Legal Profession & Constellations with Zita Tulyahikayo  and James Pereira

Legal Profession & Constellations with Zita Tulyahikayo and James Pereira

Zita Tulyahikayo and James Pereira QC – Founders of the Libra Partnership, co-authors of “Loving Legal Life” for The Lawyer, and wellbeing columnists for Counsel Magazine.

In 2018, we founded the Libra Partnership to lead individual and systemic change within the legal profession. Our decision came after many years of work in our respective professions, and more recent work together writing, speaking and holding workshops to enhance sustainable professional performance in the legal profession. We now offer a range of coaching, workshops, writing and speaking services to the lawyers, law firms and barristers’ chambers for this purpose.

“Loving Legal Life” is a bi-monthly wellbeing column that appears in, an online publication for lawyers around the world. It is the first regular wellbeing column that offers support to members of the legal profession from a systemic perspective. Given our respective roles, James as a member of the system of law and Zita as a Systemic Coach, it was natural for us to present each article as seeking to raise and address issues particular to this profession enhanced by the depth that a systemic approach can often bring to understanding root causes and their effects. Following the ongoing success of “Loving Legal Life”, we were engaged to write a series of articles on professional performance and wellbeing for the Bar’s journal, Counsel Magazine. This in turn led to our appointment as regular columnists on these issues.

James had, like many other lawyers of his skill and talent, achieved great success early in his career but at a price, one that inspired him to make new life choices that would support him at a higher and more sustainable level of success. Fortunately, his transition coincided with a heightened awareness within the Bar that this was a systemic problem that not only threatened individual members of the profession but also the profession as a whole, which is made up of the sum of its many parts. In 2016, James gave his first talk to a packed audience in Middle Temple Hall, “Wellbeing at The Bar – How to Survive and Thrive”. How we now work and support members of the legal profession has evolved from that talk. James has since trained as an NLP Master Practitioner and completed the Essentials Certificate training in systemic coaching with constellations at the Whole Partnership. He continues to work in independent practice at the Bar, but with a deeper and more resourceful understanding of the issues in play within the profession.

The British Legal System, viewed indirectly as our client, is notoriously private and cautious. It is not part of the accepted code to appear as though one might need help. Through our work we have been able to gently push down doors and engage old systems of belief in new discourse. Two things have made this possible. First, there is a deep resonance between the law and systemic constellations: ritual, order, loyalty, belonging and atonement are all firmly established aspects of the legal system. Secondly, since James is a member of the tribe, we have been able to engage with the profession from within, a rarity given it is a system concealed by its authority and regalia.

Two recent examples of our work illustrate the systemic approach that we adopt. Our article “Making the Change to Being Well” (Counsel, June 2018), started by examining the rules of belonging and hidden loyalties within the legal profession – the rules of the barristerial tribe. Explaining long-standing and unquestioned patterns of behaviour in this way offered our readers an opportunity to understand, acknowledge and ultimately overcome perceived barriers to personal and hence systemic change. In our article “How to Solve Complex Problems More Easily” (The Lawyer, June 2018) introduced readers to mapping problems using table-top constellation maps, reinforcing the message that rational, conscious reasoning has limitations as the sole means of problem solving, whereas the use of a more intuitive, embodied and systemic approach can bring greater and more powerful resources to resolve a particular issue.

The power of the pen can be mighty, and its reach is far and wide in a world where digital is king. Writing a regular wellbeing column through the systemic lens has awakened an interest in wellbeing that stands in stark contrast to the current popular trend that centres around the nebulous impressions of “mindfulness” on one hand, and a military approach to resilience on the other. Bringing heart, and relationships to this heady mix has its merits through necessity.

In the last two years, the number of lawyers who have made contact with the legal mental health charity Law Care has increased: where once shame maintained the status quo of silence and the stiff upper lip, it is finally starting to be acceptable to ask for help, to accept that one does not know all the answers. Small though these movements are in the greater scheme of things, in context they are symptoms of change taking place amongst the deep folds of fabric that have intricately stitched themselves together over time.


Zita also offers personal coaching through her business Life Therapy with Zita – Systemic Coaching for Individuals and Organisations. This offers a combination of skills to attend to client’s request – Hypnotherapy, Systemic Coaching, EFT and NLP give high achieving women and men the support they need to perform more wholeheartedly and effectively.


In addition to his thriving legal practice, James offers tailored consultancy and advice to law firms and individuals who want to work in a healthier, more effective and sustainable way.


If you would like more information please feel free to get in touch on Twitter:  Zita (@LifeTherapyZita) or James (@JamesPereiraQC)

Astrology & Constellations with Michelle Duhamel

Astrology & Constellations with Michelle Duhamel

Chiron the wounded healer

In mythology Chiron is a good centaur who can bring healing to people who seek his help. The planet was discovered in 1977 by an astronomer Charles Kowal in Pasadena and since then astrologers have worked with this archetype.

