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"Those old songs are my lexicon and prayer book,..... You can find all my philosophy in those old American roots songs."

..-Bob Dylan


Note: This article is for immediate release or review, or you may link to this page from your periodical or website. The author presents its songs and story in person on San Juan Island, Washington, USA. 360-378-6313.


The Direction Home

Increasing Self-Esteem: Folk Songs, the Natural-Self and Our Insane World

"Happily, the answer is blowing in the wind. Find your answers by walking nature's path to personal, social and environmental sanity.... as illustrated here in traditional songs and their stories."

..by Michael J. Cohen



"When Columbus discovered this country it was full of nuts and berries; now most of the berries are gone."

..-Uncle Dave Macon, old time folk singer


"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives.... I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends ... and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."

...-John Lennon, contemporary song artist

An ecological description of insanity is to call it, "A process of thinking and relating that knowingly destroys your own life support system." In this regard, in 1978, to promote personal, social and environmental sanity, I was commissioned by the National Audubon Society to collect and produce an album of folk songs for them about people having sane relationships with nature. The songs were introduced with paragraphs written by William O. Douglas and narrated by Governor Russ Peterson, President of the National Audubon Society.

The album's object was to reflect the love or respect of nature that American frontiersmen and settlers developed because they lived close to the land for long periods of time. It was designed to consist of non-commercial, homemade songs that were shared by common people in the folk tradition. To my chagrin, I found very few folk songs that met this requirement. Most of them were, instead, about the challenges and hardships pioneers encountered while developing the land, making a profit from it, or enduring broken relationships.

Musical Reverence for Nature
In contrast to the songs of the settlers, I discovered in Native American cultures (the Natural People) many songs that expressed a reverence for nature. They were sung in thankfulness for nature's rewarding gifts for survival, as we, today, similarly sing hymns to our Gods.

The Natural People were sane because they connected to nature; they revered and communed with its Great Spirit. In turn, their thinking neither displayed nor produced the personal, social and environmental problems that we suffer, problems not found in natural systems due to nature's balancing and restorative powers. (1)

The wind is beauty, hey yah, hey yah
The hills are beauty, hey yah, hey yah
The stars are beauty, hey yah, hey yah
Hey yah, hey yah, hey yah

Beauty around me, hey yah, hey yah
Beauty surrounds me, hey yah, hey yah
Beauty within me, hey yah, hey yah
Hey yah, hey yah, hey yah

In contrast to the sentiments and spirit in this song, our society is excessively separated and suffers from our conquest of nature within and around us. Consider this example: on occasion people have told me to put my "John Henry" on an official document. Mind you, not my "John Hancock," the noted signer of the Declaration of Independence, but my John Henry. When I've asked who John Henry was, those in charge seldom know. They say, "It's just an expression." Some have said that John Henry signed the Declaration of Independence.


Conquering Natural Systems

John Henry is a folk hero, a legendary hammer man of the 1880's who was hired to drive steel spikes to build a tunnel through a mountainous natural area. The engineering company then introduced a steam drill that would replace him if it could do his job faster. To secure his job and self-esteem, John Henry swore that he could drive steel better than the drill.

John Henry said to his Captain,
I am a natural man,
A man ain't nothing but a man,
And before I let a steam drill beat me down,
I'll die with the hammer in my hand.

A race between John Henry and the steam drill was arranged and John Henry won. In the allotted time, "He drove his hole sixteen feet, the steam drill made only nine." However, his great effort was also his downfall:

The hammer that John Henry swung,
It weighed over nine pounds.
His hammer was striking fire.
He broke a rib on his left-hand side.
His entrails fell to the ground.
He drove so hard that he broke his poor heart .
And he lay down his hammer and he died, poor boy.
He lay down his hammer and he died.


Identifying Our Troubles

Many folk songs and legends describe John Henry's heartfelt plight because we subconsciously recognize it being similar to our own stressful troubles as members of industrial society. Like the Natural People, our personal "natural man" consists of the natural systems in us that make up our natural-self.

Our natural-self contains all of nature's profound attributes. It is born as a wise and balanced part of nature. However, we become what our exploitive, nature-disconnected environment molds our thinking to make us, often burying the life and value of our natural-self in the process. (2)

"What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another."
......-Mahatma Gandhi

"I believe in God only I spell it Nature."
......-Frank Lloyd Wright

Being wild and intelligently sensitive with respect to its survival and wisdom, one way the natural-self rebels, and celebrates itself rebelling, is by creating and singing "folk songs" about its predicament. For survival in nature, the natural-self is inherently very sensitive to its environment. For this reason, a folk song can focus any irritant.

