The Four Elements Workshop

A Nature based workshop from a participant’s perspective by Sam Holmes, Ireland.

On a Friday afternoon in Hungary, the Future of Food group went into the forest for a nature based workshop. The workshop was led by Fionnuala from Ireland and involved thinking about and being open to the four elements of nature: Air, Earth, Water and Fire.

We first of all began by getting into pairs of two in order to take the walk from our base into the forest. On the walk we were asked to think about and tell our partner when we are most in our element. Fionnuala explained that this meant when we are most alive and happy and when time can pass us by. It was an interesting exercise telling someone that you didn’t know very well about what you do to take yourself away from the stresses of everyday life. It really made you think about the times when you are in a good space and how it is so important to take yourself there on a regular basis.

When we arrived in the forest, we found a beautiful spot under the trees where seats had been made from the trees of the forest that we were in. We sat in a circle and Fionnuala explained what the workshop was about and what we were going to do over the next hour. She explained that we were in this beautiful place in order to become open to the natural elements. She advised us to find a place alone in the forest where we could feel at ease and come into close contact with the four elements of nature. She gave us examples of ways of doing this such as putting our faces up to the sun or by touching the earth with a part of our body that we wouldn’t normally touch the earth with. So we all went our separate ways to look for a spot on our own where we could think about, experience and feel air, earth, water and fire.

I disappeared up the hill and spotted a big area with a ray of sunshine falling through the trees. I stood in this spot, closed my eyes and lifted my face to the sun. The feeling of the heat was intense and wonderful. A feeling not often experienced in Ireland where I live. I felt completely blissed out and time certainly passed me by until I realised that I had three other elements to experience.

My head was aching so I thought I would do something I had never done before and place my forehead onto the earth. I looked for a clear area of ground as most of it was covered with decomposing leaves but saw a perfect spot. I knelt on the ground and put my forehead onto the earth. The contrast was incredible. My face was hot from the sun and suddenly it was cold from touching the cool ground. I gave my headache to the earth and it was wonderful. I knelt there for quite a while and at the same time concentrated on the feeling of the breeze on the back of my legs. The feeling was very slight as there was not much wind but I imagined the day before when the wind had been strong and I had been walking alone with my arms outstretched. The feeling had been one of instant cooling from the element of air. The sun was hot in Hungary and the wind had brought great relief from it.

I brought myself back to the present and remembered that I had still to find the water element. I lifted my head up from the ground and noticed a tree stump to my left. The stump seemed to be soaking wet so I placed my hands face down onto the damp surface. I closed my eyes and felt the cool dampness on my hands. When I opened my eyes I looked for a token to take back to the circle as Fionnuala had asked. I saw decomposing leaves all around. They interested me as, I feel, they signify the entire process of nature in a wooded environment: from life to death and then feeding back into the earth to nourish growing all over again. I picked up some of the leaves and walked back to the group circle.

Once we had all arrived back Fionnuala asked us to sit back to back with our original partner and explain to each other how our experience had been. Once we had done this we went around the circle one by one and told the group how this exercise had affected us and why we had brought back the token from the forest that we had chosen.

This nature based workshop was a fantastic exercise. Personally I do spend time walking in the woods at home but this exercise really helped me to connect with nature on a different level.



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About Fionnuala

Fionnuala Collins works at East Clare Community Co-operative and is the Irish co-ordinator for this project. A philosophy graduate, she has furthered her studies with Community Development practice and Youth and Community work. Fionnuala is interested in how food can build partnerships and communities, especially in the act of sharing nutritious meals as a form of celebration. She is interested in why food poverty exists, and if there are really foods and diet lifestyles that either boost or destroy health. Fionnuala thinks The future of food partnership will bring together many aspects of community development practice and sustainable food production and sharing. Furthermore through sharing ideas, research and learning on what is the right direction for the future of food we might learn if there is a sustainable and health enhancing diet for the here and now.

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