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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 We Don't Trust or Listen to Our Senses Anymore

- Journal of an Anonymous Participant  
Project NatureConnect education, counseling and healing studies. 

This was a very meaningful activity. I invited some of my friends to join me for a NatureConnect activity at the local Eco Park, which is a wetlands nature preserve with pathways through the marsh. Three of my dear friends met me there. Two of the three of them have done NatureConnect activities with me before and although they seem like they would be the procedures of a Recreational Therapist, they have been helpful in family, marriage and relationship counseling.  

We walked first to a big cottonwood tree that everyone calls Grandmother Tree because it's so massive, old, and stately.
Before we began, my friend Roberta talked about how good it felt to come to the park. She is going through major life shifts and awakenings. Said she had recently realized that she had given herself permission to pursue Life, but that she had abandoned the pursuit of Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, and that this profound insight had shaken her to the core. She said that she was in the momentous place of considering, for the first time in many decades, her freedom to do what really fulfills her. So, this was the preface to our experience together.

Like a nature-connected marriage or relationship counselor, I invited the group to consider the first question about how stress plays out in our lives.  Each of my friends shared about our life stresses. When I asked whether what we had all said is true, everyone agreed. When I asked how we know that these things are true, my friends began bringing in secondhand validation of the truth of what we were saying. I stopped them and explained that, from the viewpoint of ecopsychology or a family therapist, with the family being the global life community,  the answer to the question was so simple that they hadn't imagined it could be what I was getting at.  I suggested that we know our stress is real because we feel it inside. I commented that in our culture, we tend to discount our personal feelings and experiences of evidence of the truth. I suggested we affirm the truth of each other's feelings about our stresses verbally. When we did this for Roberta, she burst into tears. This was part of the self-correction she is going through right now- the validation of her personal attractions, her needs, her loves that marriage and relationship counselors help people deal with. She said it felt profoundly supportive to have other people take her experience at face value and affirm that what she feels is real. We had a moment in which we all felt deeply how alienating it is that our culture has built up around second-hand validation of our experiences. We don’t trust our own senses anymore. We don't listen to our own senses anymore.
Then we looked at the "nature photos" we took through our finger frames and identified what we tend to see. Everyone agreed that we see what we're focusing on, and can change what we see depending on what we focus on.
We then split up to do our solo time in nature. When we returned, we shared our experiences as a Marriage or Recreational therapist might suggest we do to help ourselves gain insights.
Each of us had a profound connection experience. Virginia was attracted to the water's edge, and found herself absorbed into the green, where her worries fell away. She is going through a time of extreme marriage stress and she was amazed to discover that as the green surrounded her, she completely relaxed because she was completely safe. She said she has not felt safe like that in several years. Roberta said that she felt a sense of merger with the trees, the water, the birds. She said the birds began to fly close to her as if she were just part of the sea of life in which she was immersed. Each of us shared our experiences, and we shared our delight in what happened to us.

We verbally affirmed the reality and truth of each of our experiences. Everyone said that it felt really good to have our experience affirmed as real. It made us understand in a new way how real our experiences really were. It really was safe for Virginia; Roberta really did feel that she truly belongs to the birds and the water in a way she had not before. I experienced being inside the small canopy of a little tree filled with birds. It felt like the birds picked the stress up out of my head and flitted away with it. I felt as if the bird song was a sort of head dress rising up out of the tree-me.
When we tried to make the vase-faces black and white portrait using real people instead of silhouettes, everyone saw that because many other senses were engaged, we could not see a two-dimensional picture in a real-life situation. This is something we sat and reflected on.
Everyone expressed gratitude for the experience. They asked whether we could make this a regular thing, and I agreed!  I think it should be a form of recreational therapy training for therapists who do family, marriage or relationship counseling.
I discovered that profound insights can happen right away to new practitioners of with NatureConnect experiences because nature heals us.  We've been terribly harmed by our habit of invalidating our personal experiences.  This really increases my self-esteem and my trust in nature. I don't want to ever lose this.Many people appreciate it. One of my client's feels the same, she wrote "I have my stressful anger Moment.  It has taken a bit of thinking for I seem to defuse most of my anger, which is probably not a good thing for I really carry it around surrounded by the stories of “should not” be that way when I really am.  So finding that special time when I allowed myself to blow and all the guilt trip of doing it is fore front and I can feel how I felt.  A tightness in the stomach, a back tension, the clinch of the jaw, the tense muscle threw out the body.  Someone always gets hurt, if only verbally, and I instinctively go outside to cool down usually and today is no different.  I walk down a 5 mile fence line until I start noticing the trees and grass, birds, breeze and wildlife.  I ask for help and permission to be with nature and away from the memory of anger.  With the attractions of nature, I begin to cam and no words just being with and I calm and allow myself to be. I chill and notice all of the feel around me, stop at a tree and breathing becomes calmer as I touch the trunk and peace. Calming begins to come back to the body while numbness is the best to describe but yet a peace that  goes on even with this dilemma.  I just exist for awhile with nature and thank for the calmness, help and safety.  Sunlight is warm and regenerating.  Air is sweet and cool. Acceptance is plentiful.  I sense it is time to relearn.  While walking back I take this safety, acceptance, peaceful surrounding me and begin thinking of the situation and a resolution which is also part of what “should be,“ I am sure.

 I return from the fence line and go to the garden to feel and think. I come up with a solution even if it is only for the moment.  I find while being attracted to a multi of nature’s creations after a time I proceed with the plan and continue life.  I do not like being this angry and with natures help I can return to myself."

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