Unfurling To Connection: The Reconnected Co-Founder Eleanor Mann’s Story

Profound connection wasn’t always a reality for Eleanor, who is a mama-of-four and step-mama of one. 
After many years of deep-diving into the power of Breathwork and Play Therapy she has found first-hand the healing and awareness shifts available through the mirror of our relationships. 
Now, she uses her knowledge and learnings to create life-changing modalities at The Reconnected; her passion is fuelled by the immense connection breakthroughs she guides for parents and their children.
Here, India Hendrikse speaks to Eleanor about what has shaped her, her own childhood, raising kids, and her journey towards enacting her dreams.

Play Therapy is a core part of what you do now. What memories spring to mind when you think back on your own childhood?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is my dad. My dad is a super cool guy. He actually works in childcare and always has, both my parents do. But my dad was always the person who, in the family looking back, when things were going awry, had a playful way of redirecting energy. When I think of play, I think of being a kid and the way you are just fully immersed in this somatic experience and complete imagination. I also remember always having an unlimited extroversion and natural orientation to share with other people.

Is it hard to embody those memories of play and be able to facilitate that for the child when you’re in the therapy?

It’s actually been a really fascinating process for me. I was doing Play Therapy for a long time before I really remembered how to be playful. The point of Play Therapy is that the child feels felt. But I think it took about two years before I had an experience of stepping into the imaginative world of the child. When you’re doing Play Therapy, or any counselling, you’re always getting supervision from a more experienced practitioner. It actually took a lot of permission from her to free up my inhibitions around being playful.

I kind of had to go through a deconditioning process around play before I had a real experience of being in a child’s imagination. It’s almost like the imagination is a sense like smell or hearing. And as adults, it’s largely numbed because we’re tuned out of it. But children are absolutely awake to it and it’s actually an incredible gift. At Reconnected Parenting, the children are the gurus in this way, they lead us back to senses that are there for us but we’ve forgotten.

Did this training happen before or after you had your own children?

Oh after, very much. I was always the parent who would do anything to get out of playing with my kids. Isn’t that terrible? Because I was busy or I was tired. I had four kids who were all under five at one point. So I felt like I was in project management! Often I’d be doing the dishes and they would say “can you be the grandma in the game”. And I’d already be doing dishes or something so I’d be like, “yeah, but you know, I’ll be the grandma doing the dishes in the game, okay?” So my kids didn’t really get the benefit of me knowing all of this stuff about play and connection or being free enough to play as much. 

Did feelings of guilt ever arise after you did the training?

I literally still feel guilty. I will get a fresh wave of guilt when I remember it in a new way. Guilt is something that parents get hammered with. It’s really important to be very kind to ourselves.

But yeah, my kids have really shaped who I am today, so regardless of sometimes wishing things were different, I was always doing the best I could at the time. And I trust life and timing and all of our paths together as a family.

You use the breath a lot and it’s a central part of the Reconnected Parenting program. Can you share a bit about what the breath means to you and how it works in your everyday life?

I just feel the breath is everything. I never stop learning about ways of working with it, it’s a continually unfolding experience. I feel like it’s infinite wisdom in a way. I get an image of a flower blooming, like tapping into that force that allows the flower to bloom at the exact right time. The breath lets us be deeply connected to that unspeakable thing, a tangible mystery. One of the things I feel a bit sad about is that it’s really awesome that mainstream psychology is so interested in the breath and mindfulness and all of those things, but there’s a stripping back and removing of all of the esoteric and the mystery that leaves quite an incomplete picture.

Absolutely. You mentioned coming to this knowledge of children and play after your kids were little. Now they’re teenagers, what kind of tools have you got in your toolkit that help you guide and connect with them at this age?

I’m very lucky that I do have tools. It’s hard to put into words. But the main thing that I find is a powerful congruence and an understanding of connection and discernment around mainstream narratives of what a teenager and adolescence is like. The main thing I’ve cultivated is almost like a metaphysical closeness, really allowing my intuition to guide me about how they’re travelling and when to say no to things and what I’m picking up on. I have a new awareness of the things that teenagers are up against and how to stay as connected as possible to them ’cause they are navigating a lot. 

And what kind of challenges have you faced as well, with them being teenagers?

