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

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Blindfold Tag Game

Hi Folks

I trust that you are all well and looking forward to the New Year, I have been very busy of late and not had a great deal of time to write on here, I hope this will change in the coming year. I thought I would share with you a game I played with a group of young boys in a residential school I once worked in.

The game requires one person to be blindfolded and I would normally start this off as it serves several functions.

1. I get to pay and practise my own skills instead of teaching all the time.
2. The boys get to see how the game will work for them when it is their turn to be blindfolded.
3. It presents them with a chance of out witting me which they love to do, its great fun for them. 4. Over a period of time they learn to slow down and to tune in to their environment if they do not want to be caught.
5. It teaches them to be silent without you having to drum it into them, not that you or I would do that.

OK, first you need to find yourself a suitable location, I used a woodland with a slope on it and with a track running through the woods. I then sat on the edge of the track looking across it towards the wooded slope. I then place two members of staff one either side of me, they were my observers.

The observers job was to get the boys who were caught by me to return to the start point some 20 - 30 metres away from the track, you will need to judge what the best distance is for your group and for the environment that you are in.

The aim for the boys was to move down the slope and to stalk up on me without me sensing where they where and to touch me on the foot, this meant that they had achieved their goal. I also put in out of bounds areas so that they did not wander of too far or even out of sight from the staff. The staff were not aloud to give their positions away to me.

My role was to sit blindfolded in peripheral vision and when I sensed where someone was I would point in that direction, the staff member either side of me would decide if I had caught someone or not. At first this was easy to do as the boys would be making lots of noise because they were eager to tag me, but they soon realised that they were getting caught a lot, as a result of this they were forced to slow down, thus allowing me also to slow down and get in tune with my senses.

After an hour of this a few began to succeed in tagging me, moving up behind me, approaching from the side even a direct approach from the front. And on the way back to school it was all they talked about, how they were able to get up close and tag me and the ones who did not manage it would do it in the future because they would have learnt from their mistakes and from observing the boys who did tag me.

I believe that they were successful because they tapped into the hunter inside every man and this memory allowed them to move and be in such a way that it does not require them to sit and learn from behind a desk, all it needed was for them to get in touch with themselves in nature and the rest came naturally.

This is a great game, you can have hours of fun, modify the rules of the game as you go along but importantly for them their confidence grew, and grew and for me, well I got to play as well...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Food for thought…

Sometime ago I was sharing with a work colleague some of my experiences around food and how my body seems to let me know what it is I really need in the moment to meet my needs...

So what do I mean by that, well here are some examples:

Yew Berries: (Taxus baccata): All parts of the Yew except the fully ripe fruit (which is toxin free) are highly poisonous. I have eaten them on many an occasion and for me they are sweet to taste with the texture of jam. I love these and when I attended a course with Marcus Harrison from Wild Food Wisdom he was telling me that if you need a sugar rush especially if you’re diabetic then eat yew berries but you will only need 3-4 berries. Well here is the thing when I eat them I have only ever eaten 3-4 berries and recently I found that I am borderline diabetic.

Mussels: While was on the Island of Islay staying in a cave there for a week with Jeremy Hastings from Islay Bushcraft, we went forging and collected some mussels amongst other things. We cooked them over our fire near to a rock pool. What I can tell you is this I ate only one mussel and that was all I needed my body felt like it had come alive, I felt completely energised. I know for sure if I had bought a bag of them in a shop I would not have had the same experience, perhaps because they were not as fresh as the one I ate. Either way the feeling I experience was unparalleled.

Apples: These are something I rarely eat even though I do enjoy them. Two years ago I found myself binging on bags of apples for several weeks, which for me was most unusual. I was sharing this experience of eating so many apples with my friend Phil who is into eating raw food and he informed me that a good detox for people with diabetes is to eat apples. Shortly after binging on them I was diagnosed diabetic.

Oats: Several years ago I went to see my doctor I cannot remember what for now, but he said to me that I was to eat plenty of oats this would help with the issue I had. Yes you guessed it the week before I had started to have porridge for breakfast having not eaten it for years.

