– Heartwood Path Waypoint 1.27 –
Basis And Basics
Use The Heartwood Path To Quicken And Heighten Your Own Maturity
Dr. Michael J. Cohen reminds us that virtually all of us live most of our lives indoors, separate from nature. We, therefore, do not experience how the world works so beautifully, how it sustains itself without pollution, and how it works in balance by using fifty-four natural senses that we humans inherit but, due to our nature-separated lifestyle, do not typically use (except for the well-known five senses of hearing, sight, smell and so forth). The Natural Senses include the:
The Radiation Senses
The Feeling Senses
The Chemical Senses
The Mental Senses
(Cohen, website: http://www.ecopsych.com/insight53senses.html).
The Basis For NatureConnect Activities:
Natural Attraction Ecology
The foundation of Dr. Cohen’s methodology is called “Natural Attraction Ecology.” It can be summarized as follows: Planet Earth is, or functions like, a living organism that has its own perfection.
Our living planet’s global life community enjoys non-literate communication between all of its plant, animal, and mineral members, including the sensory parts of humanity. All natural things are held together in communion by “webstrings” of attraction.
Webstrings are what tie together all the aspects of nature in the “web of life.” They are natural attractions.
According to Cohen, attraction is intelligent enough to be conscious of it being attracted and attractive. Humanity registers the world through the fifty-four natural senses previously mentioned.
Nature generates joy, purity, and balance because its essence is like an enduring stream of self-correcting natural attraction relationships that flow around, through, and in us. Natural attractions have the power to recycle and restore relationships, to create optimums of life, cooperation, diversity, and beauty throughout the web of life, including humanity.
Nature does not produce garbage or our runaway abusiveness, stress, pollution, isolation, and disorders. These afflictions are not attractive. They do not support life. The purpose of life is to support life.
By using Dr. Cohen’s methods, participants feel one with nature and achieve a sense of integrity that is integrated with the natural functions of the Earth. It is evident to just about anyone spending some quiet time in a natural area that nature has a powerful renewing and restorative effect on our psyche, thoughts, and feelings.
We humans know contact with nature works wonders. We inherit from nature the ability to bond with nature.
We humans are part of nature and it is attracted to help us live in balance with it as part of its attraction to support/nurture/purify its own life and to grow. Time spent in a shopping mall rarely produces this effect.
Life would be better if we were thinking in a harmless nature-connected mode most of the time. Instead, we not only disconnect from nature, but we bury it under the nature exploitive stories of our society.
Irritated, our nature-deprived psyche demands more satisfactions continually and thus fuels our economy while producing pollutants. Learning to think in ways that help us make greater conscious sensory contact with nature, backyard to backcountry, has proven to help nature help us organically reverse the destructive and delusional story that we ordinarily march to. Cohen provides the means to accomplish an earth-preserving way of thinking by focusing on the forty-nine “natural attraction senses” in addition to the five traditional senses.
Our natural sense to breathe, by the way, is an example of human/nature oneness.
“As breathing involves a continual oscillation between exhaling and inhaling, offering ourselves to the world at one moment and drawing the world into ourselves at the next . . .so sensory perception entails a like reciprocity” (Abram, 2010, p. 61).
We breathe, touch, and perceive the Earth and the Earth breathes, touches, and perceives us. This is a purifying setup that we naturally love, find attractive, and can easily recognize to be intelligent.
This and other earth-human relationships require no labels to function. Having participants emulate this last aspect of Natural Attraction Ecology – the lack of names or the lack of words in nature--is very important to the success of Dr. Cohen’s methods. There are no words or names in nature and we open ourselves to the misconceptions of nature-dominating stories when we put them there. As Dr. Cohen says:
“. . . there is no substitute for the real thing, if a person is not in conscious connection with webstring attractions, they are probably playing god in some way without the wisdom to do so” (Cohen, Ecopsych Website).
Worded stories are either outright fantasies or are mere representations of facts. For these reasons, the emphasis in Dr. Cohen’s methodology is not on words or labels. Words are used in a limited way after the activities. It is then that participants report to others and attempt to achieve validation (as others validate that they too have had similar experiences or results). Otherwise the emphasis is on the direct experiences of actions. “Acts are facts,” says Dr. Cohen. Another example from natural attraction ecology is one’s sense of thirst. After doing Dr. Cohen’s related activity, one accepts that one’s thirst is as much a part of water as is wetness.
According to Natural Attraction Ecology, one’s thirst leads to an attraction to water and there is an inseparable relationship between the water and one’s attraction to it. One’s experience of Greer Spring in Missouri, for example, is, according to Natural Attraction Ecology, as much a part of the local ecology as is the water’s coolness. This realization and many more are discovered in Dr. Cohen’s Project NatureConnect courses though direct experience which is routinely validated through words with others.
