Summer Camp and Natural Attraction Ecology
Educating Counseling and Healing With Nature as a Summer Program Application of Ecopsychology
The nature-connecting history and discussion, below, describes a significant breakthrough: a therapeutic remedy for the excessive disconnection of our psyche from nature's flow. It is a sensory science and funded online degree program. The ecopsychology of its educating, counseling and healing with nature process is nature's path to Earth and humanity in peaceful balance.
Learn how to use this organic psychology tool to improve health wellness and counseling. It helps an individual's thinking and feeling safely tap into the restorative truths of nature's balance and beauty. Participants master alternative therapist, coaching and holistic spirituality as part of expedition education or their professional or personal life.
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A BRIEF CAMP HISTORY:
Ecopsychology and Natural Attraction Ecology (NAE)
Natural Attraction Ecology (NAE) is a hands-on, activity based, art and science that is described in Educating,Counseling and Healing With Nature and other IGE Applied Ecopsychology course books by Michael J. Cohen. The process of NAE helps us increase our love for our living planet, Earth, and further benefit from its attraction to support our life and all of life.
By design, NAE empowers us to solve problems without producing additional problems.
Important elements of NAE originated in 1946. They resulted from Cohen's nature-connected outdoor area experiences and observations within the Progressive Camping movement. The latter had established itself in 1920-1935 and centered around Josh Lieberman's 1932 book, Creative Camping, and his programs. (Cohen and Lieberman's son, Bob Hill, a naturalist, were graduate school classmates at Teachers College Columbia University in 1952 and they worked summers together for six years thereafter.) As described by Leslie Paris in Children's Nature (2008), the application of Progressive Education in organized camping developed healthy personal growth and democratic community relationships while in natural areas.
Self-Regulating Outdoor EducationCohen says that the major experience that distinguished Progressive Camping from the Applied Ecopsychology of Natural Attraction Ecology came about in 1966 when, in his year-round Trailside outdoor expedition education center program, he became certain that Planet Earth acted like a living oganism and no doubt was one. With this discovery, the Progressive Camping skills for sustaining well-being in human life communities, equally applied to all life relationships including those with the plants, animals and minerals of the global life community. This could be accomplished by encouraging children to fully experience and use their senses. This became a core of the community -centered programs and courses Cohen directed at the National Audubon Society Expedition Institute and, today, at the Institute of Global Education, Akamai University and Portland State University.
Mike Cohen spent his childood at summer camps that were informally organized and operated by the parents of the children that attended them. He then spent the summers of 1942-44 at Boy Scout Camp that, although it was outdoors and fun, was mostly governed by the call of the bugle, the military-like rules of discipline, regimented Merit Badge course work and other rituals. Then, in 1945 he worked with Henry Paley at Camp Turkey Point. (Paley had formerly been a staff member of Josh Lieberman's Camp Robinson Crusoe.) Paley's camp self-regulated itself via meetings where every day campers and counselors held an all camp morning gathering and made sensible decisions about who would do what and when for the day. This gave the natural senses of people of all ages a wide range to learn how to express themselves, listen and be heard. Enamored by that setting, at the age of 16, Cohen announced his decision to dedicate his life to work and relationships that led to the field of organized progressive summer camping. This was enhanced by adding to it the tenets of and his 3-year training in Alexander Wolf group therapy that focused on helping each individual, as in a supportive family, instead of on the effectiveness of the group as a community.
The practice and academics of NAE adventure camps and expedition education sometimes differ from those of the more recent field of Ecopsychology. Ecopsychology, first coined and described, second hand, by a historian, circa 1978, resulted from the academic wilderness visits and mind-altering processes of psychologists during the previous two decades.
Ecopsychology explores relationships that may exist between ecology and psychology. It is often dualistic because the story by which it operates attempts to correct parts of Industrial Society's story about humanity's relationship with nature. Dualism occurs because Ecopsychology seldom demands empirical evidence that is generated by conscious sensory contact with nature itself, the real thing, not simply words and ideas describing it.
Nature can be seen as a united fountainhead of authority about its attraction relationships in action. It is rarely a conflicting series of stories about them or an abstract of these relationships.