Well, a part of learning to trust my intuition involved times I ignored my gut and then they got into tricky situations that I was picking up on intuitively.  So I’ve learned to really trust myself.

That was challenging because I had an idea of independence and that they needed more time with their peers etc, and I think it’s true to an extent, but I also now feel how metaphysically close they need me to be as well. 

On top of that, we actually experienced a fair amount of disharmony and disruption and trauma in our early years together as a family.

And so I think what I’ve been really aware of is this tightrope of how easily family relationships can become fractured, because it’s such a natural thing for us to feel blaming towards our parents. 

It’s also really natural for kids when they’re little to make the things that are happening in the family personal to them and mean something about them and who they are. So just dealing with teenagers grappling with a new awareness as they develop the way their brain works and they’re able to see a little bit clearer. They can see what’s going on and say “hey, that was shit, what happened?” 

It’s been a challenging but very rewarding process for us to reflect on difficult times we had together as they’ve gotten older and had a more mature understanding, and so I’m grateful for the healing we’ve had too. I’m glad I’m in a household where my kids can reflect on their childhood and share their experiences with me.

Your children have all gone to Steiner. How has that model of education worked for you and your family?

My kids are so practical. And do you know what else? They literally love learning. Mirabai came home and was like “oh somebody mentioned something about World War Two so I’m just going to spend the afternoon researching it and looking it up.” It’s like… what!? It’s so often that you suffer through school and then you get out. But they’ve got a genuine interest in things. And one of the purposes of Steiner education is to foster a love of learning. 

How did you meet your current partner and what does that love dynamic look like?

The short version is we met in the mountains; we’ve got very close mutual friends but had never actually made that connection and we met away from them. The Blue Mountains is a very small place, it’s quite weird that we never met until that point. He plays a very deliberate step-parenting role. So one of the things that I love about him is who he is for my kids. He’s just absolutely so committed and engaged, a really involved parent, and is constantly doing things for the kids. But it wasn’t always easy and it was a process for him to be accepted by the kids. When I first met him, my daughter was only nine at the time and she wouldn’t even acknowledge his presence. He’d walk in the door and she’d say “oh I can just smell something terrible”. But Daz could just absolutely understand what was driving her.

Daz was a monk before I met him so he has this naturally cultivated, very humble service heart, because in the meditation practices that he did for many years, he’d meditate on metta which is pure, unconditional love. His presence has been a really healing balm for our family.

How beautiful. Could you share one internal battle that is quite often at play for you?

Pure tiredness. An internal battle would be being unable to switch off or just not feeling so much like I’m on a mission. But when I look back at my life, even the really tough bits, everything set me up so perfectly to experience the feelings I needed, but also to show up for other people. And, you know, it’s really fascinating the way that our own pain points are often so connected to our family and to the things that we have to offer in the world. And so it’s a really beautiful experience. You love to arrive at a place where you feel of service, I think it’s intrinsic human nature.

What are some personal mantras that you love to repeat, either verbally or internally?

So when I think of a mantra, I think of it as a centering. It’s also like when the mind comes in powerfully, intentionally to override and set a tone, you know? And so generally, it’ll be when I’m at a bit of a sticking point. And when you feel yourself at a bit of a crossroad, like ‘oh if I go down that path, that’s going to be a shit-show’ and so the mantra just kicks in. My mantras tend to be reminders of who I want to be. My Breathwork teacher talks a lot about the sacred sound, and through the vibrations of a specific sound there’s a similar kind of reprogramming effect as mantras. So this year I’ve been doing work with voice and sensing the effect of particular sounds in the aura, in the energetic bodies, just as a playful thing that I’ve been playing with in my own practice. And then Emma and I, while we’re working we’ll always put on some specific mantra and I feel they are almost hypnotic because they’re repetitive and melodic, helping us focus and be intentional.

And finally, looking to the future, what growth do you hope to see at The Reconnected?

When I first got the vision for Reconnected Parenting, what came to mind was to try to positively influence one million children. And so we’re up to about three and a half thousand children now in our first year. I just had this vision of something that was very tangible, very possible, so my hope is that it comes to fruition! 

If you’d love to be guided by Eleanor and are a parent or caregiver yourself, Reconnected Parenting is a powerful program to join. We’d love to welcome you to our community – and with lifetime access, you’ll experience evolution after evolution.

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