Readers, please enjoy this guest blog post by Jack Adam Weber, author of the new Climate Cure.
Each of us has a personal and a community life, and trying to balance the two can be challenging. We have aches and hurts that have little to do with global and collective trauma/crisis. Larger events have little to do with our personal lives.
Or so it seems.
Our personal lives and global crises intersect inside us. In Climate Cure I write, “Personal crisis and climate crisis intersect in our hearts.”
We can’t devote all our attention to worldly events, nor can we devote it all to our personal lives (though some try). The goal of inner work is to free us up for outer work, for helping the world. Otherwise it’s merely a personal indulgence project.
At first inner work might seem self-indulgent, but the fact is that for many (not all) burdened by pain and trauma, it’s all they can do to take care of themselves, and much of their time, energy and finances are spent on anxiety, depression, and paralyzing, unreckoned grief.
While healing trauma is damn hard, it is also a gift, a privilege, and an honor. For myself, it bonds me to the world, to the less privileged, via the very compassion that emotional work engenders. Grief work, which I dive into extensively in Climate Cure, is especially poignant in making our hearts as wide as the world. As Mother Teresa says, “May God break my heart so completely the whole world falls in.”
Most of us, most of the time, can’t be effective when riddled with unreckoned, overwhelming pain. Healing through the pain frees us up to be able to care enough to get more involved in tending the world. This care has been forged in me by being humbled enough to experience it wholeheartedly, openly, and bearing it. It’s to become compassion rather than merely mustering it as an effect.
I wish it were so that we could all make the sacrifices to reduce our consumerism, rebel boldly against the psychopathy of our culture, get out in the streets, and devote more of our free time at activism. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Often, I think it’s because we need so much to fulfill a high level of fun and enjoyment. Freeing our hearts and sharpening our minds are what I propose to be a way forward, out of the double bind of repressing pain, creating more of it, and being a slave to consuming too much entertainment.
Back to the two worlds: personal-collective and inner-outer:
The dynamics between inner and outer—which I share in the book in great depth and detail and in a way to guide you through these dynamics in unique ways—goes unseen and under the radar of popular culture.
For example, consider how grief work “schools us in doing without.” Anyone who has gone through the desert of grief and emerged knows that the pure expression and embodiment of that pain eventually liberates more love from us. This love is sustainable fulfillment, as opposed to the lumping on of things (consumerism) that staves off (deny) backlogged grief and creates more pollution. I call this the “inner path to sustainability,” and it hinges on intellectual and emotional honesty.
But before we feel the love, we must accept waiting, being with pain and finding some peace in that desert. It is that peace we find that also functions as a detox from unsustainable outward fulfillment. It frees us up for what matters to a heart able to accept and rejoice in simple pleasures. This inner richness translates to outer life, to being fulfilled with less stuff, leading to less consumerism and outward distraction, busyness, and craving for entertainment…which reduces our consumption and therefore climate change.
This is but one of many examples for how inner work can translate to outer results, not only to climate cure, but to truer happiness (fulfillment).
There are exceptions to all this, of course, and there are devils to these details, but not for here. What I have seen, at least in our culture, is that we care about ourselves first. What I outline in Climate Cure is a very different approach to feeling fulfilled that leads to inner and outer balance and abundance…and becoming a force for upward regeneration cycle, personally and together, and fortifies us with the aptitudes to work together, communicate well, and go the path of embodied, emotionally intelligent love.
So, back to the intersecting in our hearts:
Because it seems many of us can’t become genuinely empowered and activated without caring enough (which I propose happens most permanently via clearing enough pain and having enough support to do it), we can view the inner-outer dynamic as one happening. In terms of clearing our hearts of pain, this means understanding and feeling what is both outside and inside us as a mirror. For example, our anger over the current and past injustices that we see in the world around us also speaks to any injustice we have personally experienced. These outer and inner worlds intersect, whether we want them to or not.
It also means that our experience of personal injustice is triggered by outer injustice, and vice versa. And that by being with all the feelings and data, while realizing the underlying intersections of the personal and collective, we can use all of it not only to create more justice by rising up in revolt, but also work to heal our personal lives (ultimately the two are not separate at all).
And it means that if we have judgment against anger, don’t know how to be skillful with it, or have repressed it altogether, our response to crucial events (such as a united front against COVID) that necessitate our wise participation will be distorted, inefficient, hurtful to ourselves, and outwardly lacking. Emotional intelligence, which is the foundation of Climate Cure, helps cure this.
This way we don’t have to hide or deny. We can pay attention to the problems of the world and in ourselves. Really, we have to because it is reality. Failure to welcome it is to build a shadow, which eventually comes back to bite us—which is how I view the crises of our day. It is climate crisis, environmental collapse, throwaway and cancel culture, Covid-craziness, racism, and gross financial injustice. It is also every personal shadow and denied experience that eventually boomerangs back to us.
Climate cure is to begin to undo the boomerang effect, from the inside out and the outside-in, to join together in one spiral upward.
Our thanks to Jack for his guest post! For more from Jack Adam Weber, read his article, “8 Creative Ways to Cope and Thrive Through Coronavirus and Beyond.”