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"In contemporary society, a readily available process for building environmentally responsible inner peace, social relationships and global unity has been absent. Now, research shows that a Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) meets this need."



Institute of Global Education
Special NGO consultant to the
United Nations Economic and Social Council
Project NatureConnect




Archive of Messages and Discussions During Field Tests
of The In Balance With Earth Activity


A sensory ecology exercise that induces
personal and global equilibrium.

A short description of the activity

This activity asks you to go to an attraction in a natural area and thankfully obtain its permission to visit it. Permission is granted by the attraction remaining attractive to you for 10 seconds. If its attractiveness fades, you have obtained guidance, but not permission. You have been guided by nature to find another attractive natural thing and try again to obtain permission. Once permission is received, you genuinely thank the natural attraction for giving its consent to visit. You then note how you think and feel in comparison to before you thankfully received consent.


Why does the activity work?

We are part of nature. One cannot be open to nature for long periods of time without sensing a cohesive, non-verbal, creative energy that exists throughout the natural world, including people. Over the eons, nature has "wired" people, and all of life, to relate through 53 evolved variations of this cohesive energy. By attracting natural things to everything around them, this energy unifies and sustains natural areas and natural people in balance, without producing our runaway garbage, war, or abusiveness. We experience this natural cohesive energy non-verbally, as 53 distinct natural attraction sensations such as sight, thirst, community, place, trust, hunger, touch, reason, intuition, nurturing and consciousness. Each are natural forms of love.

In our consciousness, whenever our verbal way of knowing, (our stories) psychologically separate nature's sensory attraction energy in us from itself in nature, we emotionally become aware of stress and discomfort. Our aggravation is caused by the disconnected natural energy flow of Earth's cohesiveness and unity.

When we thoughtfully reconnect with nature by consciously making sensory contact with natural attractions in places and people, this disconnected natural energy rejoins, flows again, and produces warm, reasonable feelings. We feelingly become conscious of nature's attraction energy through these sensations. Thanking these sensory connections further energizes and cements them.

Our 53 natural senses bring nature's loving wholeness, unity and balance into our consciousness, endeavors and relationships. The In Balance With Earth activity enables our verbal/cognitive way of knowing and relating to open the door that lets nature's cohesive energies feelingly enter our awareness and share their global intelligence. 

For those who are wise enough to desire and teach life in balance, I have developed 124 sensory nature connecting activities.* In Balance With Earth is one of them. They enable anybody to beneficially reconnect with nature, experience its balance, and teach others to do the same. The activities safely release people from their attachments to the nature-separating stories of industrial society. They enable youngsters or adults to consciously sense and think through nature's attraction energies. The process has proven to reverse runaway troubles.

The best way to learn the process is to learn how to teach it through our short, accredited online Orientation Course

Our challenge is to learn to trust and thank our attraction experiences in nature around and within us, to validate, verbalize and relate through the cohesive energies in these experiences. That energy attaches us to Earth, the whole of the local and global life community including the inner nature of people. We come to rationally act from its sensory presence, not just from words alone.

Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D.
Director, Project NatureConnect

- Edited from the Introduction to Reconnecting With Nature by Michael J. Cohen.

*Available in Reconnecting With Nature and Well Mind, Well Earth


Below is a sampling of varying experiences from people worldwide who tested the In Balance With Earth activity (Activity 1, 2 , 12, 14, in Reconnecting With Nature) and communicated their experience to each other in person or over the internet. The final entry below deserves serious attention.


Responses to the In Balance With Earth activity from people who felt thankful for receiving a natural attraction's consent to visit it.


Smiling Consent

May, 1996. It was hot. Soon after I asked for permission to visit with the grove of young trees, a gentle, refreshing breeze came through them. It cooled me, and the trees waved their leaves at me. It felt good, like the grove smiled its consent. Thanking the grove strengthened that feeling- Mike


Coming Closer

July, 1996. I was attracted to the sound of a raven on the rocks ahead. I stopped and sought its consent for me to enjoy its presence. It began to come closer and closer, increasing my delight and excitement. That was so fun and unforgettable. I still feel thankful. -Anne


A Little Hug

June, 1996. My whole attraction to the moss on the rock increased. I felt more intensely than when I first arrived, it felt like a little hug from the planet. - Sally


