An educational relationshipand healing power of natural senses free nature article
Friends of Natural Systems. Organic Psychology in action


Special NGO Consultant, United Nations Economic and Social Council (UNESCO)

Friends of Natural Systems
A Free Sensory Education Relationships Nature Article



"We are dysfunctional socially and environmentally because we are cut off and isolated from the world of nature and the natural."
-Albert Gore, (edited)
...Senator, United States
...Author, Earth in the Balance







"The human need for nature is linked not just to the material exploitation of the environment but also to the influence of the natural world on our emotional, cognitive, aesthetic, and even spiritual development."
   - Edward O. Wilson
Harvard University Pulitzer Prize Recipient (To the American Psychological Association National Convention)







"It is quite clear to me after several years in the environmental movement that all physical problems of man's impact on the environment - pollution of the air and waters, the desecration of the land, the contamination of the food chain - all start within the environment of man's mind."
  -Maurice Strong
Founder: the United Nations Environment Program
Co-Chair: U.N. Commission on Global Governance







"Our task must be to free ourselves from (our) prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."
- Albert Einstein







"In order to achieve more effective environmental protection and conservation, internal balance within the human being himself or herself is essential."
- Dalai Lama






"Until mankind can extend the circle of his compassion to include all living things, he will never, himself, know peace."
- Albert Schweitzer
...Nobel Prize recipient







"Wilderness is the ultimate encyclopedia, holding answers to more questions than we have yet learned how to ask. That's the magic in you. You've got it; let it out."
- David Brower







"The environmental crisis is an outward manifestation of a crisis of mind and spirit. There could be no greater misconception of its meaning than to believe it is concerned only with endangered wildlife, human-made ugliness and pollution. These are part of it, but more importantly, the crisis is concerned with the kind of creates we are and what we must become in order to survive."
-Lynton K Caldwell







"Human behavior is rooted most deeply in nature's intentions and desire. The rhythms of nature underlie all of human interaction: religious traditions, economic systems, cultural and political organization. When these human forms betray the natural psychic pulse, people and societies get sick, nature is exploited and entire species are threatened."
-Stephen Aizenstat







"What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another."
-Mahatma Gandhi







"We have repressed far more than our sexuality: our very organic nature is now unconscious to most of us, most of the time, and we have become shrunken into two dimensional social or cultural beings, aware of only five of the hundreds of senses that link us to the rich biological nature that underlies and nourishes these more symbolic and recent aspects of ourselves."
- Norman 0. Brown







"Nurture your felt love for nature. Never deny it. That love is nature's voice, our origins in nature, the eons, the purifying intelligence, beauty and diversity of natural systems sustaining us in the spirit of their perfection and wellness."
-from The Web of Life Imperative








"He looked upon us as sophisticated children -- smart but not wise. We knew many things, and much that is false. He knew nature, which is always true."
-Saxton T. Pope   (said of Ishi, America's ...last hunter-gather Native American)








"Over the years, I've spent a lot of time fighting. Fighting against logging, pollution, nuclear power...as long as we fight all the time there's going to be a winner and a loser...(we must) build bridges across to the people who are fighting."
- David Suzuki








"Our religion keeps reminding us that we aren't just will and thoughts. We're also sand and wind and thunder and rain and the seasons. All those things. You learn to respect everything because you are everything. If you respect yourself, you respect all things."
- Least Heat Moon








"At root, ecology is an erotic attitude of closeness, relatedness and care. We have made it into a rational/activist project and lost sight of its heart."

...- Thomas Moore








"Sensory experience, we might say, is the way our body binds its life to the other lives that surround it, the way the earth couples itself to our thoughts and our dreams. Sensory perception is the glue that binds our separate nervous systems into the larger, encompassing ecosystem. For the senses are our most immediate access to the more-than-human natural world."
-David Abram
...Author, Spell of the Sensuous








"Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries."
-Jimmy Carter






How to Treat Natural System Dysfunction (NSD): The Restorative Powers of Organic Psychology.



The Institute of Global Education (IGE), a special NGO consultant to United Nations Economic and Social Council has identified a debilitating mental ailment called Natural System Dysfunction (NSD) as well as an antidote for it.

NSD diminishes wellness in industrial society. It deteriorates natural systems within us and this reduces our resilience to other disorders we often suffer. It keeps us unhealthy and our health costs high.

We are part of nature and NSD injures us by preventing our thinking from registering sensory messages sent by natural systems, messages that sustain our health. Echoing advanced thinkers throughout history, Psychologist Stephen Aizenstat notes that, "Human behavior is rooted most deeply in nature's intentions and desire. The rhythms of nature underlie all of human interaction: religious traditions, economic systems, cultural and political organization. When these human forms betray the natural psychic pulse, people and societies get sick, nature is exploited and entire species are threatened."

