Melissa Hellwig-7-Step Nature Connection and Mandala Creation Practice

7-Step Nature Connection and Mandala Creation Practice

Melissa Hellwig, Bronwyn Paynter

Session type: Regular forum session

Key words: ephemeral art, nature connection, sensory, wonder


Join us for a facilitated activity to slow down and connect with self, nature and community.

While we might know that mindful, sensory nature-connection supports our whole human function, many in the modern world struggle to “switch off” to experience those benefits.

This facilitated activity will provide a two part structure;

1) Discussion and sharing about nature connection, art and its therapeutic benefits – also creating rituals and offerings

2) The creation of a group ephemeral art piece with prompts about ethical collecting, awe and wonder, beauty, impermanence and imperfection

Session abstract

This experience will be based on the “7-Step Practice of Nature-Art Ritual” as developed by Day Schildkret of Morning Alatrs in California, USA.The creation of ephemeral art, whether mandalas (circular) or other shapes – is a powerful and practical mindfulness tool. As a visually satisfying activity, mandala-making (or offering-making) has roots in many cultures and traditions.

In recent years, mandalas (like those in Buddhist and Hindu societies) have influenced millions in the West to take up colouring and drawing to encourage mindfulness, relaxation and self-care. What is less known is that indigenous peoples (in Australia, the Pacific and in North America) also use ephemeral expressions of circle patterning in their ceremonies.

Community mandala creation is used by facilitators in the nature therapy, environmental, rites of passage and other related wellbeing and health sectors. This sense-making craft traditionally uses rice, sand and often pigment to tell stories and create order from debris. It invites us to enhance and refine our sense of wonder, it invites play, encourages sensory awareness and stimulates connection with nature.

This session will explore;

– explain the ethno-cultural history of various mandala practices around the globe
– cover principles of ethical collection of materials
– discuss the benefits of reflection, inner enquiry, art-making and play

As a group we will;

– create an art work collaboratively
– discuss impermanence, spontaneity, non-attachment and ease
– create a large, circular, impermanent art piece

This work will aid in participants feeling both a greater sense of calm AND greater concentration at the same time. We will use carefully selected sand, seeds, pods and flowers in our piece.

Participants will be able to then apply the principles of:

1. Wonder – how to recognise that deep mystery surrounds us everywhere and to marvel at the mundane

2. Place – how to connect more deeply and fully with place and access a sense of aliveness with ease

3. Clearing – to know that making space for the old (ideas, items or relationships) is a fast-track to inviting in the new

4. Creativity – how to see more clearly patterns and shapes in the everyday

5. Gifting – that by offering your item to the land and to others, powerful acts of generosity are possible

6. Sharing – that others you may not even know might gain benefit from your creation, and

7. Letting go – how to recognize and build your capacity for change and unattachment

Participants will leave this session with an embodied experience of nature connection, increased knowledge of a framework for this practice, and insight into elements of art and ritual that may be relevant to their own practice.

About the presenter/s

Melissa Hellwig
With a Masters of Environmental Management and background in geology and botany, Melissa spent many years as a sustainability educator. Her mandala practice began in 2009 as a response to homesickness while living in Canada. Art offerings have been “gifted” to land in several countries, as well as in SA, VIC, NSW and QLD. In recent years she has been facilitating rites-of-passage retreats, climate workshops and seasonal women’s circles. She is an enthusiastic yogi and the founder of Naturehood, Nurturehood. She is currently studying mandala arts facilitation via Morning Altars in California, USA.

Bronwyn Paynter
Bronwyn is an occupational therapist (OT) who helps OTs internationally create nature-based programs using her proprietary NatureOT Method. Bronwyn is obsessed with the evidence about the health and wellbeing benefits of nature and skilled in coaching OTs to develop, evaluate and market evidence-based programs. Bronwyn’s training in Forest & Nature Therapy guiding in 2017 was personally transformational and led to her purchase of an 83 acre private National Park Sanctuary on the Fleurieu Peninsula to share with others and indulge in her own nature connection for wellbeing. Bronwyn holds qualifications in occupational therapy, permaculture design, WHS management and auditing, and project management. But mostly, she loves nature and people.