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

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Nature Awareness Working with People


What is Nature Awareness?

Nature Awareness, is “Learning with the Heart” (Cornell, 1989, p.12). It is known that Native Americans (The 1st Nation) and other 1st nation cultures use an awareness which is based on a belief that there is a power greater than ourselves and that we are not separate, but a integral part of nature, the American 1st nation calls this ‘The spirit that moves through all things’.


In essence it’s about our relationship with our self, our fellow wo/man and ultimately with the Creator (or a higher power) in nature. It provides an opportunity to look at the bigger picture both externally and internally, by connecting with our heart, we can then begin to explore our feelings, behaviours, relationships and learn to deal with these in an honouring and respectful way, by using our five scenes and connecting with our so-called sixth sense or our spiritual awareness.


One way this can be achieved is through a series of nature awareness exercises, where one teaching leads into another by asking a series of questions which are aimed at helping the participants to think for themselves, this is known as coyote teaching. Brown states, “A coyote teacher makes every learning experience exciting, something we desperately want to know.” (Brown, 1989, p.xi).


When children take part in Nature Awareness it is very powerful because they are the most aware of all. However according to Brown (1989) this awareness becomes dulled because of “our education system... pressures of society, parents and the state” (p.6) not forgetting celebrity status, as a result our youth are placed under immense pressure to succeed in life and to work for their future. The excitement and sense of adventure is all but gone through social restrictions of one kind or another, so our youth may seek adventure else were, rarely appearing to following their hearts.


Our youth not only appear to have lost a sense of self, but their sense of adventure can be seen on our streets were it might be expressed through anti-social behaviour supported by drugs and crime and were they come to believe that there are no real alternatives to life. And we can see this being played out on TV through news items and documentaries, our society and indirectly our politicians are now asking what can be done to change our adolescent’s anti-social behaviour.


During my workshops with adolescents the expression “Streetwise” (which is fear based) is used to help our youth see and understand that they already have the skills and senses necessary to engage in personal growth while in Nature (which is positive based) as a result they learn to channel their energy into a better understanding of themselves and others.


Brown (1999) states that “awareness goes beyond the physical... awareness is the doorway to spirit... the challenge is to step through the doorway” (p.10). In other words if we raise our level of awareness we become more self-empowered, seeing things in life that were previously ignored or we were just simply unaware of. This provides us with an opportunity for change, by being open and willing to change our thoughts and our old behaviours Nature Awareness helps us to remember what we already know as a result, participants may discover a new self.


In order to determine the effectiveness of Nature Awareness it is necessary to explore what wilderness therapy is, while the wilderness is a very important element of working with adolescents, addictions and other populations Nature Awareness can provide a bridge or “Halfway House” (Greenway, 1995, p.133) before and after the experience which does not necessarily require an extreme wilderness environment to “learn with the heart”.


What is Wilderness Therapy?

It is widely considered that to engage and sustain in clinical intervention our marginalised youth are according to Raymond (2004) “…difficult cohorts” (p.3). In recent years our youth seem to be at greater risk due to various influences such as Russell (1989) “profound cultural change… unstructured home environments… an increase in single-parent families, and a media culture that bombards adolescents with images of sex, violence and excitement” (p.207). Not forgetting substance/alcohol abuse and more recently gambling and video gaming addictions.


Wilderness therapy can be defined as “an emerging intervention to help adolescents overcome emotional adjustment, addiction, and psychological problems.” (Russell, 1989, p.207). Others see it as “a therapeutic intervention that systematically applies an experiential learning methodology within the context of a natural environment.” (Raymond, 2004, p.1). It differs from other programmes because the wilderness is the primary facilitator for change and the therapeutic process is shared and facilitated by therapists. Which ever model is used in the therapeutic process it can be supported by primitive living skills, meditation and metaphor.


Nature Awareness can be taken into any environment, for example woodlands or garden. While the same principle of “the wilderness sets the boundaries” still applies it is a gentler environment. By experiencing the games, participants can begin to understand how they can have an active and productive roll in their own self-development. Nature Awareness is for all ages however, in the case of adolescents the wilderness along with Nature Awareness is perhaps the most powerful as it is a ‘classroom without walls’ which cannot be controlled or manipulated.


Raymond (2004) talks about some traits that adolescent’s display, which potentially could undermine treatment. “No self help-seeking behaviour…The need for autonomy and independence.” and “within the higher risk cohorts or marginalised groups (e.g., juvenile offenders), there are a number of additional characteristics that have the potential to undermine treatment”, these include. “No motivation towards intervention… Distrust of authority, poor concentration, hyperactivity and poor verbal, non-verbal and literacy skills and restlessness” (p.3). He continues by quoting (Kelly & Baer, 1971). It is “strongly suggested that the compatibility between marginalised youth and wilderness therapy is due to young people's high degree of energy, affiliation for risk taking and inclination towards action, as opposed to verbal-orientated programmes.”


