Web Site

Project NatureConnect

Website Search Engine

SYNOPSIS: Revolutionary alternative holistic programs Benefit from natural, hands-on, funded, Masters courses and life experience career education training jobs and degrees online. Increase your personal and environmental well-being.

What We Do
Who We Are
Learn in Nature

Site Map

Application Forms

Education Index



Free Course
Free Activity


Organic Psych
Natural Systems


Key Book


Return to Homepage


HELP-WANTED. Nature-connected learning and healing: online life experience degrees, jobs and accredited training courses enhance personal and professional goals. Our grant-funded methods and materials help you safely tap into the beneficial grace, balance and restorative powers of natural systems, backyard or backcountry.

Use the hands-on application of ecopsychology to strengthen your effectiveness and reduce stress and disorders. Add the supportive sunlight and beauty of the natural world to your relationships.

Visit our Homepage for complete information


Project NatureConnect
Institute of Global Education
Organic Psychology
Special NGO Consultant, United Nations Economic and Social Council
Practical distance learning that increases energy, expertise and spirit.


Article: An Interview with Michael J. Cohen

A Sensory Nature Reconnecting Process Helps Us Reverse Personal, Social and Environmental Troubles

- F. Richard Schneider, Ph.D.


Upon completing Michael J. Cohen's (MJC) book Reconnecting With Nature, in 1998, Dr. Daniel Levine, (DL), Superintendent of Schools of the Lopez Island School District in Washington State, phoned Dr. Cohen and, for use by his faculty, he transcribed the author's responses to questions about the book.  

In June, 2010, an additional interview with Cohen by Thomas Dougherty was published in the Ecopsychology Journal


DL: In Reconnecting With Nature you say that for 35 years, through the Natural Systems Thinking Process, you have been an innovative outdoor educator and counselor. What do you see as the present state of our relationship to Planet Earth and each other?

MJC: A majority of the world is discouraged by the costly isolation, violence, and hatred growing in industrial society. War and the destruction of our forests, wildlife and oceans distresses most people. Each of us would like to help heal the wounds we inflict on our planet, communities and selves. Our vast discontent constitutes a major motivating force for recovery if we empower and guide it wisely.

DL: What is the human potential for a model society?

MJC: My work shows that people have the innate ability to co-create with nature and sustain responsible relationships one step at a time. Because we are part of nature we can build a way of relating that is organic, that stems from nature, that, like nature, organizes, preserves and regenerates itself to produce an optimum of life, diversity and beauty. As part of nature, we can do this without producing excessive garbage or pollution. People and things need not be left out or toxified. Society does not have to produce our war, insanity or excessive violence. Doesn't that model sound worthwhile?

DL: Of course, but it's extremely idealistic. We would need to gain some magical wisdom and knowledge.

MJC: It's neither idealistic nor magical. That organic wisdom is available. In fact we already have it, we just don't use it.

DL: Oh? Where is it?

MJC: The natural world itself operates like this model. It neither creates nor suffers our runaway problems. The global life community has sustained the model's integrity over the millennia. It has, it is, intelligent, thoughtful, "magical" healing powers. It is nature, and since we are part of nature, it is us.

DL: But if that were true, we would not be having our problems.

MJC: We are born as natural beings. We are born in and with that intelligence. It is in our soul. But in our rush to conquer and replace nature, we educate ourselves to relate through exploitive stories that discount nature and its systems rather than to treasure, culture and apply them.

DL: Why do we do this?

MJC: Although we are part of nature, just as every species is different from each other, we are different, too. The major difference between humanity and nature is that people have the natural capacity to think, communicate and relate verbally. We interact through spoken and written language that abstracts nature. Abstractions are shortcuts that leave out "unimportant" things. However, nothing in nature is unimportant; that's the key to nature's perfection, that's why it produces no garbage. Nature achieves its beauty, grace and balance through genuine natural attractions, non-language communication and relationships, not abstracts.

DL: Isn't our language capacity a gift from nature?

MJC: Absolutely, but contemporary society uses that gift to create stories that separate us from nature. We actually teach ourselves to think verbally while every other species, and many other cultures, think in non-verbal ways, too. We don't learn to think the way nature works, even though we are born with that capacity. Our personal and global problems result because we emotionally attach ourselves to verbal stories and they define our destiny. However, because our stories are abstracts and arise out of our nature separated lives, they are not organic. They are disconnected from, and encourage us to disconnect from, nature's intelligence to the extent that we become conditioned to them. We bond to these stories as belief systems, be they proven right or wrong.

DL: Can you give me an example of this phenomenon?

