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

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Trusting our animal senses in experiencing the world

The underlying assumption of the modern world seems to be that the future will be a continuation of the past - only brighter, better, with even better technology, more virtual, faster, 3D and more of everything. For some, it’s enticing. For others, it’s despairing; we become increasingly detached from the living world as we give our attention, time and energy to the cyber realm.

There is no doubt in my mind that the world around us, the world that nurtures and supports us is under severe threat on a number of fronts.

We do what we want with the world – a human centred cosmology. We do this because we believe the world around us is there for us (humans) to mine, cut, eat, burn, poison and trash. We have a cosmology based on a utilitarian ethic, one assuming that the world itself does not have a voice, is not alive, or if it is alive, that our human lives are more important.

At some point in our recent history, our species went from respecting nature to destroying it. We need a new cosmology.

David Abram’s new book Becoming Animal, is subtitled An Earthly Cosmology. It starts: “Owning up to being an animal, a creature of the earth. Turning our animal senses to the sensible terrain: blending our skin with the rain rippled surface of rivers, mingling our ears with the thunder and thrumming of frogs, and our eyes with the molten gray sky … Becoming earth. Becoming animal. Becoming, in this manner, fully human.”

Dominant cosmologies (both monotheistic religions and “new-age” spiritualities and others) often place us above and beyond nature. We think of the world around us as a derivative reality that can be understood only by reference to hidden realms (stars, disembodied spirits, microscopic domains of axons and dendrites, DNA). Direct experience, through our unaided senses, is not to be trusted. So we find ourselves in thrall to experts who mediate our experience.

Abram articulates a way of directly experiencing an alive and sensuous world, rather than seeking to represent it through abstract ways, or objectively studying it.

The earth is the very body of wonder – and demands respect and reciprocity - according to Abram. There is “ the upwelling creativity in the land itself”. In a chapter called Mood, Abram describes the interplay between our sensory bodies and the weather. He describes his play with whales and seals. There are chapters on the discourse of birds, and of his time with a shaman in Nepal. He covers shadows and depth as areas to practice our sensuous engagement with the world.

We can be altered by our engagement with our surroundings, if we attune to them through our senses. He says: “Our animal senses are neither deceptive nor untrustworthy; they are our access to the cosmos. Bodily perception provides our most intimate entry into a primary order of reality that can disparaged or dismissed only at our peril”.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Imaginal - Your Body Wonderful

"Your body is wonderfully intricate interaction with everything around you, which is why it "knows" so much just in being. The living body is always going beyond what evolution, culture and language already built" ~ Gene Gendlin. Our bodies don't end at our skin - but extend and embrace everything around us - we are always interacting with nature in all its manifestations.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Does anybody recognise this either in themselves or in our children?

"The late Edward Reed, an associate professor of psychology at Franklin and Marshall College, was one of the most articulate critics of the myth of the information age.

In The Necessity of Experience he wrote of , "There is something wrong with society that spends so much money, as well as countless hours of human effort - to make the least dregs of processed information available to everyone everywhere and yet does little or nothing to help us explore the world for ourselves."

None of our major institutions or our popular culture pay much notice to what Reed called "primary experience" - that which we can see, feel, taste, hear, or smell for ourselves.

According to Reed, we are beginning "to lose the ability to experience our world directly..."

Last Child in the Woods - Richar Louv
A Life of the Senses: Nature vs. the Know-It-All State of Mind
Chap 5
Page 65

Saturday, 16 October 2010

What happens when creative children can no longer choose a Green Space in which to be Creative?

I often talk on my workshops about how Nature is our greatest teacher. I am at present reading a book called 'The Last Child in the Woods' by Richard Louv and in conjunction with other readings and from my my own past experiences I would like to share my thoughts with you on Nature and our creative child within...

The Last Child in the Woods it does not bear thinking about, the thought that our children would never experience the things we did as children, sure they have their computer games but is that really a substitute for being in nature? The term 'loose parts' was first described by Nicholson he was referring to toys and how children use these tools to be creative.

When we are in nature as children and perhaps even as adults we become creative our imaginations Run Wild we invent all kinds of games to play even when we are at home we can be creative. I remember as a child I would often play in my bedroom using a ruler stuck into the clip of a pen, this then would become a plane, a submarine or a spacecraft if fact anything I wanted it to be.

In nature children are very creative from using the den they have built as a castle or anything they want it to be, to exploring the woods as if they are on some great adventure, while the computer can be seen as a vast tool which can be applied in infinite 'loose parts' Lauv (2008) points out that these loose parts are made up of 0 & 1's in other words a binary code.

Lets compare this to nature's code.