According to Simpson (1991) most “adventure-based counsellors… generally follow Rohnke's (1984, 1989) attitude of “challenge by choice” (p.13). This attitude is embraced by Nature Awareness were participants can withdraw from an activity at any time. Implicit in this challenge by choice is that participants are given the necessary information to make an informed choice as to whether to continue or not. Nature Awareness is very much about the discovery of self while on a journey with nature, to disengage from an activity is a lesson in itself and is not seen as a negative. Nature Awareness compliments many treatment models and is supported by Simpson (1991) who says that trust in others and yourself is “…fostered through participation in adventure activities that parallel recovery concepts” (p.16).


The objective of Nature Awareness is to transfer lessons learnt into an opportunity for changing old behaviour and to be aware of self and of others, which previously the participant may have been unaware. It is believed that participants may learn lessons through experiencing activity’s which share elements of a concept which they can reflect upon, listen, discus or process with others who have shared a similar experience. By abstracting practical insights about themselves or others, and applying the lessons learnt to help change their behaviour.


Nature Awareness has many therapeutic elements to it, however one of the most important is Trust, several ways of achieving trust is 1) through the physical challenge of being blindfolded and 2) by being in nature and feeling supported by a group of like minded individuals, this presents an opportunity for an individual to buy into a process of establishing relationships and developing trust with their peers/therapist but ultimately with themselves in nature.


The journey unfolds, when adolescents are taken into what is perceived as an alien and perhaps high risk environment such as nature, the group process begins once safety and trust is established. Individuals learn to see their behaviour in an environment that they cannot control therefore surrender is required, often without any intervention from the therapist nature creates humility, a sense of peace and freedom in the individual, gratitude, and self-awareness can manifest in the individual were cognitive restructuring might be experienced.


Having claimed membership to a healthy community the adolescent has a vested interest in owning the programme they are engaged in. One critical element in the process of change is time adolescents are with their counsellors/peers, in a therapeutic residential/natural environment for the duration of their treatment process, resulting in an ongoing supportive relationship, which is based on trust, openness and honesty.


In recent times with the emergence of mindfulness (Third Wave Therapies) models like CBT are advancing therefore integration is even more possible now, for example Lau et al (2005) states “…recent innovations in psychological treatments have integrated mindfulness meditation techniques with traditional cognitive and behavioural therapies, challenging traditional cognitive and behavioural therapists to integrate” (p.863).


Nature Awareness promotes behavioural, cognitive and affective change and demonstrates an integrated approach which synergistically works with other therapies such as Cognitive Behavioural Techniques (CBT), Transactional Analysis (TA), Gestalt (GE), 12-Steps (STEPS) and Psychodrama (PD) which are used to deliver an end result GREATER than the use of a single therapy used in isolation, as an intervention Nature Awareness compliments the main stream models.


Nature Awareness and what it can potentially help to achieve:





  1. Promotes confidence and self-esteem
  2. Improves communication
  3. Promotes working as a team, building relationship skills
  4. Builds trust
  5. In the here and now e.g. if the fire is not build participants may not get to eat
  6. Helps individuals to connect to a sense of wonder, puts things into perspective
  7. Encourages participants to take responsibility for their own actions
  8. Develops independence and creativity through problem solving
  9. Allows individuals to see that they can &do achieve when they thought they never could
  10. Reduces anxiety, helps to deal with anger
  11. Improves problem solving skills, people skills and life skills
  12. Promotes respect for oneself, others and nature through care taking and conservation

Some of the games that I use.







Meet a Tree

Animal Tag

Drum Stalk

Thread of Intent

Fox the Fox

Sit Spot

Plant Meditation

Music Challenge

Tracking Intentsions


References:





Brown, T. Jr. (1989). Nature and Survival for Children: Berkley Books

Brown, T. Jr. (1999). Nature's Path to Spiritual Discovery: The Science and Art of Tracking. Berkley Books

Cornell, J. (1989). Sharing Nature with Children: Nature Awareness Guide Book. Dawn Publications.

Greenway, R. (1995). The Wilderness Effect and Ecopsychology: In T. Roszak, M. E. Gomes & A. D. Kanner (Eds.), Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind (pp. 122-135). The University of California Press.

Lau, M, A, McMain, S. F. (2005). Integrating Mindfulness Meditation with Cognitive and Behavioural Therapies. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry-Review Paper. Vol 50, No 13, November p.p. 863-869.

Raymond, I. J. (2004). Wilderness Therapy: Is it the “Magical Cure” for marginalised youth? University of South Australia.

Rohnke, K (1989). Cowstails and Cobras II: A Guide to Games, Initiatives, Ropes Courses & Adventure Curriculum. p.p. 136-212. Kendall Hunt Publishing Company.

Russell, K. K., Hen dee, J. C., & Phillips-Miller, D. (2000). How Wilderness Therapy Works: An Examination of Wilderness Therapy Process to Treat Adolescents with Behavioural Problems and Addictions. USDA Forest Service Proceedings Vol. 3.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Nature Awareness - Didn't like being in a circle of people...

I have made many observations over the years working with people in Nature and one that seems to be quite common for most people when connecting with nature is that they refer to it as a 'Spiritual' connection.

I would like to assure you that when working with people I give them very little information so as not to prime them in any way.

