘cure’. All I have learnt about M.E. suggests to me that I could well live in the low functioning state I am in for many more months, maybe years. I want that time to be as great as possible.
As soon as I made the choice to design a way of returning to my permaculture work, I felt an emotional and spiritual weight lift. It felt more empowered and optimistic than I had for a long, long time.
So here I am.
Initially I’m planning on creating short, regular posts, explaining how I have used permaculture design ethics, tools and principles to ensure I thrive as much as possible while living with and healing from a chronic illness.
Watch this space
Yesterday I celebrated finishing a big chapter in my journey of development as a Facilitator of people centred permaculture work. The year long programme involved mentoring creating and undertaking 3 designs for my work, participating in a variety of online and face to face gatherings with others doing the same course, and maintaining a reflective journal of my learning, experience and accountability.
The course has been a really important and motivating factor underpinning my current work as a permaculture practitioner and designer. I'll be spending the next month or so designing the next phase of my work, developing the workshops, mentoring, designing and tutoring work already undertaken as well as exploring some exciting new project ideas. These will be detailed and updated here on my website
Last night, as I spent time on Skype with others from the course, sharing my portfolio of designs and reflections on experiences of the past year, I felt so much gratitude that I have been able to be part of this programme. It felt very fitting to use my own "5 Elements" permaculture tool, inspired by my Earth Based spirituality, to guide my reflections in this presentation. This tool is something I will be writing more about in another post. Doing the Facilitator training has been a fantastic way of taking a lot of the design knowledge and experience gained in my Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design to a new level, as well as making and embedding connections with some other wonderful practitioners focusing on people centred permaculture projects.
For more details about participating in future People & Permaculture facilitator training see this link - you can also read more about my experience of the training here
Strands of Infinity is the latest book from Permaculture Designer and teacher Looby Macnamara. Its a beautiful collection of poems written by Looby, (and one poem by her 8 year old daughter Teya), over recent years. Subtitled "Poetry to reconnect", this is exactly what this powerful writing does. Connecting the personal, political and spiritual we are encouraged to explore how these intertwining threads manifest in our own life journeys. The poetry in this book is inspirationally written for both for sharing at events and gatherings, alongside our own personal reflection. With themes such as "Change the story", "Gratitude as Attitude," "This Woman is Rising" and "Will Humankind Survive", Looby's poems are wonderfully accessible on many levels to a diverse audience. I can strongly recommend Strands of Infinity as a tool for our present and our futures.
Today has a been a beautiful day and I've very much been inspired to join in with Three Things Thursday - An Exercise in Gratitude again.
The sun has shone on a crisp, cold January Thursday, and I have been off work. I had a beautiful walk up Buckden Pike with little, George the Jack Russell, from the fab George Inn at Hubberholme, followed by a trip to spend time at the farm further up the Dale. My currently 'pausing' Edible Garden is to the naked eye, overgrown and abandoned. On closer observation, the raised beds and growing baby trees were full of birds and other evidence of all kinds of diverse, healthy flora and fauna flourishing.
As the sun went down and I made my way back to Skipton, I called into one of my favourite Fair Trade shops, Namaste, which I visit about twice a year, and bought some lovely new clothes there, with money my dad had sent me for my birthday.
And then to finish the day I met my lovely freind, Yvonne, a wonderfully talented textiles artist, for chats about art, life, death an getting older, over great Kashmiri food at The Aagrah. Yvonne gave me these beautiful felted gloves she had made. You can check out her website here.
So actually, many more than three things to be gateful for today. Looking forward to more Thursday gratitude reflections throughout 2017.
Yesterday I faciltated an informal two hour workshop, "Design Your 2017" at the wonderful Settle Community and Business Hub, in Settle, North Yorks. The main aim of the workshop was to use a creative design process to inspire and empower people to develop their own planning system, in order to help achieve goals they have for the year ahead. Ten women from four counties, (including Ann via Skype), came along, and we spent a lovely morning sharing experiences, ideas and tools, with guidence from The Design Web by Looby Macnamara
The workshop was a new project for me and it felt like a positive way of using people centred permaculture design in non permaculture focused settings. Some women in the group use permaculture in other areas of their lives and others didn't. My general observations throughout the morning, and then the feedback afterwards, indicated that the format was really accesible to all though. The event could have definately been extended to perhaps a whole day, but overall this workshop design seemed to be really sucessful and its definately something I would repeat again.
We left with plans to reignite a monthly gathering in Settle, in order to create a space for momentum, reflection , support and sharing of our 2017 stories.
Its exactly a year since I completed the wonderful People and Permaculture Facilitation (FIT) training Attending the Permaculture Association's Thriving Communities Gathering this weekend, and meeting up with Anna and Charlie who had also attended the FIT training, got me thinking about how FIT and the resulting monthly online gatherings, had influenced my permaculture design/work.
Anna, Charlie and myself, all facilitated key workshops focusing on People Centred Permaculture projects, at the Thriving Communities Gathering - it felt like a very meaningful presence, bringing our applied and tested designs focusing on People Care and Fair Shares, to the event.
