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Climate Change

By Kristy Johnsson.  

They march the articles out across our newsfeeds: pictures of the Statue of Liberty submerged in water up to her chest, horrifying headlines reading “Are humans going extinct?”, images of forests on fire.

When I’m in a certain emotional space around this topic, I’ll sometimes walk outside and sit in the tall seeding grass, beside the conifers, willows, and aspen. I just sit there, feeling my body pulsing under me, the subtle river of sensations cascading through me, my attention hanging close to my breath, and to the movement of the brush around me. I feel suspended in time, this precious moment.

The teeming world around me feels alive, mysterious, other-worldly. It hits me that we used to see trees as people, that some cultures still do, and I feel why. I sense a subtle beingness in those trees, and then think about how old colleagues in the sciences would have had a coronary over that statement. I used to not be able to stay this still; the pain inside me was like a never-ending torrent overwhelming and drowning me. These days it’s different. I settle more easily, these barely perceptible undercurrents of life around me more noticeable as I do.

I feel a quiet begging inside, too.

‘Please. Where do I belong in this? Is this what it will come to? After everything, is this how it unfolds? I’m scared, but I’ll do it. What do you want me to do?’

I start to cry, my core heaving, noticing the sensations in my body as I feel a gentle insight (or a response?) that I don’t need to do anything. I’m okay, sitting here, right now.

Ah, the sweet spot.

Every time I meet these feelings of desperation and fear, and yet still honor and witness the protest in me, the thrashing and chaotic thoughts, without losing contact with where I am, something magical happens:

My embodiment of the dying culture that got us here becomes palpable. Those thoughts and beliefs, and the pain that tends to be associated with them, pop out in my awareness and I can see our culture manifest in my body-mind. I don’t fight any of it. I don’t berate it for killing our world, countless people, our bodies and souls. I see it play out, and in the space of seeing it, there’s room for new life: I realize that I don’t have to do anything to save this planet, or other people, or even myself. Nor do I have to do anything to be good or enough.

And then something even more beautiful happens, effortlessly and naturally: I find that feeling my good enoughness – including my pain and struggling – transmutes into motivation to step out into this holy mess anyway. Because I’m grateful to be alive. Because I’m in love with this wild planet.

To read more about Kristy Johnsson, click here.

Facing What’s Inside

By Kristy Johnsson.  

If we want any aspect of our world to change – whether it be family systems or political systems – we have to meet the parts of us that uphold the status quo.

You know, the wildest thing is that after all the trees I’ve planted,
all the kids I’ve taught,
all the volunteers I’ve organized,
all the people I’ve counselled,
all the money I’ve donated,
all the votes cast,
all the ranting and raving,
all the writing,
all the researching,

all of it trying to make this world a little less self-destructive, the most potent action I’ve found isn’t an action at all.

It’s been looking at the darkest corners of my being and letting my heart bathe it all in profound acceptance. It has been a being-with, rather than an act of attempted control or influence.

It sounds so cheesy, but I swear it’s true. We just can’t be that helpful to anyone or anything if we’re committed to delusion. And in the midst of our trauma and fear and pain, if we lose touch with our feet on the ground, most of us are.

When I was 17 years old, my mom and I were engaged in a vicious fight. After I retreated to my room, she came upstairs and told me, “You think you have it so bad? When I was your age, my mother jumped out of a window and killed herself!”

That was the first time I learned of my grandmother’s suicide. An act she committed in front of most of her 11 children.

I stood there in shock, not just for obvious reasons, but because a clear image emerged that gripped me: I saw myself standing before a huge, drooling, fanged beast, and behind me stood a line of all my female ancestors that had met it before me. The message of the image was clear: “Now it’s your turn.”

I had never heard of intergenerational trauma, that our ancestors’ traumas leave marks on our DNA, but that’s clearly the insight I was having looking back. No one in my family knew that I had been struggling with deep depression and chronic suicidal thoughts for several years, but in that moment I knew that my grandmother’s pain and mine were inextricably connected. And now it was my turn to face the darkness within myself and her.

Facing both my unconscious pain and the pain of my culture has radically changed my view of myself and the world, as well as the way I hold myself and walk through this world. It has been and continues to be an incredible process in its depth and its insights.

Our pain, our patterns, and our beliefs touch everything in our lives. And when billions of people play out these patterns, we have the world we see now. No amount of political upheaval, education, tree planting, or activism will change the world so deeply and so permanently as when we face what lies within us and meet it all.

To read more about Kristy Johnsson, click here.