I know that there are many more examples of a similar experience, and my point here is this. I am not particularly into the medicinal side of food although I do have some basic knowledge, and yet for some reason I am aware that my body tells me what I need and I just go and eat that food source without giving it too much thought. So how do I know this?

I feel very sure that are body cells contain memory and the experiences of our ancestors who lived in nature and who were very much connected to and in tune with their environment learnt and experienced the wisdom of their wild food. This memory contained in our DNA is handed down to us and when we need it to help us it comes to the surface even when we do not understand it, we just know and feel it is the right thing to do against all the logic that the modern world tells us is true.

Here is another example of what I am taking about

Clover: "Mate that was the best sleep I have had in six months..." that's what he told me after he woke up five hours later having been on a plant meditation with me. He was from Australia and I had given him the clover as his plant to work with during a plant meditation. I am often guided to give certain people certain plants, after giving someone a plant, I would then I end up going back and exchanging it for a different one, only to discover at the end of the session that was exactly the plant they needed.

Sometime after the session the senior nurse in the rehab I was working in said to me, “What did you do to him”. I said what do you mean? She told me that he had become very emotional, and that he was shocked that such a small plant could have such an effect on him. Later when she went to see him in his room where he had gone to lay down, she was unable to wake him.

I went immediately to his room to see if he was ok, and he was still out for the count. He seemed ok so I did one more check on him some time later, this time he was awake. I asked him if he was ok, he responded by saying "Mate that was the best sleep I have had in over six months, I feel great". I was completely unaware that he was an insomniac and he had not been sleeping at all since being in rehab, and guess what, Clover induces sleep.

There are many other examples of even animals knowing what to do to stay healthy allow me to share with you the following tale. While I was in the USA recently my friend Pam shared a story with about a bear that did some self-healing using plants and on my return I have since found a book on the subject. I have always believed that animals have a higher level of awareness that many people believe is not possible. The story below I feel shows that animals do indeed have a higher level of awareness as do we when it comes to tuning into nature.

The story goes as follows. Two herbalists were hiking one day when they came across a blood trail which they decided to follow, sometime later they found a bear who had a horrible wound in his side. He had packed his wound full of Osha (Ligusticum porteri). It seems that for this particular bear it was too late perhaps the wound was too server as he was dead when they found him.

In Native American language osha is referred to as bear root or bear medicine, the plants are typically eaten by bears, for what appears to be for medicinal purposes. Often Native Americans would observe the bears seeking out stands of this plant in order to consume its roots, usually after becoming wounded or sick and even after emerging from hibernation. The Native Americans also learned of Echinacea (Echinacea angustifolia) by observing elk seeking out these plants to consume them when they were sick or wounded this plant became known to the Native Americans as elk root.

Here is another extract from Cindy Engels book called 'Lessons in natural wellness from the animal kingdom Wild Health'.

"The dog taken by fever seeks rest in a quiet corner, but is found eating herbs when his stomach is upset. Nobody taught him what herbs to eat, but he will instinctively seek those that make him vomit or improve his condition in some other way".

Henry Sigerist, American Physician, 1951

"When the kunkis [tame elephants] are sick, the mahouts take them to the forest where the elephants pick the herbs or plants they need. Somehow they are able to prescribe their own medicine".

Dinesh Choudhury, Indian elephant hunter, 2000

So as you can see there is much more going on in around our relationship with our food and the plants that we depend on for our survival. There is I believe a connectedness that goes back thousands of years and which has been handed down to us either through direct communication from our ancestors be that in written form or whatever but also handed down to us in memory.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Jody's Sit-spot

As a small child, with four brothers and living in the countryside in Devon we were always running around in the fields and woods playing games such as Fox and Hounds. This consisted of one of us being the fox and hunted by all the others. As a fox if I couldn’t out run my brothers and other kids from the village or other young friends, it was important to know how to hide. Using the foliage in the woods to hide was not enough to conceal me – being very still, quiet and calm enabled me to be very close to the hunters without being seen, even though they were sometimes close enough to touch me.

