This training will offer participants the opportunity to develop the Art of Mirroring for empowerment. ‘Mirroring’ draws upon the ancient art of storytelling and learning through the oral tradition. Our stories will focus on our own human nature in relationship to the wider Natural world we belong to.
Each morning we will undertake a wilderness threshold crossing in a different landscape through which to explore aspects of our psyche, drawing on a four directions eco-centric model of human development (see below). In the afternoons we will gather to ‘mirror’ back these stories to each participant. Training in the art of ‘mirroring’ will be of particular use for anyone offering threshold crossings or solo work to individuals or groups through offering support to the stage of integration or return. Mirroring for empowerment is both a practice and an art that serves to deepen and clarify a particular story, as well as to honour the storyteller.
In this training participants will be required to wear two ‘hats’, being both in the role of participant and trainee facilitator for each threshold crossing and mirroring. Integral to this training is the willingness and capacity to engage with a depth of personal introspection during each threshold crossing on the land as this is actually the ground that matures our own ability to facilitate such work with others – this is actually the ground that matures our own ability to facilitate such work with others. In this way the training is designed to offer both the opportunity for exploring our own psyche through participating in self-generated ceremonies on the land, as well as to develop our own unique way of mirroring and storytelling with other people.
Throughout the human story people have made use of wilderness and the Mirror of Nature as a means of gaining clarity in life or marking significant life transitions. Individuals have crossed the threshold into wild places to attend more closely to the movement of soul, to remember what is at one’s core, what is most important.
The wider context of this training is the inseparability between our own well-being and empowerment, and the health of our people and the wider Earth community to which we belong. Initiatory work is at heart about belonging; finding our particular place and deepening our capacity to engage in the work we are called to do in the times we are living through, so that we can become a good ancestor to those who come after us.
Areas of learning
∙ Practice with the art of ‘mirroring for empowerment’ and the mythologizing of story in support of integration of threshold experiences
∙ Exploration of an eco-centric model of human development as a theoretical framework from which to facilitate threshold crossings.
∙ Self-generated ceremony within the liminal space and meeting the land as ‘mirror’.
∙ Utilising the practice of ‘Council’ as a tool for the creation of safe container for sharing where diversity, vulnerability and honesty are foundational.
∙ Experiential understanding of how the natural world can serve as a refuge and catalyst for personal maturation and individuation, supporting an increased resilience in meeting the challenges of our times.
An overview of the four-directions wheel we will use as a template for the program:
South: Spring to Summer – childhood
Through the lens of the eco-centric wheel, life is born in the Spring and moves towards the full growth of Summer’s childhood. The healthy child develops through bonding with both the human and more-than-human community. Within our nature-based work the invitation of this season & stage of life is to become intimate with the sensuous body of the earth; coming to know the myriad forms of life as our extended relations and sensing that the land is not just a backdrop for our human experience, but rather an intimate companion in our own maturation. The love of the South is the love of the sensuous world, so needed in a culture that is dominated and driven by conceptual ways of inhabiting life.
West: Summer to Autumn – adolescence
As Summer fades to Autumn, so too childhood passes into adolescence. Here we experience the dropping away of playful innocence and an increasing introspection into who we are, what we bring to life, and what our place is within the world. The West is the love of soul, the willingness to descend into the shadows of the psyche and though this uncover a deeper sense of who we are and what we have to give. It is in this often challenging place that we are invited to attend to our wounding, and through this begin to harvest the gifts connected with these wounds. Within the eco-centric developmental wheel, we also open to our relationship with the wounding of the more-than-human community, and are drawn to extend our circle of care to include this larger community of life.
North: Autumn to Winter – adulthood
Autumn in turn releases into Winter. Here, in the long journey of adulthood, we take up the challenging responsibility of developing the ‘delivery systems’ and the collaborative relationships that allow us to bring forth our unique gifts and offer our lives to our people and to this world. In an eco-centric model of development, adulthood is about service to both human and ecological communities, and in this module we explore what our lives are most deeply committed to, what the ‘centre of gravity’ is that our lives revolve around, what we most deeply care for and take responsibility for. Through our work together on the land we explore the role of community and nature-based practice in nourishing our inspiration and resilience to engage with the magnitude of the challenges we are living through. The love of the North is the love of the ‘give away’ and what we find is that in giving our lives away, we ourselves are nourished.
