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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Healing Through Non-Violent Communication with Nature and Humans Alike: Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP).
- Anonymous Organic Psychology Program Participant
Our hearts are all breaking here in Idaho. We are in tears as we bear witness to violent wolf death due to government decisions to open up the machine kill of the wolf via helicopter. In this essay I explore this issue from an NSTP and relational perspective as part of my nature connecting degree program at Akamai University.
The cries of the wolves being mercilessly slaughtered are impossible to ignore. My throat chokes closed, my eyes water and I hold back tears even as I begin to write. To speak something out loud is, for me, to bring it to the forefront, and the weight of it bears heavy witness.
Derrick Jensen, in his raw and profound book, A Language Older Than Our Own, explains: “Death is, and must be, deeply emotional. To intentionally cause death is to engender a form of intimacy, one that we’re not used to thinking about. To kill without tears or emotion and without respect, or to ignore the intimacy inherent in the act, is to rob it of its dignity, and to rob the life that you are ending of its significance. By robbing death and life of significance we reduce ourselves to the machine Descartes dreamed about. And we deny our own significance.”
He is not saying that there is not a place for killing. He is saying there is a way in which it can be mutually and web-of-life beneficial. The killing of the wolves, in my opinion, does not fall under this category. Many within the evolutionary biology and psychology field (aspects of my anthropological studies) would say violence is an inherent part of nature without actually giving much thought to the relationship of the so-called violence that Derrick Jensen, later in the book mentioned above, expands upon.
The mutual relationship between predator and prey in the dance of death and in the moment of death and how beings will in fact choose death at a certain point in the dance. This is not evil, it is different than random killings and a ‘predator- takes- all’ version of survival. This is a contract governed by the web of life that acknowledges the need for balance in order for all to survive. I have been directly involved in the taking of one life- a quail that we shot and proceeded to prepare and consume- and to feel her beating heart cease to beat in my own two hands chokes me and made a fundamental shift in my very core. There was no way I could not acknowledge what she was giving to us and no way I could not sit in reverence as we ate, and, interestingly enough, found myself limiting my intake naturally. I was not as ravenous as I can normally be and felt “full” on a much larger level after I had consumed what was a part of her life. Conversely, I have been threatened to the near-death as well. In this singular instance, I was willing to give my life for reasons difficult to explain in this short space, but which left me with a profound sense of inner peace. I am obviously still here and my dance goes on.
Shootings from helicopters are not the only way distance has been achieved in the wolf killings. I believe, along with Michael Cohen, the founder of Project NatureConnect, that our disconnection from nature is the root of our problems: “As we interact increasingly with the machine rather than living organisms and natural communities (as we did in our indigenous beginnings), our senses are further distorted and our choices become flawed in predictable ways. Personal and environmental destruction ensues as cause and effect are obscured by technology machines, industrial production, and our dulled and atrophied senses…We become conditioned to (and addicted to) a highly controlled sensory environment, and feel increasingly uncomfortable with nature’s constantly shifting, uncontrollable elements.”(Cohen) Our reconnection, then, would be our solution.
My current master’s program in Applied EcoPsychology and Cranio Sacral Therapy with Project Nature Connect is giving me tools to help others (and myself) do just that, reconnect. The tools are simple and involve a set of 8 steps to consciously interact with nature called the Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP). The process begins with the asking of permission; permission to be with the particular environment or element in nature with which you are choosing to interact. The simplicity of the exercises can undermine a person’s sense of their significance. However, the 50 years of evidence and experience with this specific system shows they are effective in our current paradigm; the millennia humans spent in balance with nature prior to our need for such systems gives the proof that this is how it was meant to be.
Many of us know this intimate relationship with nature well. We have had positive interactions that lead us to seek more. We acknowledge that our ‘natural attractions’, the underlying motivating mechanisms according to the NSTP model, draw us back in for more. And, as such, deeper bonds are created. Yet, though I have always felt a deep relationship with nature for myself, I have wondered about ways of helping others to find the selfsame. Brett Haverstick, FOC Education and Outreach Director, has spoken to me about the trips Friends of the Clearwater takes with folks into the protected areas of the Clearwater Forest to engender just this kind of connection. What we love we will protect and creating this bond in person is the only way to achieve this. So, what if we could do this for more people in general? Those doing the killings now may be less likely to seek change, but the children of those doing the killings can be taught a different way. And I still believe we can impact both.
In addition to FOC’s guided programs, Palouse Clearwater Environmental Institute offers an after school outdoor education program for the school kids of our area. Moscow Charter School, where one of my son’s is in attendance, has been open to the implementation of Kindergarten Nature-Connect curriculum that a fellow classmate in my Master’s program designed and agreed to let others use for the sake of the greater good. And I would urge anyone interested in the Nature Connect paradigm to visit the website and see how it relates to you personally and professionally and how you might utilize these tools to make the changes you are also seeking for the environment.
Regardless my own intimate connection with nature through time, I am finding that as I forge deeper relationships with diverse people in relation to our mutual quest to connect more deeply with the environment, I am also viewing perspectives that give voice to the fear and threat people can feel in forging these bonds and making change. Change demands a lot from us all and I have come up against my own crises within the program. “It’s hard to make a change when your living depends upon it.” (Cohen) When most people’s survival depends on methods that harm the environment, there is no safety in making change. Unless we can truly listen to what people are telling us when they voice these fears, how can we hope they will listen to us?
I know it is incredibly difficult to find compassion for those killing when our hearts bleed with the animals dying, but I feel the most central component to both the ecopsychology coursework I’ve been doing and my professional work as a cranio-sacral therapist is the ability to create safe, respectful and nurturing relationship with others. This is, in fact, what it means to live in balance with nature. And despite the tendency to want to view the hunters and government agencies involved in killing these wolves as evil entities, I believe we would all be better served to first try to understand the central factor of nature-disconnection and the resulting fear these people are experiencing in order to then come from a place of honor and love which might actually provide a safe enough place for self-reflection, expansion and potential change to occur.
Yes, I know this is difficult, so let me end with a story.
Years ago now, when I first heard that President Bush (JR) was declaring war in Afghanistan, I rallied some local friends, fellow musicians, artists, professors, students and public to organize a Peace Arts Rally. The goal was not to tell anybody how or what we should do, but to open a dialogue about what was happening and what we might do. My own personal thought was that we, as a nation, had the most incredible opportunity to make a decision about whether to give into war or take an unprecedented road to peace as a demonstration of the ways in which the world could someday exist. At one point, a few of us were on the University of Idaho campus with our signs and information regarding the upcoming rally. I was surprised, for a university campus, how much hatred was directed towards our mission. However, what surprised me even more was just how much violence was in the retaliatory responses from many of the so-called peace-workers. My heavy gut told me that unless we could choose peace and non-violent communication within our small group, how could we expect a nation at large to choose the same?
I offer the same sentiment here. Unless we, as concerned humans and environmental activists, can enter into non-violent relationships with the people doing these killings, how will they ever know this option exists amongst humans as well as within nature? What I hear in the cries of the wolves are cries for us all. There is no separation between any entity in this world and we must be able to embrace all aspects of this singular web within which we live in order to heal the whole.
...Enjoy further information about Organic Psychology and Natural Attraction Ecology:
- Publishable Article<http://www.ecopsych.com/hallucinatearticle.html>
- Process Synopsis<http://www.ecopsych.com/transformation.html>
- Fundamentals <http://www.ecopsych.com/mjcohen22.html>
- Testimonials <http://www.ecopsych.com/testimonials.html>
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