At times like this I was aware that having to slow down and control my breathing and slow my heart rate down after running some distance would help me ‘disappear’. It was quite exhilarating to out fox the hunters and I would laugh inwardly at my stealth! I used the same methods subconsciously as an adult when I wanted to avoid contact with a man on horseback one day whilst out walking in the woods with my dog Zuma (a large and protective Rhodesian Ridgeback). This man was inclined to be flirtatious and forward when I met him on previous occasions in the woods. Although I did not feel threatened by him – especially with a seven and half stone African lion dog at my side – I was not in the mood on that day for his words or the way he would look at me.

I heard his horse first and glancing back up the track I realised he would see me soon, so I decided to climb up a slope with Zuma into the trees where, although to the side of the track, I was still in full view if he had looked up in my direction. I selected a spot quickly, sat down and Zuma automatically sat glued to my side in his especially loyal way. It was important to get him to feel calm and not have the need to growl, stand or show his hackles – which, as a very loyal hound, in tune with his owner, he would have sensed that I was not comfortable with the presence of the approaching person. So, I decided to make myself very small, calm quiet and still as the man on his horse approached. I put just the tip of my finger on the top of Zuma’s head with the lightest pressure – without giving it any analysis of what was required to convey the message of – “be still and do not move” without speaking to him he understood perfectly.

We were in full view had the man or horse looked our way, I now know that our quiet energy enabled us to watch horse and rider pass closely by without being seen, and without attracting attention. We were somehow, very close and visible but yet invisible. We sat for a while watching them continued up the track away from us and then moved from the position which had helped conceal us.

I went back to the same spot with Geoffrey after five years and after a bit of searching we found the same spot again. Geoffrey took on the position of a man on a horse on the track, and was able to see how the moment had occurred and that me and Zuma would have been clearly visible from our spot had we given out the right signals. What I refer to as being small, calm and quiet and transferring this to my dog Zuma is described in different words by other people, such as the absence of concentric rings during a sit spot. Whatever you call it, the impact is very significant and is something from which to learn and may be a useful skill when we become aware of how to use it.

I think back on this moment and the game of fox and hounds and realise that these moments in nature and in childhood could be something from which people can learn given increasing awareness of nature and an awareness of themselves.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Hi, How are things?

Here is a brief transcript from a phone conversation I recently had with someone who had attended my sessions in rehab, we are talking about 'Meet a Tree'.

*** *** ***

Geoffrey: Hi. How are things?

Friend: Hi Geoffrey, Things are really good thanks! I miss my tree though!

Geoffrey: That’s true for everyone. I take it you are not going to a tree then?

Friend: I thought people might find me quite weird blindfolding myself in the local park and going on a wander. So I have yet to do it!

Geoffrey: You do not need to blindfold yourself. Also I find that when people call me weird I tend to thank them, because it means you are unique you are not conforming to how they see their world.

Friend: So how do I find my tree if I am not blindfolded? I thought the whole point was that you were spiritually drawn to it and not to find it by looking with your eyes?

Geoffrey: Well the idea with the blindfold is to show you that you can connect on a deeper level; you can still be drawn by your feelings when you connect with your heart. The blindfold helps me to show you how powerful you really are, by taking your thoughts that tell you what to do everyday and to help you see them manifest into the physical world and from your experience help you to see that by connecting with your feelings in nature often comes that spiritual awakening if you like.

Friend: Oh right. Man I miss those sessions we used to do, but I guess the idea is that I can do that anywhere, whenever.

Geoffrey: Yes that is true, it is up to you if you want to move with it, I am powerless over your outcome, you can connect to your spirit and the spirit of the tree anywhere you choose.

Friend: I may just try and do that this Sunday then!

Geoffrey: Sweet, you will be surprised at how well you do, remember it is about being in the heart and trusting. Do you remember how it affected you back then?

Friend: Yeah, it was weird but pretty amazing.

Geoffrey: Yes it is amazing, what was amazing about it for you?

Friend: I don’t know. I was ignoring all the logic and just letting go like it wasn't me, by trying to remember that I went a certain way actually didn't help, just connecting.

Geoffrey: Yep you got it.

Friend: And you just knew there's something cool about it, being 'beyond all logical thought' and just trusting and feeling I quite like that I guess.

Geoffrey: Nice

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

I am the net result of all my ancestors that went before me...