East: From winter to spring – elderhood
The long Winter must at length give way to the freshness of Spring once again. In the cycle of the human journey this last stage is elderhood. Elderhood in this model is defined by an expanded sense of identity, and a deepening trust and surrender to the process of life or the mystery that holds us. An elder here is not just defined by years, but by the depth of their character and the quality of presence of who they are – others are inspired to live more fully through knowing them. In an eco-centric wheel, the elder’s identity and sense of spirituality is bound up with the wider natural world, and thus is an ecological identity and an ecological spirituality. The East is the love of ‘Spirit’ or ‘Mystery’, that which invites a surrender, trust and identification with the larger processes of life that carry us all.
On the last day of the training, we will finish our programme around 11 am with a closing council.
After this, there is a possibility to offer as a group some service to the lands where we will have been staying for the last few days during the training, as a way of offering our reciprocity to the places we visited. We will also have a beautiful lunch there and will be back from the forest around 4pm. If you have to leave earlier for personal reasons, that is also fine and you could then leave right after our last closing circle at 11am in the morning.
Venue and accommodation
During the training, you will be staying at the Chamai centre in the Belgian Ardennes. The retreat centre and house is located in the tiny, rural and quiet village of Hodister, and surrounded by forests. You are housed in a spacious room with 2 or 3 people. Private rooms are only possible in case of a small number of participants. Camping in the garden in your own tent is also a possibility.
During our days together, we will be practising mostly outdoors and staying in wild places closeby. We will also be preparing delicious vegetarian meals with herbs and vegetables of our own garden. If you enjoy to eat some snacks in between meals, feel welcome to bring some for yourself or to share with the group. Tea, coffee and water are always provided.
Reservations and pricings
Regular price: 550 euro
Supporter price (if you want an invoice or if you want to support another person with less financial means to participate): 650 euro
If pricings are a barrier for you to participate, please feel inclined to contact us, we do have a couple of scholarships available on request of 450 euro.
To register for the training, please send us an email to email@example.com. Your registration is complete and your place secured, when the total amount of your participation is received. Bank details are: BE12 7340 4886 7292 – Sophie Vandenkerchove. Please send us the contribution with the following reference “Mirroring training June 2023 – your name”.
If the training is cancelled by the organisators, your deposit will be fully refunded. If you cancel your participation, part of your contribution will be withheld to cover the costs of your cancellation. Two months before the start of the training, this will be 25% of your participation, one month before 50% and 2 weeks before: 75% of your contribution.
Programme facilitator – Rupert Marques
My background is in environmental and outdoor education with an emphasis on experiential approaches to exploring ecological identity and personal agency. For several years I trained and guided with the School of Lost Borders (U.S.) in Contemporary wilderness rites of passage, and now offer this work here in Europe. The other thread of my livelihood centres on contemplative practice. I have practised in the insight meditation tradition for over 25 years in Europe, America and Asia, and teach at various retreat centres in Europe and beyond. In recent years I have sought to bring the fields of contemplative practice and wilderness immersion together. This has been supported by living and working at Ecodharma, a contemplative retreat community in the Spanish Pyrenees dedicated to the movements for social justice and ecological sustainability. I currently work with individuals and organisations offering a range of retreats and training that explore personal empowerment and resilience in service of creating a more just and beneficial human presence on this Earth.
Retreat host – Sophie Vandenkerchove
Sophie is a lover of the Wild – within and without. Sophie grew up in the forests of the Belgian Ardennes, where she nurtured a strong connection to the land of her ancestors as a child. After roaming wild places in the cities, she moved back to her village with a dedication to offer her life to the well-being and healing of her ancestral land. Out of this, Chamai came into existence: a nature-based learning centre, where she offers residential workshops and experiential journeys in and with Nature and collaborates with others. In her own work, she interweaves the power of ceremony and presenceness with her soulful love for her place, nature and people. She is passionate about pilgrimages, solo time in nature, silent retreats and all those experiences that bring together a good balance of adventure, presence and gentleness. Feeling and bringing each other home, is her life’s longing and service.