Amazing Lyfe Retreats…
Welcome to Amazing Lyfe (AML) – we are a not for profit Community Interest Company. Our directors include a public health researcher at Liverpool University, a head mistress from the Wirral and myself, Hara Willow, Managing Director, amongst others. AML operates in two communities – in West Wales and the Wirral and aims to share tools to enhance wellbeing in these areas, as well as to the wider community of Britain.
I am a facilitator, person centred counsellor, holistic therapist, transpersonal psychologist, transformational yoga, chanting and meditation teacher, poet and artist. I have been working and studying in the area of psychological health and wellbeing for 25 years. I initially created AML in 2007 as a project for teaching tools for enhancing wellbeing to secondary school children. AML is now run with the support of a team of excellent facilitators, therapists, artists, teachers, foodie types, health workers and generally loving people to share these tools with everyone.
At AML we believe that our modern culture promotes a way of living that keeps us disconnected from our inner world, and thus our authentic needs, as well as from nature and from each other and that this disconnection creates fear and imbalance which are the cause of all dis-ease. Therefore we specialise in providing safe, nurturing spaces for people to reconnect deeply to all of those things that are the foundation of health. Reconnection to self, nature and all of life and the oneness that lies at the heart of them all can bring about profound healing, growth and transformation. We offer holistic tools for wellbeing, and for creatively discovering our potential and have a particular interest in supporting people who are in recovery. We welcome anyone who chooses to enhance their wellbeing, find a more meaningful way of life, or transform themselves by learning tools to manage both the inner experience and the outer reality of modern life with all its challenges and joys.
We offer a variety of retreats, workshops, day classes, private sessions and monthly support groups in Wirral and West Wales. These include events such as “Be the Change Day” – a day-long ‘retreat’ where you can be introduced to the tools and begin to learn and work with them. We run twice monthly groups in Hoylake and Lampeter where we use a variety of methods to support participants.
I began this type of work in 1988 as a volunteer for Social Services and Victims’ Support on the Wirral. I have since supported hundreds of people dealing with a variety of issues including homelessness; addiction; violence; mental and physical challenges; mental health issues; and have also worked with children in care, the elderly, patients in hospital and the terminally ill. There are two obvious commonalities that really strike me in all of humanity; we all need to feel safe, valuable, loved and connected, and we all desire to be free from pain – physical and mental. I also see that most of the people I meet struggle to feel fulfilled, to cope with the inevitable pain that life brings, or find true purpose and meaning in a dominant culture that I believe is damaged and inhospitable to us at a very deep level.
As a result of my work and my personal experiences, I have spent my entire adult life learning about our feelings, thoughts, and behaviour. It has led me to discover and to share tools to reduce suffering and increase wellbeing, to find personal meaning and joy, as well as how to accept and peacefully live with “what is”.
Before starting Amazing Lyfe I spent years studying yoga, meditation, counselling and healing. I studied the work of Maslow, Assagioli and other psychologists. I trained with and learned from some of the best teachers in the world, including Elizabeth Kubler Ross, Gary Zukav, Professor Les Lancaster and David Fontana. I also ran a personal development group for several years where I learned how best to share the tools that would later become the foundation of AML’s present work.
This group met weekly to read, learn and grow together. We shared life’s challenges and supported each other in finding ways to parent our young families and offer them a more meaningful and healthy way of living in what we feel is a superficial and competitive culture. Over the years many people passed through the group and some of those members are still attending events that are now run by Amazing Lyfe.
Due to the success of this group I wanted to expand the work and I strongly felt that young people would be the perfect recipients for these tools. What better way to heal our wounded society than by teaching our children how to become authentic, integrated and healthy? During my studies at Liverpool John Moores University, where I took a masters degree in Consciousness Studies and Transpersonal Psychology, I found a vehicle for the classes and the “Amazing Lyfe Project” was born.
CHILD and YOUTH SERVICES
I was lucky enough to be able to run the “Amazing Lyfe Project” with children at Hilbre High School Humanities College in Wirral for three years. It was a wonderful school to work in and the data we collected was really useful. Most importantly the participants gained so much from taking part. Mrs. Burton is head of Pastoral Care and Deputy head at Hilbre. This is what she had to say about the work we did.
‘The Amazing Lyfe Project first took place at Hilbre High School Humanities College during the academic year 2007-08 as part of our development of emotional literacy at the school. The project aimed to promote wellbeing, encouraging self-awareness and the acceptance of emotions. We feel that the project was highly successful. Feedback from students, parents and staff was very positive. Students reported feeling more confident, more at ease with themselves and more able to understand and manage their own emotions and the emotions of others. Parents felt that the Amazing Lyfe project had given their children a positive experience, and that following the project that they felt happier in themselves and see things in a different light. Relationships at home and at school benefitted and concentration and schoolwork improved. Following the success of the first year we are expanding the project during the coming academic year so that more students have access to it. We feel that it is an excellent way of promoting emotional literacy within our school community and we have a deep commitment to continuing with this”.
I spent those years at Hilbre High School developing and delivering a curriculum that shared tools for building resilience and enhancing wellbeing, working with students from ages 12 to 17. The work was focused on the students’ inner world and subjective experiences. The outcomes for the participants were positive and at the end of the three years were also independently assessed by Liverpool University. Testimonials from students are available on our website.
