“I like to think of it as the three legs of a tripod – if one leg is missing, the tripod will be off balance” says Carolyn Skinner, CEO at Third Space Ministries and Fit Lives Co-ordinator at YMCA London South West.
She is talking about the connection between mind, body and spirit which is so vital to the work of the YMCA – and to life itself.
Through Wellsprings, which is a six week course aimed at women of all ages, backgrounds and faiths that Carolyn has delivered at YMCA Wimbledon for four years now, the mind-body-sprit balance can be nurtured and reflected upon.
Support and encouragement
Here, women who feel the stress of modern life can come for an hour and half simply to enjoy a cup of tea, interesting chat and a pamper treatment. They can also come to find support and encouragement, to share their thoughts and find that they are not alone with their feelings.
“The course addresses issues that YMCA London South West works with, including health and wellbeing, mental health, spirituality and several other issues,” Carolyn explains.
All women are welcome, and they do not have to be users of the services offered in the YMCA. Usually, Carolyn explains, some are members of the gym, some are friends who come along, and some have never been to the YMCA before.
“We have women of all ages and life situations coming to the course, and they all get something out of it. This winter, for instance, we’ve had a woman who is a grandmother and a 17 year old school girl taking part and both felt that the topics discussed in the sessions were relevant to them”.
Mini pamper treatments
Each evening of the course focuses on one topic such as rest and relaxation, beauty and self image, worry and anxiety, failure and expectations, acceptance and security and healing and forgiveness. Most course nights follow loosely the same format, Carolyn explains:
“We start with a relaxing, welcoming period of 10 to 15 minutes when people arrive. Upon arrival they get a cup of tea and maybe some cake, and they can chat among themselves. We then introduce the night’s topic and have an open discussion around this. Finally, the session ends with a mini pamper treatment which can either be a massage, a manicure or something similar, which we are so lucky to get donated by local generous sponsors”.
“The Wellsprings course aims to provide a safe space where there is plenty of time to talk about issues that affect us women in particular,” Carolyn says. “I hope that by the end of each session, the women go away feeling encouraged and supported, and that they feel lighter and calmer than when they arrived”.
Feel they have to be ‘Superwoman’
The course is especially designed for women. The reason for that, Carolyn says, is because “women today experience an immense pressure. There are so many roles to juggle and expectations to balance. Also, I think a lot of women are so focused on what we do, that we forget to take time to value ourselves for who we are. Many women feel they have to be a ‘superwoman’ – they have to be the perfect carer, mum and partner and they also feel the pressure of looking good and being successful in other aspects of life”.
Solidarity and support
Wellspring then becomes a safe haven where they can leave worries behind for a little while, and get support and strength from meeting other women with similar thoughts and experiences.
“There is definitely is a sense of solidarity and support within the group,” says Carolyn. “Also we always try to end it on a positive note, by thinking about some helpful tips and advice that we can take away from the discussions”.
Wellsprings is also very much a spiritual course that tries to connect mind, body and spirit, the three pillars in the YMCA.
“The course is written from a Christian perspective but it is open for all faiths and none,” Carolyn says. “No one should feel excluded, however the spiritual dimension is important and we focus on emotional and spiritual wellbeing. When we touch upon the spiritual aspect, the women often see that there is a deeper cause to the issues they discuss in the group”.
Faith in the community
Carolyn’s role in YMCA as a Fit Lives Co-ordinator also fits in with her role in Third Space Ministries, where she works actively to connect the church and the community and making people see the relevance of faith in community, be it in the sports and leisure centre, cafes and shops or nightclubs and music venues.
As a Baptist Minister, Carolyn has had experience of church leadership, community engagement, and mission in a variety of ways since 2005. For instance, she has worked as a sports chaplain in the Olympics and Paralympics 2012 and Commonwealth Games in 2014.
“I’m part of the Chaplaincy team, but focused on the Health & Wellbeing side of the work we do. It’s a social, pastoral and spiritual role. I took on this role because I am passionate about helping people discovering fullness of life by acknowledging the connection of mind, body and spirit”.
If you think Wellsprings sounds interesting and would like to take part, please email CarolynSkinner@ymcalsw.org