This is something I talk about to people who attend my courses in particular the Natural Awareness and Nature Awareness courses. I believe that we have contained within our DNA all the knowledge and experiences that our ancestors had and when we need to tap into this we can, thus allowing us to do things we never thought possible.

Sometimes when I need to call on them, I physically turn around to face my ancestors and in my mind I can see them standing there, in all their glory. I then realise that I AM the net result of all who went before me, and with this comes a great responsibility, which I try to live up, sometimes TRY is the operative word.

This puts me in a very powerful place, knowing that I am not alone, that I am supported by a higher power; it gives me the confidence to step out of my box, out of my comfort zone. It allows me to embrace the things that I would not normally dare to embrace. I do believe we are never given anything we cannot deal with, whatever your belief system, if you hold by that statement alone then you are in a very powerful place. Just having that awareness changes things.

The choice is do I embrace it?

Sometimes I imagine being out of my comfort zone as a brick wall. I can walk through it, around it, under it even over it or I can simply walk away from it, but I know that the wall will still be there. However, when I walk through it and I come out the other side I often find myself wondering what all the fuss was about, thinking to myself that was not so bad, it is of course buying into the FEAR of the unknown that stops us moving forward.

And at times when needed my ancestors give me the courage to step into the unknown and boy what a colourful journey it can be in more ways than one…

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Nature Awareness - Using a Piano

I sometimes use a piano (or other instruments for that matter) in my sessions when working with addictions. I usually offer it as a challenge the week before the next session.

How does it work well I get them to go on a journey with the wood from the piano or guitar by asking them to connect with the wood and to tell the story of the wood.

I inform them that they must not play any known score it has to come from the heart, and the story starts from when the wood (that the piano is made from) was but a seed in the forest and they have to tell that trees story as it grew up in the forest to when it was cut down by the wood cutter and taken away on a truck to the wood mill to be cut into planks to be sold sold and then made into a piano.

I ask them to tune in and try and see if they can sense who sat under the tree, what animals lived in it, did anyone carve his girlfriends name into the bark, what tales does the tree have to share with them. In other words from death comes a new beginning and that is the same with their addiction.

I have experienced some amazing miracles taking place when doing this exercise. There is more to it than just these few words, and to help you get the idea, here is the story of one persons experience of the exercise. A' is a professional musician and such this challenge was difficult for her, she writes.

"...I was totally overawed by Nature Awareness. I was incredibly cynical about it and then terrified when Geoffrey explained what I had to do, I was to play a piano blindfolded and tell a story, playing no known score.

I was even more terrified when I walked into the group because they've heard me playing in the evenings and I felt they would be expecting some sort of impressive concert. Once I got going tough I didn't care what notes I played - just tried to get the feelings across. I was truly moved at the group's response - 'L' heard the vicious chords (which was the tree being chopped down) as her desperation to get more drugs, and 'H' relived the experience of her and her dad being in a storm on a boat out at sea and wondering whether they would ever get back safely.

Most moving thing I have done since being here (in rehab).

I am unable to accept compliments and always deny them or try to qualify them. Since Geoffrey insisted I remain (silent) at the piano, I was forced to sit and listen to the compliments even tough I would have preferred to have run out of the room".

And as we ended the session and everyone was leaving the room to go to their next group 'A' turned to me and said.

"By the way Geoff it wasn't a truck it was a horse and cart that took the tree away".

Friday, 14 October 2011

BOOK REVIEW “Discover Nature Awareness”. By John Fenna

Geoffrey McMullan is an imposing figure with an aura of calm, non-threatening, authority. Having served in the British Army for 22 years and received a British Empire Medal for Conservation and Anglo-German Relations, Geoffrey has studied survival techniques and tracking, both in the Army and since, and set up his own establishment “Natural Pathways”, teaching survival skills, with Hannah Nicholls. He now runs his own school called Pathfinder-UK which he established just over a year ago.

As well as this, Geoffrey is an avid “birder”, has taken part in worldwide bird projects and, as an accomplished artist, illustrated several books. He has also led expeditions for Raleigh International. and in 2008 gained a Masters degree (MSc) in Addiction Psychology and Counselling.