I also work one to one with young people with mental health problems and the tools we teach at AML can often enable youngsters to learn to manage their mental states without the intervention of drugs. The outcome of our work together is looking positive in terms of our potential for provision of supplementary mental health care for groups of young people, who could support one another in learning and using these tools without risking the side effects of long-term medicinal drug use.
Amazing Lyfe offers private sessions, workshops and day retreats on the Wirral and in West Wales and also run weekend wellbeing retreats on our organic farm in West Wales, providing art and mindfulness based therapeutic retreats, close to nature, offering an intensive three days of sharing tools for holistic health and wellbeing. We would like to find ways to bring this work to more young people in the format of retreats, and as therapeutic learning holidays.
If you know of young people who you feel would benefit from this work please contact us. We hope to be able to secure funding to provide very low cost retreats for groups of six to eight young people at a time.
If you have or work with children and would like them to have access to these tools, please feel free to contact us and see if we can accommodate your needs. One of our directors is a headmistress and has direct personal experience of our methods. She believes that this work is truly valuable and pioneering and needs to be experienced to be believed!
See our website for more information. We are to be found at http://www.amazinglyfe.com and would love to offer tailor made retreats designed to support your service users!
Amazing Lyfe Retreats, Workshops, groups and other work we do
The intention of Amazing Lyfe is to work therapeutically using psychological tools within the context of Nature, Art and Spirituality to bring about Healing, Growth and Transformation. Using meditation and mindfulness based techniques, as well as other tools for mental and emotional balance, harmony and control, we aim to support recovery, personal development and lifelong learning. All our work is client led, so every event is tailored to the needs of the participants.
By running these retreats, workshops and on-going development groups we also offer a sense of community within which participants can experience a sense of hope, security and support, building friendships whilst developing coping strategies, building resilience and confidence whilst finding a sense of purpose and meaning.
All our events are holistic, in that they are designed to meet the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual needs of participants. When we say ‘spiritual’ we mean a sense of meaning, purpose and connection, a feeling of oneness and belonging in the world.
We stress the importance and value of this approach in all our work and we encourage awareness of the need for balance between all aspects of self in everyday life.
The food we serve at our events is mostly organic (where possible) and usually vegetarian, so it is very nutritious and nourishing. However, all tastes are catered for. Gentle physical exercise is a part of each day’s activities. For example, Saturday and Sunday mornings on retreats begin with exercises before breakfast and participants are invited to take a walk and explore the land during breaks.
During “Be the Change Days” we have a Tai Chi/Chi Gong teacher who works with us to help us keep our bodies healthy in a gentle, easy form of exercise. You can even do this in a wheelchair!
“Be the Change Day” events take place in various venues across West Wales and Wirral, including Hoylake Parade Community Centre and Cellan Millenium Hall and we are looking for more venues in Birkenhead, Liverpool and Aberystwyth. Regular support groups run in Hoylake and Lampeter and we’ll offer more as we expand.
Other work we do includes the Sanctum project; where we worked with NHS Merseycare service users with mental health problems, as well as NHS staff to create ‘sacred spaces’ – 2D, 3D and soundscape representations of what ‘gets you through the night’. This beautiful, creative work was shown in an art gallery in Seel Street in Liverpool and opened by the Lady Mayor of Liverpool. Images of this event are on our website’s photo gallery. We hope to run more Sanctum Projects in the future. The soundscape we created is what you hear on our website!
We also collaborate in running an annual Lantern Peace Parade in West Kirby, which celebrates Armistice Day and St Martin’s Day (a German day of peace and sharing also on November 11th). This is part of our Transition Town West Kirby Initiative in community building and includes working with local schools and the wider community in a series of lantern making workshops, which culminate in a Parade, with live music and bonfire on Armistice Day each year.
How we work and why it works…..
The main focus of our work is to help people reconnect fully to their inner world. We do this by sharing tools for a) personal awareness and exploration and b) for clearing away the layers of limiting patterns that obscure what Jung and others call the ‘Self’.
As children we adapt to fit in to our environment and often the world we inhabit can be hostile or wounding to us, so we build up adaptive patterns of emotion, belief and behaviour, creating layers of protection. However, in the long term this can lead to disconnection from the authentic Self, resulting in emptiness, boredom, addiction, fear, stress, anxiety and other mental health problems. As we learn to go deeper into our core we discover a peaceful, loving, authentic and healthy Self deep inside, and by learning to align our personality with the needs of that Self we find healing, true meaning and joy in life. We also often find a sense of peace and oneness that people describe as spiritual connection.
Spending time in nature also assists in the experience of feeling connected to and part of something greater than oneself and feeling one with the earth and her cycles can be very healing and grounding. Using various types of creative and expressive arts provides more tools for personal exploration and strengthens the sense of Self.
The methods we use come from Eastern and Western psychological and spiritual traditions from across the globe. So do our teachers, facilitators and participants. Many of our practices are rooted in the psychology of Maslow, Assagioli and Jung.
This type of work can be useful for everyone; from those who are simply interested in discovering and fulfilling their potential, to those suffering from the effects of addiction, mental health problems or trauma. This holistic approach has been and is used successfully to treat psychosis, depression, Bipolar Disorder and recovery from various addictions. We believe that by changing the underlying limiting or dysfunctional patterns that led to dis-ease in the first place, we reconnect to the authentic Self, rediscovering its integrity and wholeness, and that this is the most effective way to avoid a relapse and bring about true health and wellbeing.