COP26 Thought for the Day #9

Climate Crisis as a Spiritual Path

“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment is not that we are on the way to destroying our world–we’ve actually been on the way quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millenia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves, and to each other.”

In the 4th of these COP26 posts I mentioned Joanna Macy – environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. She describes her work as aiming to “engage and expand people’s moral imagination, bringing wider perspectives on our world, while fostering both compassion and creativity.” That has certainly been my experience of being with her.

It’s 35 years since we first met on a course she was running in Cumbria, an early workshop where she was experimenting with rituals like the Council of All Beings and developing work that would later spread around the world. Then, our concern was the nuclear threat – this was during the Cold War. In the years that followed I facilitated alongside her a couple of times, participated in her trainings whenever I could, and occasionally bumped into her at conferences, the last time was back in 2009.

Meeting her was a pivotal moment in my life, I’d just completed my training in psychosynthesis, the following year I went on my first retreat with Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh. The combination set the trajectory for pretty much everything I’ve done since! Although I moved on from facilitating Joanna’s work here in the UK, her influence remained, finding its way into my approach both explicitly and implicitly.

But the time I remember most warmly, was when she and her husband Fran stayed at our house. It was 1998. In our conservatory, Fran hosted a meeting with activists protesting against the transport of MOX nuclear fuel in Europe. Joanna was ‘off duty’, just hanging out. I was very pregnant, my son arrived a couple of weeks later. Nothing much happened. I don’t remember what we talked about, in fact I don’t think we talked that much. Joanna went walking on the moors. It was May. The sun shone. We drank tea and coffee. Cooked together. Ate together. Ordinary, everyday things.

Joanna is over 90 now and her fierce, passionate, bright spirit shines through as powerfully as ever in this video.