I recently took part in a Friday night through Sunday afternoon “Work That Reconnects” workshop. This is one of many times I’ve done some iteration of the work and it never gets old. I could say much about this process but the following is what’s most up for me right now.
There is an exercise called “The Truth Mandala” that allows people to speak to four or five different emotional responses to our times: fear (a large, heavy stone), anger (a stick), grief (dried leaves), emptiness or despair (an empty bowl), and guilt (a spilled glass of water). People go into whatever quadrant(s) they feel called to and speak/emote to whatever depth they feel moved. Often that depth is, well, hold onto your hats.
When I entered the circle, closely surrounded by the other participants, I went first to Fear. Even though I have great faith that humankind is heading toward the necessary shifts in consciousness and behaviors to survive total extinction and continue to evolve, I fear the ecological devastation is too great – it’s too late.
And that makes me angry! Enraged! We’ve known what we were doing. We’ve known what’s coming. We can see the consequences of our choices, yet we keep on, business as usual. And on and on….
And that makes me feel guilty. I am not immune or blameless or often even courageous enough to do what I know is right. I know no one can be perfect; the system puts many roadblocks in our way, but there’s more I could be shifting or letting go of.
And all this comes down to grief. I picked up the dry leaves and cried. And cried.
The beauty of this is that all of it is done in a container of such empathy, compassion, and support that one leaves feeling that they have literally “been through the wringer.” All that sludge has been squeezed out and transmuted, at least for the time being, into something cleaner, lighter – refreshed. Especially as we were reminded that there is a flip-side to these emotions.
The other side of fear can be the trust and courage it takes to express it.
The other side of anger can be a passion for justice.
The other side of grief can be love. We only mourn what we deeply care for.
The other side of emptiness can be space for the new to emerge.
The other side of guilt can be motivation and perseverance.
And it is from this renewed grounding that I ponder these words from Joanna Macy, the originator of “The Work That Reconnects”:
“This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings.”