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Substantiation of the Natural System Thinking Process
This article describes the attributes of the Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP), a sensory, nature-connecting science that transforms our prejudice against nature into thinking and relationships that co-create with nature. NSTP is an organic psychology tool that helps us improve health wellness and counseling by enabling our thinking and feeling to safely tap into the nature's grace, balance and restorative powers. Participants benefit from and strengthen their inborn love of nature as they master alternative therapist coaching, stress release management and holistic spirituality.
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Substantiation of the Natural System Thinking Process
Why a nature connected psychology helps people overcome their addiction to thinking and relating irresponsibly.
Mardi Jones with Michael J. Cohen
We as a society are in denial. We deny that the most destructive parts of contemporary thinking result from our psychological addiction to rewards from Nature disconnected stories and technologies. This addictive disconnection separates us from Nature's purity and benefits (Brown 1992; Bower 2000; Carin 2001: Cohen 2002c; Frumkin 2001; Greenway1995; Taylors 2000; Wiley 1994). It contaminates our thinking and our relationships with natural systems within and around us.
Indisputably, Nature recycles and purifies itself. We are part of Nature and, as a surgically reattached arm demonstrates, Nature regenerates our wholeness when we are correctly connected to it. Since 1990 a readily available Nature connecting psychology program has existed that enables our thinking, as of old, to sensuously connect with Nature and thereby let Nature help it recycle its contamination. This connection enables natural systems to dissolve the destructive addiction-bonds in our psyche and purify our thought processes.
As a practicing mental health counselor and educator I have, for the past five years, studied, observed and enjoyed a unique nature connected psychology, an ecopsychology called the Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) (Scull, 1999). I have, in addition, completed Doctoral studies and research in this field. My NSTP colleagues and I have applied NSTP modality in education, mental health, healing, outdoor education, social work and recreation settings, noting the personal and professional benefits similar to those that the founder of NSTP, Dr. Michael J. Cohen, describes below (Davies 1997; Jones 2002; McGinnes 1999; Rowe 2002; Schneider 2001; Sweeney 2002). Our research supports observations describe in the article entitled "Who's the Boss of You" (Jones & Cohen 2002). This article shows how psychologically addictive, nature disconnected, attachment bonds to our destructive ways prevent people from taking a giant step into wellness, sanity and integrity. The purpose of this paper is to further explain significant aspects of NSTP and provide additional references for them.
Experts agree that contemporary civilization critically needs to engage in a way of thinking and relating that transforms our present personal, social and environmental destructiveness into constructive relationships (Abrams, Fox; Bateson; Bohm; Bowers; Berg; Berry; Capra; Clinefeld; Glendinning; Harmon; Hubbard; Lazlow; Lovins; McKibben; Meadows; Orr; Pearce; Quinn; Roszac; Schweitzer; Krutch; Scull; Seuss; Wald). What must deeply concern any clear thinking person is that when a new manner of thinking, like NSTP, produces desired effects and is readily available, why do so few leaders acknowledge, incorporate or teach it? One must conclude that, as might be expected, our leaders, like the rest of us, although they deny it, are addicted to a misguided way of thinking and relating that produces great troubles.
Results of the school community success were demonstrable:
All this occurred simply because every community member made sense of their lives by sustaining supportive, multisensory relationships that helped them restore contact with the recycling powers of the natural world within and around them.
From 30 years of travel and study in over 260 national parks, forests and subcultures, Cohen developed a repeatable learning process and psychology (Cohen,1987 pp57-59). This process unleashes one's ability to grow and survive responsibly with the natural systems within and around us. By documenting that it worked and could be taught, he earned his doctoral degree and his school evolved into a nationally recognized, accredited graduate and undergraduate degree program.
From 1985-92, Cohen translated his nature-connected psychology into the readily available Natural Systems Thinking Process (NSTP) for public use via the internet or on site. Through NSTP, backyard or backcountry, people recover their natural integrity from readings and sharing sensory reconnection activities in local natural areas at home, work or school.
The value of NSTP is exemplified by research regarding its application to a group of at-risk students in an alternative school.(Davies, 1997). Three years of testing before and after the application of NSTP by a caring teacher or counselor showed increases in environmental literacy, academic and social skills, psychological improvement and the lasting cessation of chemical dependencies (Cohen 2002g).
Some of the factors that make it possible for NSTP to help us obtain the results I've described are listed below.