We learn from nature by connecting with it, using all our senses. It is believed that our DNA contains memory and each cell in our body also contains memory from which we learn, it is not just our brain that teaches us, nature as Louv states is our "richest source of loose parts."

I personally believe nature is our greatest teacher, it allows us to be creative, for example I once watched a group of young boys who I had taken out tracking, spend time with a track, these were kids who apparently had short attention spans, yet they spent in all, around twenty minutes looking at this one track, disguising amongst themselves what they thought could have happened, the questions they were asking and acting out were 'what happened here', 'what is it telling us', and 'what can we learn from this?

When I go swimming I try to move through the water creating as few concentric rings as possible when I do this I am transported to a completely different world, its almost as if you are are becoming the same as the water, while I totally enjoy the Internet it still does not give me this sense of wonder and awe, such as seeing a young roe deer staring back at me, watching from a short distance away and in them few minutes there is a connection a sense of trying to discover each other. The children who sat on the track in the classroom without walls find it hard to concentrate in a classroom with walls and often became disruptive and yet here they were completely immersed in what nature was presenting them with.


Is it because we have an innate relationship with nature?

I believe this is exactly the case, the boys not only tracked the footprint on the ground but they also tracked each other exploring their relationship with each other, they were tracking their surroundings by going off to look at other areas where the trail could have gone and when they did not find anything they came back to their last definite sign and started over again.

They were tracking each others questions and actively seeking out the answers, they showed no signs of frustration at not finding the answer to their questions. They were tracking on so many levels and yet in school they struggled to do this.

I was once asked at university to explain spirituality in relation to academic part of the course I was on. How do you do this it is such a personal experience, anyway this is what I came up with on the hoof as I had been given no warning.

To me the brain is an important part of us but it is not the whole of us, for example I need my brain to get me through the day when problem solving and so on. The computer is like the brain, when I step up to the key board, i can write a book, draw a picture, crate music and much, much more. In fact the computer has come a long way there are programmes that monitor what you do the computer and then the next time you step up to it, the programme will preempt you behaviour, this is known as automaticity *.

It is like learning to drive a car for the first time, you are constantly thinking about every action you need to take from mirror to gear changing. However, after a while you find you can drive from point A to point B and not even remember doing this, that's because the short-term memory as stored these actions into long-term memory, therefore freeing up the short term to deal with more immediate problems.

So back to creating a book etc on the computer, it's a wonderful thing to be able to do all these amazing things with the computer/our brain. However, once I step away from the computer that's all it is a computer, it needs me my creativity, my soul, my heart. without this the machine will just be there.

So what has this got to do with children's creativity?

Well I remember once a colleague came into work after the Christmas break, I asked him way the long face, he said he had bought is grandson the biggest and best Tonka toy you can imagine, he then went on to say that his grandson played with the toy for about twenty minutes but then moved onto the box which he played with for the rest of the holiday. Of course he would I replied that's because THE BOX can be a racing car, a ship, a castle or even an aeroplane, it can be anything you want it to be.

As a child I can remember playing with a pen with a small ruler pushed into the clip, that pen was a plane in that moment, then I would take the ruler out and it became a submarine and so it went on for example I would take an old shoe box with my friends and we would draw square son the lid and draw in rivers, hills an woods. Then we would get our Airfix soldiers and a dice, make up some rules and we would play for hours, if you got a six you beat the person you were up against Now, I like to think that this game we all played as kids was the fore runner of Risk today, who knows.

The point is while computer programmes and games are truly amazing and excellent tools for learning etc there is no real replacement for being out in nature. As children we would think up all sorts of adventures to get up to, from building a den to cowboys and Indians (hands up who always wanted to be an Indian).

More to come later...

*Automaticity is the ability to do things in long-term memory without occupying the short-term memory with the low-level details which would require a large amount of attention, thus allowing it to become an automatic response pattern.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Earth Tree and the Invisables...

When standing with your feet buried into the earth and as you tune into the Invisibles of the Tree you become aware of yourself and you begin to explore your relationship with yourself through the Earth Tree and the Invisibles.

It is like excavating the inner part of Parent/Child Ego and were your Adult Ego becomes the archaeologist.
Picture: Earth Woman

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Warrior of the Light

"I always believe everything anyone tells me and I'm always disappointed," his companion says.

A Warrior of the Light is not afraid of disappointments because he knows the power of his sword and the strength of his love.

It is important to trust people.

However, he imposes certain limits: It is one thing to accept God's signs and to know that the angels use the mouths of other people to give us advice. It is quite another to be incapable of making decisions and to be always looking for ways of letting others tell us what we should do.

A Warrior trusts other people because, first and fore-most,
he trusts himself.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Letter from Holland...

