The Journey to Here...
Those Turning Points in Life
It was when I was expecting my first child that I had the first of several life-changing experiences that have led me to where I am now.
A chance meeting with the reknowned healer, Bruce MacManaway, revealed that I seemed to be able to sense physical trauma, such as an injury or inflammation, by just holding my hands a few centimetres away from someone's back or limbs. I subsequently attended a course called Health for All at the MacManaway's Westbank Healing Centre at Strathmiglo, in Fife, and from then on developed a range of skills that were used for many years purely on friends and family.
As my children grew up I was lucky enough to have many opportunities to travel the world. My passion for mountaineering, skiing (on which I wrote two books) and wildlife watching led me to many fascinating places and encounters and after a decade of teaching at a wonderful school in Perthshire I began to develop a career in environmental education, with a particular interest in trees and woodlands.
My original degree in Philosophy, Psychology and Ecology seemed a strange admixture of subjects to some people at the time but it has turned out to be the perfect basis for my chosen career.
In 1999 I first met and began to study with Olga Kharitidi, a Russian doctor of psychiatry whose life and work was utterly revolutionised by her experiences of Siberian shamanic healing in the Altai mountains. She describes these in her two books, Entering the Circle and Master of Lucid Dreams. Olga’s work is based on the premise that we all inherit trauma of one form or another down our family line and that many of the ills we suffer, such as depression, anxiety, rage and physical illnesses result from the cellular memory, contained within our brains and bodies, of past events, either in our own lives or handed down to us. As a scientist, she approaches the subject with a unique blend of pragmatism and intuitive insight.
Interestingly enough, it was a near-death experience in the mountains of the Picos de Europa, the night before the new millennium, that precipitated a change of direction in my life. I began to integrate what I had learned from Olga, and from Fransje Bik, a teacher trained in the Kharitidi methods, with my lifelong interest in neuropsychology, which gave rise, in 2001, to the idea of integrating the Circle Healing practices into my work in environmental education.
In addition to the many wilderness retreats I have run in a variety of wild locations, for several years I was a volunteer leader of wilderness expeditions for the John Muir Trust, a truly inspirational organisation that has done a huge amount to conserve wild places and in the process, changed thousands of lives for the better. I was privileged to have experiences such as taking a group of 18-25 year olds on an open boat canoeing trip in Russian Karelia, when we took down part of the Iron Curtain where it was a threat to wildlife, then pushed onwards towards the Arctic Circle, to camp on remote lake shores, be taught the arts of survival by local people and to explore the boreal forests where the Saami reindeer herders roam. I have also spent time exploring the wilderness areas of Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Slovenia, trekking to Annapurna Base Camp in Nepal and swimming off the Great Barrier Reef with myriads of sea creatures. These journeys have always had both inner and outer aspects and have provided the most wonderful contacts with wild species, discussions with local and indigenous people and expanded the treasure trove of foraging and healing lore that has always fascinated me.
In recent years I have been privileged to work with a wide variety of individuals and groups, encouraging them to explore and to engage at ever-deeper levels with the natural environment, and thereby discover the extent of their inner and outer wild selves. I have attended many excellent courses on how to run outdoor activities for all age groups, including an inspirational 'Sharing Nature' course with Joseph Cornell, one of the greatest environmental educators of our time. His Flow Learning model has provided an excellent planning base for many of my subsequent outdoor learning programmes.
In 2008 I gained a Permaculture Design Certificate, on Rod Everett's wonderful course at the Middlewood Trust and in the same year I qualified as a Reiki practitioner, characteristically completing my Reiki 2 in the woods! I now prefer to work at an energetic level, not analysing the psychology or specifics of the events behind a given state, as this can often entrench traumatic memories, but by using movement, being in nature and hands-free healing to remove critical energy blockages. This triggers the process of self-recovery and it can also work very effectively to move someone on if they have reached a plateau in their healing process.
I believe strongly that we can learn how to become our own healers, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones and for our planet too. In addition to the initial Circle Healing I also offer bespoke courses in powerful self-healing techniques that my clients can use to continue the healing process and also deal with any future traumas.
Closer to Home...
Wilderness and its Effect on the Psyche
Sunset over Rum. ©Hilary Parke
Every wild place instils a unique sense of itself into our inner being. From the peaks of the Himalayas to the deserted white beaches of the Hebrides, from the edge of the Arctic to the tropical rainforests of northern Queensland...every single place I have spent time has left a singular memory.
Meeting the Bears
Old Growth Forest, Slovenia
In the drowsy heat of a summer afternoon I wandered down to a crystal clear river in the Slovenian forest and sat for a while contemplating the trout sliding through the long trailing fronds of weed. I was almost dozing off when I heard a crashing in the brushwood just behind me and peering through the branches, saw two bear cubs frolicking and play-fighting on the forest floor. As my eyes grew accustomed to the gloom I realised that their mother was sitting a short way behind them and without a doubt was aware of my presence.
Slowly I backed away, then made my way to the track above where I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting quietly (VERY quietly!), delighting in the crashings and growling that went on for at least a couple of hours just below. I felt hugely privileged to have 'met' this wild family without having disturbed their afternoon.
Bitten by a Shark
Crete ©Hilary Parke
On the south west coast of Crete I was snorkelling in the warm turquoise waters when I was bitten by a shark! Luckily it was only 20cm long so the damage was negligible... but it was a salutary reminder that a serene sea is not always as innocuous as it looks and a fascinating insight into man's role as prey rather than predator.
Does Your Journey Begin Here?
I believe strongly that we can learn how to become our own healers, not just for ourselves but for our loved ones and for our planet too. In addition to Sequential Healing for PTSD, I also offer 1-1 online tuition in powerful self-healing techniques that my clients can use to continue their healing process.
For many years I have camped alone in wild places, foraged for wild foods and led groups of others to engage at deeper levels with the environment and thereby discover their inner and outer wild selves. Having the opportunity to do this work has been a great privilege and I hope to be able to resume again soon.