The profound difference between truly having an experience and a story about that experience is a deep root of dualism and its arguments and discontents. It is similar to the difference between knowing what swimming is only by reading or talking about swimming and, by not actually swimming. The latter omits the sensory thought and feeling truths that register when one really swims in deep water.
In contrast to Ecopsychology, Natural Attraction Ecology practitioners learn by doing, by, with a natural area's consent, safely contacting, connecting with, registering and nurturing the flow of nature within and around them. Because this takes place in the immediate moment, the flow is present. It invites humanity to be conscious of their attractions to it and vice versa, attractions that we register through 53 natural senses nature gives us so we may register and consciously think with it.
In the Applied Ecopsychology of NAE, practioners grow by using educational tools that help them learn from direct intermingling of their natural senses with their sensory origins in nature, backyard or backcountry. This contact generates unedited, authentic, non-dualistic information as to how nature works in and about us. It also renews, purifies and energizes our 53 natural senses, for they are part of nature. This is significant because information that registers through these senses, in congress, is empirical knowledge.
NAE recognizes that nature is the foundation about how it operates in people and places. It questions the validity of theories, studies or programs that are conducted in settings, or by individuals, that are excessively disconnected from nature.
Eminating from decades of expedition education experiences, the process of NAE helps contemporary thinking and feeling reasonably recycle and regenerate itself by registering the self-correcting attraction flow of nature through and around our mind, body and spirit.
The object of NAE is to scientifically increase personal, social and environmental well-being by encouraging nature to embrace us with the restorative powers, wisdom and grace of its balance and beauty.
An underlying story in Industrial Society is that for our survival and welfare, we must conquer nature. This produces a war that we are socialized to wage and win throughout our lives. Education and psychology are often puppets in this war. One of their goals is to teach us to be winners of the conflict. However, as we conquer and excessively exploit nature, in and about us, we deteriorate the web of life, and our lives as part of the web and its flow.
Each university establishes general guidelines that a student must follow to earn a diploma or degree, and each college or department within a university sets specific standards by which it measures the mastery of its field. This helps NAE students address destructive dualism.
NAE recognizes itself as a distinct and powerful natural attraction based forerunner of Ecopsychology, while academia's story often portrays NAE as an improbable application of Ecopsychology. This division results from the roots of Ecopsychology being mostly in indoor academics and philosophy while NAE springs from whole life, Progressive Camping, outdoor exploration and discovery experiences in nature as well as advanced academic training about nature.
To address the above, and other qustionable results of dualism, in Project NatureConnect's Applied Ecopsychology Institute at Akamai University, the prime measure to increase personal, social and environmental well being is the reasonableness of any relationship with respect to the welfare of people and the whole of life. Identifying the impact of ideas or acts on the web-of-life and its ways, not research alone, becomes a basic factor in finding constructive "truths."
The short and long term effects on the sustainability of all members of the web of life is a critical operating factor in the NAE education process. To the benefit of all, this focus, added and applied in any discipline, appropriately modifies the value and impact of research or thinking that supports Industrial Society's unreasonable war against nature.
Field reports from anonymous participants who are engaged in NAE study programs:
This is So Grand
"The variable process in which we identify all things around us allows us to pay homage or give credit to those things that have meaning. That is how we process information as a society. Language is a barrier that not many human beings can retreat from and immerse ourselves into a process that does not identify/connect with terminology. We have learned for so long from society!
When I participated in the exercise today...I did so alone at first. I sat on my antique fainting couch looking out my HUGE bay window that embraces all of nature around my home, and fell into the connection that was my immersion in nature. The single pane of glass that remained between me and nature was less that 3 inches away from a burning bush that had lost all its leaves in winter. A bird nest was covered with the latest snow that encompassed my environment last night and early this morning. I looked at a pink string that a robin had stolen from my sweatshirt last fall that was intertwined in the nest embracing the outside perimeter of the lovely creation. Beautiful.
In all this description I am getting across all that I experienced in my time with nature today. I use words. I use labels. I use names. And I find it so difficult to pull away from that which identifies my natural experience in the English language. As I sat in the window, my 7 year old daughter asked me what I was doing and so I explained the assignment and read her the passage from Chapter 3. She sighed and said Mommy, I understand. From the mouth of babes! They have not learned as long as we have or unlearned their natural ways.
