Read the updated version of this post: Active Hope and How You Can Change the World (Yes You!)
In this final part of the series I want to look at how we can put all these ideas into practise. There’s no point reading a book like Active Hope and then not doing anything – the clue is in the title, after all!
Humanity is undergoing a radical shift in consciousness that will enable us to transform our way of life. We are poised on the edge of a new world. Industrial civilisation has grown as far as it can and in the process has brought us to the brink of destruction. We need to change our whole approach – not just what we do but also the way we think, what we value and how we see ourselves.
When we make radical changes like this we always encounter obstacles. Our old ways of thinking get in the way and it’s hard to believe we can succeed. We also encounter resistance from others. Reframing what we’re trying to do can help tip the odds in our favour and keep our spirits inspired, no matter what anybody else is doing, or not doing.
We’re following in the footsteps of revolutionaries who proved change is possible because they never backed down in the face of overwhelming opposition. As Nelson Mandela said: “It always seems impossible until it is done.”
“First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” – Mahatma Gandhi
A major obstacle is the belief that we don’t have time to change. When it comes to problems such as climate change and peak oil, we’re already in the danger zone. There simply isn’t time to turn this situation around.
This may be true if change is seen as something that happens incrementally. Evolution is usually viewed this way, but alongside gradual change, we also experience discontinuous change. In evolutionary terms, this is called punctuated equilibrium, and it means that sudden shifts can happen. Discontinuous changes can be triggered by apparently tiny events – as in the famous chaos theory example of a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil causing a typhoon in Japan (or variations on that theme). Like water suddenly freezing, a threshold is reached where change becomes inevitable.
Of course, a tipping point can go either way so the change isn’t always positive. When navigating extreme situations, it’s important to remember that we hold the key in deciding which way things will turn out. As civilisation collapses we can allow ourselves to be pulled under, or we can choose to transform. There’s no guarantee we will succeed in creating a more positive future, but if we don’t try we guarantee failure.
This reminds me of the moment in the cartoon where Wile E Coyote runs headlong off a cliff but doesn’t realise what’s happened. He has no idea the ground has just vanished so his legs continue to thrash against the air. Suddenly he looks down and sees his predicament. There’s a terrible moment of recognition, and only then does he fall.
This is where we are now as a society – pumping our legs against nothing, oblivious that the ground has gone. The tipping point will come when enough of us look down.
At that point, we have two options: fall or fly.
Learning to Fly
No – we’re not going to sprout wings! The key here is consciousness. All of life is interconnected and as more of us awaken to this truth we will experience a shift in how society functions. As I said in part 9, we’re embedded within a larger consciousness that is dreaming us into being. The current crisis may be happening because there’s a deeper intelligence that’s guiding us to awaken. If we dare to trust in this process, despite our doubts and fears, we will find ourselves called to act on behalf of the earth and each other.
Becoming an activist doesn’t mean you must go on marches and spend a lot of time waving banners and shouting. In Active Hope they broaden the definition of activism to include anything undertaken in the spirit of bodhicitta. This is a form of heart-centred intention where you pledge to act for the wellbeing of all life. Bodhichitta shifts our consciousness from our personal self to focus on collective wellbeing. So whenever you act from bodhichitta you are being an activist.
Everyone has something they can contribute, no matter how small. Taking part in the Great Turning doesn’t mean you have to change jobs or give up your favourite hobbies (unless you just love mindlessly killing things, in which case, I’d have a rethink…). Look at your skills, experience and circumstances, and you’ll find something you can do to heal the world.
To keep yourself motivated you’ll need to look after yourself. There’s no point in trying to change the world if your own life falls apart in the process. Active Hope contains several chapters on things you can do to build resilience and maintain your energy. Here’s a basic list to get you started – it’s mostly commonsense, and if you’re sensible, you’ll be doing a lot of this stuff anyway…
Examine your habits and practices: make sure you’re living in a way that matches your values and supports what you’re trying to achieve.
Build support: ask for help from friends and family when you need it, and/or get involved in the community and share your work and ideas further afield.
Connect with Nature: get outside on a regular basis and connect with the natural world.
Tune in to guidance: remember to call upon your invisible support network, whether you think of this as your ancestors, spirit guides, angels, or something else.
Look after yourself: remember to take breaks to prevent burnout. Eat a healthy diet, exercise and get plenty of sleep.
Redefine Success: give up any ideas of wealth, power, and fame, and learn to see success as anything that contributes to the wellbeing of the world.
Practice Gratitude: remember to count your blessings and never take anything for granted. Start a daily practice.
Have Fun: remember what you’re fighting for. Find things that sustain you and make you happy, and indulge in them often. Burn your hair shirt!
Identifying Goals and Resources
If you were free of fear and doubt, what would you choose to do for the Great Turning? Here’s an exercise from the book which will help you to identify steps you can take. You can do this with a friend, taking turns to ask the questions of each other, or you can write your answers in a journal:
1. If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you most want to do for the healing of our world?
2. What specific goal or project could you realistically aim to achieve in the next 12 months that would contribute to this?
3. What resources (inner and outer) do you have that will help you do this?
Inner resources include strengths, qualities, experience, knowledge, and skills. Outer resources include relationships, contacts, networks, money, equipment, places to work or recharge.
4. What resources (inner and outer) will you need to acquire? What might you need to learn, develop, or obtain?
5. How might you stop yourself? What obstacles might you throw in the way?
6. How will you overcome these obstacles?
7. What step can you take in the next week, no matter how small, that will move you towards this goal?
We are being called to awaken and act to change how we live together on this planet. It is time for us to remember that we’re co-creators. Nothing is certain and the future is unknown. Our intention to change is the key to building a future world worth living in. To illustrate this, I want to end with a quote from Active Hope about a group of monks in Khampagar, Tibet. Their monastery had been destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution but a change in policy allowed them to begin rebuilding…
“This policy, however, could be reversed at any moment; there was no guarantee that the monastery, once rebuilt, would not be destroyed again. That didn’t stop the monks. They faced the uncertainty by bringing to it their intention. They assumed that since you cannot know, you simply proceed. You do what you have to do. You put one stone on top of another and another on top of that. If the stones are knocked down, you begin again, because if you don’t, nothing will be built. You persist.
In the long run, it is persistence that shapes the future.”
What will you do? Share your ideas and hopes for the future in the comments below…