Hi Everyone.

I thought you might find this letter useful to read. This is why I do what I do... to have the honour and privilege to be a part of someone’s journey, to share in that and to learn from them.

I hope you enjoy it.



Hey Geoff,

How are you? I really loved speaking with you last time… I promised you that I should write some of my experiences, I’ve had during the natural awareness games, down.

I am not much of a writer, when paper and pencils come in mostly I am out, he he he. But okay I have to learn, and I really do not know why it is that I don’t like to put my feelings or emotions on paper. I hope my experience could be helpful to you.


My name is Yolanda and I am a 39 year old recovering addict from Holland. I am in the lucky position that I have joined the game of "find you’re tree" (Meet a Tree), that all happened almost 1.5 year earlier. I really did not know at that point what I could expect from it.

I just did what was asked me to do. Under the guidance of my partner I was brought to my tree. Blindfolded I felt my tree and connected with her. After a couple of minutes my partner brought me back to the beginning. Geoff asked me if I was ok. I was okay. I was now ready to go find my tree. For me then a miracle happened.

In one straight way I walked to my tree and without any hesitation I said “this is her; this is my tree” My partner with very big eyes at that point said ........”Yes it is” Off course I was happy that I found my tree. I felt proud, happy, peaceful and special.

At that point I had really no idea what so ever that this game was a life changing experience for me. That would work down in every level of my life, and most important for me, in my recovery.

During the week after the came, I felt at peace and experienced a feeling of being useful. The feeling of being useful I haven’t experienced for more then 24 years at that point. So that was a major feeling to have for me. It gave me hope and faith that there was deep down, inside of me a good person. Through the year after that, I have to admit, that I never thought about finding my tree that day very often anymore.

Although I talked to Geoff a couple of times there were other thing we discussed. A couple of weeks ago two friends of mine were going to visit Geoff in the UK. They asked me if I would join them. They made my day asking me to join them.

A strange feeling came over me just a couple of days before we were leaving Holland. I told another friend about it. I told him that I had a feeling deep inside of me that something important for me was going to happen there. I could not tell him what off course. It was just a feeling that I noticed.

The first days in the UK were good. I felt good, was happy to be with my dear friends and enjoyed the surroundings. I had a really good time. The third day Geoff asked us if we would like to assist with the game that day. Off course we would. I, to be honest was a little excited inside.

When we arrived in the woods, Geoff started to explain the game to the non addict group, the group of addicts and my friends. All the people were listening, but I felt a little restlessness in the group of addicts. They reminded me of the time I did the game for the very first time. Although I did not play the game this time, I guided a person, I was excited again. There was a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my stomach.

I guided the lady around for the first game, (tunnel vision). I watched how she connected with her tree. And noticed that the restlessness slowly disappeared. After several minutes I guided the woman back to the beginning. Geoff asked her if she was okay. She was okay. So now she could go and find her tree.

I think I was more excited then her at the moment. I hoped so much for her to find her tree and experience the benefits of it all in the future. I was in a distance from her and not paying to much attention to her anymore. I really enjoyed the surroundings, the other people looking for there tree, the sounds of birds, the smell of the woods.

I was having a great time and was feeling so happy. My eyes started to get wet at some point I guess it were tears of joy. The lady was still looking for her tree, and in one split second she turned around and pointed in a direction and walked over and found her tree.

I looked at her and said yes that is you’re tree. And immediately started to cry, (as I am doing now). I gave her a hug and apologised for being so emotional. I noticed that the woman, (just like me when I did the game my first time) was not realising how important this experience could become for her in her future live. The thoughts of that made me feel so happy inside.

I watched all the other people and my eyes stayed wet for the rest of the day. I realised that through guiding another person, the power of the game I played 1.5 year ago kicked in my inner soul again. I realised that I could with some exercise, tune in to that inner soul whenever I want to. What a lucky person I am that I had the chance to experience such a powerful tool.

After years of denying my feelings, did’t want to feel them. Hiding my emotions behind a poker face, and realising that because of that I did not even know anymore what I was feeling or in what kind of emotion I was.

Today I learn to recognise my feelings and emotions. I do not have to hide from them anymore. The find you’re tree game was for me a very important event in my road of recovery. Because of the game I learned how to tune into my deepest inner soul. I learned that my thinking is not always telling me the truth; I learned that I can trust my HP (Higher Power) if I choose to connect with him.

And I also learned that this is an ongoing process. Once I had played the game the healing power of it is doing its work day in day out, if I keep tuning into the feelings instead of my thoughts every now and then, if I take moments of silence and connect with that feeling, I am convinced that I will grow as a person and the healing process keeps going on.