Posted by: Michael George Daniel | July 23, 2008

Project NatureConnect

The ProjectNature Connect orientation course opens a window into the significant potential represented by the field of applied ecopsychology. This field is built upon the ground of reasoning that current psychological challenges in the world, as well as rampant pollution, waste, violence and deteriorating environmental conditions are the result of the endemic disconnection from the natural world that characterizes human existence today. The work of ProjectNature Connect strives to help people rediscover and develop their innate, natural sensibilities.

I took the ProjectNature Connect orientation course in late Spring of 2008. My research into the field of ecopsychology is an effort to synthesis personal wellness, global sustainability, and spiritual development that has been the focus of my life for several years now. The orientation course provides an introduction to a system of thinking that provides this synthesis, offering a grounded, holistic, and comprehensive approach.

The model offered by ProjectNature Connect is called the natural systems thinking process (NSTP). NSTP, because it is based on a relationship with the natural world, is innately sympathetic and supportive of all forms of life and being, thus enjoying and offering a highly coherent, yet accessible, model. Stephen, a participant in the course, writes, “What I Know and feel about the attractive value of this course for myself and others is that everything I’m looking for is already there when I re-connect with nature.”

Using NSTP, the orientation course introduces students to the concept of webstrings: feelings-related senses, or sensibilities, based on natural attractions to aspects of nature. When allowed back into our human consciousness, webstrings can offer life-sustaining and life-enhancing information. This form of non-verbal communication is prevalent throughout the natural world and is the means by which the complex, supportive web of life arises. The result is the rich diversity of life found on earth, as well as an absence of waste, pollution and unnecessary violence. It is based on attractions; positive feelings that guide living entities toward cooperative relationships. Kimm, another course participant, writes, “My experience visiting my unnamed shade tree shows me that I am a person who gets good feelings sitting still, hearing the leaves rustle on the trees as the wind rushes over to cool my face.”

The absence of waste and pollution in nature arises due to its ability to value and use everything. This ability is a definition of unconditional love. Athena, another course participant and a group facilitator, writes: “The road was peace and quite, and the plants around the road might fall asleep I guess. The night beauty gave me a very special feeling that is different from the one in the daytime. I followed the shadow of the trees on both sides of the road, the shadow on the road looked like the shelter, protecting me from danger. I looked up, the moon was shining over there, the bright, soft light, give me the courage and power to go on my way. As at that moment, I found myself so lucky that I was in such a good relationship with all the other creatures in this planet, we smiled to each other, we trusted each other, we shared and became stronger and stronger inside and outside. That’s the life. That what we are seeking for. PEACE! The nature makes me believe that I did sense peace and understand the true meaning of peace, not only among people, but among all the creature(s). I received the gifts from nature: protection, courage, love, trust; the more I keep in touch with nature, the more I benefit.”

My research to synthesize personal wellness, global sustainability and spirituality was initiated with a so-called mid-life crisis. The energy of those turbulent times propelled me onto a journey of discovery about myself that I saw as uniquely valuable in our threatened world. Along the way, the limitations of our historical and cultural conditionings, including society’s belief that it must dominate over nature in order to survive and thrive, became increasingly clear. The work of ProjectNature Connect and its founder and originator, Dr. Michael Cohen, reflects a grasp of the futility of these mainstreams beliefs, offering quality educational opportunities to develop different thinking paradigms. Moreover, similar to a Zen practice, NSTP is about creating feeling connections that are as powerful as our currently highly developed cognitive, rational abilities. At its core, these practices encourage people to come into the present moment where a myriad of other informational energies are available to guide life in a manner that is more congruent, harmonious and resonant with all life, beings and things. Quantum physics offers the idea that our ability to tap into such instantaneous information from other realms is reflective of a holographic universe in which we exist as thoroughly interconnected replicas of everything else.

The course work uses a practice of integrating sensory experiences with verbalization as a means of bridging the feeling realm with the cognitive realm. The common underpinning for the term ‘cognitive’, that of our use of abstractions to create understanding of the wider world, is particularly appropriate here. It is our use of abstractions that support the human capacity for verbal communication, yet also creates an insulating chasm between reality outside of ourselves and our experience of it.

Nature connecting activities provide non-verbal experiences that are translated into written descriptions and exchanged with other members of the study group. This process of translating the sensory, nature connecting activates into words establishes a tangible relationship between feeling and thinking. It is, in the vernacular of the course work, the creation of 9-leg thinking. The leg-based allegory relates to a story that the course uses to convey the difference between our instinctual, feeling way of knowing, and our label-based, thinking way of knowing. If we are told to consider a dog’s tail as one of its legs, we accept the statement that the dog has 5 legs. We accept this silly idea based on the power of our language. It is thus called 5-leg thinking. 4-leg thinking emerges from our knowledge of a dog based on our actual experience, in which case we can be quite certain dogs do not have 5 legs.