Supported by Earth

July, 1996. I decided to do the Earth Day activity while I was walking down the trail. I asked a tree covered area about 50 yards ahead of me for its permission to walk through it. The area continued to feel attractive, but something changed. It was the first time in my life that I totally felt safe. It felt like Earth was in charge of my life, not just me. Wonderfully, it gave me a feeling of having more power to be myself and in balance because I had the energies of Earth supporting me. I have never experienced nature that way before, it was as real as a traffic law that was protecting not only my life, but all of life. I felt very secure and nurtured as I walked under those trees. I learned that I belong, I'm not alone.- Arthur


Getting Past A Story

October, 1996. The smell of a yellow flower attracted me, but as I drew near a bee flew into it. It paid no attention to me but I was afraid of getting stung, as I, and others I know, have been stung in the past. I thought I did not have permission to stay there. It was no longer attractive. I thanked it for that guidance and started to look for another attraction but I could not deny the truth that the smell of that flower was the most attractive thing. I came back to it, not too close, and remained still so as to not disrupt the bee. After a while I became more fascinated with the bee and its activity than the flower and its smell. I actually felt disappointed when the bee finally flew off. After sleeping on the experience, it dawned on me that I was reacting to my story about my, and others, past bee stings, not to this flower or this bee. The past experience helped me be in balance since it influenced me to not get to close. If I had not thankfully sought permission from the flower, I probably would not have been aware that I was attracted to a bee. Come to think of it, I could have asked the bee for its consent too. It certainly never indicated I should leave. It was my story that did that. Maybe it would have stayed longer.- Bill


Permission Produces Respect

November, 1996. I want to tell you all that 'our' students led groups in the most sincere and competent way. I delighted as I saw children who are learning to behave in Room 13 asking for respect from others and getting it. No nature was trampled or injured, and many exciting things were planted. Teachers reported that it was their favorite of all the garden experiences. It was the least minutely planned, and all were able to stay as long as they liked.

The experiences our students have had connecting with nature made a big difference today. They were asking permission to be with areas and animals, demonstrating profound respect. We spent an incredible 3 hours. Nobody asked for recess or had to leave to use the restroom. Some even stayed to help and were late to lunch. - Jane


Doing a workshop??

On Tuesday last, I went to the wilds of rural Mississippi to one of the Miss State Campus outposts to talk about PNC, the book, and anything else that my audience would listen to. I was to have a day of the landscape symposium and entertain them sufficiently so they would be interested in "The Care and Feeding of Turf grasses", the following day. So, I walked into a building (gymnasium?) made of cinderblocks, with no window in sight and one door to the outside. Staring at me were ninety seven faces, daring me to make them want to be in that awful place. There was a toddler walking around, lots of what I call 'whiny white girls' (They want to have gardens, but would not DREAM of getting their hands dirty, the hort club from campus, a retired industrial psychologist (he told me that first off), a woman and her Down Syndrome daughter, a contingent of grizzled black men from the local community garden effort, several professional landscapers and a few Ph.D's to spice up the mix. Whew!! I started by talking about the bird who was caught in the building of quarreling people and how the bird tried so very hard to teach them, but they would not listen. I talked about the cinderblock building and the slides that they were NOT going to see--at least I didn't have any!! I asked them to think about why they came to see me that day, what they were looking for in their gardens. And then I asked them to talk to me about their earliest memory of being 'connected' (RWN Activity 1). I asked them to tell me, tell the group, tell their neighbor if they were afraid to speak to the group. I heard the grizzled black men tell me of cotton farming, of growing vegetables for their families, of watching the wonder of the okra reaching for the sky, the sugar cane yielding its sweetness on a hot Mississippi day. I listened to the hort club youngsters tell me that being in the garden made them do better on their exams, made them want to be outside more and inside less. I listened to the Down Syndrome youngster (who embarassed her mother just by *being*), tell me of the fun she had watching the bugs crawl over her crayons when she was coloring outside in the grass. I watched her mother start to realize the inherent value of her daughter as she talked. I watched those Ph.D types tell of the values of crop rotation, of fertilizers. I watched as the 'whiny white girls' looked at their hands and realized that they didnt' know about gardening at all. And the I asked them to take their shoes off. (RWN Activity 4) There were 97 people who were suddenly and wonderfully shoeless. I asked a couple of hort club kids to go outside and find us a safe area -- no cigarette butts, no nails, no nettles. They came back in momentarily with news of a grassy area directly outside. They came back in momentarily with news of a grassy area directly outside. I asked all to stay with me inside for a moment while I told them of Kurt's kids. And then asked them to remember those early memories they spoke of earlier while we went outside. I asked them to stay with the group that was sitting in their row (that got me down to about 10 groups of 10 people each). And then I asked them to find an attraction outside--each of them.(RWN Activity 1) And I asked them to share that attraction with the rest of their small group. They were to ask permission to be in the area, to gain consent from the area, to let their memory take over, and to share with each other their feelings. (RWN Activity 2 "In Balance With Earth")