"We are not ourselves when nature, being oppressed, commands the mind to suffer with the body.
......-William Shakespeare

Although we are part of nature, our indoor existence separates our thinking from nature's balanced and restorative ways. On average, over 95 percent of our time and 99 percent of our thinking is disconnected from nature. In our civilization, the natural-self within us is often economically and socially rewarded for thinking out of tune with natural systems and for being a successful exploiter of them. These rewards condition or addict our thinking to operate in nature-conquering ways, including its conquest of our natural-self. We must recognize and address the madness of this addiction for our thinking is our destiny.

"The way it is now, the asylums can hold the sane people but if we tried to shut up the insane we would run out of building materials."
......-Mark Twain


Restoring Sanity
In 1966, to help restore our natural-self and reduce our personal and environmental insanity, I introduced a unique nature-connected psychology to a school program. Folk songs played a big part in the program. They helped students identify the natural person in themselves and in a wide ranging variety of other people from different backgrounds and sub-cultures. The object was to help teachers and students learn how to genuinely reconnect their mind with authentic nature's balanced ways and enjoy the sanity that resulted from this validation of their natural-self.

Genuine sensory contact with the beauty and restorative powers of nature helped the school community and its members increase the good sense and happiness their natural-self could provide. In time, like the Natural People, they neither suffered, displayed nor promoted the destructive problems we normally face. Trained observers documented that the experiment produced "A utopian living and learning community that was on the side of the angels."

"Our great problems are the result of the difference between how we think and how nature works."
......-Gregory Bateson

Today, through the Internet, my nature-reconnecting psychology tool helps us benefit from nature's ways by empowering us, at will, to make conscious sensory contact with natural areas, backyard or backcountry. While in nature, the tool helps us disconnect our mind's addictive bonds to our isolated indoor ways of knowing and relating and bring into our consciousness the value and joy of our natural-self and nature's grace. Otherwise, our addiction causes us to remain mentally separated from nature as well as from the natural-self in ourselves and others.

Without transforming our nature-disconnected bonds into constructive relationships, our thinking remains filled with stressful problems, expectations and stories from our indoor lives. This continues even when we are surrounded by the beauty and peace of a forest yet we find ourselves thinking about far away problems. Although in this disconnection the natural-self is hurt and rebels with dysfunctions, we call this normal or progress, not a mental disorder.

"That, of course, is the devil's bargain of addiction: a short-term good feeling in exchange for the steady meltdown of one's life."
......-Daniel Goldman


Increasing Self-Esteem

By applying my nature-connecting tool while in natural settings, our thinking and natural-self become sensuously aware of nature and they register natural systems, senses and sensitivities of nature in our consciousness. The tool helps our thinking become more sane from conscious contact with the qualities of nature that produce the perfection of nature's well being, and our well being, too. (3) This occurs whenever our thinking and natural-self become whole with nature.

"Personal transformation is best cultivated by partnering with the supreme agent of change, the Earth. Life is change, and nature is the wizard who enlivens its magic cycles."
......-Philip Sutton Chard

In gratitude for this gift from nature, our psyche increasingly loves nature and that increases our ability to feel and validate this inherent love. It becomes important, not "flaky." We passionately protect what we love and accordingly improve our self-esteem and the environment. (4)

"Our religion keeps reminding us that we aren't just will and thoughts. We're also sand and wind and thunder and rain and the seasons. All those things. You learn to respect everything because you are everything. If you respect yourself, you respect all things."
......- Least Heat Moon

Sigmund Freud noted, "A man who is in love declares that I and You are one and is prepared to behave as if it were a fact." When our thinking celebrates our natural-self and its inherent love for natural systems within and around us, we begin to think in balance, like nature works, and restore our sanity.

And what was the fate of my Audubon Folk Song Recording project? Fortunately, I discovered that the natural-self in some environmentally caring contemporary people had written songs about how they were connected to nature. These were the songs I finally included in my National Audubon Society album "Equilibrium: Songs of Nature and Humanity" in 1979.

Today, I use almost 300 folk songs turned into questions on a "Question Menu" to help people find their natural-self and celebrate it. Questions that people find interesting are often unknowingly initiated by their hidden inner natural-self, and I respond to them by singing them songs from hundreds of years ago that answer their question. This brings many personalized effects of history and our natural-self to life through music and the heartfelt, ever-adopting but long-discarded, process of folk songs.


