Testimonials

To whom it may concern.

My name is Tiago Mortensen and I have worked in the addictions field for 8 years now, I am an Addiction Counsellor and Life Skills Couch. I first encountered Natural Awareness in November 2005… at the time I was skeptical about the benefits of this type of workshop, however after seeing and hearing the feedback from patients I soon changed my mind.

I believe the patients can and do benefit greatly from this programme; it works on the spiritual side of the disease, which is hard to deliver to the patients. It is a great tool for the Step Work and Spiritual Awakening.

The Natural Awareness workshops have been of great help to the treatment team it has helped us to explore areas that we would never have got by conventional therapies. I highly recommend Natural Awareness not only to the field of addictions; I feel any part of the population could benefit from it.

It has been a personal and professional pleasure to have had the opportunity to have worked with Natural Awareness; I feel I have broadened my views and methods of therapy thanks to these workshops. But the most important aspect of all is the positive feedback we get from the patients.

Tiago Mortensen

Counsellor and Life Coach

Denmark/UK

Letter from a Consultant Psychiatrist

Before I met Geoffrey I had only a vague idea of what Nature Awareness was. I mainly believed it to be a way of reconnecting with nature but not much more. I certainly didn’t realise how powerful this work is and how it can be integrated into more mainstream treatment methods. I am a Consultant Psychiatrist and a few years ago I was working at a recovery centre where Geoffrey was working as well. One day Geoffrey suggested I join a group of patients to see what kind of work he does. Out of pure curiosity I went along. I observed and observed and finally participated and became part of the experience. I will never forget that day. My whole perception of the power of nature, our inner power and how the two are connected completely changed. I saw my patients gradually shedding their fears, truly connecting in ways that I didn’t believe were possible for them.

In my work I treat a wide variety of psychiatric disorders including addictive behaviours. Many of my patients struggled with feelings of emptiness, isolation and lack of connection with others and the world in general.

Traditional treatment methods often alleviate symptoms but struggle to timely reach many of these patients. By working with Geoffrey I had the privilege to observe how Nature Awareness is able to make a difference in patient's recoveries. Nature Awareness was able to create the bridge that we were unable to create. Suddenly these same patients started to feel connected, related first to Nature, then to others and finally to themselves. What we call resistance or defence's simply melted away and the true self was able to freely express itself with no fear but with all its power.

Many experiences in life have the ability to make us feel better. Unlike them, Nature Awareness is able to enhance people’s capacity to trust, connect and have a wider vision of things, enabling them to respond to more traditional treatment methods. In the scientific community, experiences like Nature Awareness are still widely unknown and unexplored.

I strongly believe though that this kind of experience is able to create the missing link between what we call “pathology” and a life of emotional fulfillment. Although my field is mental health, I see a much greater potential to this work than the mentally ill only. Opening up this language to children for example can allow them to grow feeling more grounded, connected, empowered in a way that is unique and mostly unavailable to them nowadays. This book is a beautiful gift to all those who are willing to try out some new fun games and unexpectedly find themselves moved and empowered by Nature, others and our own true selves.

Dr Karin Dorell

Consultant Psychiatrist

Letter from a Bushcraft Instructor

Geoffrey and I first met almost ten years ago during a survival course I was teaching.  He had been out of the army for four years and looked more like one of the WWF wrestlers. By the second day he had levelled with me that his intention was to set up a survival school and he was making a tour of the various offerings in the U.K. At this time there were only a handful of schools in the U.K. My response was to offer my help.  Within a year or two he had established a school with Hannah Nicholls ‘Natural Pathways’ which is still running today.

It was during the nature awareness course his second course with me that I witnessed things coming together for Geoffrey.  He has been a birdwatcher for over forty five years and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the subject and a deep feeling for it.  The class combined silent movement exercises and ways of developing awareness in nature including understanding bird language.  It was like watching an epiphany as I saw Geoffrey realising the value of his life experience and how it seemed to meld into a powerful resource for him.  He tells me I just taught him the language for what he already knew and this is very much the case. My contact with Geoffrey continued as friends over the years, and I was especially interested in the work he began to do with those affected by addiction using the nature awareness games in a therapeutic context.  I saw a number of letters from the doctors at the institutions where he worked expressing their admiration for the speedy progress his workshops manifested in those who took part.  I was excited and continued my encouragement as I could see Geoffrey was opening a door that many would want to follow through in the future.  Taking the skills and developing them in a creative and skillful way. What seemed to happen was that the people who were locked inside themselves found that by relating to nature they had an experience that often left them in a state of wonder, how did I do that?