After about 30 minutes, I asked them to sit in their groups and talk about what they felt (RWN Activity 2). I got to each group in turn and watched as they found feelings in themselves that had been unrecognised for years. I had the ultimate privilege of watching people cry over a stick or a blade of grass as they spoke of their love for it and each other. I watched them come together as groups, trust each other, the earth, nature, themselves. I asked them to play outside for awhile while I tried to deal with the emotional intensity that all of us were feeling. We played all through lunch--we ate our sandwiches in the grass, laughing, joking, having FUN. After lunch, no one wanted to go back in the building, no one wanted to put their shoes back on, no one was noticing what time it was or if their feet were getting dirty. 97 people were playing with the Down Syndrome teen....she was showing them how to color..... 97 people were rediscovering their real connections, they were laughing and crying together, they were loving nature and themselves. I watched them revel in it for an hour and then I spoke to them about continuing to find their connections, about maintaining those feelings--really about how they were there all the time, you just had to let them happen. I tried to let them know that it was OK to let those feelings surface, --the feelings for nature and for each other, to find them in their gardens and in themselves, that the ability to sense and feel was part of nature and their inner nature, too.

Gaining Permission Indoors

November, 1996. For about 2 weeks I was dealing with one problem after another with my family. My heart was so sore! I read  the directions for activity 10 and just never had the energy to go outside and do it, even though previous activities had been calming and energizing. Then, Friday, I found myself in a waiting room next to a 5-foot potted tree. I looked up to it and asked, "May I learn from you?" As my mind grew quiet, the tree looked happy, welcoming, big, complicated, beautiful. Each leaf was perfect. Thoughts went through my head, "Big! I should write in the e-mail that it looks big!" but I let the thought go instead of getting caught up in planning my e-mail. "What do the people in the other chairs think?" I let it go, the tree was just too beautiful to get lost in thought. "The women on the other side of the tree think I'm staring at them!" Ooops. That one got me. I don't know if it was 5 minutes or not, but it was a calm, beautiful experience in a long stressful day. I can't wait to look at the goldfish at the dentist's office! - Fran


Becoming More Whole 

September, 1996. Earlier this evening I went into my backyard to do the Earth Day activity. I have walked out there dozens of times since we moved here, and each of those times I felt removed from the area, like I was on my way to somewhere else, somewhere I had to be, with something I had to do. This time, I sat down in the grass which we have let grow fairly tall, and I looked around at the many trees and plants, and I asked if I might join with the oneness of this place. Immediately I felt very different, as if the person that I am had expanded, had become as big as the yard, had encompassed and been encompassed by the nature that is living there. I felt immediate peace, a smiling kind of relaxation, a warm welcome from life...almost as if these natural beings had been waiting for me to stop going and doing, and to simply be, as they are simply being. I feet at home, trusting, here in this community of life that seems so friendly in its warmth and beauty. I feel a sense of happiness and joy is being shared by all the life in this yard...I am so glad I am here. - Linda  



August, 1996. My first reaction was that to have to gain permission from nature to visit and enjoy it was outrageous, a needless request. I have been through many hard times when all I had to turn to is nature. Its beauty and wisdom have always sustained me. We have been like mother and daughter for decades. This activity interrupted our ongoing love by questioning an aspect of it. With much hesitancy and frustration I consented to do the activity once, just to see what might happen. I was not prepared for the results. Permission to visit some places and not others was strong and undeniable. This was better than Communion. I was attracted to some rocks by the seashore. I asked their permission to climb on them and suddenly they glowed in my excitement, thankfulness and tears for nature having always been there for me these long troublsome years. My deep appreciation for our relationship came to mind. It was like a missing link had been provided. It lifted a unseen tension from my heart and intensified our love by validating it. I get more support from natural areas now when I visit them.- Kathy


November, 1996. Initially I felt embarrassed and a bit silly doing the activity. Nature always continues to surprise me however, and after the initial wave of reason swept by there was a brief feeling of closeness. A cold, light breeze seemed to caress my cheek, unfortunately. I quickly closed my mind door. Stimulus....Fear!!! -Roger    


Finding Inner Child Wisdom 

October, 1996. One evening around 7:00 PM, I finished work for the day and wanted to  visit with a friend before going home for the night. However, she  had another client and would not be free until 8:00 PM. I decided  that this would be an opportunity for me to try the activity. Our  office building is small and nestled in a quiet area that backs up to  a wonderful residential community. The builders and designers of the  building wanted it to fit in, so they left many trees all around the  building and a wonderful grassy area to the side. It's fenced in and  has many trees.