1. Addiction: Our disconnection from Nature makes part of our mentality shut down by addictively rewarding us for detaching our thinking from its roots in the mutually supportive ways of Nature (Wilson, Bateson). Unfortunately, like most addicts, we are in denial that we are addicted (Cohen, 1993b; Glendinning 1995; Marshall 2001; Roszak 1997). Our greatest problem is that because we are in denial we neither recognize nor treat as an addiction our psychological addiction to disconnectedness so we continue to suffer its hurtful effects (Diego 2000, Laing 1967). Our addiction to destructive thinking creates critical troubles that many people say we must address for survival. Few, if any, however, offer an enabling process to this end (Abrams, Fox; Bateson; Bohm; Bowers; Berg; Berry; Capra; Clinefeld; Glendinning; Harmon; Hubbard; Lazlow; Lovins; McKibben; Meadows; Orr; Pearce; Quinn; Roszac; Schweitzer; Krutch; Scull; Seuss; Wald).
2. Multiple Senses: Our addiction to disconnection from Nature pollutes our thinking by injuriously shutting down at least fifty three vital sensitivities, natural intelligences we inherently register in our consciousness (Cohen 1997 pp 37-50, Cohen 1990; Barrett 1998; Bekoff 2000 ; Bower 2002; Flom 2001; Gardner 1999; Giraud 2001; Hewlett 2000; Jaffe 2001; Kinser 2000; Kujala 2001; Lipkin1995; Murchie 1978; Pittenger 2001, Rivlin 1984 ; Rovee-Collie 1992; Travis 1997; Stern 1998; Spelke 1992; Samples 1976). The biological imperative of these senses is to enable our thinking to help us survive in a mutually supportive balance with natural systems, as does everything else in Nature.
3. Natural Attraction Energies: NSTP works because from sub atomics to solar systems, all intact relationships, physical or otherwise, are held together by natural attraction energies. (Schombert 2000; Unified 2002; Einstein 1997). What we call repulsion can just as easily be recognized as attraction to something more immediate and important. For example, when in a dangerous situation do we run away in fear or run for our life? Both are survival attractions. Was the "big bang" a profound explosion or a profound attraction to diversity? NSTP helps us create moments in Nature that let genuine contact with attraction energies realign and recycle the misguided attachments in us that make us destructive addicts. A major solution to many problems is to genuinely enable our thinking to return to the "Garden of Eden" and use its wisdom to help us co-create a brighter future for it and ourselves (Cohen 2002b; Milius 2002).
4. Recycling Attractions Feel Good: Attraction energies are the heart of recycling and purification. For example, Air recycles its purity as well as strengthens the diverse integrity of the plant, animal and mineral kingdoms.(Oxygen 2001; Odum 1971; Molles 1999; Braswell et al 1994). Nature's recycling of air is fueled by attraction energies, Nature's fundamental binding force (Capra 1997; Schewe & Stein 1999; Discovery 2001 ). Similarly, whenever we safely make contact with attractions in Nature they trigger our brain to release Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that triggers good feelings (Powledge 1999, Wise, R. A., Bauco, P., Carlezon, W. A., Jr., & Trojniar, W. 1992). Each attraction sensation, feeling or emotion is a rational, sensory, rewarding way of knowing and relating that we biologically inherit from and hold in common with Nature (Encyclopedia 2002; Irvine and Warber 2002; Kinser 2000). Neuroscientists identify attraction energies as Freud's "drives" that they call "seeking urges" (Guterl, 2002) Each encourages and shapes good citizenship in the global life community.
5 Pollution: We are mentally more than physically, isolated from the natural world. The polluted way we think produces behavior that pollutes natural and social systems (Pascale 1999; Devall 1986).We seldom recognize the need for our thinking to be connected with Nature and thereby heal, purify and simultaneously contribute to life's welfare as part of Nature's recycling process (Sabini 2000; Jung 1964). This misjudgment produces a hurtful omission in our reasoning that pollutes and disables our ability to think attractively, like Nature works. (Ascione & Arkow; Cohen 1993a;1995, 2002u; Corum 1997; Wheatley 1992).
6. Natural Senses Make Sense: Over 85% of our mentality, the mamallian brain, biologically thinks and knows through natural senses (Bekoff 2000; Cohen 1997; Washington 2001). These sensitivities provide us with empirical knowledge and feelings about and from our relationship with plants, animals and minerals (Krutch 1956). That we experience these senses at birth or before demonstrates that we inherit from Nature, not society, the ability to enjoy and register them (Stepp 1996). Everything in Nature displays these sensitivities in some form (Darwin 1872). Some societies culture them to good effect (Kroeber 1988; Farb 1968). They can help us see that we are biologically part of Nature (Scull 2000; Wilson1984; Washington 2001). They also can motivate us to live cooperatively with natural systems in Nature and each other (Dwyer, Leeming, Cobern, Porter, & Jackson, 1993; Encyclopedia 2002).
