Climate Change: Trusting Connection

When you think about climate change, what happens for you?

Do you feel panicked? Powerless? Angry? Guilty? Grief-stricken? Something else? Do you feel a need to do something, but feel like nothing you can do really matters?

I have felt all of those things for a long time. I have despaired. I have felt alone with it.

And then, due to some chance events a couple of years ago, I started looking at climate change full on. I dug around for information, watched TED talks, looked at dozens of websites, and generally tried to take in as much information as possible—everything scary I hadn’t wanted to see, and some things that were encouraging, surprising, even fascinating.

Climate change started to come alive for me. It stopped being this paralyzing blob of doom that I often couldn’t bear to fully consider, and it started being something that stirred me in deep ways. It started speaking to me in very textured, specific ways as a nature lover, a woman, a human being, and a psychotherapist.

And from that place—THIS place—I can feel why it matters to me so much. I can feel the threads in it that specifically resonate for me. I’m not paralyzed, and I’m not as compelled to react out of blind terror (or blind anger or blind anything); instead, I’m focusing (and refocusing as needed) on following the threads and intuitions that move me.

It’s kind of like the difference between exercising by rote, automatically, because you should and you feel terror that you’re going to die if you don’t, and exercising by tuning into what your body is telling you that you need. Maybe you feel you should run because it feels like that will most effectively keep death at bay, but your knees are clearly saying, nope, that isn’t happening. You have to find what feels right for your body, and trust that those things are the most life-nurturing for you.

And the most important thread for me—my tuned-in “exercise” for climate change—that I keep tugging on and studying and trying to express and share is connection.

Connection with our deeper selves. Connection with each other. Connection to these animals and plants that are here with us. Connection to the water, the rocks, the wind, the dirt. And being willing to let into our inner world the undeniable truth of all these connections.

Some people might say, “We don’t have time for that kind of squishy emotional stuff. We’ve got to get carbon emissions down.”

But do we want to live in a world where that’s how we define environmental health? Where we miss or dismiss the beautifully intricate interconnections that contribute to true health for all of nature, including us?

I don’t want a world like that. And I know there are many others of you out there who don’t want that either. (That includes Charles Eisenstein, who thoroughly, eloquently, and passionately makes the case for disconnection as what ails us in his book, Climate: A New Story.)

I feel deep gratitude for the people working so hard on reducing carbon emissions and being willing to throw themselves again and again into that hard, hard fight. Truly. I’m finding that isn’t my work, but I’m damn appreciative that legions of folks are working so earnestly and wholeheartedly to do it. Because we absolutely need it. Deep bows to all of them. (And to be clear, I know they aren’t all absolutely saying that emissions are all that matters. I feel like many of them have simply found that work is their tuned-in “exercise” for climate change.)

I have found that my work with climate change is to foster connection: to help people feel more connected (and less alone) around climate change, and to notice how feeling more connected changes things. Because once we are back in connection, the innate self-righting mechanism that is at our core and the core of nature kicks in. I have profound faith in this because I have experienced it personally and in others so many times. Connection not only comforts—it reveals what is and what is needed, and it organically forges something new.

Is this sacred self-righting mechanism fast enough to prevent negative impacts of climate change? I’d love to be able to say yes, but no, it probably isn’t. Does that trouble me? Yes, it does.

But just like I know I might die sooner or have other health struggles because I can’t run because my knees say no, I have to surrender to the truth that is being given me. And disconnection is the truth underlying climate change that compels me. And as a psychotherapist, I know I can trust in what fostering connection does.

More to come…

Until then, I ask you to consider: do you feel connected to nature or climate change, or do you feel disconnected? Do you feel connected or disconnected with others around this topic? I encourage you to bring it up to just one person today, someone you feel safe approaching about it who will respond with respect and care. And notice what happens for you.

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I have had two life-changing reading experiences: graduate school and the Outlander book series.

Both of them fed me in really deep ways. Both explored complex truths about being human and brought them to intense life. And both tainted the joy and ease I had always felt in reading.

Not because I got sick of reading. Because they left me feeling like I needed more. Like I was grasping. Or trying to hold onto something.


Photo Credit: Faungg via Creative Commons

Ever since, nonfiction is often spoiled for me by the compulsion to start underlining things. Feeling like I should be noting the things that resonate with me, wanting to retain them somehow. And fiction just falls really damn flat. (For those of you who have read the Outlander books, you will probably know what I mean.) I have wasted so much money on partially read books. And each time yet another book was a let-down or I got tangled up in trying to hold onto it, I felt so deflated and sad and lost.

And then…I rediscovered the library. No wasted money. I can just explore and walk through the shelves, gathering any books that pique my interest. And it is okay if I don’t like them. No guilt. No frustration. It is so low stakes that I am liberated to pick up any books, take them home, and just see how they are. And if my interest in one withers as I read, I can just set it aside without feeling like I should read it. That is so clean and free feeling. And if I do like it, I know I have the option to buy a copy for myself if it is one I think I’ll reread.