In every birth chart Chiron is the archetypal image of the wounded healer. Chiron is a bridge between the past and the future. For example, if it is linked to the Moon it relates to issues on the mother’s side. And a link to Mercury shows issues with children either dying young or mothers dying in childbirth.

Nobody can be rejected from the family tree. There will always be Chiron to acknowledge their presence.

My work is based on Chiron in the birth chart of each participant and continues with groups where I work with conventional family constellations.


A birth chart


How it all started

Twenty years ago my daughter came home with a flyer about family constellations. She knew I was interested in genealogy, nevertheless I put the flyer under a pile of various documents. One day I decided to sort out what I had on top of my desk and I found the document I had put aside. It was the day of the lecture about family constellations, so I decided to go, follow the seminar. It was such an intense time that I decided to register for the training.

I had to deal with my ancestral issues which had brought a lot of pain and unhappiness into the family system. I knew I didn’t want to pass them on to my daughter and granddaughter.

I will remember all my life the time when the therapist dealt with my family issues over five generations. To me it was a quantum leap, I cried a lot and all my tears washed my sorrow.

In a workshop, the ancestral field is held by the participants and the facilitator in order to undo the entanglements: something happens.

Here are some quotations from my patients :
« The mother in the constellation talks like my own mother, my father doesn’t talk much and so on »
« I don’t seem to carry the burden I had »
« I feel relieved …… »
A lot of patients say: « There is a life before the constellations and a life after »


A few examples


Issues on the mother’s side

Once I had a participant who was working with homeless children. She was depressed and doctors couldn’t find why. So I looked at her birth chart and told her to investigate her mother’s family. The aspects were showing issues five generations before her. It meant looking at her grandmother’s grandmother which can be rather difficult but she had the help of genealogists and she discovered that her great-great grandmother had been sent to a psychiatric hospital at the age of 30 and that she died 30 years later in that hospital. Obviously her ancestor had to leave her children who were raised by a foster mother. All this was written on the death certificate. She understood that since then there had always been issues between mothers and their own children in her family.

With all those precious details we were able to have a family constellation and entangled family links.

I always tell participants that there is a lot of information on birth or death certificates although all the ancestors are dead and there is no one to tell.


Dealing with violence

Another participant had worries with her eyesight, her mother had become blind and so had her grandmother. She was complaining a lot about her grandmother. With the birth chart (Mars and Chiron), I could see it was linked to violence in the past. During the workshop, she said her son was a history teacher. I asked her to look for details five generations before for the next workshop.

She found out that at each generation women became mothers at the age of 40. So five generations meant 200 years. One day she opened the newspaper and saw that it was the 200th anniversary of a battle taking place in the village where she was born. The troops of Napoleon had burnt the village, killed most of the villagers and her grandmother’s grandmother was there, an eight-year-old girl.

It was something that was never known in her family, was passed through blindness over the generations and her son was trying to find the truth by becoming a history teacher.


Fifteen years ago I received a mail asking for help from the USA. A young lady had read my website and told me about her wounds and sufferings. She had been the scapegoat of her school and family. There had been rape and violence. She had just been out of surgery three times where she nearly died. So I read her birth chart and said: « If you want to come to France I lead a family constellations seminar next month. You’re most welcome ». Her father who came from Eastern Europe, had been involved in several wars.

She came to me, we did a conventional family constellation for her. She went home, had a child and continued her life.

When a person is ready something or someone comes along to help. It is like opening a door and entering a new room.


Dealing with children issues

When Mercury is involved in the chart we often find issues with children, either dying young or being hidden because they were born out of wedlock. Both were taboos five generations ago.

If a participant has endometriosis and can’t have children it is necessary to search what had happened five generations before.

I had a patient who couldn’t bear a baby and we looked at her genealogy but nothing seemed to indicate that an ancestor had died giving birth to a child.

After a meeting with family members she came back to me and said: « I met a cousin I didn’t know who told me that the great-great-grandfather had a first wife who died in childbirth and he married her sister »

She didn’t know about the first marriage and believe me or not but my patient had the same name as the forgotten wife.


I would like to end with a poem by Martin Lass, Australian astrologer who has been working with Chiron.

When all crying is done,
When all tears are spent,
When the Heart becomes Still,
In the Silence…
And know with every breath
That you are Loved.


Michelle Duhamel

Merging astrology and family constellations, I have been leading workshops and seminars for 20 years.

Living in Paris, I started astrology thirty five years ago with French astrologers. Then one day I decided to go to London to attend Liz Greene and Mélanie Reinhardt classes at the Centre for Psychological Astrology (CPA). I was really puzzled by Mélanie Reinhardt’s work about Chiron. I discovered through her lectures that in the birth chart you could see where your family entanglements are. They can go back as far as the fifth generation.

