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Honoring Our Pain in the World

The Great Unraveling (small groups)

Honoring Our Pain in the World

This is a simple sharing exercise for Honoring Our Pain for the World, and follows on an exposition of the the Great Turning and the Great Unraveling. Allow some 30 minutes. Have people cluster in threes or foursomes and tell each other how in their own lives they experience the collective hardships of our time, be they environmental, economic, or social. It is rare that people get a chance to report and reflect on these realities without appearing to complain or assign blame.

Invite them to sit close and take turns reporting to each other in response to a single question: In what ways do you experience in your own life the Great Unraveling (or the planetary crisis)? Find your own phrasing.
Let them speak in turn, following each other, and give them enough time to go around their little circle more than once.

At the conclusion I like to invite people to take notice of the fact that all the concerns they mentioned extend beyond the personal ego, far beyond their individual needs and wants. These concerns demonstrate their capacity to "suffer with" their world, which is an evolutionary advance--and the literal meaning of compassion. It is the fuel we need for the Great Turning.



Honoring Our Pain in the World
(20 minutes)

Purpose and Background

This short exercise brings up a lot of energy and can add more authenticity to our despair work. By exaggerating and venting feelings of disconnection, even indifference, which are inevitable in our mass culture, we can achieve greater honesty and sense of wholeness for all that follows.

To weep and rage over the conditions of our world can be a profound release. It can also cause some of us to wonder if we are being entirely honest. "If I care so damn much, why haven't I done something about it?" And sometimes we simply do not feel, at the moment, the degree of grief, concern, or caring that others are expressing. We can wonder then, if we are deficient--lacking in rudimentary compassion--and the sense of numbing or inadequacy can intensify.

"The despair I feel," said Tom in a workshop at Columbia University, "is that I don't feel despair. My heart feels like a rock. I'm afraid I don't care the way the rest of you do." The rest of us that day were soon grateful for his confession, because it triggered the invention of this process. It ignited much hilarity, and became known for a while as "I am a Rock."

It is good to do before, not after an intensive despair work process.


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The Bowl of Tears

Honoring Our Pain in the World

This is fine for any size group. Just pour water into a clear glass bowl. Let it represent for you and for the others our tears for the world and all beings. And invite each person, as they pass the bowl to each other, or as they come and sit or kneel before it, to scoop up some water and let it trickle through their fingers. As they do, they can say: "My tears are for…."

Here's a description of this process with a large assembly:

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.

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Cathy's Circle

Honoring Our Pain in the World
I set the stage for the ritual and we had low lights and candles and pillows in the center of the circle. We began walking counterclockwise with people reporting some of the horrors that we live with on this planet. When emotions arose, people went into the center and screamed or cried or just sat as long as they needed to, then rejoined the outer circle that kept walking. I allowed this circle to go on for 20 to 30 minutes as people were really getting into it. At a good stopping place I had everyone stop, find a comfortable place to sit and close their eyes. I then led them in a guided meditation, connecting with energies of earth and sky, allowing them to feel whatever was on the surface and let it wash away. I then set the scenario that when they opened their eyes again, it would be fifty years hence and there had been many changes and miracles in the world and people were now living sustainable, in harmony and balance with all beings. We then all arose and began walking in the circle, this time in the opposite direction, and reporting on what life was like in this positive future from the personal to the collective. It was quite amazing what ensued. People reported things like they stayed home and tended gardens, lived close to loved ones in a small village, biked everywhere or shared alternative energy cars, drummed and danced and told stories each night by the fire, TV had gone extinct, cows were pets and not food, all produce was local and organic, governing bodies were teams, no more nuclear power, etc. etc. Some people danced with glee into the middle of the circle and laughed, some people cried at how much they wanted life to be like this. I allowed the same amount of time for this circle as the despair one. We ended by coming together in circler holding hands, closing eyes while I guided them to see our visions and energies spreading out over the planet and touching the consciousness of all beings. Then opening eyes and giving thanks for all that we had and for each person in the circle.

People were very excited, hopeful and engaged with each other at the end of the evening. Many expressed thanks and wanted to use this process with other groups. I decided to call it 'Walking Through', which is what we did, walk through all the pain, sorrows despair, anger, joy, hope, love.

- Cathy Pedevillano