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Educating, Counseling and Healing With Nature
via 53 Natural Senses

Michael J. Cohen,  Ph.D.


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This article, that you may edit, describes the experience and process of Educating, Counseling and Healing With Nature, the history of a sensory ecology science designed by a Ph.D. It explores the discovery that 53 living-earth natural attractions register in our consciousness as natural senses. They are included in an accredited learning and teaching tool that helps us increase personal, social and environmental well-being by dissolving Industrial Society's unreasonable prejudice against nature. This article helps our thoughts, feelings and spirit learn the how and why of genuinely tapping our thinking into the grace, balance and restorative powers of nature's web of life community. It empowers us to grow a new and reasonable passion to benefit from and strengthen our inborn love of nature and life.


Educating Counseling and Healing With Nature

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Educating, Counseling and Healing With Nature Via 53 Natural Senses

- Michael J. Cohen, Ph.D.

"Scientific research is based on the idea that everything that takes place is determined by laws of nature, and therefore this holds for the action of people."

- Albert Einstein

In 1936, a New York City elementary school policy insisted that Michael Cohen, a left-handed, six-year old, first grader, write with his right hand. The suppression of this youngster's left-handedness depressed him and led to mild speech, posture, nail-biting and stress disorders.  Over time, as he worked to overcome these difficulties, his skills led him to attain a Ph.D. in a blend of outdoor environmental science, counseling and psychology. 

Research with people in contact with natural areas helped Cohen, in 1965, recognize Earth to be a living organism and that from it we are born with, not just five, but more than 53 natural senses that help us sustain personal and global well-being (including a sense of left-handedness for 10-15 percent of the population). 

Cohen's investigation of our natural-senses brought to light that most of the personal, social and environmental disorders that we suffer - including greed, stress, violence, abuse, depression and addiction - result from an unreasonable, but profit making, prejudice against nature in Industrial Society that we seldom acknowledge.  This prejudice holds an irrational disregard for nature's integrity and the callings of 53 natural senses that we inherit as part of nature. We become less sensible and we weaken our well-being due to the absence of the self-correcting and restorative ways of our natural senses.

To our loss, we produce our greatest problems because we seldom learn to think sensibly by respecting our natural senses and their sensibilities. Instead, our prejudice against nature socializes us to injuriously drive these senses out of our awareness and into our subconscious where they lie hurt and frustrated.

To deal with this phenomenon, Cohen produced a hands-on, nature-connecting, sensitivity tool that helps us eliminate our natural-sense deprivation. He demonstrated that his renewing educating, counseling and healing with nature process is a sensory and spiritual ecology that enables us think like nature's restorative processes work.  Readily available on-line, and in his newly released book, "Educating, Counseling and Healing With Nature," the process generates genuine, nature-connected learning and relating that heals and renews our injured natural senses. By learning to use the process, we become more resilient and sensitive; we build more sensible relationships and many disorders subside.

"Educating, Counseling and Healing With Nature," is a professionally-refereed, practical, environmentally-based psychology that helps our thinking co-create with nature's self-correcting and regenerative ways.  Because it is an effective antidote and preventative for many dysfunctions, including Nature Deficit Disorder, it enables us to increase well-being and decrease our alarming prejudice against nature. 

Science and Rationale

Most of us in Industrial Society have enjoyed a walk in the park or other attractive experiences in nature that have relieved our stress or cleared our thinking.  Although we usually take this restoration for granted, the reason it occurs is because humanity is part of the web of life and connecting with the grace of nature's balancing and purifying powers revitalizes our psyche.

We seldom learn that our body and mind consist of ten times more cells of other organisms than human cells; over 110 species live on our skin alone, our genetic makeup contains plant and animal DNA and every 2-7 years every atom in us is replaced by atoms from the environment. Throughout our lives the natural world becomes us and we become it.

Our thinking learns to omit that each atom almost entirely consists of space filled with natural attraction energies, that we and the world, almost 100 percent, consist solely of space filled with natural attraction energies. These attractions interconnect, bind and unify us and our psyche registers them as 53 natural attraction senses. Natural attraction creates, sustains and recycles nature's perfection to health.

We are obviously part of Earth's web-of-life community, a seamless continuum of its flow through our body, mind and spirit.

We live excessively nature-separated lives. The detrimental effects of our unwarranted disconnection from nature's regenerative ways clearly show that the global ecosystem is the nurturing heart of our lives. What is also true is that in order to be part of any system, one must be in communication with that system.  We seldom recognize that, as part of the global ecosystem, we biologically inherit the ability to communicate with it.