I passed a degree at Paris University on family therapy and systemic rituals. In addition I have also been working with Daan van Kampenhout for 10 years and I am attending his systemic ritual training. I live in Bordeaux and lead seminars in various towns in France. I also give private sessions.


Soul Retrieval & Constellations with Aleksandra Shymina

Soul Retrieval & Constellations with Aleksandra Shymina

I first experienced soul retrieval at Daan van Kampenhout’s training in Mexico City. As part of his teaching on Systemic Ritual he presented this concept to the group. I have met the concept before in my basic shamanic training but had a vague idea of how this could be practiced. We were to think of the times in our lives where some powerful, if not traumatising, events occurred and then use stones to represent the soul parts that were still there in those times and events. Being witnessed by a partner we were to set an intention to call those soul parts back and to use our voice to do it – singing, talking, humming. I have set up two soul parts that I believed were missing since I moved countries several times as a child, and breathing them back into my body brought quiet peace and a sense of completeness.

Soul retrieval is one of the core practices in traditional and modern shamanism. Description and details may vary depending on cultural context and background teaching but in its essence it is a belief that a person’s soul (or several souls in some cultures) could split into pieces and leave the body for various reasons. Most of the time, it will come back and reconnect but in times of great fear, threat, challenge and pain a part of the soul might choose to remain in dreamworld – the realm that we go to in our dreams, the other world, the other dimension – whatever you call it – the place deemed safer and more pleasant for the soul.

If soul loss occurs it may lead to physical and mental illness, a sense of dullness of life, as if something is missing and nothing is the same as it used to be. The colours are not as bright, the laughter is not as sincere and nothing seems to be able to change it – no matter what healing practices and therapy you do.

Traditionally, if I am to summarise this healing practice, when a practitioner senses soul loss, she would journey on behalf of the person to her guides and spirit helpers to get help in finding the missing part of the soul. Her guides would quickly locate it and bring her there. After some negotiation – mainly explaining what happened and that the threat/situation has shifted and the person is generally in a better state – a practitioner brings the missing soul part back to the person’s body.

My experience at Daan’s training, using stone representatives for the missing soul parts, and me doing my own work to call them back and integrate them, led me to using this practice in my constellation work. Two years later there is hardly a workshop without doing some soul retrieval.

A soul retrieval constellation has some ritualistic feel to it and often I am also using a drum to accompany the process, but we are still using representation and sentences to achieve resolution and bring the soul back. After we set up the soul part, the guide or spirit helper, sometimes the dreamworld or the initial event of separation, I usually ask the issue-holder to do the journey themselves and talk to their missing soul directly. This creates a sense of ownership and embodied experience of reconnecting with the soul part, of recognising how their current reality and situation improved since the soul went missing and also how they are incomplete without it. Making a promise to take care of the soul creates new sense of bonding with it, and responsibility to be more self-aware and caring.

On this journey I am always accompanying the issue holder, together with their guide, providing necessary sentences for resolution, asking them to sing their favourite childhood song or singing myself to emphasise the dreamworld state of the process. Sometimes, when I sense the tendency in an issue holder to drift off and disconnect, I introduce clear boundaries between our world and dream reality and only allow short periods for journeying in and out.

This work is highly symbolic, which I explain to the group or in a private session. What we do in soul retrieval constellation affects the psyche as much as it affects the spirit and it very much depends on one’s background and belief system, which one they would prefer to notice.

We all experience soul loss at some point in our lives. Probably many times. We might go on for years not noticing life becoming more and more dull, and attributing it to various factors in our environment. Mostly soul loss is not dangerous but is limiting, we don’t enjoy life the way we could be. But sometimes we might end up entrusting bits of our soul to loved ones who are gone, which then systemically shows up as a desire to follow the departed one into death. In fact, one is following their own soul part, that stayed with that person. In such constellations, doing soul retrieval is vital to one’s survival. It is very resourceful to us saying ‘yes’ to life and letting go of those who want to be let go of.

As a result of such work, often almost immediately, the person feels more alive and vibrant, sees everything around them in brighter colours, breathes deeper. Long term, their energy levels increase, they feel more themselves, life seems easier and more manageable and there is an overall sense of flow.


Aleksandra is a London based systemic constellations and systemic ritual practitioner. She has a life long curiosity about ways to improve life, find purpose, bring positive change, meaning and healing. This took her first into law, then into working with an international charity focused on social change starting with personal change. Following her heart and her path she trained with some world renowned teachers in systemic family constellations, systemic and shamanic rituals in Europe and Mexico.  Aleksandra is now holding regular groups and private sessions in London and internationally as well as offering tailored rituals and ceremonies for important life events and healing.


