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

Monday, 24 December 2012

Some Boar-ing Stories...

Not wishing to Boar you to death but I would like to share with you tales of encounters with some Wild Boar by brave men and not so brave men, well ok none were brave..
1. Stop snoring your keeping me awake...
As they lay asleep in the sleeping bags in their two man army bivvy (tent) Dave awoke to the sound of snoring. He dug he his buddy in the back saying stop your snoring your keeping me awake, as his buddy moaned and groaned at him for poking him in the back, Dave rolled over and attempted to go back to sleep again.

Once again the snoring started, unhappy Dave slapped his mate, saying will you pack it in I am trying to sleep, to which his mate replied I'm not asleep. Dave's response was "then who is making that snoring sound", then they both heard it, switching on his torch the light landed on a Wild Boar with its head poking through the entrance of their tent. The Boar was eating what food they had left on their plates from the meal earlier in the evening, which they had not be bothered to clean away and had left just inside the entrance to their tent.

It's turns out that they ran for their lives, through closed end of their tent screaming PIG as they went, Also I can tell you getting out them old army sleeping bags in a hurry was no mean feat.

The others guys wondered how it was that two big guys could leave their tent through the unopened end without pulling the tent down. I guess when faced with a Wild Pig you can do just about anything, as you will see in my next story.

We where on the firing range in Hohne, Germany. It was a lovely day and we were waiting for the range to close. I was stood next to the driver of a Landrover, his door was open and another guy was leaning on the door. When suddenly from around a bush, five little piglets came running, they stopped dead when they saw us, paused for a brief moment, then turned tail and ran like bats out of hell.

I turned round and the guy who was leaning on door had disappeared, I looked at the driver who was laughing his head off at the guy sat next to him. It was the chap who was by the door.

The driver said he could not believe what he had just seen. This man had jump into the passenger seat of the Landover, from a standing position without it seems even touching the driver on the way through, while shouting at the same time, "move over piiiggggs".

The gap between the driver and the steering wheel in a Landrover is very small, and I do not understand how he managed to do it, considering he was only just a bit smaller than me, and I am all of 6' 4". Needless to say he did not hear the end of it for the rest of the firing camp, and I wonder, who was more afraid him or the piiiggggs?

On another occasion I was driving on the range roads in Germany with my boss when suddenly from my side of the vehicle I spotted a Wild Boar. Charging out of the woods he came within inch's of my door before turning and running along side my vehicle for a short distance.

Nothing special about that I hear you say. Well, this fella came to within just a few inches below my window. He was ONE BIG PIG. I think that is something to write home about, especially as I believe if he had hit the door he would have done some very serious damage. It was like being charged by a Rhino.

Once again we are in Germany on exercise, exactly where I do not remember. What I do remember is that Robert one of the guys was particularly good at making the sound of a Wild Boar squealing. One of my buddies Ian also known as Snake was, shall we say not keen on Wild Pigs as a result everywhere he went he always carried a machete with him, you know just in case he met one.

Well, one evening Snake went for a shovel recce (a call of nature) he grabbed his VIP (very important paper) and off he set into the night, deep into the woods. Robert had decided unknown to the rest of us to follow Snake, with the intention to sneak up on him and to pretend that he was a Wild Boar knowing full well that Ian was not keen on them.

Robert had managed to sneak up very close to Ian from behind without being detected by him, once Robert felt he was close enough he let out an almighty pig like squeal, at which point Snake (who was squatting nicely) grabbed his machete and swung round with his arm fully extended with the full intention of taking out what he believed was a Wild Boar.

Snake, had missed Roberts head literally by a few inches and embedded the machete into a tree, at which point Robert took to the hoof and ran for his life, before Snake could get himself together. Realising it was Robert playing a joke on him Snake was determined to catch Robert and teach him a lesson and he shouted it out in no uncertain terms.

Needless to say we all heard the shouting and commotion going on and wondered what had happened, eventually when everyone came together and things had settled down, Robert and Ian shared their story with us, at which point we absolutely wet ourselves with laughter. Here was Snake, well known for his ability to take good care of himself in a scrap terrified of a Wild Boar. I guess the VIP became all too important for him in that moment.

5. On top of the water, perhaps not a good idea...

While I was working in Marbella in Spain I went up into the Refugio de Juanar National Park area to work with a young man and his anger (see The Chaffinch and the Young Man's Anger). At the end of my stay I had the opportunity to go into the wilderness and spend one night up in the mountains.

