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Alex Douglas-Kane shares her experiences and understanding of Discover Nature Awareness

Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Three-toed Messenger
Peter Friebel from Sweden sent this in about his experience with a Woodpecker. I thought I would share it with you and I have added on the end two other stories in particular the one about Zana is coming. This will help build on Peter’s story.

The Three-toed Messenger
During one of my bushcraft courses this summer in Sweden, I was out with my students on a hike through the wilderness. On the last day we were making our way back to the rowing boat we crossed the lake system with. After crossing the lake it is only just a few km walk back to the school.

When we were about 30 minutes away from where we left the boat, we encountered an environment that was ravaged by a forest fire some years ago. It is very interesting to see the evolution of natural repair, we spent some time there. Eventually we decided to continue on to the boat. Suddenly, a small bird came flying straight for us and perched on one of the scorched tree trunks only 2 meters from us. I recognised it to be a Three-toed woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus).

This reminded me of a story Geoffrey told me. He said me that he had learnt from the San Bushmen that, whenever a woodpecker fly’s towards you, you can expect to get a visitor soon. I relayed this story to my students and also the fact that, since I learned of this phenomenon, I had not been able to prove it wrong! Obviously there was some scepticism among the students. "You'll see! Be mindful of that next time you meet a woodpecker in this fashion" I replied. We continued with our hike.

We were distracted by various interesting plants and geological formations but after an hour or so we finally arrived at the boat. After maybe 15 minutes of rowing, one of the students pointed behind me, off to the right. "There is a small boat with an outboard motor coming straight for us!" After a few minutes the boat started to slow down and was approaching us. The person in the boat grabbed our boat and said "Hi Peter!" It was the owner of the little shelter we had used the night before, deep in the wilderness. I have been out on that lake for many years but I have never met anybody while rowing there, let alone somebody specifically coming to talk us. We talked for a while and told him about our wonderful stay at his little shelter and lake, about 20 minutes later we continued on our way and so did he, he was going to fish that evening.

Obviously I had to say to my group: "You see! Call or mail me when you have a woodpecker flying straight at you and you do not have a visitor some time later." They have not yet called or mailed me.

Post Mortem
I do not recommend that you try to analyse things like this. Just go with the flow. But I do want to respond to what one student said about our experience. He called it "conditioned synchronicity". We discussed it for a bit and I was very happy that he thought about it that way. He was doing a tracking/awareness course with me and from what I taught him up to that point he kind of formed the theory that the woodpecker is perceived as sign. From that moment the tracker will track other sign he believes may be connected with the event. He is effectively setting up reality to fit with what he is tracking. Somehow, the tracker, the woodpecker and the visitor are all aware of and influencing the reality that might be.  This became a very nice philosophical discussion (including even theoretical physics). I will spare you that one right now but I liked the fact he was taking a completely different view to this than the one he would undoubtedly have taken prior to his course.

The Woodpecker led the Concentric Ring
During the tracking course I was teaching on at the weekend and I was explaining to the group about concentric rings/bird language and also how the San Bushmen talk about Zana (The Woodpecker) being the first bird to let them know if anyone was coming.

A short while after explaining this I heard a Great-spotted Woodpecker give off its alarm call and as I looked up and called to the group to pay attention, a Great-spotted flew right past us and some ten seconds or so later the Tit's and other birds started to burst through the woods in hot pursuit one might say of the woodpecker, it appeared that they were following the woodpeckers lead on which direction to fly in, away from the potential danger that they perceived was around.

We then scanned the woodlands in the direction the birds had flown from and sure enough there was a whole bunch of people walking along the broad walk in the woods. I was only saying to the group just prior to this incident that sometime during the course I will try and throw a concentric ring while they were in their Sit-spots. Well, after that there was no need to throw one, nature as always had done the job for me.

Zana – Someone is coming
The San Bushmen call the Woodpecker (my favourite bird) Zana, they said that when the Zana calls, it is telling them that someone will soon visit them and indeed each time this happened they pointed it out to me and soon afterwards someone did visit us.