EFT & Constellations with Tamara Donn

EFT & Constellations with Tamara Donn

My constellation journey started about 8 years ago when a friend told me about some workshops she had been attending and did I want to join her. I felt a deep YES inside me and nothing could keep me away. When the first issue holder was asked to choose someone to represent their mother who had given them away, I knew I would be chosen. And suddenly I was swept head first into the tumultuous, always true, viscous, invisible liquid energy of the knowing field. Overwhelming emotions of disgust for the child “I” gave away (despite the fact that the representative was a friend of mine in the “real world”), pain, agony and guilt of not knowing my child and grandchildren washed over me. I don’t think I have cried that much since that day. And the amazing miracle that occurred a few months later was that despite there being no hope of the issue holder finding the birth mother, they did actually find each other!

From that moment on there was no stopping me and as I worked on my own ancestral issues through constellations, it was impossible for me to resist using my newly found wisdom into my EFT practise! EFT stands for Emotional Freedom Techniques and is also known as Tapping.  It is like acupuncture for emotions without the use of needles that you can use on yourself or have a treatment with a practitioner.

Using EFT with Family Constellations:

If an issue holder is experiencing resistance to say a healing sentence such as:

“Out of loyalty to you mother I carried this burden, and now, with love and respect I hand this back to you.”

I might invite them to do a round of EFT. A round of EFT consists of repeating a Setup Statement 3 times while tapping on the side of their hand (the karate chop point):

“Even though I can’t say that because…I can’t bear to see my mother’s pain (or whatever is true for them) I deeply and completely accept myself.”

I then guide them to tap on various points on their body while repeating a Reminder Phrase that keeps the representative connected to the feelings so their mind doesn’t wonder off. Suitable reminder phrases might include: “I can’t say that”, “I can’t bear her pain”, “I’d rather carry her burden than see her suffer” etc

I invite the representatives and other participants to take part in the tapping routine. This benefits the individuals personally, helps to shift any stuckness in the field, the representatives and the issue holder. Tapping on someone else’s issue in this way is known as “Borrowing Benefits” in EFT terms.

To find out more about EFT, go here.

After the round of Tapping, I check in with the issue holder to see how they feel. Usually they will be able to feel aligned with the healing sentence. If they aren’t, we would do some more tapping on exactly what is true for them in that moment until they experience some acceptance of the situation (or acceptance of the non-acceptance!).

The areas of work I am most passionate about is working with women’s groups. Once a month I run a retreat for women called a Red Tent Retreat. Each month I create a Red Tent in my workshop room for women to take time out from their busy lives, to refresh, rejuvenate, relax and re-energise. It’s based on the novel called ‘The Red Tent’ by Anita Diamont who writes that menstruating and birthing women in biblical times spent time in a Red Tent being nurtured by other women. They didn’t have to look after the children or work. Nowadays women are expected to fire on all cylinders every day of the month. So this is a space for women to take time out of their never ending hamster wheel of life, whether they have their periods or not, and whatever their age.

In the retreats we explore various themes such as our relationship with femininity, our wombs, our cycles, our stresses, giving and receiving, guilt, the seasons and more. We do this through creativity and processes involving a synergy of EFT and family constellations.

One of the most common challenges most women bring to the retreats is their relationship to taking time out. They usually say they are juggling too much, they are always on the go, they sometimes feel guilty taking time out or they never have time for themselves and if they create time, it gets eaten away by other important tasks.

If you breathe in, followed by another breath in, and keep breathing in, without breathing out in between, your body will force you to. Being busy without taking breaks is like breathing in without breathing out in between. If you don’t create a pause your body will force you to, for example having a cold or a headache.

So one process I often facilitate is for each participant to explore their relationship with business and stillness by picking a felt square or representative to represent busyness and another to represent stillness and to explore their relationship with these concepts.

To read one woman’s perception of a Red Tent Retreat experience with constellations, go here.

Another process I have facilitated a number of times is for participants to explore their relationship with their cycles. I place 4 different coloured felts in a circle on the floor to represent the 4 stages of our cycles. The 12:00 position represents menstruation, 6:00 represents ovulation, 9:00 represents moving towards menstruation (when women often experience PMS) and 3:00 represents moving towards ovulation. From the work of Alexandra Pope, women’s leadership coach, I learnt that our menstrual cycle can be mapped onto the cycle of seasons where Winter is at 12:00 (menstruation), Spring at 3:00,  Summer at 6:00 (ovulation) and Autumn at 9:00. The qualities of Summer and ovulation is movement, energy moving outwards. excitement, passion, sex to name but a few. During the Winter or menstruation phase, qualities included stillness, withdrawal, energy contracting and reflection.  I invite the participants to explore the different areas of the circle, feeling the energy at different points, noticing body sensations and emotions arising. After a while I check in with the participants and invite them to share what they have noticed. If anyone is struggling with any aspect, we tap on the feelings and body sensations while everyone else Borrows Benefits.

