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

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.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Tracking - Telling a Story

During the tracking course I was running this weekend, we were working up in the sand dunes at Braunton Burrows. I had set up a sandbox exercise to see if we could pick up on peoples intentions laid in their tracks.

We later decided to tell a story instead of just placing an intention into a track. It turned out to be an interesting exercise, twice I placed a story into the sandbox which consisted of the beginning, a middle and an end, it was a very short story there were just seven tracks laid in the sandbox, which had been covered up afterwards so that Felim would have no real idea which way I had moved in the sandbox.

I asked him to find track number seven in the sandbox, while Felim was trying to locate the track without being able to see the tracks I wondered if he would pick up on the part of the story that gave me the most fun which was the middle part of the story. What followed next was very interesting Felim did indeed pick up on the middle track.

He also picked up on the important track in the second story as well, in each case it was the part of the story with the strongest intention. I realised that I could now take this exercise to another level and I am looking forward exploring the possibilities of moving this exercise to new levels.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Tree Hugging Gave Him Hope.

A friend of mine shared an experience he once had.

He was walking home after a night out on the town and as he cut across Hyde Park at 5 am, he approached a large Oak Tree, walking around it he was surprised to see a Police Officer in uniform hugging the tree.

He said it gave him hope

Saturday, 16 July 2011

How does Natural Awareness work?

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

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Lifting the Veil & Bird Language

Below is a letter from a friend who attended one of my tracking courses, I felt it would be good to share with you how much he got from it. He talks about about a lots of powerful things like being in the moment and emptying the mind, understanding what the birds and nature are telling us.

Hi Geoffrey,

"Lifting the Veil delivered everything I wanted and more! A radical paradigm shift from what I thought tracking was all about and also an experience at a deeply personal level. Thank you for your patient instruction and for showing me what's possible."

One of the learning's I got from Lifting the Veil (tracking course) was being aware of birds. Bird behaviour, birdsong, calls, alarms. I can see how much information there is available to us if we choose to become aware of it. So have been trying to learn about birds and have started taking pictures as a way to learn about them and have been really enjoying it.

Checking in with peripheral vision has helped loads, for example: when sitting in hides looking for warblers in reeds. Just sit, relax, let my focus drift out a bit be aware of everything in visual field at the same time. Anything that moves I'm straight on it much quicker than I would have previously.

I practice trying to maintain peripheral vision, peripheral hearing and peripheral feeling at the same time. It's so intense! Such a high level of awareness it takes it out of me! You feel right "in the zone" though, an altered state of consciousness. I can't think in this state, just being, and it's great for grounding in the present, as in no future, no past, just the here and now. So when I need time out and to escape the daily grind it's a great place to go to.

I'm working weekends at the moment but when I sort my life out and get some free time... I'll book in again. I'm keen to learn more.

I've told one of my mentor about you, a lady called Emma Lane, one of her clients was interested in learning tracking and nature awareness...

Your book looks awesome by the way. Well done for getting your creative juices flowing, I appreciate it takes a lot of time and effort to put something like that together. I've put it on my wish list of books to get...

If you're ever up in London... give me a shout. You're always welcome.

Kind regards


Monday, 11 July 2011

Red Kites

I was out teaching near to Reading at the weekend, what a delight it was... I saw three Red Kites drifting on the wind and after a night of Merlin calling all night long which was a great as he normally does not call out when we are in a strange wood.

In the early hours of the morning 6am I heard a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker drumming this was a real pleasure as you do not get to hear let alone see this delightful little bird very often. Woodpeckers my my favorite birds and soon the Lesser-spotted was followed by Green and Great-spotted Woodpeckers awesome.... shame no Wryneck to be heard.

The range of butterflies was also brilliant and I saw one I had never seen before, mmmm now where did I put that field guide?

There was fox in full view and fallow deer were plentiful along with two shy muntjac's.

Friday, 8 July 2011

How did Nature-Awareness 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.

Nature-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 Nature-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”.

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.

Friday, 1 July 2011