MJC: I'm sure one will appear in this conversation simply because we are disconnected from nature as we sit in this room. Do you recognize that we live, teach and emotionally attach to a story that says to survive we must separate from and conquer nature? That story is not organic. Rather, it educates us to spend, on average, over 95% of our time indoors. We are conditioned to think in indoor, nature disconnected terms 99.9% of our lives. We learn to spend less than twelve hours per lifetime in conscious non-language contact with nature. That's like expecting an infant to grow normally after it has been abandoned by its family. It is similar to an arm that is 95% torn from a body. The arm senses disconnection that it can't identify because it is disconnected from the cognizant mind in the torso.

DL: But isn't that the human condition?

MJC: No, it is learned. Through natural attractions, natural beings, including nature-connected people, stay connected with nature. They continuously make tangible non-verbal attraction contacts with natural areas. They exercise and think with nature's wisdom and integrity in their daily lives so they neither produce nor suffer our runaway personal, social and environmental problems.

DL: This makes sense idealistically, but we are not going to return to gathering and hunting in nature, so it seems impractical.

MJC: I didn't say we should return to living outdoors, did I? You see, our indoor story and thinking tends to conclude that we must be like "Indigenous" people. I suggest, and the Organic Psychology of my Natural System Thinking Process demonstrates, that we can learn to reconnect with nature and incorporate nature's balanced ways in our thinking. We can learn to think like nature works. As our surveys show, the benefits are dramatic. What is idealistic about that?

DL: So you suggest that we learn to hunt, gather and incorporate knowledge of how nature works, of the global life process?

MJC: Exactly. Some people already know this is possible because they sense nature's peace and healing when they visit natural areas. However, often the nature-disconnected bias of our stories won't let us validate what we experience in nature. We become ecozombies. We call the benefits of sensory connecting with nature an escape from "real life," recreation rather than re-creation.

DL: Can you give me a example of the significance of our detachment?

MJC: Consider this event concerning the ingrained ways of a deeply rooted, theoretically unchangeable group of hard core killers. In the West Virginia mountains, an isolated, dedicated hunting club found a month old male fawn whose mother had been killed by a car.

For a week, these middle aged men, each with decades of devoted deer killing expertise, were attracted to feed the fawn formula from a bottle, which it suckled with half shut eyes of ecstasy. In return the fawn licked their hands, sucked their earlobes and sang them little whining sounds of delight from deep within.

When the hunt broke up, these men dispersed leaving the fawn eating grass and craving its bottle. They made vague promises to return to this remote place. They said they would, if time permitted, trek the mountain and feed the fawn. A few weeks later, one of the hunters phoned the others to see if anybody knew if the fawn has been fed or had survived. He discovered that without each other knowing it, five of the hunters often visited the fawn and fed it, so it was actually getting fat. Although the fawn might be shot by someone who did not know who the deer was, it lifted his heart to think that the fawn had a chance at life because some hardened deer hunters had gone out of their way to give it to him. Significantly, he knew for sure that none of his hunt club members would shoot it.

DL: What do you think made this happen?

MJC: Obviously, neither a teacher, preacher or politician was present to educate the hunters about the value of the fawn's life and supporting it. Although it said not a word, the fawn, nature itself, was that educator. Non-verbal sensory attraction factors within the integrity of its life touched these same factors in the lives of the hunters. The connection sparked into their consciousness their inherent natural feelings of love in the form of nurturing, empathy, community, friendship, power, humility, reasoning, place, time and a score of others. Reconnecting moments with nature engaged and nourished a battery of their natural senses. These inborn senses led a group of deer hunters to support rather than deny the life of a deer, and to bring new joy to their personal and collective lives.

DL: But relatively few people live in a natural setting that would offer them this profound experience.

MJC: Through the Organic Psychology of the Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) any attraction in nature, backyard or back country, that we become conscious of can help us produce the same results that the fawn produced. A weed growing through the pavement can do it. A garden or a potted plant can do it. For example, I recently participated in a hurried, almost stressful training program for people whose differences kept them arguing amongst themselves. They had little interest or time to hear an explanation from me of the unifying and healing benefits of the reconnecting with nature process and they therefore omitted it from their agenda. In the midst of this hubbub, a young bird flew into the meeting room through the door. It could not find its way out. Without a word, the behind-schedule, argumentative meeting screeched to a halt. Deep natural attraction feelings for life and hope filled each person for the moment. For ten minutes that frightened, desperate little bird triggered those seventy people to harmoniously, supportively organize and unify with each other to safely help it find its way back home. Yet when they accomplished this feat, they cheered their role, not the role of the bird. They felt like hero's for the moment and congratulated their humanity for its wisdom and compassion. In their story of the incident, the role and impact of the bird went unnoticed. They returned to the hubbub of the meeting, as if nothing special had happened. They completely overlooked that the bird had united them while it was there, something they could not do without its presence.