Geoffrey has been using nature awareness for many years to help others, particularly those with addictions, to discover how they can help themselves into active recovery.

Not a bad CV! A practical man of action, a caring therapeutic worker and an artist!

With his latest endeavour – the book “Discover Nature Awareness” - Geoffrey is introducing his experiences of nature awareness to a wider audience and does so in a clear, easy-to-read way in an attractively laid out and beautifully illustrated volume (colour illustrations by Kiki Krvisdijk and line drawings by Geoffrey McMullan) of nature-based games.

The first half of the book explains the “what, how, which, where, when, who’s” of nature awareness, with the “games”, how to play them, what to expect etc, forming the second half.

With great skill, Geoffrey has avoided making the concept and exploration of nature awareness sound “all fluffy, tree-hugging”, which some might expect it to be, but shows that exploring nature awareness has some very real benefits in a very real world.

I spent a couple of days with Geoffrey, taking part in some of the games, along with some recovering addicts, and saw first-hand how the “games” can be powerful tools for reconnecting people with a world that seems alien to them – the natural world!

I found the experience personally challenging and discovered some things about myself that I had not realised before. In all, the couple of days proved a quite emotional experience, which I still think about. It was obvious to me that others playing the games were also learning a great deal.

The games are great fun to play and can be used to work with groups and individuals at various levels from fun with children to therapy with challenged adults and all points in between!

In “Discover Nature Awareness” Geoffrey lays out a clear pathway to explore nature awareness that any, and all, can follow.

Nature awareness is being used by many different educational establishments – not least some bushcraft schools – and this volume should be a great help in getting this subject more widely appreciated at all levels.

“Discover Nature Awareness”

A collection of nature-based games for adults and children of all ages and backgrounds

2011 Copyright Geoffrey McMullan

For information contact Pathfinder–UK

School of Natural Awareness and Tracking

Monday, 10 October 2011

Discovering about Relationships through the Art of Flint Knapping

I was with my good friend Will Lord a short while ago and he was teaching me to flint knapp part of the reason for learning to flint knapp was that I wanted to explore if I could use flint knapping as part of a therapeutic process.

I decided that as part of this exploration I would look at how I feel about relationships and why I find that in my mind I am attracting the wrong kind of women into my life, so you can see this is quite an intense subject to go into. However, I shall not be going to deep other than to say the plan was to knapp out the things I do to want in a relationship and to knapp in the form of an arrowhead the ideal woman I wanted to attract into my life, and to observe how she would manifest as a result of this experience into reality or indeed if you would manifest at all.

I would like to share how it went with me and my feelings around relationships and flint knapping, first I felt that I needed to spend some time tuning into getting started with the flint, and several questions came to my mind.

  1. Why did I want to do it?
  2. What was I hoping to get from it?
  3. Was I projecting onto someone else
  4. Was I not taking responsibility for how I see my life?

What came to me after the tuning in was that I was coming to the flint with resentment of recent relationships (within the last 2-3 years) you know the poor me, poor me, pour me another drink scenario. Realising that I had arrived with these feelings was not a good place to be in when starting to attract something or someone new into your life, so there was a need to remove this negative energy before starting on the arrowhead, my sense was I had to pick a lump of flint and to channel that negative energy into breaking that piece of flint. I did this and the force was such that the pieces flew quite some distance impacting on other members of the group.

I continued to smash the flint and within a few strikes the hammer stone used to break the flint shattered in half. I took this to mean that this part of the journey was over and it was now time to begin on the arrowhead.

As I progressed learning the art of flint knapping I hit a few of what I saw as barriers in the flint, in parts it was thick and difficult to get through, I was unused to the posture needed to knapp correctly and it became frustrating but then I checked in with how I was feeling and surprise, surprise this is how I was feeling within my relationships. Feeling they were very difficult at times. I felt like I was pushing water up hill, getting nowhere fast, being frustrated with the other persons baggage not wanting to solve their problems for them, feeling please can you not help yourself here, and also realising that a part of me just did not want this, while at the same time wanting to meet the woman of my dreams so to speak.

Talk about sending out conflicting messages.