This response took them beyond themselves.  They were staring into the mirror of the natural world and it showed them that they could relate to themselves in a meaningful way.  This realisation helps us to see that nature, including us is benign and not malignant that the situation is basically good. It is only when we can think well of ourselves that we can function properly and be of benefit to others.  So the experience of having nature reflect back to us ourselves allows us firstly to relate more positively with ourselves and with this renewed perspective relate more positively to others.

I have experienced Geoffrey’s approach of slowing the exercises down so we can clearly see our own process as it emerges and have had profound learning experiences from this.  I have also been delighted with the ways in which he has taken the games and developed them and made up new ones.  This makes this practice very much alive and growing.  The fact that these exercises are presented as games also means that they awaken the inner child in us.  This part of us is where there is boundless energy something that we tend to lose touch with as we move into adulthood.  These games help us to see ourselves clearly and rehabilitate our energy.  They are of course also a fantastic door way to connect with nature and understand how connected to it we truly are. Well done Geoffrey.

Thomas Schorr-kon

Trackways

In my life, the 'bubble' that I live in I have become oblivious to all around me, nature, beauty, the openness and breath that God surrounded me with Autism is now my world. I observe it, learn from it, live it, abide by its rules and often despise it's limitations, but yet it surrounds me in my boys, it imposes on our lives refusing to pull back like a Sergeant controlling the troops, we live by its rules. But there is hope!

My three boys are all on the 'autistic spectrum' the youngest with limited speech and severe learning difficulties but with a heart as big as an ocean. The middle son has amazing knowledge and battles daily with this enemy (autism) that he feels has invaded his life, and the eldest who has yet to see what wonderful plans God has for him and does not admit to having Asperger's. I had read a letter from Holland on Natural Awareness and felt inspired by the Dutch lady (see letter from Holland) who wrote it and about her experiences of the tree game (Meet a Tree); to be honest I was quite sceptical about it. However we had been staying at our caravan for the summer and the weather had been disastrous - a day never mind a week of constant rain with any child, especially a child with autism and cabin fever was rife.

I had been watching the boys that particular night playing, Jordan drawing pictures and becoming frustrated when it didn't conform to his precise expectations and Nathan getting upset and screaming because Jordan was making too much noise (a sensory thing). I suddenly remembered that no one was having fun and it made me remember how when I was young being outside with our imagination was all we needed and how we would play for hours. Simple things can often provide the most profound thoughts in living day to day, with autism we had forgot how to laugh and have fun. It scared me that I couldn't remember the last time I stopped being a mum with three special needs kids and started just a kid myself having fun with my children, they say there is always a 'get out clause', well that night I decided tomorrow I was going to use my 'get out of jail' card, and me and my boys where going to laugh and enjoy fun together.

The next morning I awoke and it was raining again but I am nothing if not stubborn, and I was determined we were going out into wide open spaces even if it meant raincoats and wellingtons! The boys after much explaining of our routine for that day were quite excited, sandwiches were chosen, cut in the exact requirements! Everything packed and we were away.

I guess it was only when we arrived at the forest park, that the 'game' came back into mind, we were surrounded by so many beautiful trees and I knew that the play park was quite busy so that wasn't really an option, as the boys would have got quite frustrated, so the 'tree game' was decided upon.

If I am honest, when I explained the game to the boys I never really thought it might work, my main focus was on how upset and distressed they might feel if it didn't turn out how they wanted it to. Nathan the youngest was the first to go, so with eyes covered, we chose 'his tree', brought him to it and let him 'hug' and feel it, then we brought him a different route back from the cluster of trees so as not too make it too easy.

We uncovered his eyes and told him to go find his tree, I am even now smiling when I think of it, as I don't know which of us was more shocked when he walked straight to 'his tree' and gave it a big hug and smiled! At that point both Jordan and I wanted a go, Jordan said he had felt drawn to his tree and I know in my case I had went to go to another tree but it almost felt like a voice was saying don't go there, I am your tree over here, which I responded to, moving towards the other tree, I could hear laughter and clapping from the boys.