The work to bridge the two modes, and the resulting 9-leg wisdom, allows for faster integration of the rediscovered feeling experience by translating it into the dominant ‘language’ of our current level of consciousness. The process also encourages the ability to move more freely between the two realms and see them as deeply connected rather than as separate modes of existence.

Here is an example of one of my experiences: “Sitting on the front porch at six am, there was a gentle rain falling. It filled the air with patterns of sound; a white, spraying sound made up of thousands of tiny patters and pits. I sat under the porch roof facing west. The morning light was filling in behind. Through closed eyelids I perceived a waxing and waning of the light that seemed to correspond with the intensity of the rain coming in waves. At times the sounds of the birds dominated, but as the rain got stronger, they seemed to fall silent as we all listened to the gift of the water being delivered.”

The benefit of the practice is twofold. The bridge that is created connects our inherent natural sensibilities with our evolved thought consciousness. By working with this bridge, it is strengthened and made more available for guiding the motive energy of life. The continued and improved integration of these two realms of experience represents an evolution in our state of being: integrating feelings with thought gives rise to greater access to the holographic information provided by both the web of life and the broader universe.

A key to our connecting with this broader, integrated web of life is the ability to evolve a greater number of webstring connections with the physical realm. The great regret of our current culture is that it serves to reduce, eradicate, eliminate, hide and repress our webstring connections. If we define growth and evolution as the process of increasing our webstring connections with the Universe, then our current cultural influences are life-negating. Conversely, using the same definition of growth and evolution, increasing our webstring connections is life-enhancing. It is important to note that this definition of life-enhancing is grounded in the well-being of all things, and therefore offers a much more complete, authentic and effective definition compared with more commonly pursued ‘personal growth’ strategies.

Most Important Things About the Course

The most important thing about this course is its deliberate approach to creating experiential opportunities that encourage a sensible connection with the natural world. Inside of this practice there is great hope; hope that it changes how we feel, how we think, how we behave. These changes begin on the individual level with folks doing this or similar work. But these individual changes add up to a larger shift in the culture, in societies, nations and ultimately the world. Evidence of a remarkable global shift is widespread. The global discourse has definitely turned to the question of sustainability. Those that favor violent domination of nature, and continued ‘tapeworm’ economics in which consumers are addicted to the very things that are killing them, are losing their power and control.

Catherine Austin Fitts, the noted economist, created the tapeworm economy analogy. Her perspective, that of the ability and limitations of our present money system to fund activities that are actually healing and sustaining of the earth, is just one of many of the emerging conversations about all aspects of our current nature-disconnected status. On her group’s website, SOLARI.com, she writes, “If we want clean water, fresh food, sustainable infrastructure, and healthy communities, we are going to have to finance and govern these resources ourselves. We cannot invest in the stocks and bonds of large corporations, banks and governments that are harming our food, water, environment and all living things and then expect these resources to be available when we need them. Catherine Fitts has developed an understanding of the deep connections between our nature disconnected thinking and the institutions that exercise so much control over the world.

Project NatureConnect is a doorway into a new frame of reference. This new frame of reference is exceptionally powerful because it helps practitioners perceive the ludicrousness of so much of our current society. It is in bringing to consciousness the futility of these deeply held beliefs and the institutions upon which they rest that we can begin to shift our energy to new, sustainable ways of being – as both individuals and as a collective consciousness. Ecopsychology is field that is overwhelmingly important to the situation in which the world finds itself today. Through the lens of this work, people will begin to understand the dynamics of the current situation and the potential for mitigating global problems. Moreover, Ecopsychology offers a means for understanding and resolving the deep questions that will emerge as the earth and it inhabitants undergo cathartic changes over the coming years.

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Responses

  1. Yet another inspired / inspiring discussion.

    Grateful for the links to Project Nature Connect (very interesting!) and Catherine Austin Fitts / SOLARI as well.

    best,

    dmb

  2. […] quote because it mentions the ’scared trees’. Anyone that has followed my study of Eco-Psychology will understand why this phrase jumps out at me, as I attempt to understand and experience a more […]

  3. These writings and thoughts draw me out and inward… this world quite unknown to my every day city rhythms and busy-ness. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks much for your supportive comment!


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