7. Effects of Disconnection: Our disconnection deprives our thinking from recycling in Nature (Cohen 2001b; Shaw 2000; Vogel 1999). Instead we become addicted to rewards from artifacts and beliefs foreign to Nature. Their side effects are destructive to natural systems around and within us.
8. Denial: As addicts in denial, we neither approach nor treat our unsolvable problems as symptoms or results of our addiction to detachment. Instead, we consider our excessive detachment normal, intelligence, and progress (P.R. Newsletter 2001). Contemporary people are addicted to live in buildings, towns and cities, void of sensory connection with Nature (Glendinning 1995). Over 99.99% of our thinking is disconnected from authentic Nature's profound ability to create, purify, recycle, regenerate, cleanse and heal our mind, body and spirit. We spend, on average, 95% of our time indoors (Wiley 1994).
9. Wellness: The wellness and mental health improvements that result from reconnecting with nature are momentous (Cohen 1998; 2002h, f; Clay 2001; Frumkin 2001; Greenway 1995; Irvine and Warber, 2002; Takano, T et al, 2002 ). Devoid of the responsible emotional rewards and information available from conscious contact with attractions in Nature, our sensory unfulfillment generates our destructive wants hurt, greed, insensitivity and violence. It also prevents our disconnected thinking from recovering by recycling (Frumkin 2001; Wilson 1984, Durning, 1995).
10. Abstract Thinking: Our abstract thinking operates differently from Nature. Nature, being non-literate, rarely engages in our abstract verbal way of reasoning and relating (Abram 1997;. Bohm 1993; Kates 2002; Environmental 1994; Dewey 1929, ). For example, at any given moment, everything in Nature is always attracted to flowing and changing and therefore in a different place, shape and relationship from every other thing (Morowitz 1992). Thus, the abstract, the number "One" can not be correctly identified in Nature except as constant flowing change, as John Dewey theorized. In addition, nowhere in Nature do we find nothing; some attraction energy or material of Nature exists everywhere. Thus, the abstract Zero does not exist in Nature. Since One and Zero don't represent Nature, each time our thinking relies on them alone for information we further stray from living in balance with natural systems within and around us. Since our mathematics, logic, financial and computer systems are rooted in the mechanical, but unnatural, truth of One and Zero we produce our destructive side effects (Cohen 2002o). We may offset this irresponsible incompleteness by balancing One and Zero with additional sensory knowledge and rewards from attraction energies in Nature (Borhoo 2001; Bradley 2000).
NSTP researchers observe as well as directly experience and consider psychological, emotional and spiritual relationships between the natural systems in themselves, others and the environment (Ingram 1999). The social and environmental results of reconnecting these relationships in Nature are the envy of responsible schools, therapies and social systems (Cohen 2002a). Any organization or person has the ability to enjoy the program's results by choosing to use Cohen's Nature reconnected thinking methods. NSTP empowers interested lay people or leaders with a science that works as well in backyards and local parks as it does back country, sometimes better. As practical as it is potent, the art of NSTP is available in five books written by Cohen (Cohen 2001). In addition, NSTP basics can be mastered in less than six weeks via the Institute's interactive Project NatureConnect classes on the internet. (Cohen 2002c)
11. Isolated Delusion: In our Nature-disconnected, mentally isolated state we convince ourselves that we are wiser than Nature but the deteriorated state of the environment and society tell a different story( McKibben 1999; Cohen 1999, 2002z; Lavers 2000, Wilson 1993). Our addiction is a wanting, destructive, juggernaut. Our great problems do not exist in Nature or Nature connected people(s) (Armen 1971; Bower 2002, Vol. 158: Farb 1968; Kroeber 1988; Cohen, 2002h).
12. Critical Questions: To correct our polluted thinking, Dr. Cohen and his workers have, with good success, sought, identified and introduced NSTP into contemporary thinking as a nature reconnecting mental and social skill. When people include the use of this skill in their thinking, they think better and more successfully relate to the critical questions, below, that face us (Cohen 2000).
ENVIRONMENT: Since we are part of Nature, what is, and how do we correct, the major difference that makes us destroy the environment while everything else in Nature enhances it?
