The Transformative Power of Grief

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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.

Ball of Confusion

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This might be a ‘depressing’ read to start with, but it gets more uplifting towards the end!

Nearly 50 years ago, (Yikes – I remember watching this on Top of the Pops!) in 1970, The Temptations released a song called “Ball of Confusion” – I’ve put a link below to one of their performances, and also the lyrics in case, like me, you’re a Motown fan.

It’s fascinating to me how apposite many of the lyrics seem when viewed from our perspective today, in 2019. It reminds me that every generation has its own version of “Fear in the air, tension everywhere”.

And yet… this moment in history does feel, to me and many others, like our world is unravelling.

Sometimes this unravelling seems good and healthy to me… even though it’s disruptive in character…

Right now, people are rioting in Chile, Syria, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Spain, Ecuador, Iraq and elsewhere. There is a mass rising-up to protest against corruption, social injustice and inequalities, and to demand more political freedoms.

London and other cities were recently brought to a standstill by School Strikers and Extinction Rebellion. We really are in the midst of a climate and ecological emergency now – and there is no Government on Earth who is acting radically enough or fast enough.

Rainforests continue to be destroyed.

200-250 species of animals, insects and plants continue to go extinct every day.

The industrial-growth machine continues to grind on. (“And the band played on…”)

As a species, we seem incapable of overcoming our differences and there has been much written recently about the increase in divisions, conflict, hate, blaming and ‘othering’ that’s going on.

Speaking with several of my non-white British friends, many of them tell me a marked increase in the amount of racism they are experiencing.

“It really did feel like it was getting better” said one friend whose family originally came to the UK from Pakistan in the 1960’s “… but since the Brexit referendum it’s getting much, much worse than I’ve ever known it. There’s a real edge to it now, and it’s scary”. He told me that several of his Brexiteer colleagues at work have been telling him he’ll have to “go back home” after we leave the European Union – as though that has anything to do with his status as a British citizen!

Artificial Intelligence. Nuclear Threat.

The rise of Fascism – strongly correlated with times of uncertainty and chaos, because many people seem to want strong, Daddy-type leaders who will protect them and make everything OK.

And sometimes the unravelling just feels like the world’s gone insane. Trump pulling out of the UN Agreements, because climate change is nothing but a “Chinese hoax”.

Here in the UK, our Government is still subsidising the fossil fuel industry to the tune of £6 billion a year.

And don’t get me started on where we are on Brexit! At a time when there are so many important and systemic issues that can only be addressed at Government-level, Brexit has taken all the available oxygen.

The mental health crisis, which I have blogged about extensively over the last year.

The rise in real poverty – yes, here in the so-called ‘affluent’ West. The selfishness, the greed, the apathy.

The way we’re all being manipulated by algorithms on our social media platforms. See Carole Cadwalladr’s TED Talk here if you believe we still live in a democracy!

I was especially troubled recently to hear about Hello Barbie, the first wi-fi enabled chat-box doll from Mattel. The doll talks to your child and asks them questions like “Where do you like to go shopping?” and “What’s your favourite colour?”. Everything your child says is transmitted to cloud servers where it will be stored and analyzed by ToyTalk, Mattel’s technology partner.

And, (just in case you don’t feel depressed enough yet), here are two other examples of how bonkers it all is.

Prisoners in parts of China are forced to play popular online games to earn in game currency and experience points that will later be sold to rich players. At first you might think that doesn’t sound very bad. Give them something to do instead of make sculptures out of soap. But it’s horrible. The prisoners are forced to keep playing for unreasonable hours or until they cannot see anymore. If they don’t meet their quota they are beaten and starved.

Or what about Villivakkam or “Kidney Village” in southern India? There, poor women are often convinced into selling their organs—a practice illegal in India. These vulnerable women are approached by middlemen who offer them money. For most of the women, impoverished and desperate as they are, this offer is hard to resist – it could allow them to buy a sheep or goat, expand their farming patch, and pay off all their debts. But the kidney harvesting procedure can be a dangerous one. Not surprisingly, post-surgery complications – and even death – are common. What is more, the middlemen often pay the women only a fraction of what they had promised them. Unfortunately, there are equivalents of “Kidney Village” all across the globe, for example, in Brazil, China, Indonesia, Israel, Pakistan, and South Africa.

Ball of Confusion indeed.

Do you ever feel like you’re living in an episode of “Black Mirror”?

Does it really have to be like this?

Is this the world you really want to live in?

Surely, with our big brains, and our big hearts, we can do better?

What’s needed, of course, is a huge shift in consciousness.

A move from separation to connectedness.

The realisation that we really all are in this together.

We’ve learned how to be clever.

Now we need to learn how to be kind, compassionate, curious and creative.