This is what 'A' had to say about her experience in Nature:

"I had heard very good reports in Paris from somebody who had played Meet a Tree. I had only heard of this one game and didn't realise there were more. Before attending I didn't realise it was a game to connect your heart with nature I presumed it was a game of skill.

The first game I played was the Drum Stalk where I just used my other senses (touch + hearing), I liked being completely free in the trees without seeing what 'might' hurt you. Didn't like it when I heard other people talking. The week after we played Blindfold Tag (now known as Animal Tag) but I was quite distracted this day and didn't participate or connect very much. I liked trying to feel the other person using my heart, it was difficult though not to listen to footsteps too. Didn't like being in a circle of people.

It was only in my third week that I started to open up to feeling more spiritual and connected with the forest and when I did the feelings came very strong. I could really feel something in my heart that was very deep inside and I had not felt before, like a heat inside. At first I was quite nervous and felt a little bit afraid but when I realised the feeling was positive I felt ok and safe".

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Nature Awareness - Just curious really

This is what 'J' wrote about his experience of attending a Nature Awareness session. "Just curious really even tough it was explained to me what it was I still wasn't sure.

I was surprised and amazed with the results of the games/exercises which left me feeling calm and thoughtful.

Meet a Tree: Gave me some physical evidence of spirituality (which before I did not believe in).

My Challenge: ('J's challenge was to tell her life story on her guitar) I cannot put into words the positive overwhelming feelings this challenge produced (very positive emotionally).

Drum Stalk: It made me aware of sense I never thought I had.

Like I said... it's almost impossible to describe the feelings I had but, I will try. Peace, calm, a sense of serenity, a wealth of emotions which I haven't dealt with for years. Overall even just for a moment I felt at one with myself."

Monday, 24 January 2011

Enhancing Recovery with Meditation and Mindfulness - By Richard Fields, PhD

Mindfulness-based behavioral relapse prevention (MBRP)

Dr. Alan Marlatt and his associates at the University of Washington have been exploring the application of mindfulness and meditation in preventing relapse to alcohol/drugs. He has found that “the heightened state of present-focused awareness that is encouraged by meditation may directly counteract the conditioned automatic response to use alcohol in response to cravings and urges” (Marlatt, 2007).

MBRP helps the recovering alcoholic/addict to recognize (not suppress) the negative emotional states, keeping them at arms’ length. Ironically, trying to suppress negative thoughts results in an increase, rather than a decrease, in negative thoughts (Bowen, 2007). The negative thoughts are identified as “normal thoughts” at various stages of recovery. These negative thoughts are accepted as thoughts that the individual does not have to choose to act on.

An example of a MBRP technique is “urge surfing,” which involves visualizing your “urge” to use (alcohol/drugs) as having a cycle much like a wave. The wave has a crest, it crashes and then rolls to shore and disappears. This technique involves using your breath as a surf board, as you ride out the wave to shore.

My own experience using MBRE

I have specialized in alcohol/drug counseling for more than 30 years, and I am very excited about the many ways meditation and mindfulness can be used as a recovery enhancement for alcohol/drug addiction. In the last two years I have been introducing meditation and mindfulness practices in my two outpatient (alcohol/drug recovery) therapy groups, and have seen firsthand the many benefits of meditation and mindfulness practices in helping my clients to be more aware, compassionate to others and themselves and enjoying life more. I have seen remarkable growth in my group members, especially in their ability to be less reactive and more reflective.

The benefits of meditation and mindfulness include helping the individual to: have a “quality of calm awareness”; be less reactive and more reflective; reduce stress; learn how to enjoy life “in the now”; see the “joy” and “abundance” in his or her own life; have a stronger spiritual well-being; be compassionate to self and others; make connections and have interdependence; feel worthwhile; and no longer need to be in the “land of hungry ghosts.”

Richard Fields, PhD is the author of the college textbook Drugs in Perspective, 7th edition, and Awakening to Mindfulness: 10 Steps for Positive Change. He is a national trainer and consultant in the field of alcohol/drug recovery and mindfulness-based recovery enhancement (MBRE), the owner/director of FACES Conferences (www.facesconferences.com) and has a private counseling practice in Bellevue, Wash.

