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.