I walked along the side of the building and stopped  at the edge of the parking lot just before entering the grassy area  to seek permission before entering.  I've visited this spot thousands of times, but as I stood quietly  that evening seeking permission, it felt completely different. (The  day had been warm and muggy, and when I first left the building I  considered changing my mind because I was a bit uncomfortable  outside.) As I stood waiting for permission, a gentle breeze brushed  across the tall grasses and then straight toward me. I giggled  outloud with delight over the joyful welcome I received. (I felt  quite childlike at that moment!) Now with permission, I began  strolling around the grassy area. Still feeling quite childlike (and  giddy), I was drawn to a tree. I don't have other words to describe  it ... drawn is the closest I can find... almost magnetic... This  wonderful live oak has a strong lower limb that stretches out almost  parallel to the ground. As I stood there near the tree, it became  obvious to me that it was time to climb. Before starting, however, I  asked permission again, thinking this had not been part of my  original request. Again the breeze welcomed me and I spent a  wonderful half hour sitting on that limb listening to the songs of  the night insects all around.  I've spent countless hours in that same place, always feeling  refreshed and renewed when I leave, but that night I felt something  more. I felt trusted and nurtured by the space. Even now, when I  enter the office, I feel stronger... a bit protected... knowing that space is nearby. - Ruth

Apologizing to Nature?

November, 1996. Here's another happening at a that landscaping job of mine on Friday/Saturday. I was putting plants in the places where they were to be planted. Without asking their, or any other plant's or person's permission, I told my employees to move a honeysuckle far away because it was orange and I didn't want orange in my palette. I had spent much time with my clients doing a few nature connecting activities and had found that they had lived most of their lives already connected (no wonder I liked them so much!). So after I banished the orange honeysuckle, the client came to me and told me to apologize to the honeysuckle, and recognize that it was beautiful no matter where it was and return it immediately to a place of honor. I felt chastised and did exactly what she said. The honeysuckle and employees laughed at me all the way back to its original home and I had to laugh along with them. I was put properly in my place. Oh, the opportunities we have to learn--from anyone, anything at anytime when we forget the permission process. After the honeysuckle returned to her place of orange beauty, the rest of the plants gave her a standing ovation. - Jan


A Challenge

October, 1996. "I found asking permission to be difficult at first ... it hurt me to realize how invasive I am ... so, I slowed my pace so that I could allow my senses and feelings to bubble up in my thoughts ... then asking permission and giving thanks came naturally from my appreciation of my experience"  "I found asking permission to be highly difficult ... in fact, I wasn't even thinking about it because I wasn't yet to my intended destination ... the leaves were really loud and it irritated the quiet ... so, I stopped walking ... that's when I discovered how much was going on around me ... I didn't even notice all of the wildlife, colors, the breeze, smells, etc, until I was still ... I was too busy getting to my destination ... then I realized my rushing was an intrusion on the stillness as well as the activity ... it was then that I became aware of my impact ... I now see my impact as my responsibility ... it became quite easy to ask permission after I realized my responsibility for my impact ... I learned by accident to ask permission to pass through places to get to my intended destination where I had intended to ask permission ... and I never got there because after I asked permission to pass through, a hawk landed only 25 or 30 feet away in a near by tree ... I watched in awe for 15 minutes or so ... I'd never been so close to a hawk ... asking permission has its rewards"  - Ernie     


No Permission Given 

November, 1996. In terms of actually doing the asking permission exercise, we have received an early snow, very unseasonable, which has been with us 3 days with no sign of melting yet (sigh). When I went outside to ask permission to be there, I noticed nothing different than I always notice. Snow to me is ugly, cold, unsafe, creates havoc, extra work and causes serious accidents and injury. I find it impossible to stay warm and dry. Basically I am mad at nature when it does this to me. I try not to go outside until it melts (normally within a day or so), and basically stop my life until it's gone. In all fairness, I've had several unsafe, bad experiences in the snow. So, I went out the door, asked permission to be there and nearly froze my @#X%&* off. Nothing welcoming about it.  