References

Bien, Thomas & Bien, Beverly (2002). Mindfulness Recovery — A Spiritual Path to Healing from Addiction, Wiley, N.Y.
Bien, Thomas & Bien, Beverly (2003). Finding the Center Within — The Healing Way of Mindfulness meditation. Wiley, N.Y.
Bowen, Sarah, Witkiewitz, Katie, Dillworth, Tirara & Marlatt, G. Alan (2007) “The role of Thought suppression in the relationship between mindfulness, meditation, and alcohol use.” Addictive Behaviors 32, 2323-2328.
Brazier, David (1997) The Feeling Buddha: A Buddhist Psychology of Character, Adversity, and Passion. Fromm International, New York.
Chodren, Pema (2001) The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Different Times. Shambhala Publications, Boston.
Chodren, Pema (2005) When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times. Shambhala Publications, Boston.
Epstein, Mark (1998) Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart: Lessons from Meditation and Psychotherapy. Broadway Books, New York.
Fields, Richard (2008) Minestrone for the Mind, Awakening to Mindfulness, 10 Steps for Positive Change. Health Communications, Deerfield Beach.
Griffin, Kevin (2004) One Breath at a Time, Buddhism and the Twelve Steps. St. Martin’s Press,
Kornfield, Jack (1993) A Path with Heart: A guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life. Bantam, New York.
Kornfield, Jack (2008). The Wise Heart — A Guide to the Universal Teachings of Buddhist Psychology. Bantam, New York.
Marlatt, G. Alan (2002) “Buddhist Psychology and the Treatment of Addictive Behavior.” Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Practice 9(1) (2002): 44-49.
Marlatt, G. Alan & Chawla, Neharika (2007) “Meditation and Alcohol Use.” Southern Medical Journal. Vol. 100, no. 4.
Salzberg, Sharon (1990) Lovingkindness:The Revolutionary Art of Happiness. Shambhala, Boston
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Why Natural Awareness and not Nature Awareness?

In Nature there is no right and no wrong there just is...

This may cause some controversy?

However, I feel if we can see the things we need to understand about who we are as individuals, then and only then can we begin to change who we are from the false reality of this world to who we truly are. We are not separate from nature but an integral part of it and its process, we are all connected. 

For me personally Nature Awareness has evolved over the last several years and the reason for this is as a direct result of working in the field of addiction. I discovered very quickly that the people I was working with had experiences during nature awareness that were beyond their normal levels of awareness.

There are many bushcraft schools in the UK that use the phrase 'Nature Awareness' which they sum up to mean ‘What’s on the box is what you get’; this I believe implies separateness from the natural world.

In contrast there are a small number of bushcraft schools that teach from a spiritual perspective and while I cannot speak for them, my view is that. If we but climb up the box, an open the lid and take a good look around, we would see that there is a great deal more to see, feel, understand and experience about our world which we live and co-exist in.

I worked in a 12-Step centre where I found that nature awareness often connected people with the first three steps. Step One is, I am powerless over my addiction and my life is unmanageable, Step Two is, I came to recognise a power greater than myself and Step Three is, I handed over to God as I understood him. 

In fact one person described a nature awareness game called the Drum Stalk’ as “Steps One, Two and Three in action”.

Nature Awareness helps people with an addiction to expand their awareness and understand the world around them, were normally they would be the centre of the universe, for some NATURE was filling the void that they so often experience, it became clear that I was now working with peoples behaviours while out in nature. 

The experience of being in nature means I can look at myself without pretending to be someone who I am not and to feel I am not being judged or rejected or mocked. Nature/Mother Earth is in my mind unconditional, she cannot be controlled or manipulated, and therefore she is a powerful teacher. 

I try to understand my relationship with myself in nature, my relationship with my peers in nature and my relationship with my creator in nature. I felt that I needed to define what it is that I was being presented with, when I asked a group of young gaming addicts in Holland I was working with, what would in their mind best describe what we were doing together other than using the words Nature Awareness, the reply from a young Dutchman was “Natural Awareness” which I instantly liked, I decided that I would sit with this for a while to see how I felt about it. 

While taking some of the guys to Narcotics Anonymous (NA) one night, one of the women gave me a book to read, it was Neal Donald Walchs (2006) “Home with God” which was one of the follow ups to his famous book called “Conversations with God”.

While reading the first chapter God says to Neal “All human beings are born with all the wisdom of the universe imprinted on their souls. It is in the DNA of everything. Indeed “DNA” could very well be used as an acronym for Divine Natural Awareness” (p.5). We’ll all I can say to you is this, in that moment I felt like I had been plugged into a wall socket, because my whole body was just electrified and so Natural Awareness was born, in fact I really like the idea of Divine Natural Awareness. Why? Because it says to me that WE ARE ALL CONNECTED TO EACH OTHER, to the trees, the birds, the insects and to all that is and that ultimately Nature gives us an awareness of a Power Greater than our selves.

To sum up, Natural Awareness is about looking at our behaviour, by working with nature we can learn to recognise our behaviours through our relationship first with ourselves, then with our peers and with finely with the Creator or Higher Power as we understand it.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Nature Awareness - I felt something I never felt before

A.S. "I was happy to attend Nature Awareness because I thought it would be free time and a break from groups. I didn't understand how trees and nature could be so powerful. I felt something I've never felt before, I can't really explain it.

It was like I was high, but it was even a better high than drugs, I felt happy, got in touch with my feelings for the first time I've been here, and I started to feel spiritual as well, it was amazing!

I liked all of the games and exercises because I find it so mysterious and releasing because of my own perceptions on the world. It makes me feel positive and whole and aware of my surroundings. I stopped concentrating on myself and started feeling the energy around me".

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Nature Awareness - I thought Nature Awareness sounded a bit like school...

I thought Nature Awareness sounded a bit like school and was a bit cynical about being told about nature. I felt like I probably wouldn't feel or learn much. However, I have discovered or recovered a sensitivity for a 6th sense and the power of nature. I feel I found a real trust in a higher power through the workshop and believe it has been one of the most helpful groups in rehab so far.