More details about our workshops, (text taken from the event programme) -
Reciprocity in Communities - Working with deprivation - with Charlie Gray of Horton Community Farm & Grow Bradford, 1.30pm
This workshop is about creating reciprocal relationships in deprived communities, of which Charlie has great experience to share through her work in and around Bradford. Charlie is part of a LAND permaculture Centre in Bradford, West Yorks as well as Grow Bradford and Plenty, all food related organisations which are helping to transform food systems across Bradford by various means.
The next steps for these projects are all focused on how to link underprivileged and privileged areas and how to run projects across these areas to best effect.
Using the Design Web - Diploma Accreditation with Anna Locke, 3.00pm
An accreditation event is the culmination of the Diploma in Applied Permaculture Design, in which the apprentice makes a 45 minute presentation of a selection of their design work to a peer group panel made up of Diploma holders and Design Course Certificate holders. This panel also inspects the student's portfolio and assesses the work against the accreditation criteria.
Anna Locke is presenting highlights from her 3 year diploma journey. Her 10 designs reflect her paid work as a community gardener as well as a playful translation of some of the classic land-based permaculture concepts into reality --- e.g. Hugelkulture, biodiversity, using edges, green manures, grafting, irrigation, creating structures and more.
The presentation is in two parts- first an overview of the 10 designs- 7 of which are in London and 3 of which are within a very large community forest project in Sussex.
The second part is about a growing connection with the use of the design web. Because of the complex nature of community gardening Anna started using the design web and doing people-centred designs. There is a clear progression along the 10 designs journey and she will be giving her thoughts, tips, observations and reflections gathered along the way.
Creative Dying: Permaculture Design for end of life care - Katie Shepherd, 1.30pm
Creative Dying uses permaculture design at its centre. The workshop will encourage participants to explore creative, positive and unique approaches that we can take to design the end of our lives and how we die. It will appeal to the many people throughout the world already using permaculture to increase resilience and healing in other aspects of their life and work.
My current designs, especially the development of my overall Right Livelihood and then Creative Dying, (using permaculture to design how we die), have evolved and grown in a really effective way over the past year, with much of the knowledge and experience of the FIT training being core to this deepening growth.
My next steps over the following month are to document these designs into a publicly accessible format, meaning others can benefit from more accessible People Focused design information.
Today is World Mental Health Day - there are so many elements to good or poor mental health, many - discrimination, privilege, environmental destruction, global conflicts, war, seemingly unstoppable ravage by our political systems - feel massive and completely beyond our control, These are often some of the reasons that people choose to learn about permaculture and how to use it in their lives and work.
Many people I meet in the permaculture community, and beyond, explicitly express chronic grief for the Earth, despite lots of amazing permaculture design work being undertaken by them on our lands and in our communities. Much of the grief seems to comes in waves of intensity. Leaving people and their projects damaged, sick and unable to function to achieve the desperately needed regenerative results.
I firmly include myself within this collective grief and I believe there are ways of things we can do, personally and in our local/online communities which can help. Help us to heal, make us more resilient, and regenerate. Some of them are listed below.
I know from experience that permaculture design with its principles and ethics can make so much difference to mental and emotional health, and can offer further holistic tools in addition to the ones suggested above by the World Federation For Mental Health I find Looby Macnmaras Design Web really useful process for personal design. Its web pattern reflects the web like nature of mental health – none linear, diverse connections. I’m not the only one, I know many other people who are using permaculture to improve their holistic health in so many ways.
Permaculture design may not be able to take away the structures and harm which feeds our on-going despair and grief, but for me it has made a long-lasting difference in how I live and thrive despite times when my grief has seemed overwhelming.
The theme for this years World Mental Health Day is ‘Psychological first aid and the support people can provide to those in distress’ – today I will be doing some mindmapping and observations around this with the aim of creating a community design focusing on this theme.
Other related resources you may find useful
Overcoming burnout part 7 - Composting Grief - Nicole Vosper
Active Hope - How to face the mess we are in without going crazy - Joanna Macey and Chris Johnson
People and Permaculture - Looby Macnamara
New FB Group – Perma-Health
What's Your Grief
The Earth Path - Starhawk - more information on The Well of Grief
Be inspired and educated today, listen to the voice and truth of Brandi Mack .
I had the privilege of meeting Brandi and sharing time on the Earth Activist Training Jan 2013 with her. Brandi and her work has had a profound effect on my own permaculture work and life meaning, and I have so much gratitude to her. This interview with her on the Women's Leadership in Permaculture Forum is incredibly powerful, healing, and so many of her words I know, are going to be further guiding my work and life.
"If we cannot look at this trauma, open it up, cry about it and then create some solutions around it, then we've lost the mark...we are missing out because we are not willing to be uncomfortable ....move out the way of a project and look at the people....I want to see the women leading it (permaculture) more, and it being ok"
#empoweringwomenandgirls #socialpermaculture #blackurbanfarming #decolonisation #blacklivesmatter #womenleaders #regeneratingcommunities #permacultureinspiration #healingagriculture #liberationpermaculture
regular updates and reflections about the permaculture designs in my life