It makes me feel uncomfortable to remove names from our natural world. But why is it so important for them to have names in the first place. Does it make anything more or less important to give it a name. Just because my name is Reese, and your name is Danielle doesn't make me more special than you. I like giving a name to something that I feel connected to but it is not really that important so lets just sit here and love our nature. Bravo! Let’s do enjoy life!
Honestly, I could hardly breathe!!! This 7 year old wise soul was so in tune with our nature that she taught me in the most simple thoughts that nature is all encompassing. It is not important what we call it or who knows it's name. It is only important to just be in the moment. To just be... and have an open give and take experience of mutual respect and love. It was the most wonderful experience I have ever felt in nature. It was healing and spiritual and loving and caring and embracing and everything stressful or distracting in my world disappeared. This is so grand!
And although we were experiencing this from the warmth of our fireplace inside a windowpane, my natural experience was more powerful than even sitting on the ground with nature covering me. It was good. And I felt the healing power of nature."
"I have witnessed the power of nature on aggressive/emotionally withdrawn troubled children. This is a huge piece of why I am working so hard to develop a program that will bring youth (troubled or neglected or seemingly healthy) into a closer relationship with nature.
This NAE activity was fun. I went to the local park.....after reading the chapter I felt drawn to our little central park here in California. I walked around the perimeter of the park....only took 7 minutes and noticed what felt attractive and what did not. I returned to the attractive place, where there were brightly colored flowers, with shaped blooming bushes that were dotted with bees. I liked many things about the area.....so the 10 minutes went by very quickly....and I do not think I was ever at a loss of words.
At some point, I did feel silly speaking out loud.....my head told me that I was foolish to be waiting for a response. But I did a brief meditation...and behold....the response came in to greet me.
The responses I received did indeed influence my feelings. I felt appreciated too. I felt a sense of camaraderie with the area. I felt a need to be patient with nature's communication style.
I learned that nature's response is not always immediate.........and patience is important. Also, that the beauty of nature is in the small and large. I also learned that hearing my own words speaking about what I enjoy or admire, brought a light heart and and easy spirit in my being.
I would be angry to lose this ability to have this experience. My anger would come from knowing that I'm not hurting anyone....and in fact, I could be helping someone to live...so why would anyone want to take away this ability of mine?
My self-worth is deepened....my trustfulness is strong. The wranglers inside me were doubt and self-criticism.
My experience has given me stronger wings to fly....stronger trust...........and more love."
Balanced by Connection
"As I stood with my eyes closed for 10 minutes in natural wooded area in a densely developed city area, at first I struggled to not name anything. This helped me realize that I usually do better with new learning if I find a way to immerse myself in the experience which in this instance was through touch. My tactile grounding made me feel safe and supported, it was real, while I felt intangible things, waves of stimulus. I was surprised by what I did not sense. The still prevalent traffic noise fell to the background and out of my awareness.
I entered a meditative state, I was soothed, I drifted, out of my focus to follow the existing attractions which were sensations. I felt movement around me yet I was unmoved with my living handrail. With my eyes still closed I saw colours and shadows of patterns in my mind. Then I thought, “Or were they, in my mind or was it another form of communication?” I also felt pressure around me, a heaviness then a lifting of energy.
I felt immersed in this experience and heightened because my eyes were closed. My tactile ground made me feel safe and supported. A bough in my hand was real while I felt, intangible things, waves of stimulus. Instead of the traffic, I heard bird calls in the distance. I was waiting for some communication not knowing what form it would take. I felt safe and calmer than I had been when I entered this thicket.
I opened my eyes and I did not feel as safe for this natural environment I saw could vanish and be developed. Why hadn’t it been developed? I had thoughts that this environment could become a dumping ground.
I thought of a radio report earlier of a dead body being found in woods and that this place could witness the same. I felt sad for pure nature places witnessing and being searched to expose a crime scene and body and the disconnection there. Then my thoughts took in the surroundings and the blend of light, colours and shadows that undulated as an orchestrated, slow motion, almost unperceivable oscillation.