Here is an article I wrote about this process when I used it with a 1-2-1 client.

I also bring the synergy of EFT and Family Constellations together in my work with supporting pregnant women prepare for birth and motherhood. One of the biggest challenges I find with women approaching birth is their struggle to surrender to the birth energy and waves of labour that allow their baby to be born. It is not surprising given that women in our culture are educated that being in control is considered a strength, and surrender is seen as a weakness. One process I use in workshops is to invite the pregnant women to find a representative for control and another for surrender and for her to explore the field and her relationship with both. It is always a very powerful and healing process to prepare her for the rite of passage from maiden to mother.

To read more about surrender and its relationship to birth go here.

To read more about the Surrender V Control process in pregnancy, go here.


Tamara Donn helps frazzled mums regain their calm, enjoy their kids more and get more done. She also runs retreats for women that were featured in Spirit and Destiny Magazine earlier this year.

Tamara uses a host of different tools including EFT (emotional freedom techniques) also known as tapping and family constellations as well as drawing on her own experience of being a woman, mother, wife, daughter…

She also runs The EFT training centre with her husband Peter Donn and together they won a 2016 Janey Lee Grace Platinum Award in the category of practitioners and therapists.

Tamara is also the founder of the Birth Art Café – a holistic preparation for birth and motherhood.




Clowning & Constellations with Sharon Usher

Clowning & Constellations with Sharon Usher

A conversation with Sharon Usher

In this interview, organisational consultant, group facilitator, community builder, clown and constellator, Sharon Usher talks about her experience of bringing together two bodies of work – Improvisational Clown Theatre and Systemic Constellations. She shares some of the learning from a collaborative training with Judith Hemming in October 2010 called ‘Clowning Constellations and Community’, which they ran in a spirit of exploration. Sharon also observes the way that both disciplines work with the knowing field and how it influences her way of working.

Interviewer: Can you say a little about the traditional role of the clown in a social and organisational setting for the benefit of our constellation community.

The clown is a dweller on the edge. She has a unique relationship to ‘the rules’ in a social/organisational setting and hence it follows, it seems to me, to the formation of conscience and loyalty. The options for most of us are to go along with or to break the rules, however, the clown has the option to play with them. And in playing with them, they are brought to light in an accepting way that challenges at the same time and so may also undermine some of their ‘subconscious stickiness’ (my term :O).

We explore extensively in our work what it means to transgress i.e. to surface and play with the obvious and the less obvious rules, habits and values of a system. As a visual cue that serves as a metaphor here, we use a rope in our work to delineate the boundary between the stage and the audience. The clown can play with that boundary, approaching it, seeing how we in the audience react, putting a toe over, looking at us again, even leaping over it (then leaping back and apologising to an extraordinary degree). However, it is only pleasurable to transgress in this way, for the clown and the audience, if we all know that the clown knows that they are transgressing a boundary, and they play and replay that fact. For some reason, everyone finds that a real pleasure!

This, it seems to me, has implications for how the clown can help us live in a fuller awareness of how loyalty groups form. And that is interesting to me – how we can help emerge less entangled systems – as we go along (even though such awareness and insight could end up putting future constellators out of work!). Perhaps the clown has a role in bringing to light those rules that do not serve the greater whole. So the court jester plays at the dangerous edge of showing habits around power and authority that the king would rather not know about. Or the child points out, in innocence, that the emperor has no clothes…

Interviewer: How did introducing systemic principles affect the clowning experience for your trainee participants at the event you ran with Judith?

Well, participants varied from first-time clowns to those with years of experience. I think the introduction of systemic principles, and particularly personal constellations, upped the stakes significantly for our practice on the course. It required that those folk, who volunteered to bring some social clowning to a deeply personal constellation, trust the fundamental innocence of their clowning to an extraordinary degree.

We often invite personal stories on our trainings, and often these can be vulnerable places for the person offering them. But with a constellation we are surfacing what is hidden, even to the storyteller, so the level of vulnerability is increased. The social clowning is improvised and has no agenda other that what emerges through the play, so the clowns are equally vulnerable. The clowns needed to experience that the play can indeed be trusted here too i.e. the healing field moves the clowns, as long as they can be open to it. And what needs to be expressed is expressed.

As clowns, we go into the play with no agenda, in much the same way that a constellator facilitates a constellation. However, as clowns we do not have any organising principles behind us, other than our own authenticity and a commitment to going with whatever takes our attention and staying with the most playful and enjoyable.

