Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Last Child in the Woods, Saving our Children From Nature Deficit Disorder

Following are some excerpts/concepts from this excellent book by Richard Louv
Review by Sandra Cosentino

Nature-deficit disorder describes the human costs of alienation from nature, among them:  diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.  The disorder can be detected in individuals, families and communities.

Sensory magic occurs when we are exposed to even the smallest direct experience of a natural setting. And brings with it so many values; such as,  complete relaxation, a sense of pattern and order, a sense of wonder.  It can help us develop a habit of quiet and concentration and allow us to use more imagination than in structured environments.  When we witness natural events beyond human control such as lightning, there is a keen sense of being alive.

Ecstatic memories give us meaningful images, an internalized core of calm, a sense of integration with nature, and for some, a creative disposition.   Ecstatic memories require space, freedom, discovery, and and extravagant display for all five senses.  And behind this is the effusive quality of loveliness.

In the most nature-deprived corners of our world we can see the rise of what might be called cultural autism. The symptoms?  Tunneled senses, and feelings of isolation and containment.  Experience, including physical risk, is narrowing to about the size of a cathode ray tube, or flat panel if you prefer.  Atrophy of the senses was occurring long before we came be bombarded with the latest generation of computers, high-definition TV, and wireless phones.  Urban children, and many suburban children, have long been isolated from the natural world because of a lack of neighborhood parks, or lack of opportunity—lack of time and money for parents who might otherwise take them out of the city.

“We are beginning to lose the ability to experience our world directly.” (Edward Reed, The Necessity of Experience)

“Children live through their senses.  Sensory experiences link the child’s exterior world with their interior, hidden, affective world.  Since the natural environment is the principal source of sensory stimulation, freedom to explore and play with the outdoor environment through the senses in their own space and time is essential for healthy development of an interior life.”  (Robin Moore, director of the National Learning Initiative)

Not surprisingly, as the young grow up in a world of narrow yet overwhelming sensory input, many of them develop a wired, know-it-all state of mind.  Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

D.H. Lawrence describes his own awakening to nature’s sensory gift in Taos, New Mexico, as an antidote to the know-it-all state of mind, that poor substitute for wisdom and wonder:  “Superficially, the world has become small and known.  There is no mystery left, we’ve been there, we’ve seen it, we know all about it...Yet the more we know, superficially, the less we penetrate, vertically.  It’s all very well skimming across the surface of the ocean and saying you now all about the sea...We are mistaken.  Underneath is everything we don’t know and are afraid of knowing.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Primal Vibrations of Nature Bring Us Home to Who We Really Are

Canyon de Chelly--Eyes of Mother Earth ancient sacred site

by Sandra Cosentino

Given even a brief encounter with a coyote’s bold yellow wild eyes, or in a soul-imprinting moment gazing at the luminous layers of light and color of a sunset over prairie or sea, or seeing the stars out away from city lights--wonder can erupt.  It is never too late.  In a flash we remember we are connected to a vaster universe full of mystery and beauty that is always there, eternally waiting to inspire us directly from Source.
“By becoming more attuned to the vibrations of life, we come closer to our natural state.  We clear our blocks and our resistances.  We discover the power to be. “ (From Being and Vibration by Joseph Rael from Picuris Pueblo, New Mexico.)
“Bird language will get inside you and changes you, opening up deeper and deeper levels of perceptive ability...Nature awareness also develops your ability to go into deeper and deeper levels of connected consciousness.”  (from Advanced Bird Language, Reading the Concentric Rings of Nature, CD set by naturalist and tracker Jon Young available from Wilderness Awareness School,
  As  you absorb and observe with child-hearted openness the primal vibrations of nature, you become more and more the mystical being, which is actually a natural state that is all too often drowned out the the noise of daily life, our busy ego minds, and cultural beliefs. Mystical, to me, is absorbing eternal wisdom from direct observation and knowing.
On our most fundamental level, the human mind and body are not distinct and separate from their environment but a packet of pulsating power constantly interacting with this vast energy sea.  (From the work of Lynne McTaggart, investigative journalist, who reveals in The Field a radical new biological paradigm.) 
Just the simple act of greeting the new day can be a connecting point.  Sun, radiant sun, primal central fire of life--rises at dawn with hopes for a bright new day.  Birds, feeling its pulsation of life, joyfully sing up the sun.  In turn their song vibrates like harp strings though me —I sense life force rising.
Sunset Crater at dawn
As a child I lived for the summers in the central Arizona mountains on Aunt Beulah and Uncle Jacks’s ranch.  There I was free to explore the juniper studded hills that held remnants of ancestral people who lived there hundreds of years before my time.  Lit by the softness of gas light with no TV, nights spent on the porch watching lightning storms were great entertainment.  I could explore mysteries just going to the huge barn of rough sawn lumber from Jack’s mill. Smelling of earthy horse scents, full of hidden places where hens would lay eggs I would search for, and full of shadowy corners, this was a place I adored. The big corral gates and the loft were such high places from my child 's eye view. Yet I was safe there to just be me.

Every fall I feel the Grand Canyon call to me.  I must go to both rims and be in communion with those depths.  Just as the bear prepares to go into the cave for winter, I connect with some deep place in me that is stimulated by this extravagantly eye-dazzling display of light-infused-in-colored rock shelves dropping off to dizzying depths.  It is kind of like renewing that inner hum. Something beyond mental understanding calls me to renew my sense of true center in a place that is beyond human scale.   

 This voice from the natural world is as real as a phone call from a human friend.  Such a calling took to Alaska to experience wilderness for 10 years.  That time ended when I heard in my inner being the voice of the Colorado Plateau:  I am your real Mother, it is time for you to come home now.

Wild nature has infused some of my most inspiring lucid dreams.  Even in my soul body I flow through pulsing streams and move through high mountains in a blissful state of union.  I once fell over the edge of the Grand Canyon in a dream and somehow she cradled me on the landing.  I wonder if all people have such lucid nature experiences in the dream time?  Or does my dreaming come from my direct physical world experience and love of these primal places?  Perhaps they are just mirrors of the same reality.


May you..... remember yourself in primal places—that windswept seashore, under the sheltering arms of your favorite tree, laying on crystalline red sandstone looking at an impossibly blue sky that goes forever, entranced with the plant beings in your own garden....Be graced by looking into the soft eyes of a deer in the woods who curiously comes near to you at a moment when  you are free of the electric mental static of everyday life....or laugh at yourself when a raucous raven breaks into your self-absorbed reverie with its loud mocking call as if daring you quit taking yourself so seriously.

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