Even facing violence I could be soothed to the calm, a soothing, creating balance for me. Before I entered this area I was wondering about how a father and his 10 year old daughter would be as I was now going to see them for the first time since his 16 year old son (her brother) died from a mixture of drugs and alcohol. He had not been out of juvenile detention for even a month. I felt balanced to meet whatever they needed.
I entered this natural to do the activity and was gifted with more to offer this family from my balanced nature. It enhanced my sense of self-worth and my trustfulness of nature because as I ask for consent to enter and to share my purpose with nature my thinking and feeling become a part of Nature. I am balanced by that connection as I am open to Nature’s communication.
Sadly, in our society, our thinking has become destructively dependant on nature disconnecting words and stories rather than supportive connections."
So Very Very Good
"For this activity I had some company. My son had a couple of friends sleep over for the last few days of summer holidays and , after a day and a half of lots of 8 year old action, we headed out for a hike to "wind down " a bit before I took every one back to their homes.
Our destination was a "new" river trail in our little village. We set out with lots of hype - 2 of us had been there many times ( and love it ), one had just discovered it, and one had never been there. We had never all been there together. The kids were excited about going.... " lets bring bathing suits, lets bring a picnic, its so cool there, can we stay all day ? "
It was quite a rambunctious walk through town to the trail head, lots of singing. chasing teasing, but once we left the pavement, cut through the farmers field and saw the trail in front of us disappearing into the tall ponderosa pines that line the rivers edge, there was a shift in energy.
We gathered together, shared some water and paused to admire how beautiful it was where we were. I suggested we ask for permission to "head in " and explore, admire enjoy what was down the trail. With much enthusiasm , we all asked , and each piped up when they felt invited to " come in ".
I thought the kids would rush off and explore leaving me some space to lag behind and contemplate the Mimbres design, and work through the activity, locating natural attractions in the area and recognizing them as webstrings, alive and sustaining my well being.
What happened instead was a lot more interactive, and I quickly abandoned the way I thought the activity would unfold, and jumped into the flow. Today, on the trail we were all verbal and wide eyed, and sharing our wonder ... it was quite something ! There was no "hanging back" to contemplate, everyone shared , with much enthusiasm everything they were attracted to. The forest echoed "come and see, come and see"... a squirells lunch table, rocks balanced on each other, a bone in the grass, red baby pinecones, soft gray feathers, ducks landing on the water.
After some time on the trail we went down to the river to cool ourselves. It was here that I stopped for a while and observed how each of us moved toward things that attracted us. One waded out into the river to sit for a while on a rock in the current that was bathed in sunlight, one stood in the water laughing and throwing hand fulls of water over her head in huge arcs of droplets, one was timid at the waters edge nervous about crayfish and slipping on rocks, listening to the wind, and watching the birds.
I found the experience almost overwhelming. The kids were all so completely present, content and connecting with positive attractions, naturally nurturing themselves and openly sharing the experience. It was such an honor to be there and witness that unfolding.
We had all been together for about 36 hours at this point in various contexts, the pool, watching movies, playing games , eating, sleeping , rubbing up against each other,and I have spent time with these kids , off and on for years now, but our time at the river that day, outside, connecting, being, exploring was vastly different ( to me ) than any time I had spent with them before. We were , unconsciously, nurturing ourselves individually, but doing it communally, as a group of friends, which I was privileged to recognize as a very power full thing. With the kids this was all easy to observe because they were vocal and uncensored about what they were experiencing....." can we stay here forever ? its so magic here " !!
I experienced my own webstring connections on the trail and at the river that day, but for me the most power full new attraction was experiencing this with others. I am very attracted by the experience of others experiencing webstring connections and the SYNERGY that this creates. I had never been conscious of this other energy that is created in synergy by the experience of communal webstring connecting. I have no words for it, but it is good, oh so very very good.
I am left with the sense of an " overlay " on the Mimbres design , as though this other energy is created as each individual nurtures these connections with / for themselves.
Read Additional Student Reports
For further information: contact Michael J. Cohen, Ph.D.
Read the Ecopsychology Journal interview with Dr. Cohen: <http://www.ecopsych.com/ecopsychologyjournal.html>
Personal page: http://www.ecopsych.com/mjcohen.html
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