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

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Natural Awareness - How did it evolve?

All my life I have had a close relationship with nature, on my return to the UK after leaving the British Army I attended a course run by Thomas Schorr-kon of Trackways, were he talked of Nature-Awareness, suddenly I found a language for what I had always known deep inside, it was like a breath of fresh air. I remember feeling safe and trusted enough to be open and honest with Thomas (who I had only known for one day) about my personal thoughts and feelings. Some years later I had my first opportunity to use Nature-Awareness therapeutically with adolescents who attended various state and privately run programmes, during this period the adolescents (consisting mainly of young-men) were asked to define the term ‘Streetwise’ which I believe is fear based (Brown, 1983 & Russell et al. 2000) in order to illustrate how they, as individuals function on the streets, which can be immersed in violence, drug dealing and gang warfare.

Natural-Awareness games are used to demonstrate that they have the necessary coping-skills and senses (which they employ on the streets to survive) to engage in their own personal-development, by channelling their negative energy in a positive way. In 2005 I worked with addicts (in a 12-Step centre) for the first time; prior to this I had no real experience or understanding of addictions. I was invited to run Nature-Awareness workshops, the initial response was overwhelming and with each workshop I encountered new experiences. I was presented with behaviours I had never seen before; this allowed me to explore new and different approaches to my work. Nature-Awareness continued to evolve as I learnt and understood more about addictions, through my personal experiences, observations, university and by sharing/processing significant events with professional colleagues within the addiction field.

An example of Natural-Awareness evolving was expressed by a colleague who related his experience to the ‘12-Steps’ he said “The Drum Stalk is like Steps One, Two and Three in Action” (Kaagman, 2006). Step 1 (We admitted we were powerless over our addiction - that our lives had become unmanageable), the blindfold represented him in his addiction. Step 2 (Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity) the physical evidence of moving through a cathedral of trees (blindfolded) without coming to harm and trusting in his sight-guide, Step 3 (Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood him) the drum beating was like GOD calling out to him, finally his sight-guide who supported him during this shared-experience represented his sponsor or the fellowship (Alcoholics Anonymous).

I have observed many addicts encountering new experiences that helped them to either engage or re-engage with their treatment-programme, in particular with the spiritual aspect of the programme. Jane a counsellor in active recovery had this to say about the Drum Stalk. “As he led me, I was aware of not being in control and liking the feeling. I had a sense that my chest and heart were open, my breathing flowed freely, my mind was empty and my body was vibrant in the effervescence of nature. That God shape “hole” that I live with each day, felt like a God shaped “whole”. I felt safe and free within a sense of belonging”.

Recently I was invited by Thomas to run a Natural Awareness session for his year course, at the end of it Thomas came to me and said “you have given me a whole new methodology of looking at what I do with Nature Awareness”. What a wonderful compliment, but more than that it showed me how far I have travelled on my journey, thanks to my connection Nature and my Creator and more recently working with Addicts, who have helped me grow immensely.

Natural Awareness helps people who have an addiction to expand their awareness and understanding of the world around them, were normally they would be the centre of the universe and for some NATURE was filling the void that they so often experienced, it became clear that I was now working with peoples behaviours while out in nature. The experience of being in nature to me means that I can look at myself without pretending to be someone who I am not and to feel that 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.

Therefore I felt that I needed to define what it is that I was being presented with, when I asked a group I was working with what would in their mind best describe what we were doing together other than using the words Nature Awareness, their reply was quite clear, they said “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 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). All I can say to you is this, in that moment I felted 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.

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