How to Deal with
the Underlying Source of Your Personal and Global Discontents.
When I was a child living in
New York City, as I returned home from school one day, some bullies
in the schoolyard roughed me up saying, "Kike!* You jewboy, you killed Christ." In tears,
as I continued home I was drawn to an alternative path through
a wooded park by the railroad. Things were peaceful in that little
grove and by the time I emerged from it, I felt much better.
Next day, when I asked my teacher
why the park made me feel better, she said it was, "Because
it took you away from your problems." But, significantly, like most other people I
have ever known, my teacher never told me just what it was that
little natural area took me to. This is because most of
us don't know what "to" is. In our nature-separated
society that important piece of information has been omitted
from our awareness, socialization and education. This is a huge,
What we seldom learn about
parks and other natural areas is that visiting them is more than
just an escape from reality. Our nature-separated society leaves
us unaware that natural areas also revive us because, to sustain
its perfection, nature continually balances and restores itself.
We are part of nature. In an attractive natural setting we connect
with nurturance from our sensory origins in the regenerative,
non-polluting way nature works. Often this happens subconsciously
but the important thing is that it happens and we benefit.
Elements of nature make us
feel good and revive us in attractive natural areas because nature's
air, water, soil, sunlight, species, community, beauty, grace
and renewing powers are nurturing essences of our physical, emotional
and spiritual self. We learn to take for granted that in nature,
the vibrancy of natural systems brings into our mind and heart
their recuperative ways and intelligence within and around us.
This helps us enjoy and think with the means nature uses to produce
its optimums of life, diversity, cooperation and purification.
Nature produces these optimums without producing garbage or our
insanity because in unadulterated nature everything belongs.
Nothing is left out. No 'kikes' there; things are neither labeled
nor abandoned. Transformation, not rejection is how nature works.
That's a way to describe unconditional love; that's how and why
nature supports us when we visit attractive natural areas. It
makes us think and feel better because our psyche and spirit
are more natural and whole there.
It is urgent that we recognize
our great personal and global problems result from our thinking
not consciously recognizing that supportive respect for nature
is a restorative and active part of life. To improve the quality
of our lives we must learn how to genuinely reconnect our mind
with nature so that, like organic composting, we can let nature
transform and recycle our mental garbage into greater well being
for the whole of life. That's the rest of the story about visiting
a natural area, the organic part of it. To our loss, very few
of us know it.
We omit nature from our thinking
because our society not only prides itself on its conquest of
nature but our socialization/education teaches us the false prejudice,
"For survival we must dominate and subdue nature."
We learn to exploit rather than cooperate with and embrace nature's
ways around and within us. That prejudice explains why openly
enjoying or revering natural systems, including our natural senses
often earns us the name of "escapist, flaky, tree hugging,
"From the masses to the
The most Revolutionary consciousness is to be found,
Among the most ruthlessly exploited classes:
Animals, trees, water, air, grasses."
- Gary Snyder
As I worked my way through
elementary school I watched that little woodland park by the
railroad disappear. Progress "improved" it by converting
it into a shopping center and apartment house. What I didn't
see was that my natural way of thinking and feeling was part
of nature and that it was being similarly converted during this
period. I unknowingly learned to overlook that I was being programmed
to a way of thinking that destroyed natural systems because conquering
nature is 'normal' and applauded in our civilization. It's the
"in" thing to do to improve ourselves and the world.
And, it's excessively rewarded to help us overcome our sadness
over our loss of nature.
Our society teaches us to spend,
on average, over 99 percent of our thinking and 95 percent of
our time indoors, separated from authentic nature's balanced
ways and guiding signals. This results in us losing consciousness
of ourselves and the natural world as intercommunicating, seamless
natural systems. The separation stressfully rips our thinking
from nature's recuperative and aesthetic benefits while we are
at home, work and school. We learn, instead, to destructively
relate to nature as a "resource." Many financial and
social rewards goad and psychologically addict us to keep doing
this. We feel we can't stop, even when we know we should, even
when we want to because we know it's stupid not to.
Although the disconnection
of our mind from nature's balanced ways underlies our disorders
and discontents, we are conditioned to crave, rather than correct,
this separation. As we purchase things that help us overcome
the discomfort produced by our disconnection, we fuel our economy
and we depend upon the shallow happiness of status and false
security. A vast majority of us do not recognize that our nature-disconnection
is a major source of our dilemmas. Short circuited, we remain
disconnected, we think those who do connect are eccentric, and
the world increasingly goes around in crazy untrustable circles.
"The definition of insanity
is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different
- Benjamin Franklin
Accompanied by others at Project
NatureConnect, and the program I founded at the National Audubon
Society Expedition Institute, since 1952, I have focused a major
part of my life researching and developing an organic sensory
science, a Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) that enables
us to genuinely reconnect our mind with how nature works in natural
areas as well as in people. Readily available, NSTP helps us
tap our thinking into authentic nature and thereby tenfold strengthen
nature's balance and healing powers in ourselves, others and
the environment. It enables us to let nature's recovery energies
help us deal with our addictive dysfunctions and our emotional
bonds to detrimental ways of thinking and acting.
Today, funds developed by NSTP
economics make it possible for anybody who appreciates nature
to learn and teach NSTP and enjoy its organic benefits to themselves,
to others and the to environment. And today, the value of teaching
this science is increasingly recognized and supported through
many universities, most recently West Coast University in the
Republic of Panama, accredited by ICDE, the global accrediting
agency recognized by UNESCO & UNO.
Maybe there is hope. After
all, anyone who has enjoyed a good experience with nature -backcountry,
backyard or with their pet, or with the wind, sea or stars- knows
nature's potential for increasing our peace of mind and our reverence
for all of life. All we need to do is trust our good experiences
in nature and learn to use NSTP to help us incorporate them in
our daily life.
Isn't now the time to produce
and enjoy the organic rewards of greater personal, professional
and environmental sanity rather than continue to suffer our dysfunctions
- Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D.
Faculty, West Coast
*Leo Rosten says, "The word
kike was born on Ellis Island, when Jewish immigrants who
were illiterate (or could not use Roman-English letters), when
asked to sign the entry-forms with the customary 'X,' refused
-- and instead made a circle. For the Jewish immigrants, an 'X'
was an evil sign, representing both the horrors of crucifixion
and the sign of their (Christian) oppressors. The Yiddish word
for 'circle' is kikel (pronounced KY - kel), and
for 'little circle,' kikeleh. Before long the immigration
inspectors were calling anyone who signed with an 'O' instead
of an 'X' a kikel or kikeleh or kikee or,
finally and succinctly, kike."