Once we add living in the “N”ow” and “A”liveness to the “N”ameless, “I”ntelligent, “A”ttractive, “L”ove previously mentioned regarding the components of earth-human relationships, we are listing all of the ingredients of a particular form of psychological consciousness we humans naturally sense and enjoy; namely, a consciousness Cohen calls “NNIAAL” (Cohen, Ecopsych/Ecopsychology Journal Website). Reconnecting with “NNIAAL” is a vital component of Natural Attraction Ecology. It is also an encoded way to identify the Enduring Stream, mentioned previously. As you will discover in the next section, using the Natural Systems Thinking Process to reconnect with NNIAAL (or the Enduring Stream) is psychologically replenishing. I say “reconnect” because earlier in our history, more than one hundred years ago, we were still healthfully attached to the breast of nature and were, therefore, physically and psychologically nurtured. We as a species weaned ourselves from our mother’s bosom prematurely. This collective form of self-neglect damaged the shared fitness of our thinking. “The wellness of our thinking determines our health, relationships and destiny” (Cohen, 1987, p viii). Reconnecting with the psychological embrace that occurs at Mother Nature’s breast—a metaphorical way to say “communing with NNIAAL” or “bonding with the Enduring Stream,” is also a way to persevere. The Natural Systems Thinking Process “helps you restore and enjoy the rewarding benefits of the way nature
Although the following section may seem redundant, read it anyway. The next section contains both repeated and new information that all eartHearts need to understand. Repetition is the sire of excellence.
The Basics Of The Natural Systems Thinking Process
Each of Dr. Cohen’s activities put the participants through the same basic sequence:
First. Find an attraction in nature (backyard or backcountry). If you are attracted to a being because of its beauty, do not just use your eyes but also perceive its beauty in terms of its resonance, its ability to move you, to make you see and do things differently, to make you bow, cry, or give thanks, to make you want more and to become softer to get it, and to make you respond to its call for engagement.
Second. Make a sensory contact with this attraction, using any of one’s fifty-four natural attraction senses (which include the radiation senses such as the sense of temperature, the feeling senses such as sensitivity to gravity, the chemical senses such as the sense of appetite, and the mental senses such as the sense of humility and appreciation).
Third. Obtain consent from the attraction to use it for your educational, counseling, or healing purposes (your continued attraction to the object (being) is your consent to continue and your un-attraction--perhaps as the noticing of ugliness or a feeling of lack of safety--marks a lack of consent and is a call to move elsewhere).
Fourth. Be thankful when you note how your natural attraction feels good.
Fifth. Trust your thoughts and your feelings arising from the contact.
Sixth. Psychologically assume the perspective of the attraction and wait for it to provide information, guidance, or healing. Doing so is a psychological technique that allows one the freedom to momentarily step out of one’s limited identity and to forge new ways of perceiving the world. From the new vantage point of an attractive natural being, one has a better chance of seeing with fresh eyes and one can state what needs to be said but could not be said until one is beside one’s Self. What may seem like a little psychological trick will be given much more merit as one assumes the perspective of the attraction and witnesses what unfolds. When one sheds one’s own persona, so full of of one’s own self-imposed mystique and so limited by forced, imbedded, hard-to-shed desires for consistency, one can be released from the shackles of selfhood and glean from one’s temporary new perspective what one’s awareness of Oak Tree tells, or what one’s awareness of Rattlesnake says, or what one’s awareness of Prairie Dog prescribes. This technique may seem to some to be a mind game; but, as long as the perspective is that of one’s awareness of a real and attractive natural being (as encountered during the Natural Systems Thinking Process), as long as the gleanings (the resultant healing, information or guidance) are not totally self-generated within the mind of the practitioner, and as long as the gleanings come from the bridge of awareness between the human practitioner and the chosen, attractive natural being, the assumption of the perspective of an attractive natural being is a worthy part of the practice of eco-psychology along the Heartwood Path.
Seventh. Look for ways that your contacted being improves relationships.
Eight. Validate your experiences by writing down your experiences; and, after reading your journal notes aloud to yourself, share your written words with others. “Doing the activities and sharing their results” writes Dr. Cohen (1987), “provides irreplaceable empirical knowledge, evidence, and energy for change” (p.vi).
It is worth repeating: asking a natural being or place to give its consent may seem dubious to those who do not realize that the consent does not come through words spoken by animal spirits, trees, or places in the style of Dr. Dolittle (who, in a beloved fairy tale, could talk with the animals). Instead, the consent comes from a person’s continued reactions to his or her attraction to the natural being or place. This attainment of consent is a critically important step in Cohen’s methodologies, as it creates within the participant a psychological state-of-mind that is non-domineering and suitable for the functioning of the fifty-four natural attraction senses and the resulting attainment of guidance, information, or healing.