Fox the Fox: I found this the least successful of the workshops as some of the basic precepts of intention etc were good but I felt it failed in practise. Meet a Tree: This was always very powerful and proving the existence of a higher power or communication with trees. This exercise helped me decide to stick with the programme at a particularly difficult time. Drum Stalk: This also was very powerful and helped me to open up to my fears and trust my peers.


Overall: The workshops have helped me to see my own fears and the absurdity of them. They have helped me to let go and to let God and to feel the more subtle aspects of myself and my relationship with others. I have felt that the workshop is the perfect complement to the step work in the programme and helps greatly to get out of your head and into the heart.

Friday, 21 January 2011

'The Art & Science of Natural Awareness' - Feedback

Below is another quote from someones experience of the weekend workshop held last November.

K. L. "To sum up my experience - it was magical and I took so much away with me I don't even know where to start.


I have to touch and hug trees everywhere I go, even South African trees haha. I took away a realisation of my lack of trust in myself and others, lots of things clicked into place and still are months afterwards ...it was wonderful to meet them (Barry & Geoffrey) and spend time with them both.


I will never forget my weekend, brings tears to my eyes, I would love to attend another one even if I nearly freeze to death".

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Harmony & Disharmony

The jigsaw puzzle only has the straight edges on the outside and inside, the pieces are all over the place and just as in nature there are no straight edges and yet all the pieces fit together and work in harmony with each other.

However, our modern world has many straight edges, buildings, roads, fields, bridges, in fact a friend of mine shared with me his experience from the other day. He was walking over a bridge that spanned the local estuary, he stopped to look out.

He told me that when he looked out at nature the word harmony came to him and when he turned and looked towards the town he saw the church and the word disharmony came to him. When we take the time to see how our society is functioning we see nothing but problems the kids are in disarray, is it because straight edges are being applied to them, be it through the law, the lack of true guidance, don't do this, don't do that, you can only play conkers if you wear a hat gloves and goggles, don't let your children climb that tree in school in fact we will replace it with a plastic one and a soft mat under it, were will it end.

As a child my mother would say to me when I was bored "go out and play" and I would not see her until it was nearly dark time, when we go into nature it all changes, everything becomes an adventure as a child and as an adult. I was walking with Merlin (my European Eagle Owl) one day along the estuary during that time around twenty people stopped to talk to me about Merlin as I watched them I could see that Merlin by just being who he is invited lots of questions, people were smiling, they took pictures why, perhaps because they wanted to take a part of nature home with them. They wanted to stroke him and as they walked away I could hear them chatting with excitement, the children were telling their parents about how they stroked Merlin and what that felt like.

Then the next day I heard from someone that the day before someone had phoned in to the local radio station to tell the programme about how they encountered a man walking his eagle owl along the estuary and how nice that was to experience.

Who knows what concentric rings were sent out as a result of their experiences with Merlin, with Nature, perhaps they told their friends and shared their photos with family on Facebook, who knows all I know is that we belong in nature and I am very aware about how powerful she is to our health and well being.

I will leave you with this thought... "Go Out And Play" take your kids, your friends, your family but most of all take yourself.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Egypt Mount Sinai to Israel

In 1999 I did a trek in the Sinai desert to help raise funds for Mencap. We walked for about four days guided by a lone Bedouin and of course we slept under the stars. The Desert in my mind is a wonderful and very powerful place to be, many think that there is nothing there and yet when you take the time to sit and just be in the moment you will see that the desert is full of life. We encountered snakes, birds, lizards and people riding on their camel’s going we knew not where but they appeared very relaxed in their travels.

Along the way we stopped to pay our respects to our service men and women who fought and died for us in the wars and the Bedouin were very respectful of this moment in time, we each laid a stone on a rock as a symbol of our respect, it was of course Remembrance Day.

Eventually we reached Mount Sinai, everyone except me wanted to visit the monastery, instead I had decided that I would walk up the mountain, not by the camel route but by the direct route, straight up. Along the way I was hoping for and got Tristram's Crackle (top left picture) and the Sinai Rosefinch (bottom right picture) two lovely birds.


During the walk up I was drawn to a rock which I decided I would try and break open and to my surprise I found crystals inside it, very beautiful ones at that. When the others joined me later I decided it would be nice to share these crystals so I went round the group giving a piece to as many people as possible.


On our way into Israel we stopped for something to eat and while I was sat eating some chips what came and landed on my table trying to steal chips from my plate, a Tristram’s Crackle that’s what I call sod’s law you hike up a mountain to see what you think is a hard to find bird and then it only goes and turns up on your table. That’s why I always say “never say never with birds they have a habit of proving you wrong”.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Forgiveness: The Little Soul and The Sun: A Children's Parable by Neale Donald Walsch.

While attending a counselling course at the end of last year we were asked to write about our feelings for a favourite book. This book came straight into my mind, it's a story I really like and I thought that I would share this with you, it is personal in places but hey, trust, risk and share.