And also Calm. We need to understand that it’s impossible to solve any of these challenges from a state of mind that’s Confused and Chaotic. When we’re under stress we revert to the lowest levels of consciousness. We fight, or we hide.

And we stop listening.

As Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem from the same level of thinking that created the problem”.

It’s possible to find hope.

I am amazed every day at the groups, networks, organisations and individuals I’m discovering and hooking up with – from all over the world. All working towards bringing about this higher level of consciousness. Here are just a few examples that I’m involved with:

The Transition Movement. A global movement, started in Totnes, Devon, bringing together communities to reimagine and rebuild our world. This last Sunday, I participated in a whole-day event called “Pop-Up Tomorrow” where we collectively imagined (and then built out of cardboard) a town called Anywhere. Firstly we travelled forward into 2030, and imagined that the UK was now carbon-zero. It was a hugely inspiring and collaborative process. Find out more here

Now What? Movement. Bringing together people and networks learning about being fully human in a time of crisis. Find out more here

The Positive Deep Adaptation Movement, created by Professor Jem Bendell. Explores how to begin preparing and adapting now, in courage and love, for a possible societal collapse.  Find out more here

My last blog was about the 4R’s of Deep Adaptation, and how you can apply these to your life

Extinction Rebellion here

Entrepreneurs driving social change here

For the past decade, my own workshops and retreats have focused on helping to bring about a shift in consciousness.

Is it possible to truly thrive even in the midst of this ecological and climate emergency? To be fully alive, and deeply connected with our innate resilience, well-being, courage and creativity as we face into whatever is coming?

Can we tap in to our own inner satnav of wisdom and intuition – and use this to navigate our lives with more peace, ease and clarity?

Can we use a simple understanding of the human mind to deepen our relationship with ourselves, each other and the planet? To become more present?

I believe the answer to all these questions is a resounding YES!

There are two events coming up early next year that you may be interested in:

The Edge: A 4-day Retreat – 18 – 21 January 2020
Are you somebody who has woken up to the climate and ecological crisis? This is a 4-day retreat for people who wish to inquire, in good company, into the question “So, what now?”  Find out more here

Heart of Thriving: A 3-day Workshop 12 – 14 February 2020
A transformative workshop exploring the nature of the human experience, and what it takes to truly thrive. Find out more here

All my workshops and retreats are offered in the gift economy, so there’s nothing to pay. You just need to fund your own travel, and accommodation if you need it.

And now, back to the Temps!

Ball of Confusion, The Temptations (1970)

People moving out, people moving in
Why? Because of the colour of their skin
Run, run, run but you sure can’t hide
An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth
Vote for me and I’ll set you free
Rap on, brother, rap on
Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher
And it seems nobody’s interested in learning but the teacher
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to my nation
Ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
Woo, hey, hey
The sale of pills are at an all time high
Young folks walking round with their heads in the sky
The cities ablaze in the summer time
And oh, the beat goes on
Evolution, revolution, gun control, sound of soul
Shooting rockets to the moon, kids growing up too soon
Politicians say more taxes will solve everything
And the band played on
So, round and around and around we go
Where the world’s headed, said nobody knows
Oh, great Googamooga
Can’t you hear me talking to you?
Just a ball of confusion
Oh yeah, that’s what the world is today
Woo, hey, hey
Fear in the air, tension everywhere
Unemployment rising fast, the Beatles new record’s a gas
And the only safe place to live is on an Indian reservation
And the band played on
Eve of destruction, tax deduction, city inspectors, bill collectors
Mod clothes in demand, population out of hand, suicide, too many bills
Hippies moving to the hills, people all over the world are shouting
‘End the war’ and the band played on
Great Googamooga
Can’t you hear me talking to you?
It’s a ball of confusion
That’s what the world is today, hey, hey
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya
Sayin’ ball of confusion
That’s what the world is today, hey, hey
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya
Let me hear ya, let me hear ya, let me hear ya
Sayin’ ball of confusion

Positive Deep Adaptation in your Life

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As regular readers will know, I have woken up to the global ecological and climate breakdown that’s facing us. A large part of my work now focuses on facilitating something called PDA (Positive Deep Adaptation).

Working with individuals, groups and communities, I help people to look inside and wake up to a new level of consciousness.

PDA was first coined by Jem Bendell, a professor of sustainable development at Cumbria University – and includes an extremely useful framework for considering how we could adapt in a dramatically changed environment – ecologically, socially, economically.

Although the term came out of the need to deeply adapt as a society to the changes heading our way (whether we like them or not) – it struck me recently that this framework is equally useful in a more general context.

How do we really want to live? Who do we want to become? How do we want to treat each other? How do we want to parent, to lead, to contribute? What’s most important to us?