On the other hand, I've filled all my bird feeders and take great comfort in knowing I am providing for the wild birds, helping them to get through this horrible time. - Carol

(When something in nature is not attractive, it means, psychologically, that guidance, not permission is being given. Perhaps Carol might have learned something special by asking permission from the birds to feed them. -Editor)  

The Rejection Problem 

Whenever we ask for permission, there is always the possibility of a "no." However, since there is no rejection in nature, (No garbage is produced -Editor) a "no" would mean something different than what is experienced in the indoor society. A "no" in nature, it seems to me, has to be viewed  by looking at the whole ecological system, not just from my individual perspective. Under these circumstances, a "no" is a simple directive to go in another direction - towards something else, which will lead to a better balance for me. That's why there is no rejection. Guidance is not rejection. This is always the perspective of nature, and therefore, why our individual cognitive brain, when disconnected from nature, can never keep us safe and balanced. -Kurt  



October, 1996. Earth guidance is not a rejection. It is only us believing that we are separate from nature that makes us take it personally (as a rejection). It is our ego's desire for approval. If we are really connected when nature says go elsewhere, we know that it is for the benefit of all of Earth including each of us. -Johanna


A Pickup

August, 1996. A guy at school, Martin, knows that I'm on drugs and I get depressed easily. He asks me the other day for my consent to let him teach me an exercise he likes. He says I should try to get permission from nature to visit the park I where I like to walk, just to see what would happen. Sounds strange, but Martin's cool, so I go to the park and rather than just walk in, I ask for permission from an attraction, a major attraction for me, the big trees at the park entrance. As soon as I ask, buggers! they are not as attractive. They make me feel that I'm not welcome. I think this may have happened because I pollute myself on drugs and I smoke. Not getting the tree's permission make's me depressed since I like going to the park. Martin says I should be thankful for that guidance but I feel annoyed, not thankful.

I guess I get the tree's message. They don't want to get polluted. If you don't want to get polluted, then keep away from polluted things, including people like me. The trees must know that somehow. I mean, I get polluted because I want to be liked by friends who like to get wasted.

So then I try getting permission from the brook and then a berry bush. But it's the same with these attractions, they fade when I ask. Then I see, near the back part of the park, a place where sombody had dumped garbage: cans, boxes and plaster, nothing edible though, darn. It catches my attention, it makes me feel disgusted some one would do that. That depresses me too. Soon though, I start to realize that I'm more attracted to the garbage area than to the rest of the park. So, like an idiot, I ask its permission to visit, and, surprise, I actually feel welcome. I figure we share something. We both been dumped on. Feeling less depressed, I commiserate with that place for a while. I start picking up some garbage and placing it in the can down the street. That felt OK. It was a pick-up, no pun intended. Maybe the park will help me clean up my act as I help clean it up. That idea reduced my depression for awhile, and I felt OK about me getting rid of the garbage. See, I'm not all bad.

When I told Martin what happened, he was smiles. It touched something in him. That felt OK, too. Martin thinks its stupid me getting wasted and all. Yea, well it's OK for the park to be pure, but at least people made a home for the park. It's wanted, that's why its there right now. Not me. I sleep under the bridge on Oak Street ever since my mother married that abusive drunk. When I think about it now, I'm thankful for the experience. Can you imagine being thankful to garbage? - Debby   

Regaining Humility: 

October, 1996. It was dreadfully cold yesterday so I decided to try potted plants as nature. I pulled a huge cushion over into the midst of a collection of house plants and a huge potted gardenia that spends the winter indoors. I sat down in their midst, almost forest like in feeling enveloped by a diversity of leaves and branches. I sought consent and was immediately flooded with an overwhelming sense of humility to be here, asking plants "what can you teach me" rather than "what can YOU teach me" -- the difference being the contrast between humble openness and arrogant superiority.  Tears filled my eyes and I felt tremendous joy. There was a single, pale pink hibiscus bloom that I was eye-to-eye with -- the light coming from the window behind revealing amazingly complicated network of veins in the pale pink petals tissue like in their thinness. It was hard to keep sad, worrisome and competitive thinking at bay. "Focus on mini loves" became my mantra.