**** **** ****

This book is about a little soul who wanted to know what it means to be forgiveness while another soul chose to become the darkness, so that the first little soul could understand what it meant to be forgiveness. The story starts with the words “Once upon no time, there was a little Soul who said to God, "I know who I am." And God said, "That's wonderful! Who are you?"

What a great question: ‘Who are you’, indeed who am I? I really love this story.

Why?

Well when I read this story it brings up feelings of joy and at the end it nearly always leaves me with intense feelings deep inside and I feel like I want to cry and sometimes do. This story excites me, and lights me up inside when I think about it, it feels like the truth, my truth.

I would like to share with you some of these feelings that it stirs up inside me. For a very long time now I never believed in people, let alone in a creator. I grew up in Belfast, surrounded by religious hatred and I served in the Army for 22 years, having seen service in Northern Ireland, the first Gulf war and Bosnia. I have seen what people are really capable of, the hatred they show towards their fellow human beings, is at times indescribable. I disliked people for a long time, yes I got on with them but I would not trust them. In my world people were not to be trusted. Since childhood I have found peace in Nature, for me Nature is like a world where love exists without conditions.

While serving in Bosnia I had an experience which caused me to return to the UK and soon afterwards I found what I can only describe as my ‘Higher Power’. This discovery came with many challenges and unanswered questions, questions which I felt the need to seek the answers to. I spent a lot of time reflecting on many things in my life and still do, looking at why I think and behave in the way that I do.

Then one day in the early part of my spiritual growth I discovered ‘Conversations with God’, written by Neale Donald Walsh. This book took me a very long time to read - years in fact. However, when I came across the children’s version called the ‘Little Soul and the Sun’, I have to tell you, I found that it brought joy to my heart and tears to my eyes. As a child I never wanted to be here - I was always crying and telling my mum that I “want to go home”. Home to me I recently discovered, is what others know as heaven. I can’t call it heaven, because it reminds me of what certain people do in the name of it.

As a child the very people who were there to protect me, could not. When I needed their protection and understanding they would not always believe the child when the child spoke, but they would force their faith down the child’s throat - my throat, of course these are only words after all, but it’s the feelings that I attached to these words that impacted on my life and it’s my awareness of myself now, that helps me to remove these barriers to my life, which has come about through the discovery of my creator and this story allows me to become that innocent child once again and to see my world in a completely different way.

“Who are you said God? I'm the Light replied the Little Soul!" God smiled a big smile. "That's right!" God exclaimed. "You are the Light."

When I read these words they help me to understand my place in the world, interestingly I now believe that inside every person there is a light is waiting to get out. When I say this to other people I am challenged with the words ‘so do you believe the same is true for paedophiles or rapists?’ I gave that question a lot of thought, how did I feel about these people? At first I did not know how to answer it, and there was a time I agreed with them - so why would I believe differently now?

Well, there’s a part of me that wants to be accepted for who I am, this is difficult to achieve; mainly because I tend not to conform to what we perceive as the norm. Over the years I learnt that if I can accept others I might be more able to accept myself, then I found out that it is not really about others liking me, it’s more about - can I like myself, and can I accept myself for who I really am?

God said. "Since you cannot see yourself as the Light when you are in the Light, we'll surround you with darkness." "What's darkness?" the Little Soul asked. God replied, "It is that which you are not." "Will I be afraid of the dark?" cried the Little Soul. "Only if you choose to be," God answered. "There is nothing, really, to be afraid of, unless you decide that there is."

In the early days of exploring my spiritually, I found this book to be a useful tool in helping me to understand myself. I decided to invite my shadow self to help me in this process of self discovery. I asked my shadow self not to walk in front or to even walk behind me but to walk by my side and to show me who I am by exploring my dark side.

I found this an interesting way of doing things, because it meant that I had to take responsibility for myself and not blame others for the pain I was feeling, yes others were responsible for their actions but I chose to be in pain, my feelings of hatred and anger are not affecting them.

In the book there is another soul that chooses to come back to earth as the darkness to help teach the little soul what it means to be forgiveness, however this soul had one condition, which was that the little soul should not let this soul forget where it came from otherwise it would become consumed by the darkness.

What if this really is true? What if we are all here to teach each other about who we truly are? Then there has to be darkness, one cannot exist without the other, to know left is to know right, up goes with down, can we truly know good without bad, man surely cannot exist without woman? And having discovered my light through my darkness, I feel this must be true and I am still learning to see the beauty in ugly. I have seen so many souls consumed by their darkness.

I felt confused by this at first.

"And so," God concluded, "when you are surrounded with darkness, do not shake your fist and raise your voice and curse the darkness. Rather be a Light unto the darkness, and don't be mad about it. Then you will know Who You Really Are, and all others will know, too. Let your Light shine so that everyone will know how special you are!"

I try to be that light, at times its hard work, only because I make it that way. I felt a new confidence in myself and I have become much more open and feel comfortable with who I am. I have come to recognise that I cannot hold one group of people responsible for what one person did or even for how I feel. Now, I am at peace with this group and surprise, surprise they are no different from me, they too have feelings.

