On Connecting with nature: An Interview with Mike Cohen
"Nature is the unseen intelligence that loved us into being." Elbert Hubbard
T.F. How would you describe our relationship to the earth?
M.C. In a society hell bent on conquering nature, it is normally taboo to learn
or teach that each of us is born with, and contains, a multitude of intelligent natural
sensitivities that wisely govern nature and our inner nature. In our society, where can an
individual learn that? Education is a pawn of society. In your school or home, did they
teach you how to use nature's multisensory intelligence? Even if we learn this fact
cognitively, it does not mean we will actually feel the natural senses we have buried in
us. We need to learn how to rejuvenate them and bring them feelingly back into our
consciousness. Then we can think with them. Without them, we will continue to lose our
joys, sense of wonder and responsibility.
The significant difference between us and nature is that we think and communicate in words, while nature and Earth are illiterate. The natural world achieves its perfection through self-regulating natural sensory interactions, without using or understanding words. We need to learn how to think with our natural senses, to have our thinking tap and incorporate nature's nonverbal ways and wisdom. Then we can verbalize wisely. The reconnecting with nature process teaches this skill because it practices it. Once we learn nature reconnecting techniques that root us in nature's sensory intelligence, we own the activities. We can use and teach them anywhere. Their use becomes a habit, an improved way of thinking. As it restores our deadened natural senses, it provides us with a thoughtful immunity to many of the pitfalls that ordinarily plague us.
T.F. How does connecting with the natural world empower us?
M.C. Have you ever sat near a roaring brook and felt refreshed, been cheered by the vibrant song of a thrush or renewed by a sea breeze? Does a wildflower's fragrance bring you joy, a whale or snow-capped peak charge your senses? Do you like pets, house plants or heart to heart talks; to be hugged and honored by others; to live in a supportive community? You did not take a class to learn to feel these innate joys. We are born with them. As natural beings, that is how we are designed to know life and our life. Dramatically, new sensory nature activities culturally support and reinforce those intelligent, feelingful natural relationships. In natural areas, backyard to back country, the activities create thoughtful nature-connected moments. In these enjoyable non-language instants our natural attraction senses safely awaken, play and intensify. Additional activities immediately validate and reinforce each natural sensation as it comes into consciousness. Still other activities guide us to speak from these feelings and thereby create nature-connected stories. These stories become part of our conscious thinking. They are as real and intelligent as 2 + 2 = 4. This reconnecting with nature process connects, fulfills and renews our thinking. It fills us with the natural world's beauty, wisdom and peace. We naturally feel rejuvenated, more colorful and thankful and these feelings give us additional support. They nurture us, they satisfy our deepest natural wants. As we satisfy them and speak their truth, we remove the aggravated stress and pain that fuel our disorders. Greed and disorders dissolve. The process triggers thinking that values natural sensory relationships with people and places. It empowers us to create stories that are congruent with nature. It regenerates natural connections and community within ourselves and with others and the land. We habitually feel content. We actively, safely form relationships from this resiliency. We responsibly seek and sustain our feelings of well being. We learn this by connecting with nature in natural areas and in each other.
T.F. I'm so often aware of how even our language serves to separate us from the
natural world. When we speak of nature, the words we so commonly use seem to imply that
nature is one thing and we are another. I'm wondering if there's a remedy for that.
M.C. My remedy is to learn how to bring nature's sensory ways feelingly into consciousness and then think and speak from them. As I've described, this enables people to sensibly articulate from tangible sensory connections that, at will, plug them directly into local and global unity. The Process provides sensory connections, not just information. By using it, the source of how and what we say comes from nature within us in connection with the natural environment. That produces the unity you wonder about. Mind you, now that I have said this and people have read it, does not mean that other folks, or even yourself, are going to learn to use the process, even though it is readibly available and makes perfect sense. If you are typical, you know about the activity process but you have not involved yourself in it. You see, information seldom changes the way we think or act. It does not release the psychological bonds that have us marching to our nature conquering drum. Today, less than .000022% of our conscious lives are spent thinking in tune with nature, that's less than 12 hours per lifetime. It's like putting a drop of ink in a swimming pool and expecting to notice a change in the color of the water. We are psychologically addicted to sustaining our polluted intellectual sea. We fear placing nature's "mental purification tablets" into it. We have been taught to think they will remove the gratifications we now depend on without replacing them with something better, however the opposite is true.
I have demonstrated that our psychological disconnectedness from nature underlies our
runaway disorders and, for this reason psychologically reconnecting with nature reverses
these disorders. I have shown that a relatively simple natural systems thinking process
makes reconnecting a readily accessible and usable reality. However, just showing this
will not produce unity. Our thinking is so prejudiced against nature that this information
is about as useful as telling members of the KKK that they should invite Afro-Americans
into their organization. We don't have the power to help them do that. Engaging in
nature's sensory attraction process could do it. That process recycles our ununified
thinking by safely replacing our destructive bonds with Earth's natural attractions in
places and people. After all, no matter the incredible differences between the members of
the plant, animal and mineral kingdom, nature unifies them so that nothing is left out,
everything belongs. Waste like garbage and pollution is not found in unadulterated natural
systems. The state of the world shows that our thinking is polluted. If nothing else,
history and common sense show that polluted thinking can not unpollute itself. We need to
use a purifier that works. Nature purifies.
T.F. When you think about the future of this planet, what concerns you the most and what inspires hope?
M.C. No offense, but those are just more of the trick questions you and I have been taught to engage in and thereby, once again, avoid involvement in the process that answers them. Neither nature nor I think about the future of the planet; spirit, peace or hope, or most of the other topics that preoccupy us. What I've learned from nature is to engage in and teach a process that moment by moment produces a healthier future, a process that IS spirit, peace and hope. I have lived the latter half of my life in that process. During the earlier half I was rewarded to think about these questions. In comparing the two halves, I realize that in just thinking and talking about our disorders we trick ourselves into wasting time in arguments and mental amusements that change very little. Nature produces the perfection we seek by practicing the process that produces it. For those looking for a brighter future and hope, I suggest they do likewise. Our troubles exist because the process that resolves them has been a missing link in the way we think. That process is no longer an unknown.
Ecopsychologist, Mike Cohen is an outdoor educator, counselor, author, and traditional
folk singer, musician and dancer. He utilizes his background in science, education, and
counseling as well as his musical expertise
"to catalyze responsible, enjoyable relationships with nature in people and
places." He has one several awards including the Distinguished World Citizen Award
from the University of Global Education. You can become involved his online articles,
courses and degree programs at his Project Nature Connect website,
or you can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For additional validations of the Natural Systems Thinking Process please visit: How Nature Works at the Nature Connect website or A Survey of Participants.
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