COMMUNITY: To be part of a community or system one must be in communication with it in some way. People are part of the global life system. How does it communicate with our thinking and vice versa?
SUSTAINABILITY: Can you cite a practical model, community or process that successfully produces sustainability for all of contemporary society?
ACCURATE INFORMATION: Since our polluted mathematics, language and perceptions are abstracts that distort empirical evidence, what is the greatest truth in your life that you can trust? (hint: it is neither God, love, honesty or Nature)
PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS: What produces the wanting void in our psyche, the discomfort, greed, and loneliness that fuels most human and, in turn, environmental disorders?
SPIRITUALITY: What is the psychological relationship between Nature, the Divine, and the Human Spirit?
EDUCATION: Since we learn to be who we are, what factor in modern education teaches us to produce our lasting problems?
RECOVERY: What important source of healing energy does our cultural bias omit thereby sustaining our dependency upon destructive substances and questionable healing programs?
ECONOMICS: What is the force that produces and makes us dependent upon environmentally and socially destructive economic relationships?
STRESS: What is the anxiety producing difference between a fact, a thought, a feeling and an act?
WAR: What omission makes us continue to assault nature and people when it doesn't make sense and we neither like doing it nor its hurtful effects?
LEADERSHIP AND CONFLICT RESOLUTION: If the thinking of a democratic society is polluted, how can the decisions of the majority, its leadership, or its foundations be in the society's best interest?
INTELLIGENCE AND CONSCIOUSNESS: How can we restore to our thinking our inherent but missing 53 or more natural sensory intelligences that contemporary society has hurtfully buried in our subconscious?
NATURAL SYSTEMS: Why does contemporary society often identify a person's love of nature as "escapist recreation" rather than "significant re-creation."
We don't respond adequately to these questions because most of our information and science is polluted by our bonded, abstract, separation from and conquest of Nature (Kahn 1999; Doman 984; Richmond 2000).
13. Regenerating Sanity: The regenerative abilities of natural systems peacefully produces Nature's perfection (Colwell 2001; Stilgoe 2001). In 1965, long term exposure to natural attraction energies enabled Cohen to sense and reason that Earth acted like, and therefore no doubt was, a living organism (Cohen 1985; 1986a; 1987 pp 49-78; 1994; Colwell 2001; Irvine and Warber 2002; Lovelock 1987; Bower 2002).
14. Mental Contamination: Mind pollution prevents the perfection of natural systems around and within us from operating normally.(Colman 2002; Macphail 1992).
15. Natural Antidotes: NSTP helps us meet the challenge of mind pollution through what some have called "a profound science of the obvious" (Cohen 2000a; Cohen, 1993). It enables us to find and share natural antidotes to our contaminated thinking by thinking with NSTP while in conscious sensory contact with the attractions in natural systems found in ourselves, other people and natural areas (Cohen, 1991; 1992; Batz 2000; Dossey 1997; Irvine, K and Warber, S 2002; Lyman 2002; Parsons 1998; Ulrich 1991). NSTP enables us to safely free the perfection of rewarding natural attraction energies within and around us to do what they do best, to recycle our polluted mentality so we may think more sensitively, like Nature works (Bateson 1979).
16. Nature's Value: Most people don't recognize that personal or professional relationships that are genuinely connected with attractions in Nature are more enjoyable, successful and responsible than those isolated from Nature (Holmes 2000; Stepp1996; Greenway (1995); Harrison 1994). As seen below, for almost three thousand years our culture has been aware of Nature's value but the has prejudicially rewarded us for conquering it:
of life is to live in agreement with nature."
grief than the loss of one's native land."
true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of
love, is to begin from the beauties of earth. "
way be better than another that you may be sure is nature's way."
fills the universe I regard as my body and that which directs
the universe I see as my own nature"
are better which are perfected by nature than those which are
finished by art"
17. Polluted Leadership: The intelligent leaders we appoint usually support our wayward path (Terborgh 1999). Cohen says, "If we don't genuinely reconnect our thinking to Nature's rewards, trying to reverse our anti Nature bigotry and its effects is like a person of color trying to convince the KKK to embrace them."