I am a very slow reader perhaps because I didn’t learn to read until I was twelve, so I do not read that often and I never once thought that I would find a book that could take me on such journey of self-discovery as this book did. Perhaps it is because it is aimed at children and as such takes a different approach, which allows me to engage with it in that way. Certainly when I was asked the question “think of a book to write about your feelings to” there was no time delay in my head, it was without doubt the only book to write about. As I said it brings me joy and I am sure I could write much more than I have and even as I write this I feel excited inside. I have even become emotional without even knowing why - why would that happen? Because the feelings it stirs inside are my feelings of my truth, here I am writing about my feelings - opening myself up for others to see who I am. Why would I do that when I have protected myself for so long - perhaps it is because I feel I can now trust and forgive?

Forgiveness, I am still working with it, I have found that the only limitation in my life is, ME. Why would there not be a light trying to find its way out of others, when I can feel my light looking for its way out and to be who I truly am. All I have to do is feel the forgiveness for myself and others, as we are all special.

"I know what I want to be, I know what I want to be!" the Little Soul announced with great excitement. "I want to be the part of special called 'forgiving'. Isn't it special to be forgiving?" "Oh, yes," God assured the Little Soul. "That is very special”.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

The Art of Tracking

Tracking is a science and art form which demands qualities of a person that has the potential to go beyond many other forms of outdoor activity. It is a study with potentially great rewards in the form of intimate and tender moments with nature, challenging one`s own self belief, patience and perseverance.

I would like this article to speak to all of those with a passing familiarity, interest and even expert eye when it comes to tracking and hopefully prompt some new ideas and perceptions, leading to new applications and appreciations of this art form.

Those of us who are fortunate enough to work in the outdoors are surrounded by the tell tale signs of those who live and pass through there. Perhaps you have seen things and wondered what had caused them, or perhaps this will start a new appreciation for the sheer amount of opportunities to track.

My first true realisation as to the potential of tracking, beyond my personal experience, came in supporting two young boys who were struggling to concentrate at school. Their interest in the outdoors prompted the desire to discover what could be found in the woods.

They discovered a hole, deducting this to be the home of a badger having judged it`s size and shape. Then they started to spot where the badgers had clawed the ground as well as their passing having brushed smooth pathways between this annex sett and feeding areas. They spotted this not in the lush fields of grass and plants of summer, but the cold, hard earth of winter. Countless people had been into that woodland and never remarked on those trails now laying before them, and they were eager to follow.

What followed was two hours of dedication, frustration, illumination and finally jubilation. They found a badger. This badger however had long since passed, with the others making trails around him. They stood for the longest time. For two young boys who had shown such brashness in all environments, healthy or otherwise, they had shown a true inner strength of character in their patience, intelligence, and in those last moments, humility.

They revered the bones of this long lost woodland companion and forever had a memory of a special moment where nothing but their own zeal had shown them something few have ever will. Tracking can be powerful, it can be magical, it can be an incredible tool when used correctly. It has the ability to help develop a person holistically, demanding and rewarding all of the individual aspects that make a person who they are and what they can be.

Socially, there is an opportunity develop teamwork skills when working as part of a group to track which can include a negotiation of roles, leadership skills and being aware of their impact on the surrounding woodland as a whole. In moving through any natural environment it develops gross and fine motor skills, a sense of balance, awareness of self, developing of the senses including predominantly unused sensory abilities (peripheral and night vision) as well as the sense of movement (vestibular) and their position within a space (propriception).

Intellectually it engages many different aspects in order to be able to successfully follow sign. There has to be an attention to detail, reasoning what has caused that sign in the way it has been, solving problems in trying to find the next clue, understanding and applying a process.

Through understanding how other creatures communicate this can bring an understanding of how humans communicate. Their body language and personal space can teach us of those aspects as a principle means of communicating. I once had the pleasure of watching a young lady with asperger's syndrome who was helped to understand her own body language and that of others through learning how to train a horse.

Emotionally it requires patience, determination, independence, empathy for the creature, self awareness, self regulation and self motivating in times of doubt, frustration and joy, all of which could squander the moment to experience something up close. Spiritually there is a sense of place, awe and wonder, a curiosity about the world beyond themselves and an interest to understand questions about life, death, purpose and thought. The nature of understanding and conversely, never understanding, aspects of our world through trying solving an intellectual query we are emotionally and/or socially invested with.

In addition, as with other outdoor provisions which engage people with nature, it can help build the most sustainable form of environmental sustainability, which is by allowing opportunity for the following generation to find their place within nature, to cherish it, to never question the importance of caring for it.

In summary, Tracking demands a keen mind, strong heart and willing spirit and through the challenges it presents, it can develop whole body, whole mind and whole self.

Author: Paul Moseley
Published on the Forest School Web Site on Thursday 13th January 2011

Friday, 14 January 2011

Fox shoots man

A wounded fox shot its would be killer in Belarus by pulling the trigger on the hunter's gun as the pair scuffled after the man tried to finish the animal off with the butt of the rifle, media said Thursday.

The unnamed hunter, who had approached the fox after wounding it from a distance, was in hospital with a leg wound, while the fox made its escape, media said, citing prosecutors from the Grodno region.

