Building Wellbeing Together: debrief

 General  Comments Off on Building Wellbeing Together: debrief
Oct 012018

In September 2017, I was part of the delivery team for a major gathering on this theme, hosted by the Network of Wellbeing and Hawkwood College. This quasi-conference aimed to provide an overview of the wellbeing sector in the UK, and it’s a vibrant and encouraging picture.

Among daily bad news, it’s great to hear of substantial progress, for example the Happy City project in Bristol, Birmingham’s Wellbeing Services, a global view from Oxfam, and Chris Johnstone on Five Shifts for the Wellbeing Revolution

The gathering aimed to explore wellbeing at the personal, community, and world levels, and there were excellent, encouraging session leaders and well-informed participants across the spectrum.
At the personal level, Chris Johnstone offered some valuable fresh perspectives. He spoke of focussing on the best potential outcome in any difficult situation, and aiming to make it more likely. He also described a new frontier in positive psychology: the science of prospection, a different way of looking into the future.

My session on Natural Happiness was well attended and got outstanding feedback. I was helped by being the only workshop outdoors, and by the beautiful orchard and gardens as a setting. You can see more about my Seven Seeds model here.

At the community level, many exciting projects were presented: some small and informal, but several at city scale, and some led by a local authority, such as Birmingham Wellbeing Services. Social prescribing is a valuable new trend, where GP’s prescribe activities which create social contact.

Katherine Trebeck of Oxfam presented a fascinating global view. Oxfam track how many of the world’s richest people have the same wealth as the poorer half of the world population: the ratio is now 8 to 3.6 billion. However, she believes change among the uber-rich is possible, and we all need to keep picturing it.

See more about the event here…

Want fresh insights? Change your view!

 Inspirations  Comments Off on Want fresh insights? Change your view!
Nov 252017

Celtic New Year and the dark months ahead are a good time for rest, reflection, opening to new perspectives. You can help this by changing your point of view, and I’d like to share some examples.

A fairly easy change is place. This is one reason I go to the Yorkshire Dales most years. The wild, untamed fells, the miles and miles of spaciousness, and the intricate small valleys below, give me a feeling of expansiveness and new possibilities.

November is the month when I led several of my retreat groups in the Tunisian Sahara – and I’ll be offering one in Southern Morocco, November 10-20 in 2018. In the vastness of the desert, your ideas of who you are fall away, so you can choose again. And the Bedouin nomads are a great model for our times, showing us how to be happy with almost no control or resources.







View of Ingleborough from Whernside, Yorkshire Dales








Alan’s 2008 Sahara Retreat

A powerful change of perspective is to imagine yourself as another person or even a thing. Anytime I want to feel more gratitude, I imagine myself as a Syrian refugee. At Hazel Hill Wood, we invite people to sit with a tree, and imagine life from the viewpoint of the tree. Seeing life from the viewpoint of an animal or bird can be a powerful way of changing your view. In the book The Once and Future King, part of Merlin’s training for the Young Arthur is to turn him into an owl and an ant.

Another way to change your view is through time. Imagining the future can be a valuable way to guide your choices here and now. For more on my project exploring this, see

Digging for Maturity: Cultivating Yourself in Riper Years

 Creative Ageing  Comments Off on Digging for Maturity: Cultivating Yourself in Riper Years
Nov 242017

My fourth planned book explores how gardening analogies can help people’s wellbeing, and I’ve started to ponder what insights they offer for creative ageing. This was groundwork for a weekend I co-lead at Hazel Hill Wood, in June, called Fruits of Maturity.

In a garden, it’s clear that you can’t simply leave nature to do its thing. There are often times when you have to intervene: digging in more compost, digging out failed plants, or just digging over to ginger things up.

Can you see analogies for people, especially in later years? Sometimes we have to dig for maturity: it won’t all happen naturally. Just as garden waste is a source of fertility, we need to compost emotions and problems to create energy for our growth. In your fifties and beyond, this becomes vital: the alternative is painful stagnation.

With gardens, it’s clear that some plants thrive, others falter or fail. We can try nourishing the strugglers, but some plants just need digging out. Similarly in our maturing years, we need to create some space, dig out the dead wood.

Hazel Hill Wood is a great place to explore these analogies: a beautiful 70-acre conservation woodland, with thriving ecosystems, and cosy, off-grid wooden buildings. For the June weekend, the wood was our live learning model.

The art of the gardener is to intervene skilfully, and let nature do most of the work. In the same way, we can hope that much of our maturing will just evolve, providing we’ve done our spadework.

For more details on the June weekend, click here.

If you’d like to explore natural analogies like composting further, check out

Dance and hug for spiritual wellbeing

 Inspirations  Comments Off on Dance and hug for spiritual wellbeing
Oct 152017

I’ve just returned from a week at the Unicorn Dance Spirit Camp. I was co-leading sessions called Nourishing the Heart, which were a great experience of how to raise spiritual wellbeing.

A focus of the whole camp is Dances of Universal Peace: these are akin to circle dances, but the dancers are singing and moving to prayers or devotional phrases, with live music. This may sound strange, but over many years I’ve found that dance of this kind is a powerful way to release your stress and find your joy. It’s also a great inter-faith process, as these dances use prayers from many spiritual traditions.

In recent years I’ve evolved sessions that combine these dances with a range of practices and processes to help people deepen their spiritual wellbeing. Hugs and supportive touch are a powerful part of this: for example, inviting a group to sit back to back in pairs to feel supported in facing their fears.

In one exercise, I invited people to pair up, with one person supporting the other by kneeling behind them and gently holding their shoulders. We used a meditation with sound mantras to help people become more centred amid too much uncertainty. The feedback was that this simple physical touch had helped the process hugely.

These sessions were my first time of exploring Thomas Berry’s teachings with a group, and it was very well received. As one participant said, “you provided a safe, gentle process to face my worries about the state of the world, and find hope.”

The Unicorn camp has provided valuable experience which will shape the Dare to Imagine workshop in October. This will probably include a couple of Dances of Universal Peace, and several hugging opportunities!