IGE has produced a readily available remedy for Natural System Dysfunction. It is an easily learned Organic Psychology that enables us to strengthen the vigor of natural systems within and about us. This natural attraction process purifies and restores deteriorated natural systems and toughens our resilience.

We suffer many troubles because NSD conditions us to unnecessarily spend over 95 percent of our time indoors and disconnect 99 percent of our thinking from the restorative functions of natural systems. Plagued by this deficit, our lives and mentality are not organic. To our loss, we work against nature instead of with its grace. balance and regenerative powers.

The science of Organic Psychology helps us improve our health by enabling us, at will, to tap our thinking into the supportive renewing ways of natural systems.




How to Treat Natural System Dysfunction (NSD): The Restorative Powers of Organic Psychology.


"Our greatest problems result from the difference between how people think and how nature works."

....- Gregory Bateson

Nature's perfection results from the workings of its natural systems. Our troubles plague us because our consciousness has learned to disregard the grace, balance and restorative powers of natural systems within and about us (6). This article explains the how and why of including natural systems in your thinking and relationships.

Natural systems are the way nature self-organizes itself into more stable, cyclic relationships that purify themselves (1). The water cycle, for example, is a natural system. Each part of it attracts water to flow through, nurture and purify plants animals and minerals, including humanity. In the process water gets soiled many times over, yet it is pure when it starts the cycle again. Nurturing and purifying are the renewing ways of natural systems.

An often overlooked aspect of the water cycle is that its attraction-purifying energy registers in our psyche as our natural senses and sensations of thirst and excretion. (They are not even included in the five senses by which we say we know and learn.)

When we disregard natural systems and senses, we omit them from our awareness and thinking. We grow up unaware that we are born with the nurturing and renewing ability of the water cycle to make its renewing ways known to us (11).

To our great loss, we omit an additional 47 natural systems and their senses from our consciousness and thinking. We lose the sensibilities they offer us and their regenerative healing powers (5). They include senses of trust, place and community; or self, consciousness and play; of belonging, beauty and survival. Omitting them produces Natural System Dysfunction (NSD), a sensory defeciency that cripples our inborn ability to know our full natural identity and make more sense of our lives.

We spend over 95 percent of our time indoors, 99 percent of our thinking is not in tune with nature. We are unable to think or feel with nature so our mentality works against rather than with the benefits of natural systems within and about us (7, 8).

Although we are part of nature, without thinking with nature's non-polluting, regenerative perfection we produce NSD and suffer our most challenging health and social troubles.(4) They continue because our thinking is our destiny.

Organic Psychology helps us heal NSD and our mentality's separation from nature. It enables us to genuinely connect our psyche to natural systems and their restorative powers (3). Documentation of the beneficial effects of this connection is accurately reflected in the following story (2):

"Contemporary people are no different than the fabled Leadership and Wisdom Council of an island society that consisted entirely of non-sighted people, including the council members. Although numbed into blindness during the first year of their life, island citizens were educated, content and adequate.

One day, Gulliver, a shipwrecked castaway, half-dead, washed up on the island. Compassionately, many community members of the blind society nurtured him to full recovery and educated him to their ways. Then he became the aggravating bane of their existence. He constantly nagged for things that were reasonable to him but unknown to the islanders in their blindness: windows, lights, books, television, painted colors and sunglasses.

Upon due consideration, the Leadership and Wisdom Council discovered Gulliver's trouble. Gulliver had eyes that could see. During their profound considerations, the Council solved the problem; they removed Gulliver's sight. They surgically numbed his optical nerves so his life became similar to their own. To the delight of the island, Gulliver became less of a problem.

With sadness, Gulliver adjusted to his loss of sight and his emotional hurt when he thought about the removal of the delights of sightedness from his life.

One day Gulliver accidentally noticed that when he visited natural areas a few of his senses and sensitivities became stronger; they more energetically registered in his awareness. He seemed to be able to hear better, feel more relaxed, joyfully smell color and touch beauty. This was similar to the renewal anybody today experiences from a refreshing walk in the park or along a beach.

Gulliver's educational discovery invigorated him; it sharpened his thinking as he became more sensitive. (9)

Over time, Gulliver scientifically developed a true nature-connecting educational art. It consisted of a series of sensory self-help activities that created contact moments in which he could let natural system attractions reach into his mind and heart. Nature helped him strengthen his integrity as part of strengthening itself. Otherwise, without the activities, his thinking often engaged in personal and social problems while he was in a natural area. (10)

As Gulliver improved his activity process, he increased his contact with the true grace, balance and restorative mental health powers of natural systems within and around him. Slowly his eyesight un-numbed and returned.

Gulliver told his blind friends about his new connections with nature, sharing with them his delight in boosting his sensitivity and general well-being. Cautiously, with education, some islanders learned and used Gulliver's self-help nature-connecting process. They thrilled to its safe, stress-reducing benefits and taught others how to gain its rewards. Senses that recovered in some folks were communicated to others and benefitted them.