"The animal fiercely resisted and in the struggle accidentally pulled the trigger with its paw," one prosecutor was quoted as saying.

Fox-hunting is popular in the picturesque farming region of northwestern Belarus which borders Poland.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Matthew Jones)

Nature Awareness - I have more belief in myself and more confidence...

I have been going over some of my old notes and feedback from people that have taken part in Nature Awareness for the years. The funny thing is reading these notes I am seeing different messages to what I remember reading at the time, and that is a good thing because once again I am being given an insight into how powerful nature can be for people and that it is in us all the time.

The case in point here is in my experience, people with an addiction often talk about an emptiness inside and that they find it hard to feel and yet here this person is talking about trusting his feelings perhaps for the very first time.

This does not surprise me as I believe we have an innate relationship with nature so when we go into nature it is like we are remembering what we have always known. So, this time I thought I would share with you the experiences this person had when taking part in three different games and how he felt about the experiences.

'W' "I didn't even think about the workshop. All of the sudden I found myself in the park, I felt serene and I felt surrender today. In the past my mind was busy figuring out things".

Fox the Fox: "It was so helpful for me to observe people's reactions, it is valuable for making me aware off people's feelings - and most of all to trusting my feelings".

Meet a Tree: "Life is amazing. I seemed to have stopped the world while doing this exercise today. I would like to do more of this. It brings up emotions and a connection with nature".

Drum Stalk: "I loved being in the snow and feeling a connection. I think I was slightly distracted at times, I really enjoyed this".

Overall: "I feel very positive, I will take this feeling into the programme. I feel more connected now, I now feel ready to begin working this programme, I will trust my feelings more... I will base my decisions on what I feel, not what others say. This group really helped me to connect to the rest of the programme. I was very grateful for the chance to use and develop the skills and tools".

"I have more belief in myself and more confidence".

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Imaginal - Earth-body knowledge

‎"Our bodies are continually re-creating our memories, and thus re-creating the past" ~ Ann Weiser Cornell, focusing teacher. I find this an interesting idea - that bodily knowledge of our past is in constant flux, with new knowledge becoming available.
Maybe it also applies to the earth-body knowledge too?
I believe it does, I was only talking about this subject yesterday with a friend, I see part of my job as helping people to remember. How does a young person who has never done the Bow Drill before know how to do it, without instruction.

Well, I believe it is a combination of things like problem solving in the moment, in other words new memory and tapping into that past memory that was laid down by mother earth and our ancestors that went before, because ultimately each of us are the net result of their experiences, thoughts, feelings and the understanding they had of their world.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

'The Art & Science of Natural Awareness'

Regarding the lack of empirical evidence into alternative and spiritual aspects of recovery in wilderness-therapy, perhaps with future research Natural-Awareness can in a small way close the gap on this so called grey-literature.

Miller (1998) states that in terms of spirituality to “…Simply ignore a… potential source of healing violates both scientific curiosity and professional responsibility”, he continues by challenging the academic and spiritual community by stating, “…It is time to question and reverse the assumption that spiritual variables are taboo for scientists and therapists, or that scientific methods cannot possibly shed light on spirituality (p. 987).

Miller, W. R. (1998). Researching the spiritual dimensions of alcohol and other drug problems. Addiction, 93, (7), 979-990.

To this end my friend Barry and I have put together a programme for people with addiction's and behavioral problems the programme is called.

'The Art & Science of Natural Awareness'

Our first workshop was a great success and will be repeated this March with the same Rehab. Each workshop will build on the previous one and the people who attended the first one will return and help to support the next group through. We will also be teaching them some wilderness-living-skills in preparation for going into the wilderness.

Below are just some of the quotes from that weekend.

Quote from TM:

“We started with Chi Gong and emotions began to flow. They were then settled by meditation before beginning the exercise to “find our tree”. Connecting with the woodland was by far my favourite task. The sense of achievement in being able to feel my way around this environment blindfolded and return to a safe place by the tree I had first been shown was exhilarating. After every task we had had opportunities to sit around and check in which gave everyone the chance to acknowledge their feelings while so far out of their comfort zone.

My weekend was full of kindness and support, and gave me a chance to challenge my ability to stay present, open and hopeful in a challenging environment. There were people there with different addictions but all of us had unreasonable fear in common. This weekend put us in situations such as walking blindfolded in the woods at night, where we could practice sitting with those fears knowing that help was only a whisper away. I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend, made some new friends and came home with a feeling of real accomplishment.”


Feedback from Mandy Saligari, Director of Charter Day Care:

“We were absolutely thrilled with the work that our clients had achieved over the weekend with Pathfinder-UK, and have now incorporated a natural awareness weekend experience into our treatment programme on a regular basis.

The work that Geoffrey and Barry are able to achieve over such a short space of time is incredible: our clients returned emotionally and spiritually recharged, with a greater connection to their higher power, more fully alive to their own potential, better able to trust themselves.

Best of all, every one without exception had made a significant breakthrough in terms of their specific issues in recovery which we were able to build on in our groups with great results.