A Grief Council with Joanna Macy

Climate Change as Spiritual Practice

Quiet friend who has come so far,
feel how your breathing makes more space around you.
Let this darkness be a bell tower
and you the bell. As you ring,

what batters you becomes your strength.
Move back and forth into the change.
What is it like, such intensity of pain?
If the drink is bitter, turn yourself to wine.

In this uncontainable night,
be the mystery at the crossroads of your senses,
the meaning discovered there.

And if the world has ceased to hear you,
say to the silent earth: I flow.
To the rushing water, speak: I am.

Rainer Maria Rilke

For many of us, when we look at the enormity of the challenges facing humanity at this point in time, it can feel truly overwhelming. Reports about climate change, and concurrent ecological collapse can bring up a range of feeling, from despair, to fear, to deep sadness.

It can feel easier to look in the other direction, to turn away from the reality of what is happening on our planet right now. Somehow find ways to numb our pain. And yet, when we don’t allow ourselves to truly feel our pain, experience fully those emotions that appear for us, we are also cutting ourselves off from experiencing the fullness of all emotions, including joy, genuine happiness and bliss.

On 14 June, Shortly after her 93rd birthday, Joanna Macy (Earth Elder, Buddhist Scholar, Author, Seed teacher for the Work That Reconnects) and Jonathan Gustin (Founder of Purpose Guides Institute) held a live grief council under the title ‘Climate Change as Spiritual Practice’.  You can find the recording here.

Shooting Stars by AkagenoSaru

Ecological grief can be defined as “the grief felt in relation to experienced or anticipated ecological losses, including the loss of species, ecosystems, and meaningful landscapes due to acute or chronic environmental or climate change.”  By connecting fully to our grief, and honouring that grief rather than trying to push it away, we sit fully in compassion with our fellow beings, both human and non-human, and their current or future suffering. The word compassion means ‘suffering with’. The fact that we are able to grieve for the suffering of our planet and for other beings reminds us of our interconnectedness. We are not separate. What happens to one, happens to us all.

One of Joanna Macy’s most famous quote is “The most radical thing any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.” By allowing our hearts to truly break open, it brings us a new way of seeing the world. We don’t ‘move on’ from grief, but we can move forward with it, holding it in our hearts. Once our hearts have cracked open, we see just how miraculous life on Earth is, and how wonderful it is to be here. It’s from this place that we can take mindful, concerted action on behalf of all life.

I fully recommend taking the time to watch the recording of this beautiful Council.  The zoom room was at full capacity, with many others watching on Youtube livestream. Or me it also serves as an important reminder that we stand in community with many others, who care equally about this beautiful planet we call home. A reminder that we are not alone. Only together can we move forwards, hand in hand, co-creating the more beautiful future we dream of.

Here at GaiaSpeaking, our aim is to build a community of Earth lovers right here in South Africa. Changemakers, each answering our own unique calling to act in service of all life.

Love deeply, live gently. A better world is possible.

Written by Rachael Millson

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