Less is often much much more in clowning, we often encourage people to be still and really receive where they are, and resist trying to ‘make’ anything happen. The clowns own naïveté and vulnerability, serve to carry her through
lots of complexifying information as she pays profound and simple attention to what is exactly under her nose…

The following quote says something to this I feel:

“I couldn’t give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

Interviewer: What else did you discover by bringing in principles and practices from constellations such as conscience, phenomenology and resourcing?

The clown, at her best, is a fundamentally phenomenological being, so trusting the impulse of the moment to unfold the story is simply how she lives anyway. And the clown is no stranger to those moments of uncanny magic when an unplanned and unexpected coherence suddenly emerges during an improvisation. So the people who had experience of clowning could embrace the practice of constellations quite readily. I think those in the group who were new to both clowning and to constellations had a major amount to digest! However all were very involved in the exploration and, from the feedback we received, came away with a more inclusive perspective, and a great many good questions, about clowning and about constellations.

I suspect that those people who have done clowning for some time would have no hesitation in accepting that their clown is a constant and reliable resource to them in all sorts of situations.

And as I mentioned before, the clown has a particular relationship to conscience, in that she plays with the feelings that arise when she breaks rules/habits/values. When this happens there is often an enjoyment, or sometimes a poignancy, in the audience that comes with the recognition of our common human vulnerabilities and perennial ‘failings’ as we gamely attempt to navigate this life..

Interviewer: Part of the training programme involved bringing a clown actually into a client’s constellation. What was the impact of doing that?

I was the clown who experimented with being there with the issue holder from the beginning of her constellation. I found that my impulse was to sit on the floor just behind her as she had her interview with Judith. I felt immediately engaged and connected to her and wanting to keep a very low profile. But of course, it was a strong image for everyone in the circle. Who knows what impact that had.

As the constellation progressed I found that my attention was constantly with her, my listening felt acute, my heart wide open. I stayed put at the edge of the circle as she found her place in the constellation. At one point there was a reference to some missing voices in the constellation and I found myself moving straight in and speaking them.

At the end of the constellation, the issue holder said she felt braver to go further because I was there, showing her own clown, which she really values in her life. I don’t know if a clown presence in a constellation would resource someone who does not have a deep love of clowning. That is a question for further exploration…

“I so remember your presence in the constellation. I think it gave me insight into a different side of clown actually, because I took your clown to be the embodiment of unconditional love. It was profoundly moving.”
– Trainee & Issue Holder,
(Clowning Constellations & Community)

Interviewer: Having been on a journey of discovery, integrating constellations into your clowning work life, how does it influence what you do now?

There are a number of ways that constellations inform and support my work now. The clowning relies on the development of a safe group context for people to explore as deeply as they wish to. So as a facilitator I pay as much attention to the balancing of the orders as I can in the set up and holding of the group.

I feel personally resourced as a facilitator in my guiding of improvisations on stage by my knowledge of the orders. The more I can encourage people to express it on stage when some balance is being lost the more fun they have as the flow finds its way e.g. when someone is initiating the action all the time (giving) I can bring balance by gently guiding them to stop, and to receive from their partner.

I feel that my study of constellations has underlined my trust in the friendliness of the field and that, in turn, gives me courage in all my improvisation work both as a clown and as a clowning facilitator.

Interviewer: Thank you so much. There is a strong sense of how clowning and constellations enable us to be with ‘what is’. Could you share a last image or thought that captures this potential for their restorative capacity?

Definitely. It comes from Henry Miller and is called ‘The smile at the foot of the ladder’.

“A clown is a poet in action. She is the story which she enacts. The clown teaches us to laugh at ourselves. Joy is like a river: it flows ceaselessly. It seems to me that this is the message which the clown is trying to convey to us, that we should participate through the ceaseless flow and movement, that we should not stop to reflect, compare, analyse, possess, but flow on and through, endlessly, like music. This is the gift of surrender, and the clown makes it symbolically.”

For further information about Sharon’s Clown work at ‘Nose to Nose’ and more about her professional background, you can visit:


5 Element Work & Constellations with Emerson Bastos

5 Element Work & Constellations with Emerson Bastos

It was in 2010, when I was preparing my lesson plan to revise the theory of the 5 elements from Chinese Medicine with a group of 2nd year shiatsu students and considering different teaching methods, that the idea of using constellation approach crossed my mind. At this point I was more than half way through my second year training with the Centre of Systemic Constellations (CSC) having completed the first year in 2007. I wondered if constellating the five elements would be a good way to help students understand and experience the elements themselves and also the elements’ relationship to one another. That was all I had in mind at that moment in time.

