Active Hope and How You Can Change the World (Yes, You!)

Last time we looked at how to imagine different futures, so now we need to bring it down to earth and actually put some of these ideas into practice. There’s no point reading a book like Active Hope and then not doing anything – the clue is in the title, after all!

When Saturn moved into Capricorn it heralded a period of preparation that will take us into 2020 and beyond. We’re poised on the edge of a paradigm shift which is why our old myths are breaking down. If we do the work necessary at this time, humanity will experience a radical shift in consciousness that will help to transform our way of life.

If we don’t do the work and refuse to grow up, the changes that are coming could push us into self-destruction. We need to transform our whole approach: not just what we do, but the way we think, what we value and how we see ourselves. This won’t happen spontaneously. We’re all responsible for bringing a positive vision of the future into reality.

This isn’t an easy process and with radical changes like this, you can expect to encounter obstacles. Old ways of thinking get in the way, and old fears and setbacks can make it hard to believe things will ever change. But reframing what you’re trying to do can tip the odds in your favour and keep you inspired, no matter how much resistance you meet in others.

Many apparently impossible things have already been achieved. By choosing to change the way you live, you’re following in the footsteps of revolutionaries who proved change is possible. 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

Sometimes big changes seem impossible because we tend to think of change as something that happens incrementally. Lots and lots of tiny changes work together over time to shift society in a new direction. But it doesn’t always happen like this.

Evolution is usually viewed as slow, gradual change, but 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. If we continue to live in a mindlessly destructive way, the tipping point is more likely to go over into collapse. But if we choose to wake up and transform ourselves, the tipping point is more likely bounce us into a positive shift.

The choice is between breakdown or breakthrough. There’s no guarantee we’ll 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’ll experience a shift in how society functions.

As I said in the previous post, we’re embedded within a larger consciousness that’s dreaming us into being. The current crisis may be happening because a deeper intelligence is guiding us to awaken. If you dare to trust in this process, despite your doubts and fears, you’ll find yourself called to act on behalf of the earth and other people.

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 done in the spirit of bodhichitta. This is a form of heart-centred intention where you pledge to act for the wellbeing of all life. Bodhichitta shifts your consciousness from the personal self to focus on collective wellbeing. So whenever you act from bodhichitta you’re 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 your job and/or hobbies involve 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:

If you knew you couldn’t fail, what would you most want to do for the healing of our world?

What specific goal or project could you realistically aim to achieve in the next 12 months that would contribute to this?

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.)

What resources (inner and outer) will you need to acquire? What might you need to learn, develop, or obtain?

How might you stop yourself? What obstacles might you throw in the way?

How will you overcome these obstacles?

What step can you take in the next week, no matter how small, that will move you towards this goal?

At this transitional time, we’re being called to awaken and change how we live together on this planet. It’s time to remember that we’re co-creators. Nothing is certain and the future is unknown. Your 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.”

Find out more about the Great Turning here, and get a copy of Active Hope and read extracts here.

Read the whole series here
Related: Watch Joanna Macy read the Shambhala Warrior Prophecy – a prophecy for our time – brilliant!


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