I looked past the flower out the window -- the wind was fiercely blowing the last of the fall leaves around in a flaming display of reds and yellows. I miss the smell of the woods, the fall leaves, the warm sunshine that accompany outdoor activities and thanked the outdoors for being there for me whenever I choose to be there too. "Focus on mini loves, focus on the moment." I pulled my eyes back to the hibiscus and its leaves in my face, their love for the sun raising them up, the flower's love for visiting pollinators, opening its petals of welcome, the glory of green. I closed my eyes to concentrate on sensing and breathing, just breathing, aware of plants doing the same, my heart rate slowing, a rhythm of life living. Letting go of expectations, the need to catalog experiences, being a plant rooted in place yet growing, attracting and attracted to, mini loves in existing.  Important to me: the good and great feelings of peace, calm, beauty, pacing, slowing down, relaxing, intensity of awareness that for a few moments was unaware of itself, being rather than expecting. What IS rather than what SHOULD BE. Seeking consent helps focus me as I begin nature connecting experiences -- focusing on the difference between being in place and expectations about a place; seeing rather than expecting to see.  If I lost this ability to feel these good things, I would spend my days as I used to and still too often do -- unfocused, driven, living more in the past and the future than in the present, disconnected from myself, from nature from the wisdom of nature within and around us.  My feelings are real and I trust them. Even with house plants...nature truly is the universe within, in a flower, in ourselves and each other. -Vicki   


Stress Management 

November, 1996. On a break from jury duty, I entered a courtyard area where people could sit and rest.  I noticed the rose garden with many of the rose bushes all filled with beautiful blooming roses. The rose garden was in an island with paths and little walkway. There were many trees surrounding the island, palm trees, plum trees and some oaks. The peaceful and brilliant color blooming roses were inviting me to go into their area. I asked for their permission and I knew I had the right answer. Upon entering the island, I noticed some leaves on the damp ground and some mud from unpaved walkway. It did not deter me from entering and walking around to admire the roses. I touched their petals and smelled them. I asked their permission to feel their soft, fresh and sweet fragrance flowers. I lovingly  touched and gazed at their unusual colors and shapes. The experience gave me an inspiring and uplifting spirit. I feel relieved from the stress and strain of the jury selection and the long waiting process. The birds were flying around above and they were making singing noises. I looked up to them and listened to their conversation. All the noises from the traffic disappeared and I only heard the birds singing, the leaves happily flustering in the winds. The trees are all freshen up from night sleep and basking warmly in the morning sun. Heaven was discovered in the middle of an island in downtown San Jose, in front of the Superior court house. -Jeri  


Discovering an Ethic 

October, 1996. I was attracted to find a shrub called Hearts A-Bustin' I discovered this past summer in the woods behind my house. I approached the plant and stopped to seek consent. As I did so, I saw a garter snake loosely coiled among the  almost bare branches, up against a large oak leaf caught in the slender branches.  I rarely see snakes though I know they are around. I cried out in surprise (I am  not especially afraid of snakes but curious and cautious) and again sought  permission, for what -- what did I want here? What I really wanted to do was  reach out and touch the snake, but that seemed inappropriate with too much  fear-making potential for the snake. So instead I requested to permission to  observe and learn.  I tried to look and learn, but like a willful child, what I really wanted was to touch the snake. I finally just walked away, rather than do battle with shoulds and oughts.

Unable to shake the snake and my need to touch it, I returned. So vulnerable -- it wasn't very well camouflaged, yet not that obvious, and coiled in the shrub about a foot and a half off the ground seemed so odd and out of place (I seemed odd and out of place that day). Had I not stopped and sought consent from the shrub, I doubt I would have seen the snake. I slowly reached out and gently touched the snake, for just an instant. It did not start or move away. Nor did I. Now I could stay and observe.  

Hard to explain how weird this was for me. I never override my sense of what is appropriate, if anything I err on the side of being overly cautious. For me to have touched that snake even though I thought I shouldn't is perplexing. Was the snake granting consent even though I failed to ask? Or was l the kid whose defense is, "but the snake wanted me to." Is there a difference? Kid wisdom I have been ignoring?   

I was unable to honor (trust) my immediate attraction by asking the snake for permission to touch it. I had to engage in a brain battle -- not a good feeling, that is typical everyday life -- then I just went ahead and touched the snake. The feel of the snake was wonderful. It felt trustably smooth and peaceful, cool and serene, calm and whole. The garter snake knows itself. Garter snake, teach me patience, stillness, quieting, centering, and when to touch me not-leave me be. - Vicki     

Attraction Is Consent

November, 1996. I headed out my back door seeking an attractive area, thinking to go to back yard. Remembering the word "attractive" and having my senses turned on just by actually Being outside, I moved toward the sunshine first, then toward the music of the trees. I went nearer to them, sought a sunshine spot. I thought about the directions to ask for consent and instantly smelled the wonderfully attractive fragrance of fall and felt the soil under my feet, Then I formed the words asking for consent, then realized the pleasant smells and feel of earth had been my answer already - "in a heartbeat" - such an appropriate phrase I thought. -Jim   