The first documents related to the five elements or five phases theory is from the fourth century B.C.E.¹. The elements, associations and cycles were a way that the rural culture of China observed nature’s natural processes. The result of this empirical process was the awareness that each element relates to the other elements in a similar way internal organs relate to other internal organs, as well as different parts of the body, mental and emotional states. The awareness of the interconnection, interrelatedness and interdependency of every part of the body, mind and emotions².

Each element, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood have each their own characteristics and associations², some of these associations are illustrated in the diagram. Furthermore, there are two cycles, the creative and controlling cycles, that ensure harmonious and healthy relationship between the elements, similar in nature to the ‘Orders of Love’³ from Bert Hellinger. The Creative cycle is when one element creates and nourishes the next as in this sequence: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire again, forming the circle in the diagram, similar to parent-child relationship.The Control cycle, which I prefer to refer to as the supportive cycle, is when one element controls and supports the second element in a clockwise direction: Earth, Water, Fire, Metal, Wood, and Earth again. Similar to grandparent-grandchild relationship. Thus forming the internal cycle in form of a star.

At the thought of using constellation process with the five elements I felt a rush of energy and excitement, as well as anxiety and doubt about the validity of combining these two unrelated approaches. After pondering for a good while I decided to go ahead with the experiment. In order to avoid intellectual and rational interference from myself or others, I would explain the procedure to the group and not the concepts, at least to start with.

I explained to the group of students that I would choose some people from the group for an experiment. I would choose one person at a time, give this person a small piece of paper with something written on it, but for them not to look at what was written on it, simply to put this piece of paper in their pocket. On each piece of paper I wrote the name of one of the elements. I had these pieces of paper to ensure I would not forget who I chose to represent each element. I would ask a person to stand up and I would stand behind them and place my hands on their shoulders and place each one spatially in relation to one another. Once I placed them, all they had to do was to notice how they experienced themselves in that place and in relation to one another. If they felt they wanted to move they could move. If anyone else moved position, to notice if their moving had any impact on them at all, better or worse, more tense or more relaxed.

I purposely placed the elements in a different position to the Creative and Supportive cycles. I was anxious, apprehensive and even nervous about how this would go. I wanted to see what the feedback from each element representative would be and if the creative and supportive cycles would be manifested in this experiment, and how. This was a big question and I was far from sure what the outcome would be. What would it mean if it didn’t work at all. What if this experiment showed no relevant relationship between one element and the other, as I had learnt and have been applying in my shiatsu practice ever since I learnt it? Would it mean that applying two different and unrelated processes cannot work together, or that, there is no morphic resonance⁴ in the field of the elements and the theory of the 5 elements is just that, a theory. I had more questions than answers and was afraid of what would happen and the possible meanings I could extract from what would be revealed.

The initial response from the five representatives was that they were not feeling well in themselves, apart from one who said it was sort of ok where she was. Additionally, most of them said, they didn’t like that much the person who was placed next to them.  “It doesn’t feel right” was the common response. I encouraged them to try and find a place, if possible, where they might feel better. Also to notice how it was for them when they moved and to notice if anything changed for them when someone else moved. This process took some minutes and participants moved and changed positions many times. Slowly, one by one, they began to find a place where they felt better, where it felt ‘right‘ to be. They slowly formed a circle and felt it was good to have the people who were on their left and right hand side. As they felt settled and happy in their position, I had a look at the piece of paper each participant was holding without sharing with them what was written on it. I then realized they were exactly at the correct creative cycle positions. I was impacted by the realization that the five participants got themselves in the correct positions even though they had no information about the content of what they were doing. At this point, as all of them were looking towards the centre of the circle, I asked them to look at the person standing on their left hand side, which is the creative cycle. They all, in unison said, ‘this feels really good’. I then asked them to look at the second person on their left hand side, which is the supportive cycle. They once again in unison said, ‘this feels even better’. I was amazed  with what I had just witnessed. At this point I asked the five participants in the experiment to look at what was written on the pieces of paper they were holding. They read it and slowly it dawned on them what the experiment was about. They realized they were representing the elements and that they, with no information whatsoever about what they were doing, formed and experienced the creative and supportive cycles of the five elements theory. This for them was no longer a theory, it was a felt experience. We were all flabbergasted. Some of them were asking ‘what has just happened here?’.

We had moved from cognitive, intellectual mode of learning to a way of experiencing and learning that happened somewhere much deeper in ourselves and we were having difficulty in verbalizing our experiences. As a group we took time to digest and integrate the experience and learning.