According to Cohen, those who are attracted to a more nature-centered life and who recognize the negative impacts of our way of life, can unbury nature’s way of living that has been covered over by living according the modern industrial society’s stories and labels that betray an undeclared war on nature. This half-asleep way of living precludes us from using the natural attraction senses that enable us to participate in the beautiful way nature works. It is, therefore, one of the chief causes of “burnout.”
Living according to nature-disconnected stories, which range from the children’s tale of Little Red Riding Hood to the meta-story of the “American Dream,” is one of the main underlying causes for most personal and planetary dilemmas. Nature-disconnected stories, prevalent through modern industrial cultures, tend to make people want, and to attempt to satisfy yearnings for connection with nature or a Higher Power with substitutes such as material objects, work, drugs, alcohol, or promiscuous sex.
All of these substitutes inevitably fail to compensate for a lack of connection with the Whole and leave people with palpable holes in their souls. When heard or read repeatedly in one’s culture, a person begins to believe in nature-disconnected stories even when they lead to unsustainable actions and dire consequences.
Cohen’s methods redress these root causes of most maladies and help to give people and the planet a healthful future by enabling participants to find oneness with the real thing, not with the words that represent the real thing. Using words only to receive guidance from nature is, using Cohen’s humorous terminology, “like experiencing the gobble without the turkey” (Cohen, Thesis Quote Website).
Living “half-vast,” which is Dr. Cohen’s way of saying living according to nature-disconnected stories, is both ecologically disastrous and personally a burden that fosters burnout and other personal and planetary dilemmas. The remedy, according Dr. Cohen, is what he calls the “Natural Systems Thinking Process” (Cohen, Ecopsych/Lifeweb Website). This tool can be used to heal any person from an array of lifestyle stresses that lead to burnout, depression, anxiety, and addictions. It can be used to reverse challenging global and personal problems caused by nature separation that, in turn, causes abnormal wants that propel us into irresponsible relationships.
The Natural Systems Thinking Process promotes education, counseling, and healing with nature. This process is based on the principles of Natural Attraction Ecology, which identifies the strands in the web of life and indicates that they function according attractions.
According to Natural Attraction Ecology, all relationships are held together in the web of life because they are attracted to do so. These attractions do not appear in our consciousness with any regularity because regrettably we live much of our lives indoors. As a result, there is within us an organic void that feels like an uncomfortable psychological emptiness in our thoughts and lives.
Psychotherapist and author Chellis Glendinning (2007) maintains “that the traumatized state is not merely the domain of the Vietnam veteran or the survivor of childhood abuse, it is the underlying condition of the domesticated people” because “of the built-in displacement of our lives from the Earth” (p. xiii.).
Attempting to fill this void, we want, emotionally and materially; and, as we want, there is never enough. Greed, stress, and recklessness become pervasive, at great peril to oneself, to other people, and to the Earth. “The destruction of the environment is driven by an insatiable craving for more” (Maathai, 2010, P.43).
The nature-reconnecting activities of the Natural Systems Thinking Process brings natural sensory attraction relationships, called “webstrings,” back into our lives. Their presence fights both the craving for more and the activists’ burnout by reinstating forgotten but nevertheless reinvigorating personal and environmental relationships.
Maathai writes that the idea of “ . . . enough is enough is a matter of monumental discipline. This will not occur unless it’s linked to the raising of consciousness that is essential to healing the earth” (p. 40). The task of healing the wounds of the earth “is to find a balance between the perspectives...between knowledge based on measurement and data and knowledge that draws on older forms of wisdom and experience” (Maathai, 2010, p. 76).
After doing nearly one hundred of Dr. Cohen’s activities and after discussing the results of these activities with dozens of fellow participants, I can attest to the fact that Cohen’s methodologies help people overcome their nature-disconnected patterns of thinking and doing—a valuable metamorphosis (conversion) that relieves stress, reduces wanting, and increases participants’ general satisfaction with life. While these benefits lead to the optimal functioning that is so critical to the development of people capable of helping others find happiness and environmental sustainability, by themselves Dr. Cohen’s nature-connect activities are not designed to develop and then organize environmental activities. They do not, more specifically, lead all the way to the development of a cadre of eco-centric life coaches. For the specific purpose of helping activists better themselves and to persevere in their environmental participation, a “bettermorphosis” would occur if one would apply Dr. Cohen’s excellent methodologies along a pointed course of study such as the Heartwood Path developed by myself as a way to answer Brower’s 1986 call to write.
As a way to help you determine how, if at all, the Heartwood Path (when combined with Dr. Cohen’s methodologies) does provide for a “bettermorphosis”–– one that does cause greater gladness and environmental sustainability––I ask you to begin the habitual pattern described in the following activity.