Caring for our planet emerges from our belonging to each other.
I always love that when the late Thich Naht Hanh, global spiritual leader, peace activist and Zen Master was asked what’s the most important thing we can do to save our world he said “what we most need to do is to hear within ourselves the sound of the earth crying.”
Feelings of grief are natural when we hear our Mother Earth crying from centuries of abuse, and when we witness her sorrow because she loves and misses us more than we know.
It is equally natural to feel grief when we realise that so many of our sisters and brothers who contributed the least to the climate crisis are unjustly suffering the worst initial effects.
I’m a climate aware life coach whose heart has been opened through embracing the reality of the climate emergency, social crises, and opportunities for regeneration present in our world.
When I first awoke to the extent of the crisis, my heart moved in an interwoven pattern through the stages of grief that Elizabeth Kubler Ross shared so appropriately: shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, testing, and acceptance.
For those of us whose hearts are open to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor, there is an unspoken invitation to us to offer our unique response if we so choose.
As a practising Christian I feel that we are all part of the body of the Divine. We are one earth family that is part of one sacred inter-related whole, and when one part of the body of Christ is suffering, our compassionate Divine Mother weeps in our hearts.
There is one thing I know for sure: embracing our love grief journey has real potential to become a doorway into our awakened heart, and it is from our heart that real compassionate action can be born.
The environmental writer, Buddhist scholar, and activist Joanna Macy writes: “We are capable of suffering with our world, and that is the true meaning of compassion. It enables us to recognize our profound interconnectedness with all beings. Don’t ever apologize for crying for the trees burning in the Amazon or over the waters polluted from mines in the Rockies. Don’t apologize for the sorrow, grief, and rage you feel. It is a measure of your humanity and your maturity. It is a measure of your open heart, and as your heart breaks open there will be room for the world to heal.”
I share this article to highlight more of an awareness about eco-grief, and to offer some pointers towards resources which I hope you’ll find helpful if you, a family member, or a loved one, may be experiencing climate grief at this time.
1. Realise you are not alone, and that your feelings are natural.
Feelings of eco grief are not a pathology. Eco grief is a shared experience. It is a natural response of a loving heart that is open to life’s interconnectedness. You are not alone.
There are lots of helpful resources, social groups, and supports available.
All around the world there are millions of people taking positive actions locally for the climate. Allow your heart to be touched by this, and inspired to join in. Every person has a role to play. We are all invited to contribute small actions with great love through our heart offered in service.
Attune to what it is that uniquely calls to you, and claims your heart. Think about the gifts, expertise, strengths and talents you have, and how they could serve the multi-generational work of regenerating your local ecology and community.
2. Social Support.
Through connecting with like minded people we can feel a greater sense of belonging, and take community action together. Start by seeing if there is a local community garden, growing group, climate action group, tree planting, or rewilding project locally.
If there is nothing local to you, look online. Fellow Earth lovers will find kindred spirits in networks such as:
- Work That Reconnects
- Deep Adaptation Network
- Fridays for the Future
- Force For Nature
- Spiritual Ecology
3. If you are feeling climate overwhelm consider 1:1 support.
If you are concerned that your feelings about the climate may be getting in the way of living the life you love, it may be worthwhile to consider seeking support.
Someone experiencing overwhelm about the climate may feel worried, nervous, or scared of the consequences of climate change, and what the future holds for our planet. It can be helpful to talk about your feelings, and be heard by a compassionate understanding human being who is familiar with the eco-grief terrain.
Ensure the person you speak with has direct experience of eco-grief, and the capacity to hold a compassionate understanding space for you. The Climate Psychology Alliance may be a great place to start looking for the right support.
4. Consider embracing an engaged spiritual/faith practice.
A spiritual or faith practice can be very helpful in supporting you to build an inner container in which you can understand current events from a higher perspective, process your natural feelings, keep your heart open, and take effective action in whatever way we are uniquely called.
Whichever blessed spiritual/faith path calls uniquely to you, develop your direct connection with Source so that you can be guided in your life by the light of love, truth and wisdom present within your being.
Our soul calls us to live every more congruently with our values. Adjust your life to what you now know, so that you are doing what you can in your daily life to live simply and beautifully.
The worlds spiritual and faith leaders are highlighting to us that we have a spiritual responsibility, as well as a physical responsibility to Mother Earth and each other. Our open hearted prayers are needed more than we realise, and they make a difference. This time also calls for unity, and putting our love, kindness, peace, and social justice values into action.
5. Make extra time for self care and connection
Ensure you are giving yourself time to nourish your mind, body, heart, and soul. Remember to take time to rest, and engage in activities that have nothing to do with the climate. A mindful movement practice can also be very helpful to help you to stay centred and vitalised.
6. Witness beauty and peace in your surroundings.
Savour the moments of beauty and peace present with you throughout the day. A beautiful sunrise, the delicious taste of a fair-trade hot chocolate, the delightful moment when you embrace a friend. Drink in the nourishment from these experiences and savour them.
I love Dostoevsky’s vision that “Beauty will save the world.” Invite more beauty into your life and awareness.
Be inspired by the heartwarming Navajo People called “Walk In Beauty.”
“In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again.”
7. Walk in a sacred manner
Listen to First Nation people who have been tending to the heart of Mother Earth since the beginning.
“You have been telling people that this is the Eleventh Hour,
Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.
And there are things to be considered.
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for a leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore,
Push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open,
And our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally,
Least of all ourselves.
For the moment that we do,
Our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over.
Banish the word ‘struggle’ from you attitude and vocabulary
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
Hopi Elders’ Prophecy.