We spend half an hour or more finding our trees, and every time we found them, what are the chances of that? Autism may affect most areas if not all of my boys lives but that day nature intervened, it put smiles and laughter on the boys faces, it made a mum who had forgot how to be a kid, play again, chasing the boys, rolling on the grass, playing catch it, united us as a family, did it make a difference in my boys lives, yes for that day it did, they forgot the boundaries that are imposed by autism on them.

They had their mum remember that beneath all their behaviours and routines, they were just kids who had that day been given a very special gift by nature and 'the game' laughter and a bond between each of us especially for me.

I remembered how to enjoy my kids and how to appreciate special moments no matter how short, without playing and being open to the game that day, barriers that autism has placed in me and my boys lives might not have had the chance to come down.

Leza

Northern Ireland

Letter from a Team Leader

To whom this may concern,

My name is Diana Packer; I am a Team Leader with ‘Opportunities Plus’. This is a programme funded by the ‘European Social fund’ and the ‘Learning Skills Council’. The program focuses on building Confidence, Self Esteem and Motivation towards a positive personal progression for these Young People. Progression may include Basic/Life skills, further Training or Employment.

When hearing about ‘Natural Pathways’, we as team leaders were slightly apprehensive about taking our groups into an environment that encourages people to engage once again with their natural survival instincts. However, it didn’t take us long to realise that this activity and environment was exactly what we as team leaders were trying to achieve as a ‘Learning Experience’ for these Young People that (It was a day to remember). With this in mind I will try to share just some examples of the many experiences that I have observed during one of ‘Natural Pathways’ activity days. Due to the dampness of the day, I was informed that lighting a fire could be a time consuming task for these Young People, however it was not impossible with time and effort.

Having been shown how to create embers with a Bow Drill, some Young People gave up after a short period of time, however, a small group continued. Hannah’s encouragement and further instruction towards perseverance was highlighted when they achieved their goal. “This small group actively encouraged each other to carry on, once achieving a glowing fire, this group of Young People were held in high esteem by the rest of the team  (This affected the group dynamics as a result)”.

Once highlighting this incident towards the group, on our return journey back to the Centre, the remarkable effects of encouragement towards positive rather than negative natural growth emphasised the ability ‘that each of these Young People could achieve their aims and objectives facilitated by positive encouragement’.

One Young Person even went on to say that. “This experience was better than the buzz of Burglary”. Hannah’s ability to engage with these Young People is an asset that enhances her natural teaching qualities.

Hannah’s natural skill of ‘emphasis on the positive rather than the negative self-attributes’, encourages confidence, dynamics and exploration of the ‘inner self’ which will facilitate a positive personal progression for these Young People. Encouraging them to explore their personal capabilities and their natural Survival instinct helps these Young People begin to trust adults within their environment, which in turn enhances confidence and self-belief for many of these Young People. Geoffrey’s ability to engage with Young People became very apparent when ‘Boundaries’ were being challenged. These Young People have perhaps very little structure within their lives some see ‘Boundaries’ as something to constantly challenge or kick against.

Geoffrey’s patience and emphatic understanding encouraged them to look towards personal progression rather than the negativity, which could be felt within the team as a whole when asked to accomplish a task. Geoffrey’s positive support and encouragement emphasis's ‘a need to succeed’ within working with these Young People. Drug/substance abuse is widely used within this ‘Youth Culture’ and is seen as ‘Cool’.  When questioning Geoffrey about ‘Drug Culture’ (a misconception of the Young Person is that Geoffrey’s long hair implies drug use). The Young Person began to take in a discussion of the ‘harm Drugs/substance abuse can be to your body and the effects they can cause, when to actually ‘get back to nature’ can give you all the buzz you need without all these drugs.

For instance, overhearing one Young Person describe their feelings, after an activity called ‘The Drum Stalk’, they described the experience as ‘better than being on Drugs’. The Drum Stalk is an activity where the team divide into pairs, one will wear a blindfold, whilst the other will guide their partner with the sound of a drum and their support, this activity enhances trust and relying on others, confidence and self-reliance. I was at first skeptical of whether this activity would achieve the required affect for these Young People, however as I previously mentioned, this activity definitely achieved what it set out to achieve. Natural Pathways ability to engage, encourage trust and support these Young People towards a ‘Positive progressive insight’ is not an easy task to achieve in just one day’s activity, however it has proved to be achievable and a highly enjoyable day which is discussed throughout the whole ‘Opportunities Plus’ programme.