"Become As Little Children"

October, 1996. I went to the Cabrillo Natl Monument near San Diego which has a Tidewater area. There were just a few people who were at the tidewater so I did not feel crowded. I was breathing in the air and noticing the movement and sounds of the water and looking for movement of critters when I realized that I had not asked for permission to be there...and asked that if it was OK for me to engage with my senses and spirit. At that time, I began to notice the cliff face and the wonderful rocks. It was to them that I paid more attention for a while. I looked for a welcoming rock so I could stay my 10 minutes. My intention was to open as many senses as I could. The clearest difference beyond the sights, sounds, smells, tastes of the salt breeze, and touch of the terrain on my feet, was of a sense of openness that I call emotionally vulnerable. I cannot yet say with deep truth that I "like" this feeling but I know that it is important and a positive direction for me. As I was following the guidance of this activity, Johnny was poking around the area, playing in the water, finding anemones and rocks and standing on boulders. My thoughts went to the concept of nature in People. And I felt gratitude that I had this opportunity to watch him as he followed his natural attractions. Among other thoughts, I found a greater appreciation for the statement attributed to Jesus about "become as little children". Of COURSE!!!! I can understand that in a very endearing way as I think of our inner nature wandering around following our natural attractions in that childlike innocent sort of way... Hmmmm more thought on that over time....Johanna   


The Gift of Simplicity

November, 1996. I felt much closer, better, good-er after I received consent - and not only consent but I felt *welcomed* by the area, "Yes, please do, come on in/over, be with us, enjoy!" Lots of good feelings, hmmmmm, so nice, so relaxed and alive and happy in the moment, lots of enjoyable physical and emotional sensations; learning again how simple it is, how available it is, how often I forget this. These feelings I trust, yes. I would like to become more aware of trustable nature-connected feelings vs. other feelings that are more like knee-jerk reactions.  I did the activity once on a mountain top, once in my own backyard with different results. I hiked up to a place called Table rock in the Shawangunks. It was one of those days I was itching to get outside and I finally left my responsibilities early to do so. a blue sunny day. I was sitting up on the the rocks for a long time before it occurred to me to ask permission. When I did I noticed the gray clouds that had been gathering the last hour or so. Nature seemed to say, you can stay if you want, but I'm a going to rain. So I decided it was time to leave. The rain didn't crash down in earnest till I was down the mountain and under shelter. It's happened to me many times before that the weather sometimes waits till I am safely sheltered. It always seems kind of magical. Or is it that I just choose to remember those times instead of the ones when I was poured on?   

When I did the activity yesterday in my yard, I was noticing the birds moving  around. I moved closer and asked can I be here? The birds flew away. I suppose I should of asked before I moved. Overall, my impression was one of opening my senses, noticing more. I think I was just glad to stop long enough to be in nature. I have to constantly remind myself to do so. Whether it be an hour or 10 minutes. It's so refreshing. I think one has to be very careful in how to explain this activity so it doesn't sound flaky, and people might not be open to try it. Permission denied is not a bad thing. It shouldn't be taken personally, just means nature's got to do it's thing. - Mira  


The Cocoon of Silence

October, 1996. I went to my favorite spot which is a small area of grass on the foreshore looking out over a small harbor nestled between two piers in the foreground and towards the city of Melbourne on the other side of the bay . I usually go here each afternoon for a break (I work at home) and just sit for a while. This day, I went in the morning instead. I sat in my normal position, asked for permission to be there, and just sat there as I would normally watching the water and the clouds and the sea gulls which scavenge for food whenever possible. I promptly forgot about having asked for permission and just sat and watched. After sitting for quite a while, I noticed I had attained a state I had only experienced once before, which I will call "the cocoon of silence". This is a strange state (to me at any rate). It is not in any way an "altered state" in that when you become consciously aware of it, it does not go away. It is hard to describe, but I the experience is like being in a bubble of silence, even though I could still hear all the noises around me, the cars on the road behind, the mast being winched up on a yacht in one of the work yards, the horn of a cargo ship coming in, and the like.  But these noises, whilst being as clear as crystal, do not seem to penetrate somehow. I was in this cocoon of silence, and so, I noticed, were all the gulls. Over the time that I had been sitting there, they had gone from pecking around for food, to resting on one foot, to sitting down, and finally turning their heads under their wings, all in a circle around me. They had done all this while I had been watching them absentmindedly. As soon as I became aware of the silence, I remembered having asked for permission, and became much more conscious of what had been going on  I felt as though I had been accepted as part of the group of gulls and that we were all totally safe within his cocoon. I decided to sit and wait for the cocoon to break somehow of it's own accord. I sat there for quite a long time, 15-20 minutes maybe, until a walker came past with a dog, and somehow the mood was broken. I didn't actually register how. After that I left also.