DL: Did you point out to them that non-verbal, sensory impact of the bird, of nature, upon them?

MJC: I wanted to say something about the effect of the bird but I didn't. People would have scoffed. They would have said what you said, that what happened was not important or useful for it was uncommon to have a wild bird interrupt their lives. It was their "human spirit" that they applauded, not its orgins and existance in nature.

DL: I think I'd agree with them.

MJC: Would you agree that reconnecting with nature during that incident brought a special joy and integrity to their lives, as with the deer hunters? The individual and collective benefits were evident. It is the continual gross lack of such natural attraction contacts that creates our disorders. People feel distraught, yet helpless, about Earth's life and their lives being at risk, like the fawn and bird. Yet, if you use my Natural Systems Thinking Process, even an aquarium or pet can produce the same benefits. I've seen it unify couples, families, individuals in conflict with themselves or others. It is an organic stress-management tool.

DL: Yes, but isn't this a vicious circle? We are radically separated from nature and lose its benefits, so how can we use nature to gain them?

MJC: That is the heart of the matter. My work addresses it. It takes place in tangible contact with nature, in backyards, parks, even with potted plants, and wilderness, too. In any natural setting NSTP helps people learn to do, own and teach simple nature-reconnecting activities that impliment and share conscious sensory contacts with attractions in authentic nature. This elicits an essence of cooperative life relationships. The activities are fun and interesting. They provide, at will, the nature-reconnected moments missing from our lives. People learn to make them happen. The process is uplifting and responsible. It helps us nurture as many as 53 natural senses we genetically inherit and share to bring about consensus within and around us. NSTP helps us connect with nature at anytime to produce the same profound effects catalyzed by the fawn and bird.

DL: You mean, by choice, any individual can reconnect with nature?

MJC: Yes, our readily available published methods and materials make this possible. We teach people how to do this and share their experiences internationally by e-mail on the internet at www.ecopsych.com. Most of us take the amazing effects of sensory contact with nature for granted because we have been trained to believe the story that we are going to somehow find a substitute for nature, for the womb of life. There is no substitute for nature, the real thing, the process that has creatively supported life in balance throughout the eons. Doesn't it make sense to tap into nature's wisdom with these activities rather than, as we destroy natural systems within and around us, hope that someday we can reinvent the wheel?

DL: So the activities are easily available. How do they work?

MJC: As the fawn and bird incidents show, our mentality consists of many non-verbal natural attraction senses and feelings. Each of these 53 senses are by and from nature. They make up over 85% of our human mentality, of how we learn, know and relate. The activities enable us to tangibly connect with natural areas in at least 53 natural sensory non-verbal attraction ways. Just as importantly, they also teach us how to speak and reason from these attractive nature-connected moments. The process incorporates nature's cooperative wisdom in our thinking. It profoundly alters the destructive stories that we are taught to believe.

DL: I learned we only have five senses; what do the others do?

MJC: I'll use thirst as an example, it's not one of the five: To sensibly remind us to drink water when we need it, nature intelligently created the sensation we call thirst. Thirst feelingly makes sense. It makes us aware of the dehydrated state of our being and it attracts us to water. When we drink water, we tangibly connect with part of nature. It flows through us and we feel enjoyably unstressed, organically rewarded, quenched, fulfilled and satisfied. In addition, food for other species, not pollution is an outcome when we excrete. Similarly, thoughtfully connecting with nature through each of our 52 other natural attraction senses produces the same results. Each connection unstresses us and enjoyably fulfills us sensibly. In congress, these many senses blend in our mentality and thinking. They create, promote and sustain our inner nature's integrity just as they sustain the integrity and vitality of wild populations, for example: wolf communities or ant colonies. We learn to resonate and self-regulate with the global life community. As with the bird and fawn, we deeply feel part of something immensely important, part of life in nature, each other and ourselves. That psychologically supports us so we can enter and build relationships with more confidence. We feel less vulnerable so we can participate more fully. Because this process empowers us, fear and apathy fade while sensitivity to nature within and around us increases.

DL: What results have you observed from the reconnecting activities?

MJC: I've seen people detach from their destructive stories and attach to thoughtful fulfillments they share. The activities help us responsibly dissolve stress and discontent. They defuel and decrease stress related medical and emotional symptoms. Wellness, self-esteem and mental health increase. Greed wanes, for we don't continually want. That's why the activities are used in counseling, recovery, environmental and educational settings as well as conflict resolution. The result is that we learn to feel good by relating to the whole of community, to natural places and things as well as people. Participants feel healthy and part of something vital when they do the activities. They always belong. As our students at risk study shows, the effect is immediate. Using the Natural Systems Thinking Process makes it last.