I walked up the trail from where I had been dropped of by my friends and I spent a lot of time exploring the surrounding area between the pines and the olive groves. I got to see quite a bit, warblers were plentiful and the odd eagle passed overhead.

As the light began to fade I was walking along a trail to find somewhere to pitch for the night, when within inches of my right ear a Red-necked Nightjar flew passed me and landed in the middle of the trail a short distance in front of me, it was one of the most thrilling experiences I have had as Nightjars are not that easy to see and this chap presented me with some great views.

I eventually decided on a place to sleep for the night, it was on top of a small construction which supplied the water for the surrounding olive groves, as I settled down for the night I could hear the Wild Boar moving around high up in the hills behind me, and as I lay there listening to the night sounds, I became aware that the pigs were getting closer and it sounded like there was quite a lot of them as well.

As the sounds continued to get closer to me, it slowly dawned on me that they the Boar might actually be heading my way to get their first drink of the night. Thinking to myself, perhaps it is not a good idea to sleep here, very shortly I could be surrounded by a heard of Boar and bedded only a few feet off the ground. And I know from my experiences with Wild Boar you give them lots of respect, because if you don't one can be tough to deal with, let alone a heard of them. So, I decided to head off down the trail just to be on the safe side. I eventually found a place where it felt fairly safe to spend the night in amongst some rocks, along side the trail.

It was a cold night and sleep was sporadic at best, suddenly I became aware that something was close by, I opened my eyes and there right in front of me, looking round the boulder in front of me was you guessed it a FOX, breathing a sigh of relief I exchanged greetings with him before, he moved off, he looked like a young male who seemed a bit curious because he had come so close to me, then I remembered that I had bought some fresh meat earlier in the day, which had a strong smell to it and as such I was going to attract the attention of animals from miles. Doh!

The rest of the night was uneventful apart from loss of sleep, as dawn came I decided I would take a slow walk down the mountain, I could see Marbella in the distance. Along the way I encountered a beautiful Lesser Kestrel doing the most amazing dance with wind flying very close to the rock face, the pure skill and mastery this bird showed was out of this world, you could see he was clearly in tune with his surroundings, he knew every nock and granny on the rock face and used it to show off his art of flight.

One year I was taking part in a leadership course in Germany, I was hoping to get promoted to Lance-Bombardier (this rank is used instead of Lance-Corporal by the Royal Artillery of which I served 22 years with). This course was held on Sennelager Training Area in Central Germany and it was during the winter, back then the winters in Germany could be heavy and this winter was no exception, the snow was up above our knees in places. It was a good time to practise snow shelters which we lived in for a short while.

Suffice to say the instructors gave us lots of things to do, there was very little time to sit around and tell story's, as a result we quickly burnt of the food we had and I for one was always in need of more food. It was during one of our tasks, I and another guy were moving along the edge of the training area to try and avoid being caught by the enemy, when we walked into this truly wonderful smell of hot food just drifting on the air. We wondered who could be cooking all the way out here we where miles from the nearest town and village, so we decided to investigate.

As we came up to the perimeter, we encountered a group of German Hunters with there families gathered around and drinking beer (a bit early in the morning for beer I thought,  mmm why not) and there was this lovely pot of hot food on the go. In my best German I asked what they were doing and the reply was, we are cooking Wild Boar and would we like some.

We looked at each other and said, you know what, sod the task lets eat. One of the hunters asked in exchange could they take a look at our weapons, well were not really supposed to hand our weapons over to anyone, you can imagine what the consequences would be if we lost them. However, on this occasions they seemed like really nice folks and the Boar smelt great, so we said why not, now hand me a bowl of that Wild Boar Goulash please.

What a cracking meal it was too, and we risked one bottle of beer as well, nice.

While walking through the woods with my girlfriend, we were enjoying just being in nature and as we silently walked the trail, there was a sudden commotion, the breaking of branches, and the thumping sound of something heavy running through the forest. As I turned I saw two Wild Boar heading off at a rate of knots, clearly they had been spooked by our presence. We tracked after them and found their laying up point, the leaf litter on the forest floor was well compressed, these guys had been there for a while, asleep I guessed.

It was great to see my first UK Boar.

