Back home from much travel this spring, Fran and I celebrate by having the grandchildren overnight--Jack and
So we take joy in our families while across the world other families, by scores of thousands, are buried by mammoth earthquakes, drowned in cyclones, lost to each other in floods and rubble, crying for food in makeshift camps. Their suffering is beyond my capacity to conceive; but maybe I can try to breathe with them. We are linked to each other like cells in the living body of Earth. I can almost feel that connection, like an ache in the heart. It reminds it is for them, as much as for our own children and grandchildren, that Fran and I keep taking our work out into the world.
Climate change and peak oil were the focus of this year's weeklong Easter conference at the Findhorn Foundation in
On the web site www.Findhorn.org/events you'll find a pretty full description of the conference, which included the 2-day, 5-session workshop we conducted at the outset. The descriptions were posted nightly without opportunity for presenters to check their accuracy, but they do convey the flow and the fare as we followed the spiral of the Work That Reconnects. With 250 people participating, we were challenged to invent new forms, especially for the part that's most intense: Honoring Our Pain for theWorld. That session began with poetry and spoken reflections on the power, liberation, and solidarity that comes with owning our collective grief. Then people clustered in foursomes to tell of their experience of the "great unraveling." After that they sang together, over and over like a chant, words of Adrienne Rich put to music by Carolyn McDade.
My heart is moved by all I cannot save.
So much has been destroyed.
I have to cast my lot with those who,
age after age, perversely,
with no extraordinary power,
reconstitute the world.
The second half of that session is omitted on the Findhorn web site, so let me tell you what we did.
With lights lowered, images of suffering and breakdown in our world were projected on a large screen, while a wordless, choral lament (from the same "My Heart is Moved" CD by Carolyn McDade) played over and over. On the hall's large, central floor space were set three glass bowls half-filled with water. The ritual consisted of people slowly, randomly, coming down from their seats around the hall to kneel by a bowl, and let its water trickle from their hands and their tears for the world be spoken ("My tears are for…"). As their forms moved about in the semi-darkness, resting here and there on the floor, or returning to their seats, we all seemed to be held by the music, the murmuring around the bowls, the splash of water. Then, when movement had stilled, we slowly processed out of the hall, carrying the Bowls of Tears. Into a garden pond outside the entrance we formally poured them out, reminding ourselves that the pain we feel for the world is no private pathology; it connects us with Earth and each other. "Let us remember: our tears for the world are the tears of Gaia."
The depth and beauty I experienced in the conference as a whole is conveyed in an interview with Rob Hopkins, which is on his web site (www.transitionculture.org/2008/04/21/). It starts: Rob: "What has been special for you about this conference?" Joanna: "You. And the people who are here. The beauty of Universal Hall. The coloured lights in the ceiling. The earnestness and the intention of the people stir me greatly. The willingness, the sense of unpanicked urgency. The deep goodwill. The dancing. The humour. That these folks are all doing it for the love of it without seeing the results of their own actions. That they are freed from continually computing our chances of success."
Let me signal Rob Hopkins' engaging new book, which you can order from his web site. Its title: the Transition Handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience. Sharing stories and lessons from his work in
The events I took part in after Findhorn--in southern
An April "consultation" weekend near Bristol gathered thirty such facilitators, including veterans like Pat Fleming and Alex Wildwood, who first joined me back in 1983 when we called it "despair and empowerment work," and educator Jane Reed, who joined us in 1987 when we called it "deep ecology work," and then founded the Institute for Deep Ecology Education. Thanks to such a history and to Chris Johnstone's Great Turning Times e-newsletter, not to mention keen participation of folks in the Network of Engaged Buddhists and Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, Great Britain is a hot bed of workshops and trainings--and thirty more facilitators and would-be facilitators would have come if there had been room.
After staying on in the
The work is spreading on-line as well. In addition to the internet goodies noted above, let me tell you about an engaging, illustrated course based on my book Coming Back to Life. Created by Stuart Carduner for a Buddhist-oriented web site, it uses arresting visuals as well as clips from my DVD to illustrate the book's key teachings. The course is called Reconnecting to Life and you'll enjoy taking a look at it on www.ashokaedu.net/coursesM/34/1.html, and telling friends who may not be into books (or even those who are).
Flash to all Elm-Dancers and Nuclear Activists! New reports on the situation in Novozybkov (due East of Chernobyl) come in from biologist Ludmila Zhirina, who has been distributing radiation monitors on our behalf through her organization Viola. Since 2003 teachers, families, and farmers have received these hand-held Geiger counters, as well as training in their use. They have learned to check food stuffs and gardens for radioactivity, and to measure changing patterns of contamination in school yards and farm fields. They appreciate having these tools that help them feel more in charge of their lives. With our help (including contributions often collected when we do the Elm Dance), Ludmila and her team have written, printed and distributed a first-of-its-kind Russian-language book on "Living With Radiation."
Now Ludmila reports a recent discovery made public by medical researchers. In the western part of the
To Ludmila and her Viola team these findings help explain the morbidity they continue to see in and around Novozybkov. In response they are undertaking bold, new plans for 2008. The have decided to establish an educational center on ecological medicine in Novozybkov. Here programs and teaching materials will alert the population to the problems caused by lack of iodine, fluoride and selenium, and undertake remedial projects. These include seminars with medical doctors, exhibits of iodine-treated staples (salt, bread, milk, water, a porridge) as well as products naturally high in iodine (seafood, kelp, certain plants), and a wide array of posters and maps showing sources of these depleted elements. To extend the center's outreach, a mobile van will carry these exhibits into neighborhoods. Last month on April 26th, anniversary of the
I'm building a new web page for Viola's work in and around Novozybkov, click on Nuclear Project in the side column. Take a look at the photos of their trip to
With gratitude for your life in this time of Great Turning,