This got me thinking just the other day. I remember as a young boy at boarding school I saw my first ever woodpecker on the school lawn, it was the Green Woodpecker and from that point on I became interested in birds. However, when I left school I no longer pursued my interest in birds, not until I had joined the army and was posted to Germany.

One day I was out walking in the local woods near to my house when heard an usual sound as I was drawn to this sound I looked up and there flying right over me was my very first Black Woodpecker a magnificent bird, simple in colour but quite powerful in its presence and it has become my number one bird. Once again my interest in birds was fired up and it has been the case ever since, going from strength to strength.

I see the Woodpecker as a spiritual bird with a message, its undulating flight, reminds me of how life can be with its ups and downs and sometimes just before alighting on a tree, the woodpecker changes its course at the last minute to land on a different tree, and this is how it has been for me in life often changing course at the last minute and then experiencing a new and amazing journey, for example when I was leaving the army I was going to live in Germany where my children live, but at the last minute while serving in Bosnia I changed my mind and for some unknown reason and to every ones dismay, I decided to return to the UK.

And I can tell you I have no regrets, my life has been as colourful now as it was then but in quite a different way. So maybe the visitor who was coming to visit me all them years ago with the Green Woodpecker and again in Germany with the Black Woodpecker, maybe that was my creator.
In fact I know it was.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

And the wall came a tumbling down suddenly, I could see the wood for the trees...

I was out walking with a friend of mine one day and we were chatting about all sorts of things during our conversation I was reminded of something that happened to me as I was in the process of leaving the army. At the last minute of my time in the army I had decided to return to England for which I was not at all prepared for, as I had planned to stay in Germany where my kids were living with their mother. I shared this experience with my friend and now I would like to share it with you.

One day, I was walking down the main drag (road) of camp when suddenly I stopped dead in my tracks. I then had a vision. I saw myself surrounded by a very high thick wall which encircled me, I a feeling of being trapped within this wall. I was experiencing feelings of panic, my mind was rushing with thoughts of what am I going to do in the UK? I have no idea, I have nothing planned, I have no clue how the UK functions, I felt very scared.

Suddenly, the wall that surrounded me began to fall down, not brick by brick but in large clumps of masonry. I was stood there looking around, wondering what the hell was going on, and then it came to me. I had nothing to be afraid of, as all I had to do was to step over the rubble and GO in any DIRECTION I wanted too. I had the freedom to choose my own path, and to move forward in a way in which I wanted to move forward with my life.

Not knowing at the time where I would end up. And now HERE I stand today, excited and scared at the same time, wondering where my journey would take me.

All I know is that I trust my creator completely and I embrace what the future holds for me, even when I am feeling lost and can’t see the wood for trees...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Eco-therapy is really an umbrella term for...

Hi Everyone.

I thought I would share with you what a friend of mine has written on his web site. It is a view that I subscribe to as well.

"Eco-therapy is really an umbrella term for a whole variety of nature-based therapies which utilise an experiential connection with nature as a major part of the therapeutic process and is a relatively new in the field of therapy, but one which has many ancient roots, and as such, it draws its ideas from both modern and ancient’s practices. Unlike us, our ancestors would have seen little or no separation between themselves and the natural world they lived in.

Many native cultures today still live in a harmonious relationship with nature, interacting with nature's rhythms, to sustain and heal, physically, mentally and spiritually. In native cultures, the shaman would in effect be the equivalent of our modern doctor, counsellor and psychotherapist.

The nature-based healing practices of many native cultures are now being heavily researched and integrated with modern therapeutic practices under the umbrella term of 'Eco-therapy.' It is a selection of these practices that will be used during my workshops and one-to-one nature based therapy sessions.

Why do we need nature-based therapy?
Western society has become more and more industrialised and urbanised. People in industrialised nations now spend more than 90% of their lives indoors. Our time spent outside, surrounded by nature, is estimated at only 1% - 5%. As a modern society we have become increasingly disconnected from the natural world.