I decided that I needed to sleep on it for a while, and so I took the flint and slept with it in my pocket for two nights. While the others were knapping away, I was choosing not to knapp as I felt I would be trying to make a relationship work that was potentially unhealthy for me and the other person just because I wanted to be in a relationship. If I did that I would not be honouring myself and I certainly would not be honouring the other person that I would like to have in my life and that is no basis for the start of a relationship.

The arrowhead that had not quite taken shape yet it had also produced from within itself a small crystal. During this time of reflection I realised that if I related the position of the crystal on the flint to a person's body in other words it was located around the heart region. The crystal was raised from the surface of the flint and looked rough with some lumps and bumps around the edges of it. At first I thought I could just knapp it off as I was looking for the perfect relationship, then I realised that if I do that then I would not be recognising the person that I would like to attract into my life for who they truly are, dare I say warts and all.

Then on the last day after everyone else had left I spent a few hours in the morning just connecting with all the feelings I had experienced over the past few days and connecting with the flint in my hand. Will pointed out to me that perhaps it was about acceptance and realising this I began to knapp and suddenly the flint took shape the thick bits began to disappear and it became easier to knapp now the flint was beginning to look more and more like an arrowhead.

I did not complete it that morning as I decided I would take it home and work on it there.

The course was in the middle of May and since then I have not done anything to the arrowhead and maybe I will take it out into the woods one day and work on it some more to attract the person of my dreams or do I really need to do that?

Is the person of my dreams someone that is beyond my reach because they do not exist? Or is it more about acceptance, accepting the women in my life for who they are and not what I want them to be and accepting myself for who I am and that the warts like the rough bits around the crystal are also an important part of a relationship and are beautiful in their own right?

It is now October and last month I met someone, someone very beautiful in many different ways. One day we went for a walk I had not shared this experience with her when suddenly she bent down and picked up a piece of flint from the field we were walking in down by the riverside. As she began to tell all about what the flint meant to her, I was still, frozen to the ground listening to her every word, feelings of being plugged into the mains were running through me. Could this be the person I have desired for so long?

I did not share with her immediately the story of the flint as I did not want to project something into the relationship that might not be there, I wanted to stay with my feelings and to check them out. Needless to say since that day we have been on this amazing roller coaster of a journey and just the other day we talked about the flint and our relationship and what came from it was this.

While a flint appears to be going in all kind of directions is it really? In my case there were large thick areas as well as thinner ones, there were also deep crevices and not so deep ones as well. You could strike the flint and it could shatter into hundreds of other pieces and yet at the same time it can be very strong indeed. Some of its edges are razor sharp while others feel blunt to the touch, and yet if you lost it in the earth and someone dug it up in a thousand years it would still be as sharp as it was when it was lost. It has pits in it and it rises up in places all in all it appears to be all over the place and yet you can knapp an amazing arrowhead or axehead from it.

So why did I not carry on to knapp an arrowhead? Put simply I came to understand that, that is not what relationships are about. They are strong, they are fragile, sharp and yet blunt at the same time. There are moments when it is heavy going through the thick bits and times when it is an easy ride. It has lumps and bumps and pit falls and yet the flint maintains a perfect relationship with its self.

Maybe the lesson is about acceptance and maybe to be like the flint in my relationship strong but not afraid to be weak, understand the pits falls and enjoy the easy ride, know that while you can shatter into a hundred pieces you can also be strong and last a thousand years. There is no need to finish the flint because like a relationship it is going we continue to learn and grow and when we fall we understand the reasons why and learn and grow, just think of all the possibility's you can have from knapping out your life with someone who you love.

OK, so now you can see there is a lot of mileage to be gained from flint knapping and in terms of using it as a therapeutic intervention. I think it would need to be person-specific it's not for everyone or is it? There is no reason why someone could not just work on their feelings/issues with flint without having to make that perfect arrowhead.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Natural Awareness...

gets participants to connect with their heart and to transfer the lessons learnt from nature (be it connecting with a tree, an animal, plant or another human being) into an opportunity to change old behaviour thus creating the potential for new healthy behaviour to manifest, by becoming more self-aware. Within an established therapeutic-programme, individuals can reflect upon their experiences through listening, discussing and processing with their peers/counsellors who have shared a similar experience, by abstracting practical insights about their behaviour and that of others.