But here is the most interesting thing to me: I’m learning to not cling to the ones I like. Because it’s not my book, I can’t keep it. I have to let it go. I can’t underline any text. I have to simply let the book wash over me and then let it go. And I’m learning that feels better. I feel deep relief. It’s like the antidote to the grasping I had been struggling with. Just being with each book while I read it and trusting that, because it is resonating with me, I am absorbing what I need from it. That it is making its unique home in me and that it won’t be forgotten or lost.

Do you ever find yourself getting stuck or bogged down with reading or any other activity you usually enjoy? Do you try to find your way back to that activity? How do you do it? Do you get very intentional about making something happen? Do you listen for internal cues of what feels right? Do you let it go to see what happens?

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Tiny Doorways

You might have noticed that I have been writing shorter, simpler blog posts lately. It has been feeling more in tune with my own recent experiences of learning to listen to soul.

Listening to what is alive and true for us can seem like it is this Big Thing—something that requires intensity and is very effortful. And that is sometimes a helpful way to be with it. I have been experiencing a different way in the last many months.

What is alive and moving in us is often quite subtle or a just a brief ripple on the surface. A feeling that is barely detectable. A momentary clinch in our gut. A flutter of joy or sadness. It’s there and then seemingly gone.

I’ve been noticing and really appreciating these quieter ripples of experience a lot more than I used to. They have so much to say for something that can feel so small. They are tiny doorways into the vastness of ourselves.

For me, these doorways are more noticeable through meditation, being in nature, creative practices, and being with trusted others who can sense experiences and feelings I might not and reflect them back to me (which is one of the reasons psychotherapy is so helpful). For me, I can more easily sense these doorways in any place that is open, quiet, and safe.

Do you notice these “smaller” experiences in yourself? When you do notice them, do you take a moment to let them register consciously? What activities or practices do you have (or would you like to develop) that allow them to come forth and be felt?

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Receiving Nature

108I am sitting on my back patio as I write this. I just finished my Monday morning walk. The sun is still fairly low in the sky, so the air is slightly cool and a light breeze stirs periodically. Sunlight is filtering through the branches of the big ash tree in my backyard, making those lovely dapples of light on the grass. I have been sitting here quietly enough, long enough that the animals, the birds and the squirrels, have resumed their movements just a few feet away. Splashing in the bird bath. Rustling in the tree. Going about their morning rituals. Trusting that they are safe enough in my presence. The day is still fresh and new here in this space.

Whatever distress or joy I bring when I step into nature, however big, it is always quieted, smoothed out, in the presence of nature’s ongoing-ness. The sun shines. The wind blows. The insects ferry back and forth in their work. No matter what is stirring or at war in me, nature offers a big enough space to hold it.

I forget this magic sometimes. Or I don’t want to go. I resist the softening of the knot in my chest. Yet I think it is our truest nature to let nature touch us. I read a story once, so many years ago I can’t remember where I saw it, about a mother bringing her newborn out of the hospital and into the world for the first time. The baby had been agitated and squirming in her mom’s arms, but as soon as the mother stepped outside, this new little one quieted. In her brand new life, she hadn’t yet felt these miraculous things—the breeze, the sun. And she hadn’t yet developed filters or walls or preoccupations. It was just simple, immediate, and direct connection between her and the fullness of nature.

I will have lived a deeply good life if all I accomplish is to be that open and fresh and ready to receive.

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Discerning Joy

I am standing beside a pile of discarded clothing on my bed. I turn and take the next piece of clothing, a shirt, from my closet. I loved this shirt when I bought it. The fabric is crème-colored, tissue-thin cotton with colorful embroidery.

I hold the shirt in my hands, close up against my chest. I close my eyes. I turn inward. Do I feel any joy from it? What feeling is there?

I can tell immediately that I want it to—I WANT it to still bring me joy—but does it? I realize and finally admit, a bit reluctantly, that the honest answer is no. A small but not quite indiscernible hole has developed in the hem, and I feel how I am making do when I wear it. And then I feel the fear that I won’t have enough if I get rid of it. It is suddenly very clear that is why I’m holding onto it (as turns out to be the case with several other things too). And then I feel a pure, clean sadness that it no longer brings me joy.

Photo Credit: Loren Kerns via Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Loren Kerns via Creative Commons

It is freeing and peaceful to acknowledge all this. A weight lifts that I didn’t even know was there.

Once I get to my true feelings about the shirt, I notice how different it feels from the items that do bring me joy. The new, airy blue shirt that I bought last summer. The yellow shirt that I have had for a few years that I still feel delightful wearing. The woven summer shoes that are also old but still make me smile when I see them.

It isn’t about old or new. It isn’t even about the condition of something – holes or not. It is about whether a possession brings you joy. This is the essence I have gleaned from The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I haven’t read it but have heard a lot about it. And so I am going through my possessions as she advises: one type at a time (all your clothes, all your books, all your CDs, etc., instead of one room at a time); picking up each item, holding it, and discerning if I feel a spark of joy. If not, I pass it on in the world by donating it. (And some of the stuff is quite nice—there is a really good chance many of these items will be joyful finds for others.)

The process is astoundingly liberating and eye-opening and cleansing.

I encourage you to try it. Hold at least one of your possessions in your hands and allow yourself to get quiet and still. Does it bring you joy?

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