Journal of Organic Psychology /
 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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Project NatureConnect

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Attraction Ecotherapy and Addictions Reveal the Accuracy of Harm to Moods from a Drug of Choice

- Anonymous Project NatureConnect Participant

"From atoms to molecules to human beings with developed conciousness, all entities feel attraction for one another...attraction is the law of nature."


As part of my "job" I have the opportunity to assess people's addictions and help them see how using a "drug of choice" has infiltrated their lives and the lives of all those they love. My job is to help people "turn around" and start to see the harm of choices they have made that draw them deeper into the disease of addiction. I get to help them "pull apart", if you will the fabric of their lives and begin to spin a new tapestry of life. Addiction causes us to enter into a downward spiral AWAY from everything we love. It replaces what we are attracted to with attraction to dopamine and a euphoric feeling that can "ease" our pain. I am just starting to introduce Ecotherapy into my work and the results have been fantastic with both staff and clients. Pages 44-45 in the Web of Life Imperative, especially connect with addiction and the fact that what drug seekers seek is found naturally in nature at "no cost', all we have to do is connect.

One of the first clients I did an assessment for was "Fred". I was getting no place with him. I asked what he liked in nature and the responses poured out of this Native American man like water. He shared with me a story of how he tamed a wild horse for his abusive Father, who then "hired him out" doing what he loved to do, work with horses. I was riveted, to hear him reveal his deep love and attraction to horses. I wove that attraction into his treatment by talking to him about horses every time I could bring them up. He is graduating today and I have a book to give him on the spiritual connectedness of people to horses. 5 legged will meet 4 legged in the book and I hope carry the story of his changing life forward, one day at a time.

When I met Fred, he was one of the first Native Americans I interviewed. I prayed deliberately for a connection to this man that would open him up to new possibilities to be attracted to life rather than his drug of "no choice". I repeated that prayer often as staff told me he was not participating and was threatening to kill people and just wanted out of here (as does everyone that comes in). Every time they talked to me about Fred, I talked to him about horses. His demeanor settled and his attitude shifted to compliance with the treatment program and completing, presenting his assignments to the group. His assignments were rugged, but everyone appreciated them deeply. I thought with Fred and the connection happened because we found a mutual love in nature that I could bring to him and sooth him even though he could not go outside for long periods of time.

I bring nature into the clients as often as I can and the connection and serenity it brings opens the door for them to work with me and learn. I love it! Nature is a natural connecting place that because we have neglected it for so long, we often need to reintroduce her to people. When I do introduce nature to what I am doing, the response opens people and they are attracted to what I have to share, AND they jump in and share powerful nature truths too. I always learn as much as they do.

I am going to cry when I hand Fred that book today, because he is so connected to me and I to him because we have a common story of horse love and sensitivity. At one point when he was very angry, I put my open hand out as though it were full of oats. I reminded him of how he tamed the wild horse and I asked if he could apply the same technique now to himself and the wild horse inside of him. He settled immediately and when he would escalate I just put my hand out to him. It is always about the relationships we build. That is connectivity.

Hi Study Group,

Similar to Fred and his wild horse, that Don has just described,
I have facilitated, with 20 years experience with outdoor education and adventure based learning,  "willow in the wind" activities many times.  However it was never with the purpose to strengthen our 53 natural senses and connections to nature so I explored this possibility as part of our course work today.

There is a long circular trail that runs through thickly forested high ground overlooking the Chattahoochee River. I used this trail to replace the circle of humans called for in the classic "willow in the wind" activity, and used natural attractions as the "pushers" and my sensory responses as the "catchers". 

I respectfully sought permission to do the activity and began walking along a narrow dirt and gravel road toward the trail-head a short distance away.  As I walked along the road, slowly cleansing my lens of perception by turning my attention from things artificial to the vast natural area surrounding me, something in my peripheral vision compelled me to stop and look. I saw a large, beautifully formed, yellow and brown acorn, and as I continued to scan the ground , I saw many more. Senses that responded: sense of color; sense of moods and identities attached to colors; sense of season; senses of form and design.

 Reaching the trail-head, I turned off the road and continued my slow walk with senses now more attuned to the purpose. I had not gone far when once again my peripheral vision alerted me to stop and connect with a small bush growing along side the trail. A single, dime-sized, brilliant red fruit attached to the bush stood out from the muted colors of its background. The fruit's red, thick skin stood open
and appeared as a five petaled flower with a shiny red seed attached to the base of each petal. Senses that responded: sense of color; sense of season; sense of moods and identities attached to colors; sense of season; senses of form and design; sense of emotional place, of community, belonging, support, trust and thankfulness; aesthetic sense; sense of humility, appreciation, ethics; sense of self.

Continuing on the trail, I came to a huge, recently fallen, oak tree that lay across the trail and blocked it. Always interested in such scenes, I stopped and started my analysis of the visible evidence when suddenly a close by and unexpected sound of rustling leaves startled me. Looking around for the source, I saw nothing, and turned my attention back to the tree only to be startled again by the same sound followed by another and another. Finally, I had the answer: large acorns sporadically dropping from tall oak trees crashed into the thick layer of dry leaves that covered the ground surrounding me. Senses that responded: sense of hearing; sense of fear; sense of physical place; sense of humor. From this point, the trailed climbed steeply to the high ridge top and a view of the river flowing swiftly far below. As I slowly made my way up the steep trail, I realized the activation of yet another sense. Sense that responded: sense of weight, gravity and balance. 

After reaching the top, I paused to spend a few minutes admiring the view, but before I could focus on the river, a slight motion on the ground near my feet grabbed my attention. I stared down at the tiniest snake I have ever seen. Because of its small size, it took awhile to identify it as a snake. Its amazingly tiny forked  tongue and lack of legs finally convinced me. Keenly interested in this fellow being, I admired its beautiful color: dark blue with a thin bright yellow line encircling the body just behind the head. Senses that responded: Sense of light and sight; sense of color; sense of moods and identities attached to color; sense of emotional place, of community, belonging, support, trust and thankfulness; senses of form and design. As I looked down at the ancient river below, these same senses remained engaged. From this point, I continued on the trail back toward the road near my starting point.

I discovered that properly functioning senses are essential for a meaningful and appropriately balanced life and that they require maintenance through frequent and experiential interaction with the natural world. The characteristics of western culture tend to diminish and distort the proper functioning of natural senses, which in turn distorts the accuracy of perception.
I am a person who gets good feelings from being outdoors in a natural area and exercising my senses by interacting and connecting with natural objects in a natural area. I get pleasure from seeing a tiny snake using its tiny tongue to sense the area around it and I would be deeply distressed to lose my ability to experience these rewards.

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