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

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.