Friday, 19 February 2016

Coming to terms with our emotions

I have had a very full, and emotionally intense, last few days.

On Wednesday morning we had two extra facilitators join us, to take us through the first part of the Awakening the Dreamer symposium, which consists of four steps:

Step 1: Where are we now? 
- Coming to terms with the state of our world, its environmental destruction, species extinction, social injustice and spiritual emptiness.

Honouring our pain - being brave enough to express what we really feel, and to know that the Earth's pain is our pain - what we do unto the Earth we do unto ourselves!

This was a highly emotional process, and I and others cried litres of tears over this, following the direction not to think about the state of the world at the moment, but to feel about it.

For an hour, we sat in a circle in the ball room (pictured in a previous post) and had each of us that wanted to, come to the centre of the circle to express which emotion best symbolised the way we were feeling - fear, grief, anger, emptiness or something else - to talk, sing, shout or cry about how we felt. This is also known as the Truth Mandala exercise.

I expressed confusion over what we can possibly do? and fear over whether we'll be able to do enough in time, to reverse the damaging trends and bring about a more regenerative way of life.

By the end of this process, I needed to spend half an hour alone in the forest to recover my composure. I can however say that it felt incredibly clearing to go through this. Even right after expressing how I felt and then going to sit down, I felt a new lightness in myself, a weight lifted.

I later reflected how natural the emotional sharing process should feel vs. how it does feel, especially when you chat privately with a therapist. I have definitely experienced benefits from participating in therapy, but it often feels isolating, just you and the therapist, and ultimately I found the group sharing process to be less alienating and isolating than one with a therapist (I do think you need to have very close trust with your group, but bear in mind we all only met each other on Saturday).

 Even typing this, and remembering how I felt when I and the others went through this, is bringing a few tears to my eyes.

Step 2: How did we get here?

In this part of the process, we examined how, through a culture of unexamined assumptions, that we have arrived at this juncture in our human history, where we have lost 50% of our forests, 90% of our fish and 90% of our large predators in 300 years, how factories, mines and landfills pollute the air, ground and water, and how people need to take antidepressants, antianxiety, antipsychotics, and other substances just to cope with their daily lives.

Step 3: What is possible now?

We learned about all the different organisations in the world that are encouraging a change in the way things are (Paul Hawken explains that there are over 2 million such groups) and discussed among ourselves which activism groups we are involved in - for example, local exchange trading systems (LETs), animal rights groups, climate activism groups, food security activism groups. I myself am a member of the Cape Town Talent Exchange, the largest LETs group in the Western Cape of South Africa, but presently do not use it as much as I could...

One thing that I did share in this group, is that it can be quite hard to be an activist and try to help your community when you are labelled 'privileged', which is certainly a struggle I face back home in South Africa. While I do acknowledge that I was born with several privileges and have also accumulated several more as I have lived, I also think it is quite insulting to refer to someone else as privileged (or unprivileged), especially in the context of rejecting their well-meaning offer of assistance outright, before really hearing what they are trying to say. It's actually far more complicated than that, there are many grey areas and nuances when it comes to this issue, and there are times when I have felt silenced on account of privilege I may be assumed to possess (and am therefore supposedly unqualified to comment). I can actually say that the thing I currently miss least  about South Africa is hearing the world privilege every single day, unthinkingly and unconsciously applied to people.

Step 4: What do we do now?

Our group then participated in an extremely life-affirming task, in which we wrote and drew our visions for a better world on paper, then also wrote down what we felt were the biggest obstacles to our visions. Then we symbolically associated the barriers and obstructions with arrows, and participated in a ritual in which several of us broke arrows with our throats!

My vision for a better world

A broken arrow

I definitely felt a renewed sense of purpose behind my objectives and the objectives of others.

We tore up our 'obstacle' pieces of paper and then put them in a hugelkultur bed that we constructed as a team, leaving them there to rot and feed the new seeds that we planted in the bed.

Our hugelkultur bed up close

The same, from afar

* * *

That evening (last night) I felt a small amount of depression and considered spending the evening alone, but I was due for kitchen duty, and was once again amazed at how quickly my depression evaporated when I had the chance to do something useful for others (and myself too). I helped to clean the stove surfaces and the counters.

I ended up chatting until late in the night with another friend over two warm cups of tea, and slept peacefully.

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