1. The Hidden, Unified-Field Voice in Natural Systems: http://www.ecopsych.com/attractionlink.html

2. Educating, Counseling and Healing with Nature http://www.ecopsych.com

3. Psychological Elements of Global Citizenship http://www.ecopsych.com/orient.html

4. Outcomes: A Survey of Applied Ecopsychology Participants http://www.ecopsych.com/survey.html

This article has been published by World Music Central and as a link in ALLIANCE: The North American Folk Music and Dance Alliance website. The author, Dr. Michael J. Cohen, presents its songs and story on San Juan Island, Washington, USA.


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The Nature Of Nine Leg Knowing. How Do We Belong and Heal?


"Ishi, (the last hunter-gather Native American) was sure he knew the cause of our discontent. It stemmed from an excessive amount of indoor time. 'It is not a man's nature to be too much indoors.'"

- Theodora Kroeber

"It is quite clear to me after several years in the environmental movement that all physical problems of man's impact on the environment - pollution of the air and waters, the desecration of the land, the contamination of the food chain - all start within the environment of man's mind."

- Maurice Strong,
Founder or the United Nations Environment Program,
Co--chair of the Commission on Global Governance,

Because we live in a nature-separated society, we seldom learn that it is the personal and collective relationship of our mind with nature that determines our sanity, our future and the future of the earth. Much has been written about how we need to help the planet regenerate itself. Too often we overlook that restoring it is the lasting means to improve the environment of our mind, our wellness and our destiny.

How conscious are we about the interactions of our mentality with the natural world? How do we passionately incorporate nature's intrinsic health and recuperative powers into our sense of self, other and livelihood? Do we acknowledge this deep and penetrating partnership in a renewable path to sustainability that serves people, the environment and peace?

These are compelling questions for us as our society is in denial of our mentality's relationship with nature and we face a most precarious future.

We Lose What We Most Love
As nature's resources are diminished so is the quality of our lives as part of nature. As the quality of our lives diminish, we become desensitized and fearful. We further lose touch with our natural ability to connect to the web of life within which we are so intricately bound. It becomes a cycle of loss. The nurturing link between our human lives and our earthly home gets broken. We are driven to seek more and more satisfaction in the material world, which means we consume more and more of the resources we need to sustain natural world and our inborn love of it. We get further and further away from our innate sense of meaning and being. We lose what we most love-about ourselves, the world to which we belong and our sense of the sacred in everyday life.

Nature's Saving Grace
In these difficult times, we are virtually on the edge of losing our ability to save both ourselves-and our earthly home. Yet the saving grace is simple: We will save what we love. And when we learn how to stop long enough to genuinely reconnect to the nurturing sustenance of nature, we emotionally reconnect to what is most deeply satisfying in our human experience-belonging. We re-learn to love the very essence of who we are as living breathing perfect beings on a living breathing perfect planet. It is a generative partnership that happens when we reawaken and enliven all our senses with the awareness of nature's grace, intelligence and sustenance. We find and feel that we, too, are part of the very grace and intelligence we celebrate in nature. We belong. Because this reconnecting process is often foreign to contemporary life, an enabling tool has been devised to help us engage in the process.

Restoring Our Sensory Connections To Nature's Renewing Powers.
Project NatureConnect, a pioneering process in environmental psychology and education, has developed an ecopsychology program that is first of all committed to helping us-as individuals-restore our connection to our place in nature's transcending grace. Then, through its sensory nature-connecting, ecotherapy activities, we learn how to genuinely unite our thinking to the web of life that is always around us, always nurturing us, always waiting to help us wake up. We help ourselves bond to living in awareness and equilibrium with nature, in hope and in love. Living in that organic awareness we create a lasting future for our loved ones and for our extended human and ecological family.

The Organic Science of Nature's Regenerative Ways.
Backyard or back country, the idea and goal of Project NatureConnect is special because it is doable by choice. It offers a web of possibilities-for everything from personal growth, stress management and depression recovery to professional gain. It is based on the NatureConnect work developed by Michael J. Cohen over a span of 50 years of studying, teaching, writing about and experiencing the regenerative power of our natural experience in the natural world. His work is a science and an art, the result of decades of practice working with communities of people in natural areas, all culminating in a process that helps us recover what it is we have forgotten, what it is we love, what it is we can save. (www.ecopsych.com)

Healing Our Relationships
It is time for us to come out from behind the addictive socializing and economic forces that keep the environment of our mind disconnected from the Earth and each other. It is time to re-learn how to let the wisdom and renewing energies of nature transform our destructive patterns into balanced and loving relationships that can help restore both personal worth and global harmony.