Monday, 17 December 2012

What happens when we are in Nature

There is a great deal of research into the experiences of adolescents, in the wilderness and very little on adult experiences, particularly relating to addictions. While nature is considered the primary facilitator for change, the shared-experience is without doubt an integral part of the therapeutic-process, and the use of wilderness-living-skills, meditation, alone time/sit spot, story telling (including life story) and metaphor all help to support a wilderness-programme, not only because they have therapeutic-value but because it offers individuals practical life skills.

The Sit Spot gives individuals an opportunity (Bird, 2007; Russell et al. 2000; & Raymond, 2004) to reflect on their lives. Research has shown that, 92% describe “Alone-Time" (Greenway, 1995, p.129), as the first most important experience of their programme whereas in a traditional residential-environment individuals are surrounded by peers/counsellors for the majority of their time in treatment.

Bird (2007) has shown that people with Addictions, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) “…benefit from nature” (p. 74) the use of gardens helps the elderly including Alzheimer’s suffers and supports people in coming to terms (Linden & Grut, 2002) with trauma. Russell et al. (2000) found that three out of four wilderness-based programmes in the USA worked well for “…ADHD; Alcohol, Drugs, Behavioural Problems, Depression, and ODD... however, it does not appear to work well with …Anorexics, Violent or Suicidal tendencies or for younger people” (p. 211), although Russell does not clarify what was meant by younger people, whereas Bird (2007) suggests children under 12 years are strongly influenced by nature, resulting in the development of “…positive behaviour toward the environment” (p. 10).

Once, the initial trauma of entering into the wilderness has been overcome, which may involve fear, anger, depression and boredom, known as the (Harper 1995) “…mid-course blues” (p. 187) a transformation begins to take place, feelings of being at HOME, no longer feeling like an outsider manifest, individuals become more willing to confide in their ‘Field Counsellor’ as opposed to a ‘Residential Counsellor’ who is constrained within walls and a time frame. The ‘Field Counsellor’, needs to be someone who is hardy, has a wider repertoire such as wilderness-living-skills, awareness, vision, metaphor and is capable of dealing with nature’s elements and sharing the experiences of hiking, cooking and setting up camp.

Participants tend to develop a different relationship with their ‘Field Counsellor’ who they see more as a friend, thus helping to breakdown barriers, particularly around authority. Research has identified differences between the sexes Bird (2007), reports that women appear to benefit more from nature, and Greenway (1995) found that 27% of men compared to 57% of women viewed ‘coming HOME to nature’ as their major goal (p. 129). Prior to this study my observations over the years of teaching practical wilderness-living-skills supported this view. However, with Nature-Awareness if men truly engage with their ‘Heart’ they produce similar results to women.

In summery the theoretical basis of wilderness-therapy allows the natural consequences of nature to act as the primary healer, supported by the use of wilderness-living-skills etc, thus becoming an integrated process of the experiential-learning and change. By integrating Nature-Awareness experiences with residential treatment-programmes a ‘Bridge’ is formed between the wilderness and residential treatment-programmes, offering addicts the opportunity to understand themselves better by helping to balance their feelings (Heart) with their Linden & Grut (2002) “…conflicting thoughts” (p. 11) (Head) thus creating a sense of place and potentially spiritual-awakening, whilst being supported by an established treatment programme.

Geoffrey McMullan
Exploring how people with addictions experienced
Nature-Awareness as a Therapeutic Intervention

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Why Natural Awareness and not Nature Awareness

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

This may cause some controversy I know. 

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.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Has the Internet taken over from Nature?

For example we have Farm Town on Face-book
Explorative research into the causes and consequences of compulsive internet use: Prof. Dr. S. W. J. Lamberts

Although there are obviously many positive aspects related to the development of the internet, for more than 20 years indications have been emerging that some people can become overly attached to computers and certain internet functions, resulting in serious psychological, social, and professional dysfunctioning (Davidson & Walley, 1984; Goldberg, 1997). 

The idea that the internet, or at least certain internet functions, might be addictive, initially met a lot of skepticism: “… IAD (internet addiction disorder) is not a disorder and IAD does not exist; there is little research to show otherwise (and much of that is done poorly)” (Grohol, 1995). Or as Hughey put it: “I prefer to think of these people (internet addicts, GJM) as pioneers.

Eventually, we will all be “connected” all the time. A new age has arrived. Let’s not invent DSM IV classifications for those who are just a little ahead of the rest of us in embracing the future” (Hughey, 1997). Meanwhile, however, it is recognized that certain internet functions may indeed bear an addiction risk and that internet functions such as on-line erotica, internet games, and online chatting are “activities that may carry greatest future risk for behavioural addiction” (Orford, 2005). 