I had problems with this exercise. In Australia, the first law of survival in the bush is NEVER put your hands or feet anywhere you haven't looked first. We have the highest density of deadly things that bite or sting than anywhere else on earth. I'm not sure that I want to overcome this conditioning. I have taken several trips to various areas so far and gone through the asking permission to be there routine.  During one trip to a waterfall, permission to be there was not granted. I did not alert the friend I was with to this, and she stayed in the area for quite some time taking photographs. I retreated a little downstream until I found another "cocoon of silence". I found with this one that I could walk in and out of it, over a very distinct borderline, so I sat within it waiting for her to finish her photography.  I decided to ask for permission to be there and got it, but decided to also ask for an invitation to explore. I did not feel comfortable about it so did not proceed.

I will continue looking until I find a place that "invites" me to proceed. I do not feel confident that I have, at this stage, a sufficient relationship with nature to be aware if something deadly is lurking with intent - it can be virtually taken for granted that something deadly, or at least very uncomfortable, is lurking. I have an aboriginal friend (she is a Shaman) who claims to be able to tell if a particular deadly spider is going to bite, but my senses are not so well honed. I still tend to put the spider in a bottle and remove it from my surrounds, where she happily leaves it where it is, and won't let me remove it when she is around. This takes TRUST, and I don't really have that much. 

 As a postscript, when my photographer friend re-joined me at the falls, she told me that she didn't like it where she was photographing - she had felt nervous and menaced, and was glad to be away from there. - Christine 


Students At Risk

October, 1996. Permit me to share how permission activities are working with my group. I think I already shared the results of using permission with the wild area we have now chosen to care for.

We took my group into the woods. We asked the group to do the Earth Day activity and get permission to visit some attraction they found there.
As I recall only one student was totally unable to experience consent. She had recently experienced some problems and admitted that she could not get out of her stories.

Another student also experienced having her negative stories take her out of the present until she found the brook. She was attracted to the water. She asked consent and felt welcomed and asked to join it. She then took off her shoes and socks and waded in the water and became a carefree little girl. She shared with us that the brook taught her to be in the present and enjoy that she is what her past has not taken away.
Another student wandered around and finally was attracted to some carved steps in the earth leading to a knoll overlooking the lake. She stood in the middle feeling welcomed, but not knowing which way to go, up or down. She then asked the steps and they told her to go up. Recently, her sister revealed she had been raped a year ago. which has forced her to deal with her own secret that she too had been raped and is chosing to get help. Sounds to me that she is going up the stairs.
Another student had difficulty finding an attraction. He went further and further into the woods. when he finally found his place I had called everyone back so he was unable to complete the activity. This same student recently informed the group he was leaving because he felt he had nothing to give the group. When we all disagreed and gave examples he finally was able to admit overtime he gets close to others he ends up retreating into depression. Many of us could relate to his story. We tried to get his consent to continue to be there for him but he could not give it. We were forced to move on.

Now that the weather is cold and rainy we continue to consent with each other. Last week a student asked me if he could be excused from the group to work on a project he needed to finish. I asked him to get consent from the group. We spent over 30 minutes before we reached consensus. It helped build community. - Kurt

Editor's Note: During my workshop with Kurt's group, we visited a trashed natural area next to their proposed new school and did the Activity there. The student's felt that the area, (like themselves,) wanted to recover from the abuse it received from society. They sensed that (like them) it had been, in their words: "hurt, molested, invaded and trespassed, it wanted to become healthy or die, it felt trashed and overwhelmed, it had no power, it needed a fix or help to recover." Since then, the area and their inner nature has given them permission to enlist the support of social and environmental agencies to save the area from becoming an, already planned, paved parking lot. Instead it will recover as an indigenous natural area. It will be nurtured and nurturing, support wildlife, an educational and therapeutic nature sanctuary for the school, a host for sensory nature reconnecting activities. The students recently wrote and received a grant to help make this vision of theirs a reality. For a discussion of their project's potentials, read Thinking With Nature.

The best way to learn to use nature connecting activities is to teach them. You can learn to teach them by taking our short, online Orientation Course.


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ORIENTATION COURSE: Psychological Elements of Global Citizenship
The Science of Connecting With the Web of Life
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