Levels of climate distress and eco-anxiety are rapidly increasing – especially amongst young people – according to the Climate Psychology Alliance and several other organisations.
I’m increasingly engaged in the work of supporting people who would describe themselves as suffering from climate grief or eco-anxiety, or struggling to come to terms with what this emergency means for them and those they love.
Some are activists engaged with Extinction Rebellion, some are members of the Positive Deep Adaptation Community. Some are leaders wishing to influence their companies and organisations. Some are community-builders involved in the Transition Town Network. Others are just going about their ‘normal lives’ but with mounting levels of anxiety about the future.
In 2009, I stumbled across a very simple understanding called the “Three Principles” about how the mind works and creates the human experience. The insights I gained from this changed everything for me, and underpins all the work I do with groups and individuals.
Seven Things that can really Help
1. Understanding the nature of Thought and the Human Experience
In a nutshell, the two most important things to see for yourself are firstly, that your mind only works one way – inside out, rather than outside-in. We are not directly experiencing life ‘out there’, our circumstances or life events. We are only ever experiencing thought about those things. Consciousness then brings that thinking to life, and we experience it in our mind and body. And it looks, sounds and feels 100% true — this is our reality.
I love the true story of a cellist who lived in Sarajevo during the war. Apparently, he insisted on going into the main square of the town where he lived and playing his cello, against the backdrop of bombs falling. A curious reporter asked him
“Are you mad? Why are you out here in the plaza playing music whilst they’re bombing?” and the cellist replied “Why are they bombing when I’m out here playing music?”
What we bring to a situation in terms of our story makes all the difference.
I recently watched an interesting interview with John Bell, a Dharma teacher, who listed a dozen or more narratives, or viewpoints that it’s possible to have about the predicament we find ourselves in.
(The Poetry of Predicament with John Bell “Right Living in a Time of Collapse – A Dharma Teacher’s Perspective https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fy21i3KKyhA&t=2119s )
These narratives are incredibly important to understand – both in ourselves and in others. The narrative you have predicts almost everything else – how optimistic or hopeless you are about the crisis, how much you engage with it, and how you engage with it if you do.
Grief has been a big theme for me over the past few months, and in this week’s Heart of Thriving blog, I share two profound pieces of writing about this important topic.
The first is part of a longer piece by Buddhist writer Joan Sutherland. About how grief is healthy and transformative, when we allow ourselves to feel it fully. This has certainly been my own experience.
But there can be a tendency to try to avoid powerful feelings – to numb, to distract ourselves. If we do this, I think we miss a huge opportunity to listen to the quiet ‘nudges’ from the deepest parts of ourselves.
The second is a wonderfully moving piece written by a Hazel, a participant on my recent Heart of Thriving workshop.
Joan Sutherland says:
”Our tears become a solvent for what is unyielding within, the defenses we erect to keep from feeling the pain of life all the way through—which also keep us from feeling its beauty all the way through. The tears soften, unstick, breach, topple, and fill. They run like water under the ice, and suddenly the frozen is flowing again.