As additional members of the island community increased their sightedness and health, the community felt and acted in thankful ways that further supported natural systems. In time activities were developed for use with the newborn and this often reduced or prevented "normal childhood blindness."

To make the rewards of nature-connected learning available to the public, Friends of Natural Systems has established a free, online, Organic Psychology health clinic for personal and global well being.

Act now: benefit from learning and teacing Organic Psychology via an online class that is presently forming.

Also see another Learning with Nature article
and linked references (below)


1. Bloom, Howard. (2000.) Global Brain. New York. John Wiley and Sons.

2. Cohen, Michael (2005) A Survey of Participants: Reactions to NSTP and Studies of Effects, The Web of Life Imperative, Victoria, B.C. Trafford.

3. Cohen, Michael (1997) Reconnecting With nature: Finding Wellness Through Restoring Your Bond with the Earth, Eugene, OR, Ecopress

4. Cohen, Michael, Editor (2001) The State of Planet Earth: Results of Ecozombie Thinking (http://www.ecospsych.com/zombie2.html)

4A. Cohen, Michael, Natural System Dysfunction and its Origins.

5A-E. Chard, Philip Sutton. (1994.) The Healing Earth: nature's medicine for the troubled soul. Minnetonka MN. NorthWord Press.

5B. Kahn, Peter H. (1999). The Human Relationship with nature: Development and Culture. MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

5C. Frumkin, Howard (2001). Beyond toxicity: Human health and the natural environment. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 20(3): 234-240 (March)

5D) Wilson, Edward O. (2001). Nature matters. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 20(3): 241-242

5E. Stilgoe, John R. (2001). Gone barefoot lately? Nature matters. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 20(3): 243-244

6. Einstein, Albert et al (1952) Science and Philosophy http://www.aip.org/history/einstein/philos1.htm

7. Laszlo, Ervin. (1995.) The Interconnected Universe. London. World Scientific.

8. Laszlo, Ervin. (1996.) The Whispering Pond: A Personal Guide to the Emerging Vision of Science. Rockport, MA. Element.

9. Roszak, Theodore, Mary E. Gomes & Allen D. Kanner. (1995.) Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. San Francisco. Sierra Club Books.

10. Shepard, Paul. (1982.) Nature and Madness. San Francisco. Sierra Club Books.

11. Thomas, Janet (2005) On All Nine Legs - Teaching Outdoor Love to an Indoor World, Taproot, SUNY Cortland, NY, Coalition for Education in the Outdoors.


Reviewed material

Other materials that appear in this article are drawn from Michael J. Cohen's professionally reviewed publications in:
The Journal of Humanistic Psychology,
Journal of Environmental Education,
Interpsych Journal of Mental Health,
Greenwich University Journal of Science and Technology,
Councelling Psychology Quarterly,
Proceedings of the North American Association for Environmental Education,
Journal of the Oregon Counseling Association,
The Trumpeter,
U.S. Department of Education Educational Resources Information Center,
Outdoor Communicator,
Clearing Magazine,
Nature Study,
Between the Species,
Cooperative Learning,
International Journal of Humanities and Peace


About the Author

Recipient of the 1994 Distinguished World Citizen Award, Ecopsychologist Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D. is a Director of the Institute of Global Education, where he coordinates its Integrated Ecology Department and Project NatureConnect. He also serves on the faculty of Portland State University, Akamai University and West Coast University. Dr. Cohen has founded sensory outdoor environmental education programs independently and for the National Audubon Society and Lesley University (AEI), conceived the National Audubon Conference "Is the Earth a Living Organism," and is the award winning author of Web of Life Imperative, Reconnecting With Nature, Einstein's World, and How Nature Works. He is an accomplished folk song artist and contra dancer who presents traditional music programs for the U.S. National Park Service and Elderhostel on San Juan Island, Washington.

CONTACT: http://www.ecopsych.com/mjcohen.html nature@interisland.net
360-378-6313, Pacific Time Zone


"This is the course that every civilized person will be required to take if we are to reverse our runaway disorders."

- Raymond Sierra, Counselor



"The Natural Systems Thinking Process provides a readily accessible ....and.wonderfully effective means for students to acquire, understand, and act upon the transforming experience of being connected to nature; of being in respectful relationship with the natural world of which they are a part."

J.Marc McGinnes, J.D.
Senate Lecturer
University of California at Santa Barbara
Environmental Studies

"We dramatically increased our program's effectiveness by adding the Natural Systems Thinking Process to it. It enables our participants to connect with their sensory origins in nature and use that peaceful power to improve their relationships with self, society and the environment."

James Rowe, Ph.D. Director of the Outward Bound School in Costa Rica






Special NGO consultant United Nations Economic and Social Council

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Dr. Michael J. Cohen, Director

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