  "The indescribable innocence and beneficence of Nature-of sun and wind and rain, of summer and winter-such health, such cheer, they afford forever!"
-Henry David Thoreau, Walden

- from Janet Thomas Author, The Battle in Seattle

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The Essence of the Nine-Leg Equation

This tool offers a powerful process that deals with the problems of inspiration hope and integrity through books degrees and courses online

It is a health improvement formula that strengthens your vote, conflict resolution and nature healing as well as restores balanced relationships free of stress and dysfunction to earth, peace and environment workers.

This power equation contains the genius and support of Albert Einstein and Henry David Thoreau for use in self-help and supporting hope, cooperation, research psychologists, naturalists and good government,

It acts as a health and life experience intelligence that increases resilience, friendships, love wellness ethics education awareness counseling citizenship transformation and constructive bonding.

It rejuvenates anxiety burnout suffering disorder abnormalities that deteriorate mental health social justice peace community trust economics and cooperation.

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How does the Nine-Leg Balance of Life Equation help you improve the quality of your life and all life?

-Enjoy 53 sensory parts of nature, like thirst, each a distinct way of knowing and relating that, when intact, helps us sustain the wellness, balance and resilience of natural systems in us and the environment.
-Transform the abnormal, desensitized corporation economics and other omissions in the way our nature-disconnected society teaches us to think.
-Rejuvenate natural life sensitivities and Earth-integrated, whole ways of knowing
-Master how to reconnect your mentality to its nurturing origins, to the regenerative vigor, sustainability and integrity of nature.
-Help yourself, and those close to you, benefit from the renewal that lies in the magnificence of a beautiful day, the wisdom of an ancient tree and the fortitude of a weed.
-Through life experience discover how to let the "higher power" in nature's healing energies help your thinking transform your stress, disorders, suffering and harmful bonds into constructive personal, social and environmental rewards.
Strengthen your inborn natural genius.
-Use powerful tool and process books, degrees and courses to tap into potent self-help healing and conflict resolution powers of nature.
-Research and restore forty-eight inherent sensory intelligences into your awareness that we normally learn to deny and subdue so they deteriorate.
-Enjoy community ways of knowing and relating that, when intact, sustain the wellness, peace, balance. health and resilience of natural systems within and around us.
-Quadruple the power of your vote.
-Realize more completely your hopes and values.
Increase your resilience, support, social justice and friendships.
-Reduce stress, anxiety, burnout, dysfunction and loneliness.
-Improve your ability to think clearly and implement the power of love.
-Strengthen personal, environmental, coaching and government wellness.
-Produce cooperation and responsible professional opportunities and ethics.
-Discover environmentally sound directions goals and satisfactions
-Enjoy nature-connected education, psychology and healing courses and degree programs
-Increase personal and global peace and inspiration while reducing dysfunction.
Add important new self-improvement dimensions to counseling, healing and citizenship relationships.

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 Open Articles and Letters

Nature's Grace: A Nine-Leg Equation Provides an Answer to Hopes, Prayers and Dreams.


Dear Editor

The lack of finding inner peace, sustainable economics, trust, social justice and personal and environmental wellness had alarmed me. I sought and finally found a tool that transformed my depressing stress and anxiety into responsible stability. I thought I was stressed because the more I became aware of the destructive things happening to Earth and to people and places I loved, including myself, the greater became my lack of hope and feeling either mad, sad or depression. This divorced me from both my spirit and partner. I felt anger with God and beauty, a fear and disrespect of God for letting so much war, suffering and environmental deterioration occur that I was powerless to change. In time, I became aware that I was in denial. I denied that I, like many others, had an addiction to immediate rewards from my dysfunctions. They robbed me of the resilience to tolerate what I could not change. In fear, I came upon the description, on this page, of an amazing equation that combines the genius of Albert Einstein and Henry David Thoreau. Lost in depression, I only paid attention to it because it received super positive reviews from many conferences, spiritualities and publications that I respected, especially Psychology Today, Humanistic Psychology and the Journal of Environmental Education. In retrospect, it was a love answer from nature's grace and beauty to my hopes, prayers and dreams.

Mr. Editor, Does writing about this make sense to you? Isn't it something your readers can benefit from?