18. Responsible Growth: People learning to use NSTP online have, within six weeks, reported that makes a great difference for them (Cohen,1997c; 2002i; Colwel 2001; Kaplan, 1995; Wheatley & Kellner-Rogers1999, Weil 1996). They have learned to increasingly think with Natrure (Davies 1997; Jones 2002; McGinnes 1999; Rowe 2002; Schneider 2001; Sweeney 2002). In the light of enjoying NSTP they report that they, their family and world feel and relate better (Brown 1992; Bower 2000; Carin 2001: Frumkin 2001; Greenway1995; Swanson 1998; Taylors 2000; Wiley 1994). Destructive relationships with people, places and substances almost effortlessly diminish as they are replaced by responsible, non-polluting, purifying rewards from natural sensory attractions that previously lay hidden (Cohen 2002h; Nicodemus 1999; Pearce 1980; Wald 1985; Wilson 1984).
19. Alternatives: We have had, for decades, an abundance of affordable alternative technologies, social processes and models that would significantly increase our compatibility with natural systems and each other (Lovins 2000; Original Articles 1984). These improvements continue to lie idle because we have not restored the consciousness necessary to motivate the public to insist upon their use (Brown1992; Swanson 2001; Todd 1984).
20. Back to Basics: NSTP increases our mental capacity for gaining rewarding empirical knowledge directly from Nature. Cohen designed the process while in the balance and beauty of bright stars and 87 different habitats in North America's National Parks and Forests (Cohen 2000a; 2001; National 2001). NSTP helps us bring our thinking back to basics so we may recycle our mind pollution and travel a more sensible path in co-creation with natural systems (Zev 2000). The benefits of thousands of peoples' gratifying nature connected transformative experiences (Adams 1996; Cohen 1997a; Davies 1997; Flannery 1999; Slovic1999: Taylors 2000) speak for themselves but only to minds willing to listen.
21. Resilience: Most writers seldom offer, and often disregard, a empirical thinking process, one that enables our polluted consciousness to identify, resist or change destructive bonding to disconnection (Abram 1997; Berg 1995, Berry 1990, Fox 1996 , Quinn 1993, Roszac 1995; Taylors 2000). NSTP immunizes us to the callings of irresponsible attractions and seeks voluntary simplicity (Pierce 2000). It enables us to enjoy responsible rewards (Additional Results, 2002)
22. Rebonding: To be effective, in addition to awareness messages we must offer a potent psychological process that enables a person to achieve responsible goals by enjoying more responsible relationship satisfactions and bonds(Cloran 2000; Gifford 2000; Laszlo 2001; Hubbard 1998). We seldom recognize that what we call cultural loves or bonds are actually natural sense attraction energies in us that have additively established cultural attachments, be they constructive or destructive. (Kaplan 2000; Glendinning 1995).
23 Core Problem We deny that the most destructive parts of contemporary thinking and relationships result from our psychological addiction to rewards from Nature disconnected, stories and technologies. This addiction separates our psyche from the recycling powers, purity and wellness enjoyed by the other members of natural systems (Brown 1992; Bower 2000; Carin 2001: Cohen 2002c; Frumkin 2001; Greenway1995; Taylors 2000; Wiley 1994).
Conclusion: Because I have mastered the NSTP experience, it is easy for me to recognize that excessive disconnection from natural system attraction energies in Nature generate the hurt and omissions that underlie our greatest challenges. My familiarity with NSTP also enables me to conclude that reconnecting ourselves with natural system attraction energies makes perfect sense. It allows them to beneficially recycle and restore our integrity and thinking.
I can well remember, and still watch in others, the screen of disbelief that filtered and demeaned my attraction to NSTP when I first heard about it. That disbelief was countered, however, by recognizing that the way I felt and related when in natural areas was an important aspect of myself that I had learned to demean. There was nothing to lose by trusting that part of me to show me where it thought I'd be happiest and most productive. With that in mind, I did the Orientation Course (Cohen 2002 d). It opened new vistas that I found enjoyable and profound. I've remained on that path and conclude it is a valid way for people to reduce their stressful addictions and increase their integrity at every level. This gels with Nobel Peace Prize winners, Albert Schweitzer and Albert Einstein who said in effect that, until mankind can extend the circle of his compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty, he will never, himself, know peace (Schweitzer 1996, Einstein 1997).
Mardi Jones, Ph.D, is an environmental educator, writer and counselor who has pioneered the use of NSTP in her private practice in Washington State, USA.
Michael J. Cohen, Ed.D., an award winning author who directs several university programs in Applied Ecopsychology, conceived the 1985 International Symposium "Is the Earth a Living Organism" and is the recipient of the Distinguished World Citizen Award.
For further information visit the NSTP website or contact the authors
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