For millennia we have existed in a very close relationship with the natural world, and have been intrinsically connected to the rhythms of our natural environment, from our water and food, to the changing of the seasons. Human evolution has been so closely intertwined with our environment that our need for a relationship with nature must reside in our very genes. Our genetic make-up has barely changed over the last 10000 years: an almost insignificant change of 0.005%. Therefore it would seem that despite our modern society and technological advancements, we are still genetically hard-wired to need to co-exist in close relationship with the natural environment.

As humans we seem to have an innate need to be close to nature and living things. We seem drawn, almost unconsciously, to activities which involve the natural environment. Research suggests human identity, emotional well-being, and personal fulfilment depend on our relationship with nature. Most people are already aware of the beneficial psychological effects of simply being on a beach, paddling in a stream, or walking in a forest or the mountains. I'm sure it is no accident that we are drawn to areas of natural beauty when taking our holidays. The human need for nature is not just linked to use of its resources but it also has an influence on our emotional state, thought processes and even spiritual well-being.

Many researchers now believe that conflicts can arise between our modern society's disconnection from the natural world and our in-built need to relate to it, creating a series of internal mental conflicts, which can give rise to emotional, behavioural and addictive problems. Given our seemingly in-built requirement for this interaction with the natural world for our physical and mental well-being, it would appear that there is a strong need for us to finds ways of re-integrating nature back into our lives, so that we can redress the balance.

A Solution
Mankind's use of nature to enhance well-being, physically, mentally and spiritually, has been around probably as long as humans have existed. It is only in more recent times, largely due to industrialisation and urbanisation, that man has become more and more disconnected and isolated from the natural world. In our modern society, that in-built need for relationship with nature has become disrupted, leaving us unbalanced and open to a variety of mental and emotional problems.

Research has shown that just spending time outdoors in green space can have significant benefits on your mental well-being. This can be as simple as spending some time gardening, or sitting in your local park, or spending quality time with a pet, or going for a walk in the countryside. Eco-therapies such as Wilderness Therapy, Pet-Assisted Therapy, Equine-Assisted Therapy, Natural Awareness, Green Therapy, Horticultural Therapy and Walking Therapy, all take this concept much further by actively utilising a connection with nature as part of the therapeutic process to enhance your psychological and spiritual health and well-being.

Eco-therapy and Traditional Talking Therapies
Compared to many traditional talking therapies, eco-therapy is often focused much more heavily on experiential learning. Participants learn through engagement, and immersing themselves in the environment and activities, as well as by talking about and sharing their insights and experiences."

The aim is to help you to...
  • Challenge your perceived limitations and unhelpful thought patterns, and develop greater awareness of your own strengths, through the use of the natural environment and challenging nature-based activities.
  • Develop a deeper understanding of how you relate to others, yourself, and your life, by reflecting on any symbolic or metaphorical relationships between the nature-based activities and your own life
  • Process your new understandings and learning’s through sharing thoughts and reflections in a relaxed, safe, constructive, supportive, non-judgemental and respectful environment
  • Integrate your new learning’s and positive resources so that they become available in your everyday life
Just some of the benefits reported by previous participants:
  • Building trust, both in yourself and others
  • Promoting confidence and self-esteem
  • Lifting mood and reduce depression
  • Reduction of anxiety and stress
  • Helping to deal with anger
  • Enhanced motivation
  • Promotion of respect for oneself, others and nature
  • Improvement in communication skills
  • Improvement in psychological and spiritual health and well-being
  • Promotion of team building and relationship building skills
  • Learning to be in the here and now
  • Connecting to a sense of wonder
  • Putting your life into perspective
  • Encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their own actions
  • Developing independence and creativity
  • Improved problem solving and life skills
  • Learning that you can and do achieve things you never thought possible
Who might eco-therapy be suitable for?
People who...
  • like the outdoors
  • have an interest in nature
  • are perhaps interested in bushcraft skills
  • have an interest in environmental issues
  • enjoy camping / walking / biking / climbing / other outdoor activities
  • want to learn to feel more relaxed, balanced and centred
  • perhaps wish to develop more awareness of their thoughts and behaviours
  • need to develop trust and belief in themselves or others
  • would like to learn to change how they relate to nature, themselves and others
  • would like to develop their natural intuition / listen to their heart / gut instinct
  • want to develop a connection with the spirit of nature (spirit in a non-religious sense)
  • already feel a deep connection with the spirit of nature
  • maybe follow a nature-based spiritual path (druid, pagan or shaman)
  • wouldn't normally feel comfortable visiting a counsellor
  • prefer to learn by doing and being
  • want to try something different
Nigel Magowan BSc (Hons) - Inner Changes