Nature-Awareness could be seen as a “Halfway House” (Greenway, 1995, p. 133), who introduced this concept along with alternative methods like yoga and meditation into his wilderness-programme, the outcome of which was that before and after a wilderness-experience he found that “…dysfunctions almost completely ceased” (p. 133). Because Nature-Awareness comfortably functions between a residential and wilderness setting, (reducing our physical impact on the wilderness), nature becomes more accessible as part of an individuals healing process. Lau & McMain (2005) state that “… recent innovations in psychological treatments have integrated mindfulness meditation techniques with traditional cognitive and behavioural therapies, challenging traditional cognitive and behavioural therapists to integrate acceptance - and change-based strategies” (p. 863), with the emergence of mindfulness (the so called Third Wave) models like CBT are advancing, creating the potential for greater integration of alternative-therapies.

While not a stand alone intervention Nature-Awareness promotes behavioural, cognitive and affective change demonstrating an integrated approach which synergistically works with other therapies, such as Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT), Transactional Analysis (TA), Gestalt (GE), 12-Steps (STEPS) which is used to deliver an end result GREATER than the use of a single therapy used in isolation, as an intervention Nature-Awareness can and does compliment main stream models.

Drawing Great-spotted Woodpecker by Geoffrey McMullan

Saturday, 27 August 2011

The battle is between two wolves...

An old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people... He said, "The battle is between two wolves.

One is Evil. It is anger, envy, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority and ego.

The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson asks "Which wolf Wins?" The old Cherokee replies "The one which you feed!"

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Rabbit Catcher

I was up in the woods one day with a group of boys, when one of them spotted a rabbit nearby. He looked at me, I could see by his face that he wanted to stalk it, I said to him go for it and remember what I said about peripheral vision. We had spent some time over the previous weeks playing games that taught them how to do silent movement.

He slowly removed his shoes, then he lowered his profile, stalking forwards on all fours. He was in peripheral and aware of the rabbit’s movements, several times he counter tracked the rabbit.

The rest of the group looked on in silence. I was stalking with him but in a wide arc, supporting him while he attempted to catch the rabbit. He was doing extremely well, moving slower and slower, his body hugging the ground more and more as he got closer to the rabbit.

Then the moment came, he had stalked to within one arms length from the rabbit, suddenly he switched back into tunnel vision and reaching out too quickly, the rabbit realised something was wrong, it spotted him and it was off on its toes.

The young man was disappointed that he had rushed it at the last moment, knowing that if he had taken his time he could have picked the rabbit up. However he knew where he had gone wrong, and in my mind he had clearly learnt an important lesson that day from his experience, the rabbit had taught him well.

Not bad for a twelve year old boy.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

This is what I see when people 'Meet a Tree'

Blind man demonstrates a phenomenon called 'Blind-sight' by navigating an obstacle course.

On the 23rd December 2008 the press reported that a. A man known only as TN who has completely lost his sight after suffering brain damage astonished scientists by being able to negotiate an obstacle course in what has been called a powerful demonstration of a phenomenon known as “blind-sight” which has been describe by the press as an eerie kind of sixth-sense.

It seems he can also react to the facial expressions of other people, brain scans have confirmed this. His brain apparently registers facial emotions such as joy, anger and fear. A professor Beatrice de Gelder, of the University of Tilburg in the Netherlands, who was in charge of the study, claimed that this was absolutely the first study carried out of humans having this ability.

Taking part in Meet the Tree in order to gain a new insight into ones inner landscape.

For all of you that have taken part in Nature Awareness take heart, science is not far behind you, at long last. It would be interesting to carry out our own study of what we know to be true based on our own experience of navigating woodlands blindfolded, namely during the 'drum stalk' and of course not forgetting ‘meet a tree’ and those of you who have also experienced the 'thread of intent' etc.

Anyone interested in learning more download my dissertation and enjoy and of course I would every much be interested in your feedback or join me on one of my course to experience first hand what is being called 'blind-sight'.

Click on link to see video footage:

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Dad's not around and where is my Mother?

