Read the updated version of this post: Active Hope and the Spiral of Transformation
Watching the news these days can be a shattering experience. Daily we are shaken by the images of broken bodies and desperation playing out in Gaza, Iraq, and around the world. It can leave us feeling helpless. What can we do? Is making a donation really enough?
We are privileged to live in relative safety and peace. I can walk down the street without worrying (too much) about being attacked. My flat will not be bombed. I will not starve. I will not have to watch my family being massacred. If I don’t like what I see on the news I can switch the TV off and do something else.
But the images stay with me. I am haunted by death. I must find a response. I must do something. But what?
I’m not a doctor, or a structural engineer, or a bomb disposal expert, or even a journalist. I have enormous respect for the individuals who risk their lives saving others. I know I couldn’t visit any of the places ripped apart by our greed and clamour for oil and dominance. I can imagine standing in a bombed out street and just crying. The rage and grief would be overpowering and I would be worse than useless. I could help no one, not even myself.
Reconnecting to Reality
If we want to respond to our current crisis in a way that makes a difference, we need to find practices that encourage us to dig deep into hidden resources and strengths we might not even realise we have. It is too easy to look away, distract ourselves with trivia and fantasy, or drown our true feelings with food, booze or drugs.
If I want to help, I must be stronger. It simply isn’t good enough to use my empathy as an excuse to hide behind. I may be a psychic sponge but that doesn’t mean I have to be a basket case too.
So what can I do?
In Active Hope they describe the spiral of the Work That Reconnects. It maps out a process of empowerment and transformation that can be used to build inner strength and resilience. The spiral moves through four positions which loop round and round…
- Coming from Gratitude
- Honouring Our Pain for the World
- Seeing with New Eyes
- Going Forth
We begin with gratitude for the many gifts we have and what we love in the world. This leads naturally into honouring our pain as we become aware of how this beautiful world is being destroyed. The fact that we feel pain over what is happening reveals how much we care, which in turn reveals our interconnectedness with all of life. If we weren’t connected to one another, we wouldn’t feel the way we do.
Recognising and honouring this pain shows us that we belong to life and are part of a vast web from which we draw our nourishment. This allows us to see with new eyes. Insights will arise, solutions may present themselves and possibilities will open up. Now we can see what we need to do, and can move into going forth. Here we clarify our new vision and begin to take steps towards healing our world.
Spiral of Transformation
We can use this method whenever we feel the need. It’s a great way to keep in touch with what is real and it can be moved through in minutes, hours or even over days or weeks – whatever is needed in order to process the deeper dimensions of our experience.
If you want to transform this spiral into a truly liberating practice, you can combine it with self-enquiry. This will take you deep into the true nature of your being as one with all. At its simplest, self-enquiry means asking: who is…? Who is thinking? Who is breathing? And so on. It’s a way of penetrating beyond identification with the personal self into a larger view and the recognition that there is no self…
Let’s start with an image: a mad scramble of desperate people hauling themselves into a helicopter packed with aid. They are fleeing the 73rd genocide of the Yazidi people.
Chaos swirls like the dust kicked up by the helicopter. The crush of bodies, trembling with fear. What if they don’t make it out? What if the chopper is shot down?
I take a deep breath and step into gratitude. Not: thank goodness that isn’t happening to me, but gratitude for what I have. I am alive, breathing, free. I have food, shelter, and hope. I have these things because of others. I am held in a protective embrace that nourishes me.
I am here now because of every tiny act that occurred before this moment. I would not be where I am now without countless others, many unknown and unseen. I feel strengthened by this realisation. I am rooted into the ground. The breath that passes through my lungs, moves through every person. We are bound together, indivisible and whole as one.
I turn back to the image. The panic and fear rise up but are now held within a larger space. I am clambering on board the helicopter. I am piloting the helicopter. I am running towards the open door, dust in my eyes, cradling my child, myself, in my arms. I am firing rockets and dropping bombs. I am persecuting innocent people. I am killing, abducting and raping. I am destroying myself in an orgy of death. I am condemning the violence on TV dressed in an expensive suit. I am flicking past the news item on my phone, shrugging and moving on.
I see the utter insanity of our world. I see the brutalising illusions. I see how the refusal to look is fear of the pain. I see how that fear is covering heartbreak, and the heartbreak is covering the void – the yawning chasm into which I cannot fall because I will never make it out.
I see that I am the void. Whatever I believe I am, whatever stories I tell, they are lies against the truth of the glory of Being. Would I rather be destroyed by the illusion of control than surrender to the mystery?
This is what drives the desperate madness of our world. We would rather destroy ourselves than surrender our pride.
Now it is clear what I must do.
Can I do it?
Over the coming weeks I’ll be blogging my way through some of the chapters in Active Hope. There are exercises and practices to try out along the way. I hope you’ll join me and perhaps share some of your experiences with this process as we work through the book together…
Next: Living in Gratitude