It was in the late 90’s/early 2000’s I made the conscious decision not to have children. It was complex and based on many things. One of which was feeling like the uncertainty of the future seven generations was something I did not want to add more population to.
It was at that same time I began to grieve the substantial changes I could see happening to our one home, Mother Earth. This coincided with also being the time period where all of my deeper study into awareness practices began.
I was able to see, feel, and understand that at the core of our challenges was humanity’s misunderstanding of their inherent connection: to themselves, to each other, to Mother Earth and to All That Is and Isn’t in the Universe. Their lack of inherent understanding and embodied knowing that we are all one interconnected, breathing and pulsing Web of Life.
I discovered many elders and teachers along the way who I am ever grateful to. They were integral to my own evolution. One of these was Joanna Macy whose work I began staying in about 2008 or so. I understood then that Joanna was inviting us to step into the paradox of Life and Death. The integral wholeness of Being and Doing.
Joanna’s work called The Work That Reconnects was about what she termed The Great Turning. This great turning was from what she called The Industrial Growth Society to the Life-sustaining Model. I was there. I already understood that the world humans had created was not sustainable, regenerative or able to create a thriving model for future generations.
I attended an extended retreat with Joanna by invitation in 2010. It was powerful.
Joanna’s work was based on three pillars. The three pillars necessary for The Great Turning of society. The first pillar was holding actions. These are your basic direct action activism acts. These actions can make a difference, big or small but alone wouldn’t make the Great Turning.
The second pillar was structural change. This is Gandhi’s quote, “Be the change you want to see.’. Co-create a new reality within the current reality and make the current reality obsolete.
The third pillar was a shift in consciousness. As Joanna often called it: seeing with new eyes. As Feldenkrais work embodies it: having a novel experience or learning a new way. As many of the other earth-based practices I had studied called it: returning to our original wild nature.
For me this was paramount. This was the arena where my daily personal practices resided and my daily work lived. This required being able to not only hold but walk in beauty day to day through the paradox that our world is. Notice what we are not noticing and honoring where we are.
One of the many beautiful practices in Joanna’s work is called The Truth Mandala. I have participated in countless Truth Mandalas. With beautiful souls. Challenging, deeply meaningful, connecting, and transforming.
After setting a sacred container, the group sets up the mandala with four objects. In Joanna’s words:
“This stone is for fear. It’s how our heart feels when we’re afraid: tight, contracted, hard. With this stone, we can let our fear speak.
These dry leaves represent our sorrow. There is great sadness within us for what we see happening to our world. Here the sadness can speak.
This stick is for our anger, for our outrage. Anger needs to be spoken for clarity of mind and purpose. As you let it speak, grasp this stick hard with both hands. It’s not for pounding or waving around.
And here in the fourth quadrant, this empty bowl stands for our sense of deprivation and need, our hunger for what’s missing—our emptiness.
Maybe there’s something you’ll want to say that doesn’t fit one of these quadrants, so this cushion in the center of the mandala is a place you can stand or sit to give voice to it – be it a song or prayer or lines of verse.
You may wonder where is hope? The very ground of this mandala is hope. If we didn’t have hope, we wouldn’t be here.”
After honored sharing and witnessing each other just as we are, we begin to honor the paradox. We begin to honor the ‘tantric side’ and the deeper meaning of each of the objects in the mandala and what they represent. Again in Joanna’s words:
“Our sorrow is in equal measure love. We only mourn what we deeply care for. “Blessed are they that mourn.”
In speaking fear, you also show the trust and courage it takes to speak it, in a fear-phobic society.
And here we realize that the anger we express has its source in our passion for justice.
And as to this bowl, its emptiness is to be honored, too. To be empty allows space for the new to arise.”
I share this now as nearly twenty years later, many more are waking up to the absolute Truth that our current business as usual Industrial Growth Society world is not sustainable and must die.
From my perspective, holding that empty bowl of not knowing has and continues to be deeply powerful. Humanity and the world are on a precipice. What kind of Life will move forward?
Truth-telling is like oxygen: it enlivens us. Without it we grow confused and numb. With it, we experience our own authority.
Uncertainty reigns supreme. I still grieve because I love deeply. I still grieve the loss of species, wild places, Mother Earth’s water and trees. i still sense outrage due to the countless injustices. Of people, of places, and for those who don’t have a voice. I still fear the darkness at times and step into the courage to speak that fear. i still hold that empty bowl as I believe so many do.
We don’t know how Life will move forward. I do know that staying connected to that sense I had decades ago, that deep knowing and obligation to care for Mother Earth, for Life and to remain connected to the Interconnected Web of Life is where I will keep my focus.
It is easy to become apathetic, distracted, selfish or paralyzed. There is a large continuum of where people are on the spectrum of facing the Truth. The antidote for despair is action. Greta Thunberg and Our Children’s Trust are beautiful examples of this.
May you walk in the integral beauty that lives in your own soul’s longing. Listen. Feel. Act. Be. Connect. Do it every day. Do it again. Open your heart and let yourself feel.
Enter your own Truth Mandala. Share and create one with others. Come home to your own place in the family of things. It’s time to face the Truth.
May we all walk each other home……In Beauty