Young men whose dads where not in their lives, no right and no wrong, they were just not in their lives and their mothers were left to take care of them. My sense was that the home environment was contaminated with ill feelings towards men and the young men needed to feel nurtured.

What do I base that on, well during our weekend workshop with these boys we played many different games and carried out various exercises one of which was to draw a silhouette of a person on a large sheet of paper and then present them with a question?

'What does it mean to be a young man today'?

There overall answer was a man gets a woman pregnant then leaves her.

We split them into two groups and at the end we brought them together and hung there drawings up on the wall side by side. My friend and I looked at each other in amazement at what we were seeing. Each of the drawings depicted phallic symbols from the toes to the ears everything on the body that could be turned into a phallic symbol was, even the tongue.

However, what was much more amazing was that independent from each other they had drawn a pair of breasts on their silhouettes.


Well, here is my take on it, while they believed that men do not take responsibility, I feel what they were really saying was, I need to feel nurtured. Hence the reason why they had drawn breasts, this did not mean nurtured just by their mother, because their mothers were having a negative impact on their lives as well.

They, I believe needed and indeed were crying out for Mum and Dad to be in their lives.

Crossroads - Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief...

I have been getting a lot of interest from people who are either still serving or are now ex members of the armed forces. They are expressing the desire to move in a different direction. Their stories are all too familiar to me as I have had similar experiences that they are having. Of course these experiences are unique to each individual but the overall story is the same.

I felt the need to move in a different direction when I left the army as the world I was in no longer felt the right place to be, and I do believe I over stayed my welcome at one point but that is another story perhaps for around the camp fire on night. Please understand I am not disregarding my life in the army, in fact quite the opposite it was a very important part of my life, the experiences I had while serving in the army, have provided me with the tools to be in a position to move forward and allowed me to position myself for the work that I now find myself doing.

Like the people who are now contacting me, at the time I was leaving the army I had no idea what that direction was to be and there was no one out there for me, no one that understood were I was coming from, or so I thought. In my case I was guided to meet with my good friend Thomas Schorr-kon from Trackways. Thomas helped me to see what it was that I needed to see at that time and soon after that others came along to do the same, like sign posts pointing the way, not to tell me this is what I need to do, rather allowing me to empower myself to make that choice for myself.

This is very important without making that choice for yourself or by allowing others to do it for you, you are not in charge of your direction. I now find myself wondering how best to be of service to our servicemen and women. I am thinking of running a two day workshop where we can come together as a group and on a 1-2-1 basis, to experience the power of who we are in nature and the power we have within ourselves to move forward in life, building a sense of community one that hopefully will help to empower others, creating a sense of place. What does that mean, quite simply from the bosses at the top to those of on the ground we all, I believe are looking for the same thing.

And what is that?

Well were are our elders, do we still have a sense of family/community are we excluding others at our own expense? What goes round comes round, why are our forces people looking for a new direction. Why are the kids employing survival strategies on the our streets? Lets not forget they the armed services) are our modern day warriors on the front line there are also others on the front line, on our streets trying to make a difference warriors also.

We ask them to do the things they do in our name, so when we blame them are we not blaming ourselves. Where do soldiers come from, you do not buy a packet in the shop and then just add water and hey presto you have an instant soldier or a young person running wild on the streets, no they are all a reflection of our society, we are all responsible, so to ignore them is to ignore yourself.

Are we really still happy with the numbers game we are playing, at work, at home, in our day to day life, I wonder. For myself I cannot change everything, I do not hold the purse strings, but I do know this, like many of my friends and others out there those that do hold the strings they are also like us. I believe they also need too belong, so lets stop playing games and lets reconnect with each other and build that sense of place that sense of real community.

I love the work that I do and it is making a difference to some people, but in my heart of hearts I feel that if only I could reach the powers to be, what a difference that might make, for example when counselors would ask me I can I observe what it is you do, I say yes of course you can but only by taking part and not observing from the sideline otherwise how else are you going to understand what you're clients are going through.

I would love to take the Prime Minister out into nature and other heads of sheds and maybe, just maybe they will change direction as a result of their experiences in nature, perhaps they then will use their power bestowed onto them by us to touch others, please do not forget we are all responsible we can all do our own little bit.