A report from the IYNF activity “Health and Well-being through Nature-based Methods”


Another training course organised by IYNF under the flag of the yearly motto “Mental Health in Youth Work” facilitated by a team of international trainers entitled “Health and Well-being through Nature-based Methods” took us to Czech Republic in the small village of Kostelec nad Orlici, 2 hours by train from Prague.

Hosted by the ecological community Sklenarka and their partner organisation Forest.Ink. Our accommodation was a beautiful restored villa surrounded by the forest on all sides from the 24th until the 31st of May 2022.

The target group of this training was youth workers or educational  facilitators in general. The dissemination process will bring us to share the techniques and methods we learnt with our local communities.

The idea of this activity was to provide insights to humans in positions of leadership and who act as role models on how self-knowledge and self-journey can facilitate interpersonal relations. An additional objective was to empower them to instil more spirituality in Youth Work as well as to realise the essence of their being so close to -and part of- Nature.

Though I was originally expecting something quite different and maybe structured more like a solo self-discovery retreat, the trainers made the most of the setting to really make it into a group experience. Bathing together in the natural pond, holding a Council, dancing together… I honestly felt like our shared energy brought us further.

The gorgeous nature, the permeating calm of Sklenarka and the pace of the program which could even be adapted to our needs were inviting personal growth. I had to pass on one of the afternoon sessions because of general tiredness and wanting to process some events and decided to go to sleep. Helena (one of the trainers) reassured me that this was okay as the activities were meant to support everyone’s processes and if we felt differently we should do what seemed most appropriate. 

Besides the trainers themselves who were very competent and empathic, the input from other participants was tremendous. As some of us were experienced trainers and facilitators they proposed additional activities: I’m thinking about Filip who organised the Contact Improvisation workshop alongside Alexandre but also the “5 Tibetans” practice which I’ve kept in my routine to this day. Roxana also offered a Yoga class for 1 hour and facilitated a Thai yoga massage workshop. I would also like to mention Bani who prepared a Labyrinth ceremony for us and was quite passionate about hosting a Women Circle together with Diana. 

Nolwenn’s experience with the Council

“I would like to talk about my father”. That’s how I started my sharing in the council yesterday. It was my first time participating in an event of this kind. I was the first one to speak. Just like our trainer, Bogdan, said, “the one who will feel a strong calling will take the talking object and start our council”. I stood up, started walking towards the table in the middle. Lit the candle, set an intention. Uncovered the talking object (a crystal) put the cloth on the table and took the crystal. Went back to my cushion, sat down and felt. I felt the heaviness of the stone, felt the energies of the humans surrounding me, felt pressure and then lightness. My chest felt upside down. I started crying. I cried first silent tears and then started sobbing. I am still not sure why my father came up. The question for this council was “who are you?” and normally this kind of question doesn’t phase me. I would answer things as “Though many things can describe a person, personal identity is relative”; “I don’t define myself neither by my social functions nor my ways of thinking” or simply return the question. But yesterday my dad came up. The council brought up my dad. This experience was really interesting and humbling for me as I then was overflowed with gratitude towards him and my whole family. Every person in my life helped shape who I am but I think my dad and his support were the most impactful.

The Labyrinth Ceremony – Report from the facilitator

By Bani Christine

Helena contacted me a few months ago asking me if we can do some ‘Labyrinth Magic’ together in Sklenarka, as this was the place I lived in when Helena and I met about  a year ago. I told Helena that I did not live in Sklenarka anymore, however I was actually very interested to join the course.

During the third day of our training the time had arrived to actually co-create ‘Labyrinth Magic’ together. I was very glad and excited when Helena invited me to co-create a Labyrinth ceremony/experience for the group. On this particular day we were focusing on our souls and water was the element of the day, also reflecting the quality of our souls. Helena and I smoothly flowed in organising the event.

Together with the project team we went to the labyrinth before our meeting with the whole group to prepare and light up the candles and prepare the altar. I was so relieved to have such a supportive and cooperative team to help and prepare together all the little details which in the end add up. This helped me focus better in the process and facilitate the group experience more relaxed, present and mindful.

I shared with Helena that some time ago I had a beautiful experience when I was focusing on the quality of my soul, how does it feel? how do I recognise it? how do I know it is the energy of the soul? While I was doing so I happened to be sitting in front of a lake and it was the most beautiful experience that i felt the energy moving within me was the same quality of the water moving in front of me. This helped me realise that nature speaks the language of my soul. Helena encouraged me to share this story with the group during our guidance to serve as an inspiration and follow up from the theme of the council ‘Who am I?’

Helena shared some words about the labyrinth and I introduced the focus of our journey together, that of diving deeper in exploring the qualities of our souls. I invited the group participants to bring attention to their hearts and see if there was a question that wanted their attention. Then I used sage as a cleansing and preparation ritual before we continued our walk to the labyrinth in the Sacred Forest of Sklenarka. We walked in silence and when we arrived I invited the group to create a mandala from petals, nuts, lentils, seeds, and rice. This was to express our gratitude to Mother Earth for holding us as well as for the nature and animal spirits of the forest.

I then guided the participants to a meditative exercise with the intention to invite them to enter into the realm of the heart and intuition and quieten their minds. To allow their bodies to be the intelligent guidance during the walk and to open up to the messages and metaphors from the nature around them. The participants were encouraged to be themselves and free in respect to the others around them.

The scenes which followed were so beautifully mesmerising. 

The labyrinth lit up by candles in the dark forest with the centre shining so brightly by big and small candles. A big wonderful singing bowl in the centre along with other related items. The participants wandered in their own unique ways, each in their own processes and journeys. It was so beautiful for Helena and me to observe. We thanked each other for this wonderful experience and then entered the labyrinth ourselves. Before that Helena lit up the fire close to the labyrinth where the participants gathered after their journey. 

The closure was very peaceful and quiet. It felt right to close in silence and a meditative mood before we all went to sleep. Though a few stayed over at the fire. I felt so nourished and blissed out the day after.

This project is kindly supported by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union.