For me personally, the process of understanding and integrating the experience took much longer. I did not expect the experiment to show so clearly, faithfully and strongly the elements and the two cycles as it did. It took me about two years when I felt ready again to experiment with combining these two processes. At the beginning of 2012 I run few evenings of 150 minutes each with mainly shiatsu students when I constellated the 5 elements. The second time the whole group was aware that we were looking at the five elements using the morphic resonance field⁴. In one of these evening groups I demonstrated how to place the elements in a blind constellation. No sooner had I placed the five representatives for the elements, each of the representatives started giving feedback about their experiences. I realized that they were representing my five elements. I realized to my shock that they were my own inner dynamics being expressed by the five people who were representing the elements. I recognised the truth of their feedback. I was very surprised and impacted. This experience repeated itself each time a person in the group placed representatives for the five elements. The representatives of the elements would  share their experiences and the person would recognise the feedback as their own inner dynamics. These experiences informed me that the elements do indeed represent different aspects of the self. How a person representing an element feels in themselves and how they relate to the other four representatives indeed reflected inner, often hidden dynamics that the person has internalised, carries in themselves and are active in this person’s life, usually in a detrimental way.

The discrepancy, the difference between what shows up in a 5 elements constellation to the ideal creative and supportive, is information. The discrepancies are an internal dynamic and show where interruption/s to the ideal cycles is/are. This innovative combination goes directly to the core dynamic and is proving to be a very reliable tool. Additionally, constellating the five elements could help enhance the person’s awareness levels of these inner dynamics and, similarly to family constellation, these dynamics can be experimented with in order to release stuckness, in order to support a movement towards integration, harmony and health, and, as much as possible, try and restore the two natural creative and supportive cycles. Often easing the way to a healthier and more harmonious way of experiencing life.

After this experience and much reflection and a certain amount of supervision I felt confident enough that constellating the five elements could be an intra-psychic type of constellation worth pursuing. The first 5 elements constellation workshop was in October 2012. I have since been running 5 elements constellation workshop in London, roughly every quarter. I am having the opportunity to share this work in Sheffield and I regularly go to Argentina, three different cities in Brazil and three cities in Greece too.

In a workshop when a person chooses to constellate the 5 elements there is not an initial interview and the constellation is usually blind. Constellating the 5 elements is an organically evolving process. Each workshop and individual session I facilitate informs me and new insights reveal themselves as to what each element represents and is related to in a person intra-psychic dynamics.

For instance Earth element in oriental medicine is related to how the body processes and extracts life force energy from fluid and food as well as rational, intellectual processes amongst other things. Constellating the 5 elements, it soon became clear that earth element intra-psychically represents how we have internalised our mothers, and if and how we are receiving her life force. Wood on the other hand shows how we have internalised our fathers. Water, the source of life, how we relate to our source of life, our ancestry. Fire is the Id⁵, the part of us that feels, and Metal our ego, that important part of us that deals with everyday issues and specially difficult situations and has a clear sense of who I am, who I am not, our boundaries and limits, knowing that we are a unique relational individual and part of a family and a wider community and culture. With this understanding and together with the feedback from representatives, a difficult or stuck dynamic soon becomes visible. So far everyone who constellated their five elements has related to the dynamics manifested during this innovative combination.

Constellation work in general, and specially to me the 5 elements constellation, never ceases to amaze me. The work evolves and grows organically and there is a significant compatibility of the five elements association and cycles with constellation work. I feel very inspired and excited by how the 5 elements constellation workshop keeps evolving and attracting people from all walks of life. My short term future plan is to continue running the workshops and to finish the Gestalt Psychotherapy Master’s training course. After that, it would be great if I can share and train other constellation facilitators how to constellate the 5 elements.


¹ Kaptchuk, Ted (1983- K Chinese Medicine – The Web that has no Weaver First printed by Rider – Printed by Mackays of Chatham PLC, Chatham Kent

² Liangyue, D., Yijun G., Shuhui, H., Xiaoping, J., Yang, L., Rufen, W., Wenjing, W., Xuetai, W., Hengze, X., Jiuling, Y., 1987 Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion – Beijing, China

³ Hellinger, B. Love’s Own Truths Bonding and Balancing in Close Relationships 2001 Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, Inc. Phoenix, AZ USA

⁵ Perls, F., Hefferline, R., Goodman, P. Gestalt Therapy Excitement and Growth in the Human Personality 1951 The Julian Press Inc. USA


Emerson Bastos, MRSS T, is a registered Shiatsu Practitioner and Teacher and Constellations Facilitator trained at the CSC. He gained a degree in Physical Education when he was still living in Brazil, his birth place. Since 1987 he has been living in London. His experience with constellation work started in 2004. His main interest is in finding the source, the ‘cause’. ‘Where the energy is not flowing’, ‘where the stuckness is’ and support the possibility for its release. He has combined the constellation approach with the five elements theory from Oriental Medicine and has been running Five Elements Constellation workshops for nearly five years, both in the UK and abroad. He is currently undergoing MA in Gestalt Psychotherapy training at the Gestalt Centre in London.