Nonetheless, research in the field of ‘internet addiction’ is still explorative and no consensus has been attained on the validity and reliability of the construct or on its causes and consequences. There is even no agreement on which term to use for the phenomenon. In the literature the behaviour is referred to as internet addiction (Young, 1998), pathological.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

This is a personal appeal...

To All My friends

This is a personal appeal, you all know how passionate I am about nature and the power it offers in helping others. This project really needs your support through funding. Please just have a look, see what their great cre
ative and pertinent proposal is. give the gift of nature play this Christmas.

Its a fantastic project, so close to being fully funded and the ripple effects will be enormous! I pledged by giving my time to help make this film, because I believe it will make a difference, a massive difference.

4 days to go to get it off the ground. If you like what you see and can bung in a fiver, great. If you can share, greater still. Just take a moment...

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Welcome to the Ring

Many years ago I was running a workshop at a festival. I was working with some boys doing shelter building, on entering deep into the woods we came across a ring of trees with a clearing between them, which felt quite scared.

The boys were constantly talking about blowing things up and shooting animals etc with laser guns, I think they may have been playing to many video games? I told them that we could not build out shelter inside the ring of trees. They of course they wanted to know why, I replied that this ring of trees was a scared place and very special therefore it would not be good to build the shelter here.

They asked why, so I asked them if they had seen the film 'Lord of the Rings' they had all seen the film, so I replied 'Welcome to the Ring'

Instead I showed them using small sticks the type of shelter I wanted them to build and then sent them of into the woods to build it. As they ran off to do this, one of them stopped, bent down and picked a flower. He then ran back to the shelter made from sticks and placed the flower on top of it saying to me "this is for the fairies"

This all happen within a period of twenty minutes and for the rest of the day they had made no reference to lasers, bombs or killing things.


Monday, 26 November 2012

The Earth Tree and the Invisibles

The Earth Tree and the Invisibles is one of the most powerful exercises I do with people.

It requires someone to be buried up to their ankles in the earth while facing a tree.

Then we then begin to explore the invisible parts of the tree that we cannot see with our eyes, from the inner bark to the far side of the tree, down into the roots and up to the top of the canopy.

During this journey of exploration people are invited to explore the invisible part of themselves in relation to the tree, and as they search their internal landscape, I encourage them explore the part of themselves that may have been triggered by the external landscape.

Is it the Parent, Adult or the Child Ego?

As we switch from our Parent, Adult to Child Ego and back again we can begin to explore deeper.

It is like excavating the inner part of ourselves and allowing our Adult Ego to become the Archaeologist.

After completing this amazing process everyone then unearths themselves and walks alone for a while in nature returning back to the warm camp fire to sit in silence until the time is right to share.

If you would like to know more about my work why not visit my web site:

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Black Woodpecker

Back in the early seventies before conservation became a buzz word. While on exercise in Germany late one night we deployed into woodland with our Fire Direction Centre (FDC) which was an armoured fighting vehicle.

In the morning I realised we had parked right next to a tree which was directly under a Black Woodpeckers nest. I went into the command post and asked the officer in charge if we could move so as not to disturb the nest.

Back then as a young gunner to ask such a thing was really unheard of, however the officer in charge came out to take a look and he agreed we were too close, so we moved our vehicle. It’s nice to know that I needed no law to enforce my request, just the right approach.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Nature can and does have a deep meaningful effect on us…

Linden & Grut (2002). 

Informs us of the ‘Great Prophets’ who in NATURE found “Spiritual renewal… Jesus in the desert, Moses up on the mountain, the Buddha in the forest" 

or an ‘Addict Meeting a Tree’.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Making good on a promise...

I wanted to share this story with you from Peter Friebel from Sweden. I worked with him recently and he has very kindly agreed to allow me to share it with you. I trust you will find it interesting. I will post some comments on my experience of this event soon. 

The name has been changed to protect confidentiality.




Usually I am pretty secure in my own abilities and not easily intimidated or discouraged but that day was different. That day scared me. It was "Meet a Tree" day. And I was nervous like hell! Not because of what the game is all about. Nature Awareness has been part of my own courses for some time and I knew what it was all about. I was nervous because this time the reasons for doing it were to learn how to teach tracking which I really burn for to do well. Even if I knew that failing to find my tree was no big deal I felt that it was not an option for me in this situation.

