"Those old songs are my
lexicon and prayer book,..... You can find all my philosophy
in those old American roots songs."
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.
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
Michael J. Cohen
"When Columbus discovered
this country it was full of nuts and berries; now most of the
berries are gone."
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
...-John Lennon, contemporary song artist
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
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,
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,
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
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."
"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
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."
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
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."
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.
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.
"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"
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
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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psychology tool .
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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
- 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
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
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.
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.
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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This power equation contains
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How does the Nine-Leg Balance
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-Enjoy 53 sensory parts of
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Open Articles and Letters
Nature's Grace: A Nine-Leg
Equation Provides an Answer to Hopes, Prayers and Dreams.
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
Charles Drew, Acton
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The Equation for Personal Growth and
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
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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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
now: courses, degrees, grants, recovery self-help ............................................................................