CREATING MOMENTS THAT LET EARTH TEACH
The Hidden Voice in Natural
Systems: Why Counseling, Learning and Relationships Work Better
J. Cohen, Ed.D.
Institute of Global Education
March 15, 2002
Reading time 3 minutes.
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"Nurture your felt love
for Nature. Never deny it. That love is the eons, the purifying
intelligence, beauty and diversity of Nature sustaining us in
its perfection. Our disconnection from this love produces our
hurt, greed and destructiveness. We must reconnect and restore
its peaceful voice in our thoughts, soul and surroundings."
- Michael J. Cohen
Significantly, in the past
decade the often opposing physical (7), biological and social
sciences have discovered a body of evidence to which they agree.
In addition, this evidence also agrees with findings in ethics(10),
philosophy and spirituality (9). During this same period, the
fields of education and psychology produced a learning process
that enables any individual to access this validated knowledge
and use it to build relationships that improve self, society
and the environment (3).
The evidence mentioned above
authenticates what outdoor researchers like myself sense in natural
areas. A fundamental, binding, energy underlies every aspect
of the world we know. Be it a form of Love or the Unified Field
sought in physics, sub-atomic, human, and global relationships,
form, hold together, and "communicate" via a cohesive
natural attraction energy (8, 6). Natural attraction connects
everything into a system and subsystem, to belong, not be isolated.
Thus Nature produces no garbage.
Natural attraction roots
Nature grows from seeds
and roots, past to present. The existence of an original natural
attraction throughout Nature is consistent with how Nature works.
It makes sense. If the Earth was not held together by natural
attraction, it would fall apart, which it doesn't in Nature.
Rather, natural systems are attracted to increase in growth,
diversity, resilience and their ability to support life in a
We are attractive
All material or non-material
"things" in Nature including people, consist of natural
attraction relationships. Thus, as natural attraction produces
us it manifests itself as us, as our molecules, body, mind, sensations
and feelings. Significantly, our senses are not sterile. Like
everything else they, too, are natural attraction expressing
itself. For our survival our senses intelligently help us consciously,
feelingly, register nature's ways as they seek fulfillment from
their attraction to their origins in nature. For example, the
sensation of thirst "knows" when to attract us to water.
Effects of disconnection
is a seamless continuum of Nature and natural attraction. However,
a contemporary person daily lives and thinks over 99% of the
time while disconnected from natural attractions in natural areas.
This corrupts us to the point that we consider this dismemberment
normal. We applaud it even as we suffer its abnormal effects
upon our selves and the environment.
The missing attraction rewards
in our Nature-disconnected emotionality produces our wants and
greed. They arise from our severed and frustrated natural attractions.
This stressful void makes contemporary people the only organisms
on Earth whose mentality destructively produces garbage, pollution,
war, mental illness, loneliness, excessive stress and abusive
relationships. These maladies, with rare exception, are absent
in Nature or people in tune with Nature. That most people now believe we can
not connect our thinking and relationships with nature is a great
The objectivity and
science of disconnected contemporary thinking dismisses as subjective
most of the natural attraction sensitivities that Nature and
people hold in common. For example, sensory attractions to water
(thirst), life (survival), appetite for air (to breathe), and
belonging (community) are not even included in the five senses
that we say we learn and know from. Satisfactions from our natural
attraction to pets, friends, family, Nature, peace, justice and
community seldom shape our self-esteem, economics, and technology.
In our nature-isolated thinking,
we learn to view our natural attraction senses and feelings as
unimportant, as non-measurable, childish or unreasonable loves
(12). We condition ourselves to become sensuously sterile and
oblivious to them. To our loss, we omit them from many equations.
This corrupts us. We lose nature's essential, unifying energy,
a natural attraction way of knowing and relating that peacefully
holds the natural world in a mutually supportive, cooperative,
equilibrium. Disconnected, we and Earth are becoming increasingly
dysfunctional (4) (11).
Life's hidden purpose
The absence of natural
attractions from our thinking leaves us to conclude that life
systems, including ourselves, operate by the laws of chance and
are without purpose. However, any thoughtful person may observe
that, locally or globally, a life system does have a purpose.
It is to survive, to follow its natural attraction to grow in
support of life. Throughout nature, minerals, plants and animals
achieve this purpose and perfection by fulfilling a multiplicity
of natural attractions that resonate and beneficially modify
each other. Things in Nature thereby intelligently, by "consensus"
(many sensitivities together), unite as global citizens to their
As part of Nature, when our
senses and feelings are not thwarted by nature conquering stories,
artificial substitutes or social pressures, they attract us to
responsibly support life. They then reward us with joy to keep
us on this path.
