Journal of Organic Psychology and Natural Attraction Ecology (OP/NAE)

Project NatureConnect  Akamai University Institute of Applied Ecopsychology
VOLUME 1,  NUMBER 2011-2012                                                      Dr.  Michael J. Cohen, Editor

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On The Way Home:

A Nature Connected Lifestyle Process for
Community and Belonging

ęDan Shelton, Ed.D, 2011

"The ability of a relationship to be increasingly friendly and to avoid disorders depends upon the health of the unifying power that binds the relationship."

- Michael J. Cohen (2010)


Among our most basic needs as human beings are those of being accepted by others of the society and culture in which we live. As we develop, our need for acceptance expands into greater cognitive circles of interrelationship with other people. Through maturity, we further develop understandings of cultural variations and recognize what is shared in-common within greater variations of cultural practices. It is this guide to search and discovery of what is shared in-common, among cultural diversity, that we may sense, recognize, and rediscover our greater inborn sense of communion and belonging in Nature. It helps us manage our often overlooked issue in believing that it is hereditary to bring nature into slavery as a resource for our society. The word common has its roots in the concept of equally belonging with a place, and shared alike. It is the root of the word community, and most importantly of communion, or that which is shared in-common through participation in natural relationship, or ecology.


    “The human soul is a person’s ultimate place in the more-than-human world…born to occupy a particular place in Nature---a place in the Earth community, not just in human society. You have a unique ecological role, a singular way you can serve and nurture the web of life…”(Plotkin, 2008; p.31).

Along with our need to be accepted culturally and socially, our intrinsic need for rootedness to place is a part of our inborn sense of natural belonging. With each breath, we belong to the greater life-supporting ecological community of Nature. Every 5-7 years our body is completely replaced, molecule-by-molecule, with Nature, through the nourishing foods we eat and the water we drink. By inherent or natural inborn sense of belonging, I am referring to being in whole and sensory conscious participation with the greater natural and ecological community that sustains us.

The Harvard Socio-biologist E.O. Wilson states that the basis of “biophilia” is, “ the innately emotional affiliation of human beings to other living organisms. Innate means hereditary and hence part of ultimate human nature” (Wilson, 1993, p.31).

Affinities, and natural sensory attraction energy bonds, are what hold our bodies together. Molecularly, these bonds and communication systems are attracted to self-organize and self-regulate in a sustainable way. As living beings, we are attracted to foods that sustain us organically. These nutrients transform into molecularly supportive attraction bonds that therefore sustain our bodies, nervous and sensory systems, etc. Our natural sensory system is that which communicates with the natural world in and around us. We breathe because our body is attracted to be in a life-sustaining interrelationship with the atmosphere and biosphere. There is a mutually beneficial and in-common relationship established in this process, which therefore benefits plants and the whole of Nature. Our sense of hunger and thirst signals our need for nourishment and water. Our sense of excretion signals our need to dispose of bodily waste. Knowing how to relate with Nature is not something we learned abstractly from a book. We were naturally born with this self-sustaining and self-regulating organic sensory communication system in all Nature. In order to be a part of something, there must be a communication system for such a relationship. This is the very root of ecology. Our natural sensory system is this heriditary and essential life-giving interface, self-regulating, and communication relationship with Nature. Through this natural sensory system, we are perceptually and cognitively aware of our belonging with the greater natural community and all that which we share in-common with Nature. We know this through empirical self-evidence. John A. Livingston states that a sense of community is essentially “an awareness of simultaneous belonging to both a society and a place” (Livingston, 1996, p.132). Livingston’s use of the word “place” is inclusive of natural landscape and ecological relationship.

    “It is possible for the individual human being to retrieve the natural awareness of    belonging to something infinitely broader and richer than the narrow enclosure of    our belief systems, to rediscover (it was there all the time) a self that freely and joyfully identifies with myriad nonhuman existences” (Livingston, 1996, p.139).


 “In the mental and spiritual realm, the counterpart of technology is culture, which modifies and even supersedes human nature in the same way technology modifies physical nature. In thus mastering nature with technology, and mastering human nature with culture, we distinguish ourselves from the rest of life, establishing a separate human realm” (Eisenstein, 2007; p.6).