Geoffrey noticed I was nervous and I assured him it was not because I was about to walk blindfolded, hand in hand with a huge dude in a dark forest :-). At the time I was not fully aware of the reasons myself.

"I have been connecting with trees before, I feel good with trees, trust your instincts!"

That was my last thought before the game started. Being led through the woods blindfolded somehow calmed me down a bit. After a long erratic walk I arrived at "my" tree. I almost immediately panicked inside. Was this a tree or a concrete pillar? Nothing. This tree was cold and empty. I felt nothing. Before I fully realized the horror of my predicament, time was up and I was led back by some different but equally erratic path. Behind my blindfold I started seriously to sweat. Was I about to fail the only time I really needed it to come together? What I feared the most, the reason for my nervousness was about to become real. I heard myself saying to Geoffrey: "I will find my tree blindfolded as vision will not help me here".

I did my best not to let Geoffrey in on too much of this internal turmoil as he is a counsellor after all and I wasn't eager to deal with an external analysis of the situation just yet. First things first. Almost immediately I pointed out the wrong tree. Time went by and I felt like I was at it for an eternity. I tried many different "methods" to get a fix on my tree. Nothing worked. I got irritated, frustrated, sad, very tired and eventually I was right up in my head. I knew it and it was at this point I was about to give up.

Something was nagging at me though. One last time I performed my quick exercise to get me back into heart space. Now nothing of what follows probably makes sense but it was what I thought and felt and it was real to me. In my head I said: "Why oh why this tree now?" The answer came: "Cause this particular tree needs to be found by you, now". At this point I turned off my mind. I was actually talking with somebody or something in my imagination. "You mean that instead of me needing to find this tree, this tree needs me to find it now?" Answer: "Yes". I do not know why but all of a sudden I was going to find the tree for the sake of the tree instead. An arrow like the one on my hand held GPS appeared in my mind’s eye and I started walking. At this point I heard Geoffrey saying "whatever it is you are feeling now, trust it!" I remember thinking: "I am not feeling much but somehow I am now creating a reality with only one outcome". Very shortly after that I found my tree.

At the time, I did not enjoy that exercise at all. It had emotionally depleted me. It was later, after processing it as an event instead of an exercise, that the beauty and purpose of it became apparent.

By giving up I succeeded. It took me a long time to realize that what I gave up was of course my ego. It also took me a long time to realize that what I actually found was what connects me to everything else, my higher consciousness.

Of all the times I have played games like this one that one on that day was the one that counted for me. I was judging myself against a standard that was neither real nor important. I was my own nemesis. The switch to doing it for the sake of the tree made me instantly leave all that. I switched from proving something to helping something/someone. No longer did I wait for it to happen, I simply believed that nothing else could ever happen. I was not finding my tree anymore; I was tracking an outcome I projected in order to help. Intuition and creativity revealed themselves for what they are: the voices of my higher consciousness. Not that I fully realized all this at that moment. That all came later.

I am aware that this all may sound like complete gibberish and it probably provides some nice playground for counsellors but I do not mind really. For me that single day was one of the most important and revealing experiences I ever had even if it took me a month to realize it.

Everything that needed to come together came together and when it did it was no longer about me. I think it all was a well-orchestrated conspiracy to make sure I would find more than just my tree! A conspiracy directed to make me find not a tree but a relation with my higher consciousness.

So what about the tree? When I found it I spent some more time with it and I consistently got a feeling of being afraid and two images in my mind’s eye: a camper and snow and ice blowing over the lake. The place where this tree was standing is heavily frequented by tourists. I noticed the tree had been severely damaged at an early stage in its life. I promised myself and the tree that I would check up on it later.

Last Friday was almost one month later and in the mean time I have done many energy tracking experiments. All of them enjoyable and rewarding. Having finally processed the “Meet a Tree” event, I felt I needed to make good on my promise. As I needed to go to Ă„lvdalen that day, I was able to visit the area where the tree is on the way back.

When I arrived at the place I suddenly realized that a month earlier I was way to shook up to actually register which tree it was and where it was! The only thing I knew was that it split into two trunks high up and that there was a little hole with a pine cone lodged in it. I went to the place that was the starting point one month earlier, closed my eyes, automatically turned a little bit to the left and started walking in a straight line. To my tree as it happened. It took me only 1 minute to track the tree this time!

This time I felt warm standing with the tree and slowly an image started forming in my mind’s eye:

A Large Red Orchid.