As already noted, Earth communicates with us, as part of itself, through the intelligent sensibilities of at least 53 natural senses. For example, our sense/sensation of thirst, without using words, intelligently "turns on" to attract us to drink water, to make the global water cycle flow through and sustain us. In addition, when we have enough water, thirst reasonably "turns-off" and, in balanced ways, attracts us to stop drinking. Each of our additional 52 senses is a similar attraction intelligence.  Besides the sense of thirst, our love for water, these senses include our love of community, reason and trust; aroma, place and consciousness; color, taste and motion; belonging, beauty, music and gravity along with 40 additional natural sensory attractions. The web-of-life and we hold them in common while they hold us together in unity.

Let us pause here a moment, look at, or think of, a natural scene or some alive member of the natural world, and, with awe, recognize that it has come into its perfection through eons of wordless attraction relationships.

Similar to a person's left-handed feelings being thwarted, we suffer because we have learned to excessively ignore or obstruct the peaceful and biologically balanced fulfillment of most of our 53 natural senses. Significantly, on average, Industrial Society's prejudicial need to profit by excessively exploiting nature socializes us to disconnect over 98 percent of our time, thinking and feeling from the satisfying, yet wordless, guidance and restorative sensory callings of nature.

Our extensive loss of rewarding nurturance from nature's perfection leaves us wanting. We feel that we never have enough. This spawns our excessiveness and other problems. We become destructively greedy, stressed, abusive, depressed and/or chemical and relationship dependent.

Nature knows how to sustain its optimums of life, diversity, balance, purity and cooperation. It does this without producing garbage and with a minimum of greed, abusiveness and isolation. Everything in nature belongs, including us. As part of nature we inherit these natural sensibilities.

In natural areas, Dr. Cohen's applied science of nature-connected psychology offers an "ecopsychology" or “ecotherapy” for many troubles that helps us increase personal, social and environmental well-being. Independent of drugs or hallucinogens, and as a modern tool for shamans, it enables us to reasonably reconnect our thinking to the healing flow of natural systems, in and around us.  Backyard or backcountry, we learn to make genuine contact with authentic natural systems. This enables our thinking to help nature recycle any garbage or pollution that Industrial Society has dumped in our mind. 

Whenever we connect our psyche with "green spirit" of the web of life, our restored natural senses transform our disorders into constructive relationships. The latter consist of the balance, cooperation and unconditional love that nature shares with us to sustain life in peace.

"We cannot win the battle to increase the well-being of the web of life, that includes our life, without strengthening our natural senses, our emotional bonds with nature  - for we will not fight to save what we do not love."

- a blend by M. J. Cohen of Stephen Jay Gould and Jalaluddin Rumi

Read, download or review "Educating, Counseling and Healing With Nature" online, at http://www.ecopsych.com/ksanity.html, or obtain a review copy of the bookstore edition through links on that page.


Recipient of the 1994 Distinguished World Citizen Award, Ecopsychologist Michael J. Cohen, Ph.D. is a Director of the Institute of Global Education, where he coordinates its Integrated Ecology Department and Project NatureConnect. He also serves on the faculty of Portland State University, Akamai University and West Coast University. Dr. Cohen founded sensory environmental education outdoor programs independently and for the National Audubon Society and Lesley University(AEI.) He conceived the 1985 National Audubon Conference "Is the Earth a Living Organism," and has been identified as a “maverick genius” or “the reincarnation of Thoreau as a psychologist.”  He is an award-winning author of The Web of Life Imperative, Reconnecting With Nature, Einstein's World, and How Nature Works as well as an accomplished folk song artist and contra dancer who presents traditional music programs for the U.S. National Park Service and Elderhostel on San Juan Island, Washington.

CONTACT: www.ecopsych.com  nature@interisland.net 360-378-6313, Pacific Time Zone

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"Human behavior is rooted most deeply in nature's intentions and desire. The rhythms of nature underlie all of human interaction: religious traditions, economic systems, cultural and political organization. When these human forms betray the natural psychic pulse, people and societies get sick, nature is exploited and entire species are threatened."

-Stephen Aizenstat


In industrial society our excessively nature-separated lives mold us to betray the natural psychic pulse. We learn to block from our thinking over 98 percent of the wise sensory callings and fulfillments we normally share with natural systems and their eons of experience. Our subconscious hurt and frustration from the severed disconnection of these senses underlies our greatest troubles.

-Michael J. Cohen


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