Most therapies, healing and learning work better and produce
greater responsibility when connected to natural attractions
in nature. It is no longer heresy to say that the greater a person's
natural attraction desensitization or disconnection, the greater
are the problems that person suffers and causes. Conversely,
sensuously reconnecting with attractions in nature may be our
salvation for it enables us to transform our disorders into unifying,
constructive relationships (5A-E).
To repair our mentality's destructive
disconnection from Nature, at the Institute of Global Education
a newly researched Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) provides
a missing link that does the seemingly impossible. It enables
anybody to safely make thoughtful, conscious, sensory contact
with natural attractions in Nature, backyard or back country.
People thereby reduce their dismemberment stress and improve
their thinking and ways of relating. This authentic reconnection
with our natural attraction origins rejuvenates at least 53 inherent
natural attraction sensitivities in us. It energizes them to
register in our consciousness as attractive felt senses and logic
The presence of these additional
senses in our normal awareness enables us to enjoyably think
and speak with them, to make more sense and thereby improve our
relationships with our selves, each other and the natural systems
within and around us. This becomes very attractive, therefore
repeated, and thereby lasting (2).
NSTP helps anybody restore
the inherent joy of their culturally suppressed natural attractions:
senses of community, trust, place, compassion, reason, belonging,
consciousness, global citizenship, empathy, literacy, humor,
spirit, relaxation, and sustainability along with our forty-one
additional natural senses. It enables us to come into balance
as our thinking rationally taps into Nature's natural attraction
to reason, peace, spirit, community and Higher Power.
It is neither sensible
nor attractive for us to remain sensuously disconnected from
Nature and continue to produce the destructive effects we and
Earth presently suffer. To help us end this deterioration NSTP
is readily available through online scholarships, courses, degree
programs and training for nature-connected education, counseling
and leadership. NSTP empowers caring individuals to help people,
nations and religions share with each other their conscious sensory
contact with natural attractions in natural areas. This unification
improves personal, social and environmental relationships and
about NSTP is available at http://www.ecopsych.com and in the book Reconnecting With Nature (Ecopress).
1. Bloom, Howard. (2000.) Global
Brain. New York. John Wiley and
2. Cohen, Michael (1996) A Survey of Participants: Reactions
to NSTP and Studies of Effects, Friday Harbor, WA, Institute
of Global Education
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
5A-E. Chard, Philip Sutton. (1994.) The Healing Earth: Nature's
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.
8. Laszlo, Ervin. (1996.) The Whispering Pond: A Personal Guide
Emerging Vision of Science. Rockport, MA. Element.
9. Newberg, Andrew. (2001.) Why God Won't Go Away: Brain Science
and the Biology of Belief. New York. Ballantine Books.
10. Pojman, Louis P. (2001.) Environmental Ethics, 3rd Ed. Belmont,
11. Roszak, Theodore, Mary
E. Gomes & Allen D. Kanner. (1995.)
Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth, Healing the Mind. San Francisco.
Sierra Club Books.
12. Shepard, Paul. (1982.)
Nature and Madness. San Francisco. Sierra
Other material that appears in this article is drawn from Michael
J. Cohen's professionally reviewed publications in
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
Journal of the Oregon Counseling Association,
U.S. Department of Education Educational Resources Information
Center, Outdoor Communicator,
Between the Species,
Cooperative Learning, International
Journal of Humanities and Peace
(for additional references, see the author's personal page at
For further information about natural attraction see Nature Connected
Psychology in the Greenwich University Journal of Science and
to frequently asked questions, visit http://www.ecopsych.com/references.html
the 1994 Distinguished World Citizen Award, Ecopsychologist Michael
J. Cohen, Ed.D., is a director of the Institute of Global Education,
a special NGO consultant to the United Nations Economic and Social
Council, where he directs the Integrated Ecology Department and
Project NatureConnect. He also serves on the faculty of Greenwich
University, International University of Professional Studies
and Portland State University. Dr. Cohen has founded several
sensory environmental education programs, conceived the 1985
National Audubon Society Conference "Is the Earth a Living
Organism," and is the prize winning author of Reconnecting
With Nature (Ecopress, 1997), and Einstein's World (Institute
Of Global Education Technical Bulletin 2000)
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."
University of California at Santa Barbara