Charles Drew, Acton

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The Equation for Personal Growth and Self-Improvement

A Sensory Education and Counseling Tool Strengthens Holistic Health, Inner Peace and Sustainability

Although we are part of nature, we are normally educated to spend, on average, over 95 percent of our time and 99 percent of our lives thinking and feeling while separated from nature's grace, beauty, and restorative powers. Our mentality's profound loss of nature divorces us into apathy through denial. We deny that we are rewarded for fearing and exploiting, rather than embracing, the supportive ways of our planetary mother and her kingdoms. We deny that we are psychologically addicted to nature-disconnected thinking that creates our personal, social and environmental dysfunctions.

Contemporary society has taught us to be experts in conquering nature, including the balanced ways of our natural self and its love of nature. The result: because we don't protect what we don't love, nature, our collective sustainability and our personal wellness suffer. To stop this insanity the Einstein-Thoreau Equation makes readily available the means to genuinely connect our thinking and feeling to Mother Nature's recuperative powers, perfection and love of us as her children. Using the Internet as a learning tool, we tap our psyche into nature's beautiful sane and balanced web of life that produces an optimum of diversity and benefits without producing garbage, a web some people call God (www.ecopsych.com).

Through easily learned, nature-connected Organic Psychology methods and materials, the Internet makes it possible for any individual, or 600 million people, to think in ways that invigorate resiliency and spirit and that reduce our addictive trespasses, denial and apathy. By genuinely reconnecting our thinking to natural systems we restore and trust more than forty-five natural senses that have been numbed out of our consciousness by our extreme disconnection from nature. The self-improvement renewal of these senses increases our sensitivity, sensibility and love energies. This ecopsychology helps unbalanced parts of our minds and hearts benefit from nature's ability to rejuvenate and balance itself, including us, for we are part of nature. We reduce our stress, depression and abusiveness. We transform our apathy into constructive participation. Backyard to back country,-we strengthen our life, our organizations and global society.

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An Equation Helps Us Meet Our Great Challenge

"Our body, mind, spirit and ability to love come into the world through nature. They are part of nature's beautiful perfection, wisdom and restorative powers. However, the extreme disconnection of our thinking from nature injures these attributes. Like tearing a leg from a live rabbit, we wound and damage our ability to think clearly. Its dysfunction deteriorates our wellness, our inner peace and the environment.

Our bonding and denial present us with great challenges. To replace our lost gratifications from nature, our socialization rewards our disturbed psyche to attach or addict to contemporary ways along with their destructive side effects. Our greatest challenge is that we learn to deny that the self-improvement means is available to reconnect our thinking with nature's regenerative powers and thereby co-create ourselves and the world in a peaceful balance that eliminates these side effects."

- Michael J. Cohen


Mood Disorders: Are You Suffering from Denial of Your Separation from Nature?

  Excessive separation from nature produces the discomforts of fatigue, apathy, stress, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, anger, mood swings, mistrust, loneliness, broken relationships, destructive dependencies and sleep, eating, learning and attention disorders
1. Contemporary society and its citizens are in denial. We are aware that we are part of nature and that although we are disconnected from nature, we deny that this separation bears ill effects upon our physical or mental health and inner peace. We are also in denial if we know our separation from nature is producing destructive personal, social and environmental disorders but we don't use readily available nature-reconnecting tools to help us treat these disorders.

2. Because we are members of a nature-disconnected society in denial, we are psychologically bonded to our society's ways and we each suffer from and perpetuate the dysfunctions, insanity and discontents of our society.

3. Many people display mood disorder symptoms or other discontents that are not normally found in nature-connected people. These individuals are usually in denial that they suffer because they are, or have been, excessively separated from nature and its regenerative healing and restorative powers. The symptoms these individuals endure include the discomforts of fatigue, apathy, stress, anxiety, depression, hopelessness, anger, mood swings, mistrust, loneliness, broken relationships, destructive dependencies and sleep, eating, learning and attention disorders.

4. Contemporary society consciously and subconsciously socializes us to believe that nature is an enemy to overcome, conquer or develop.

  - We are in denial that we mistakenly consider it progress and economically sound to subdue natural systems within and around us and thereby lose the resilience and immunity provided by the recuperative powers of these systems.

- We deny that if disconnection from nature produces discontents, that authentic reconnecting with nature enables nature's renewing powers to help us transform our discontents into happier, more reasonable, ways of being and relating.

- We deny that nature-reconnecting tools are readily available to us and that we that can use them to help ourselves reverse our disorders.

5. An individual that only addresses their personal dysfunctions without addressing the nature-disconnected roots of these dysfunctions too often furthers their and our problems as time passes.

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