Starting women’s month with my favorite woman, author, writer, teacher and Buddhist Scholar, Dr. JoannaMacy – and my favorite teaching of hers. This is especially for those who are involved with the healing of our planet in some way, and the times when the pain becomes too much and you feel overwhelmed. It is also a response to others who may say, “You don’t like George Bush, well did you have problems with your father?” Not everything, says Johanna, is ‘personal pathology’. I found this very liberating when I first heard it. It makes sense when you think of great avatars and healers like Jesus, Ghandi, Mandela, etc. Was the suffering they fought against merely ‘personal pathology’? I think not!
“The work of deep ecology regarding those who feel overwhelmed or numb out in response to the cares of this world, is to invite them in simple, structured ways to listen to themselves and hear their own deep, inner responses to what is happening to our world.
Then we reframe these responses. We help people to see that the grief, anger, and fear they feel are actually healthy and necessary responses to a situation that is inimical to life. This reframing is important because the industrial growth society would have us interpret our sorrow and anger over the suffering in the world in terms of some personal pathology. We live in a reductionistic society, which would persuade us that our pain for the world stems from some private neurosis. So it is crucial to see that our capacity to suffer with our world is nothing less than compassion, which is central to all spiritual traditions and which literally means to ‘suffer with’. This realization itself is liberating. It frees us from those pop psychotherapeutic voices that would privatize our grief and say things like, “So you’re upset about George Bush. Have you looked at your relationship with your father?” These internal and external voices lead us to repress our deep responses of solidarity with other beings. Furthermore they block the feedback which societies need for self-correction, and engender feelings of powerlessness. People tend to feel they don’t have the right to speak about the pressing problems of our time unless they possess some fail-proof method for solving them.
Permaculturists usually take a problem and try to create a solution: excess sewage makes increased fertility etc… This is precisely why in our quest for sustainability, indeed survival, we need to see our lives within a larger context. For me, that larger context is the story of life on Earth. When I enlarge the frame beyond my personal agendas, I glimpse the wonder and beauty of that story, and how amazing it is to be born in Earth at this time of such huge challenge. This wider context gives rise to a two-fold experience. One is sheer gratitude for the gift of life, and for the chance to be alive at a moment when each thought and action can matter greatly.
And the other experience is one of connection with the generations who came before us and those who will come after. In our workshops we have ‘deep time’ exercises that help us feel our connections with the ancestors and the future beings. We rediscover that the past and the future are inside us, and can support us as we face the huge social, political and ecological dislocations in store for us all. They help us sustain the gaze and be more present to our world. That fullness of presence is, I believe, the greatest gift we can make. As an environmentalist I am bombarded by devastating information. I have kinds of low impact tools and techniques at my fingertips but I cannot stop climate change. How do I deal with my despair and stay empowered? It is easier in a group because a group working together creates a field of synergy, where intersecting relationships reinforce the intentions of our hearts and minds. Groups build courage to face the facts. They also help you see the Great Turning that is happening.”
If anyone would like to know more about deep ecology, and/or be part of or host a workshop, please visit my website: http://www.consciousconnections.co.za.