Throughout human civilization’s global existence with this Earth, the most destructive premise and issue in human thinking, lifestyle, and economic practices, is the belief that human beings are separate from and thus dominant over the natural world that supports them. This relegates nature to slavery.

 “Whether we believe that our dominion derives from God or from our own    ambition, there is little doubt that the way we currently relate to the environment is wildly inappropriate” (Gore, 1993, p. 238).

This dominion over nature mentality provides the ambition for humans to think they have the right to guide, manage and control nature, for their benefit alone. Through such thinking and dominance management, we psychologically separate and devalue our natural or inherent affinities and belonging with all things in Nature. This creates a conflict between our natural born relationship with Nature, or what Chellis Glendinning calls our “primal matrix” (Glendinning, 1994, p.5), and our abstracted thought motivated and disconnected behaviors. Such actions, behaviors, and conflicts can establish unnecessary stresses and anxieties. When such cognitive abstraction contributes to separation from and denial of our inborn Nature, it can create suspicion, denial, and value narrowing of such inherent Nature in others. Distrust of other people, prejudices, and separation on social and cultural levels can then be easily established in ones thinking. Natural system connections that could be held in-common, and could be helpful in conflict resolution, are now an abstracted story or Nature-disconnected belief in-which each person or persons now have increasingly distorted perspectives, where each may now believe they are the correct belief system. Mutual reverence among one another, wholeness, and well-being through ecological belonging in communion, is thus short-cut. Western Civilization has been a proving ground for such prejudicial, bigoted, and discriminatory patterns. Slavery of Native Americans and African peoples in the United States are among countless examples.


In Stillness, we can touch Peace.
In Openness, we can befriend.

(Lesson from female Hummingbird--Dan Shelton, Aug. 1997)

In order to address the issues raised in the article above, The Applied
Ecopsychology and Integrated Ecology Education Outreach Department offers accredited coursework leading to Certification, Masters and Doctoral Degrees in Applied Ecopsychology and Integrated Ecology.

The department also developed the Ecological Community Education Project: A Nature Connected Lifestyle Process for Community and Belonging (ęDan Shelton, Ed.D, 2010), which offers personal development non-accredited courses and workshops in Ecological Lifestyles. Its purpose is to offer Nature-Connected Education which fosters a way of living that values the peace, health and well-being of all of life as a guiding principle. This method promotes a Community in Communion with Nature philosophy and respects the intrinsic value of the whole of Nature. The guiding purpose is “Encouraging individuals to re-examine their choices about the way they live and relate with the Natural world.” (Dan Shelton, 1999).

About the author

Dan Shelton has over 20 years of experience in helping people rediscover the peace found in their inborn relationship with Nature. He is an educator, facilitator, consultant and guide, with a doctoral degree in the emerging field of Applied Ecopsychology and Integrated Ecology. His art and method of connecting people with Nature is direct, flexible and experiential, and always attuned to the interests and needs of his audience. Dan has spent his adult life experiencing and studying Nature, and the myriad benefits that can be derived from developing a sense of belonging with the natural world. Dan has been awarded the “Rudy Macke Award” for outstanding service in environmental education through the Charleston County Park and Recreation Commission.

You may contact Dan via email:


(THI on-line, accredited course).


Cohen, M. J., Sweeney, T., Edwards, S. A., Brittain, J. C., McGinnes, J. M., & McElroy, S. C. et al. (2003). The Web of Life Imperative: Regenerative ecopsychology techniques that help people think in balance with natural systems. Victoria,  Canada.

Cohen, Michael J., (2010)       

Eisenstein, C. (2007). The Ascent of Humanity. Harrisburg, PA.: Panenthea Press.

Glendinning, C. (1994). My Name Is Chellis & I'm in Recovery from Western Civilization.    Boston: Shambhala.

Gore, A. (1993). Earth in the balance: Ecology and the human spirit. New York, NY: Plume.

Livingston, J. A. (1996). Other selves. In W. Vitek, & W. Jackson (Eds.), Rooted In The Land: essays on community and place (pp. 132-139). New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press.

Plotkin, B. (2008). Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in Fragmented World. (p.31) Novato, California: New World Library.

Wilson, E. O. (1993). Biophilia and the Conservation Ethic. In S. R. Kellert, & E. O. Wilson (Eds.), The Biophilia Hypothesis (pp. 31-41). Washington, D.C.: Island    Press.


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