DL: How can nature-reconnecting activities create responsible change?

MJC: We love sanity, peace and responsible relationships because they feel good and make sense. When something we love is endangered, we act. It is the right and natural thing to do. The activities make us conscious of how sanity and peace are available to us in nature, and this includes us as part of nature. These activities help us reinforce our love for being responsible, and for natural areas too.

DL: What is their practical contribution?

MJC: Consider this: at least 600 million people internationally can learn to do and teach these activities through the Internet alone. Think about it. What would our world be like if 600 million people daily enjoyed and shared nature reconnecting experiences that triggered effects similar to those from contact with the fawn and bird? How wonderful! These activities induce cooperative acts and internal responses that establish personal, environmental and global consensus and sanity. The challenge is to stop thinking in disconnection from nature. As with reading this interview, information alone seldom changes behavior. In experiencing the web of life through NSTP ecopsychology activities lies hope.

* * * * *

F. Richard Schneider is a former Director of Social Work in Alaska and presently CEO of the Institute of Global Education, a special NGO consultant to the United Nations Economic and Social Council .

NOTE: The above article may be released at will as a book review/summary of Reconnecting With Nature, The Web of Life Imperative and Educating Counseling and Healing with Nature   Additional reviews are available


Cohen, Michael J. (2003.) The Web of Life Imperative Reconnective ecopsycholoigty techniques that help people think in balance with natural systems. Trafford Publishing

Cohen, Michael J. (2000.) Einstein's World: Natural Attractions, Intelligences and Sanity

Cohen, Michael J. (1997.) Reconnecting With Nature: Finding Wellness Through Restoring Your Bond With The Earth, Corvallis , OR: Ecopress

Cohen, Michael J. (1990.) Well Mind, Well Earth World Peace University Press.

About the Interview:
Recipient of the 1994 Distinguished World Citizen Award, Applied Ecopsychologist Michael J. Cohen, Ph.D., is a Program 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 and the Akamai University Institute of Applied Ecopsychology whose program he initiated and has directed since 1990.  In 1965, Dr. Cohen discovered that Planet Earth acted like, or was, a living organism and from this he founded sensory, Gaia based, degree granting Environmental and Expedition Education outdoor programs independently and for the National Audubon Society and Lesley University.  He conceived the 1985 National Audubon International Symposium "Is the Earth a Living Organism," at the University of Massachusetts and established the Organic Psychology science of Natural Attraction Ecology in 2008.  He is the Editor of the Journal of Organic Psychology and Natural Attraction Ecology and an award winning author of ten books dealing with Applied Ecopsychology including "Educating, Counseling and Healing With Nature," "The Web Of Life Imperative" and "Reconnecting With Nature." 
Dr. Cohen is an accomplished folk song artist and contra dancer who presents traditional music programs using guitar, banjo and accordion for the U.S. National Park Service and Skagit Valley College Road Scholar program on San Juan Island, Washington.

A video about his lifework may be viewed at

Contact: P.O. Box 1605, Friday Harbor WA 98250 (360) 378-6313. Email: nature@interisland.net Web Site: www.ecopsych.com


Special NGO consultant United Nations Economic and Social Council

Readily available, online, natural science tools
for the health of person, planet and spirit

P.O. Box 1605, Friday Harbor, WA 98250
360-378-6313 <email> www.ecopsych.com

The Natural Systems Thinking Process

Dr. Michael J. Cohen, Director

send email

All programs start with the Orientation Course contained in the book
The Web of Life Imperative.


.Topics addressed on this website
Holistic certification Massage therapy Jobs Mid life crisis career
Teacher continuing education Human services Careers Alternative therapist
Human services Online Human services courses Mental health ceu
Psychology Careers Alternative Psychology Holistic wellness
Stress management courses Support group Online Peace corps fellowship
Holistic Therapy Alternative wellness Alternative Healing
Naturopathic Online Self help Online Holistic Healing
Massage therapy courses Master degree life experience Art Therapy Courses
Psychology Distance learning Human services Jobs Art therapy careers
Distance learning Therapy Naturopathic degrees Naturopathic remedies
Massage therapy ceu Naturopathic courses Psychology courses
Online Psychology Alternative Peace Corps Natural Therapy
Alternative Therapy Americorp grants Therapist continuing education
Mid life crisis career change Life experience college degrees Environmental education internships