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Tree Hugging Now Scientifically Validated

Written by The Editorial Staff on . Posted in Natural Healing

Die hard conservatives love to disparage liberals as tree huggers, but it has been recently scientifically validated that hugging trees is actually good for you. Research has shown that you don't even have to touch a tree to get better, you just need to be within its vicinity has a beneficial effect.
In a recently published book, Blinded by Science, the author Matthew Silverstone, proves scientifically that trees do in fact improve many health issues such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), concentration levels, reaction times, depression and other forms of mental illness.

He even points to research indicating a tree's ability to alleviate headaches in humans seeking relief by communing with trees. The author points to a number of studies that have shown that children show significant psychological and physiological improvement in terms of their health and well being when they interact with plants and trees. Specifically, the research indicates that children function better cognitively and emotionally in green environments and have more creative play in green areas. Also, he quotes a major public health report that investigated the association between green spaces and mental health concluded that "access to nature can significantly contribute to our mental capital and wellbeing".

So what is it about nature that can have these significant effects? Up until now it has been thought to be the open green spaces that cause this effect. However, Matthew Silverstone, shows that it is nothing to do with this by proving scientifically that it is the vibrational properties of trees and plants that give us the health benefits and not the open green spaces.
The answer to how plants and trees affect us physiologically turns out to be very simple. It is all to do with the fact that everything vibrates in a subtle manner, and different vibrations affect biological behaviours. One research experiment showed that if you drink a glass of water that has been treated with a "10Hz vibration" your blood coagulation rates will change immediately on ingesting the treated water. It is the same with trees, when touching a tree its different vibrational pattern will affect various biological behaviours within your body.

This vibrational idea is backed up throughout the book by a number of scientific studies to provide convincing proof that tree hugging after all is not such a crazy idea. One report even concluded the following: "safe, green spaces may be as effective as prescription drugs in treating some forms of mental illnesses".
There is one other school of thought are in alignment with this remarkable theory: Taoism. For example, the Taoist master Mantak Chia teaches students to meditate with trees, as a way of release "negative energies." In his Cosmic Tree Healing Qigong method, Master Chia teaches how to align one's body with the "aura" (or energetic field) of a tree. He explains that trees are natural processors that can help you transform your body's sick or negative energy into positive, vital life force energy. As you connect your energy with the tree you facilitate your own physical and emotional healing. The Taoist theory is that because trees stand very still, they are better at absorbing the Earth's Energy and the Universal Force from the Heavens. Trees and all plants have the ability to absorb the light frequencies and transform them into physical food; and they do the same with energetic food. The Taoist view of trees is to see them constantly in meditation, with subtle energy as their natural language.

One other fascinating laboratory that studies plant vibrational energies is Damanhur, an intentional community in Italy. In this peaceful and spiritual ecovillage there is a laboratory in the woods that offers a beautiful choir of singing trees. Yeah, you read that right... singing trees. Since 1976, researchers at Damanhur have invented and developed equipment that can capture electromagnetic changes on the surface of leaves and roots, transforming them into actual sounds. The best part is, these trees seem to control their electrical responses via a feedback mechanism, and demonstrate a kind of awareness and preference for types of music. The singing plants and trees of Damanhur have sparked off such a worldwide fascination that the people began organizing “Plant Concerts”, where musicians perform to the music created by the trees.

Watch this 15-minute video above of a beautiful demonstration singing plants while one of Damanhur’s researchers explain the phenomenon.