We are all programmed from birth with all we need to connect to the Earth and our natural home in a sensory way. In order to become “civilized” (educated, earn a living), it is understandable many of us lose our conscious awareness of these senses, yet they are always there to be reconnected. No experience can replace this direct sensory relationship we have with our environment – not a movie about a natural environment or a book.
What I love about studying Michael Cohen’s writings and taking Ecopsychology Orientation is that it allows me to label concepts that are nonverbal. My favorite word of his is Webstrings. Webstrings are the attractions that exist between us and Earth/Nature and Nature and us, and the entire system of attractions that exist within Nature.
Ever since introduced to the webstring concept, I have been experiencing everything I encounter, especially in a natural environment, in a refreshing way. It makes me feel more connected to understand that my natural attractions to a certain tree, a certain bird, a certain color, a certain leaf originate from my core in communication with it all.
In fact, Dr. Cohen does not state this, but webstrings parallel exactly what I understand physicists to say about the nature of matter – that the majority of matter (over 80%) is energy or “dark matter” and it is the attractions between particles that hold all the matter together. Sorry for that explanation, but I am not a physicist.
Here are a few exercises I am borrowing from Michael Cohen’s work that anyone can do to enhance their awareness of webstrings:
1) Before you go to a natural area you find attractive (woods, beach, even a potted plant will do in a pinch), spend 15-30 seconds asking its permission to go there and communicate nonverbally that you want to learn something from it. Here is a bit of my journal from this exercise:
I find asking permission allows me to experience myself as no more than or less than anything around me, vibrating with all, as if we are one instrument. I asked before I entered a thick wooded area and soon a bird call caught my attention. It must have been a warning of my presence, because suddenly a huge flock of small birds lifted off from the tree tops. This brought my attention upward to the lattice of leafless branches above me forming a black net against the gray sky.
I realized how rarely I look up while hiking/walking, and felt the expansive network of trees communicating. As I continued to walk, I experienced cedar, alder, fir trees as wise companions, many of them older than me, standing witness to earth time. I came away with the sense they had much to teach me. I trust this “knowing” as much as I trust any other source of knowledge.
2) Take 5 minutes with a partner (or alone if you feel safe) and go to a natural area with your eyes closed. You are to be guided by the partner to touch and sense anything in the natural world, other than visually or verbally. I am experimenting with this with my daughter, who said “I’ll do this exercise with you, but just don’t ask a group of middle school students to do it– they’ll ram you into trees.” Which brings me to one of the most important parts of this exercise– you have to have assurances of safety and trust you can be safely led. Point being nature communicates nonverbally, and our verbal reasoning sometimes shields us from our conscious awareness of webstrings.
3) Take 5 similar sticks or stones and place them on the ground. Take a pencil with you and mark one of the sticks or stones. Then close your eyes and try to identify the one you marked without looking.
Here’s the difference between language experience of webstrings and sensory consciousness:
“Aristotle thought there were eight legs on a fly and wrote it down. For centuries scholars were content to quote his authority. Apparently, not one of them was curious enough to impale a fly and count its six legs.”
~ Stuart Chase
Below you will find a fascinating 20-minute video about the importance of nature-connected consciousness in the science of Biomimicry (developing solutions to human problems by thinking like nature).