Both Geoffrey and Hannah bring the male and female aspect into their workshop, providing a balanced role reversible, for example string making is often seen by the young men to be for women until they learn that without this skill they would not be able to string their bows set their traps etc. This is only a small example of ‘the natural teaching abilities’ that Natural Pathways facilitates towards our groups of Young People, however, the effects this has towards their personal positive progression is immeasurable.

Natural Pathways has become a firm favourite with all Team Leaders within the ‘Opportunities Plus’ programme. Therefore I would highly recommend this activity for anyone who would like to ‘get in tune with one’s positive self’. Please do not hesitate to contact me at the above address for any further information in which I may be of help.

Yours Sincerely,

Diana Packer

Team Leader Opportunities Plus - UK

Letter from Holland

“I am a 39 year old woman and a recovering addict from Holland. I am in the lucky position that I have joined the game of "find your tree" (Meet a Tree), that all happened almost one and half years earlier. I really did not know at that point what I could expect from it. I just did what was asked of me to do. Under the guidance of my partner I was brought to my tree. Blindfolded I felt my tree and connected with her. After a couple of minutes my partner brought me back to the beginning. Geoff asked me if I was OK. I was okay. I was now ready to go find my tree. For me then a miracle happened.

In one straight way I walked to my tree and without any hesitation I said “this is her; this is my tree” My partner with very big eyes at that point said “Yes it is” Of course I was happy that I found my tree. I felt proud, happy, peaceful and special. At that point I had really no idea what so ever that this game was a life changing experience for me. That would work down in every level of my life, and most important for me, in my recovery.

During the week after the game, I felt at peace and experienced a feeling of being useful. The feeling of being useful I haven’t experienced for more than 24 years at that point. So that was a major feeling to have for me. It gave me hope and faith that there was deep down, inside of me a good person. Through the year after that, I have to admit, that I never thought about finding my tree that day very often anymore. A couple of weeks ago two friends of mine were going to visit Geoff in the UK. They asked me if I would join them. They made my day asking me to join them. When we arrived in the woods, Geoff started to explain the game to the non-addict group, the group of addicts and my friends.

All the people were listening, but I felt a little restlessness in the group of addicts. They reminded me of the time I did the game for the very first time. Although I did not play the game this time, I guided a person, I was excited again. There was a smile on my face and a warm feeling in my stomach. I guided the lady around for the first game, (tunnel vision).

I watched how she connected with her tree. I noticed that the restlessness slowly disappeared. After several minutes I guided the woman back to the beginning. Geoff asked her if she was okay. She was okay. So now she could go and find her tree. I really enjoyed the surroundings, the other people looking for their tree, the sounds of birds, and the smell of the woods. I was having a great time and was feeling so happy. My eyes started to get wet at some point, I guess it were tears of joy. The lady was still looking for her tree, and in one split second she turned around and pointed in a direction and walked over and found her tree. I looked at her and said ‘yes, that is your tree’. I noticed that the woman, (just like me when I did the game my first time) was not realising how important this experience could become for her in her future live. The thoughts of that made me feel so happy inside. I watched all the other people and my eyes stayed wet for the rest of the day.

I realised that through guiding another person, the power of the game I played one and half years ago kicked in my inner soul again. I realised that I could with some exercise, tune into that inner soul whenever I want to. What a lucky person I am that I had the chance to experience such a powerful tool. After years of denying my feelings, didn’t want to feel them. Hiding my emotions behind a poker face, and realising that because of that I did not even know anymore what I was feeling or in what kind of emotion I was. Today I learn to recognise my feelings and emotions. I do not have to hide from them anymore.

The find your tree game was for me a very important event in my road of recovery. Because of the game I learned how to tune into my deepest inner soul. And I also learned that this is an on-going process. Once I had played the game the healing power of it is doing its work day in day out, if I keep tuning into the feelings instead of my thoughts every now and then, if I take moments of silence and connect with that feeling, I am convinced that I will grow as a person and the healing process keeps going on.

Yolanda - Holland