“Air” is the literal air around us, the oxygen and carbon dioxide we breathe, the connection through respiration to all living things.
“Air” is also our thoughts, beliefs, and stories.
Let’s start with Gratitude.
Feel the breath in this moment. Give thanks to your body for breathing. Appreciate the miracle of breath that keeps you alive without any need for your conscious thinking mind. Give thanks to the trees, phytoplankton, and green growing things for making oxygen we can breathe. Feel grateful humility for all the plants that keep you alive – both now and in our planet’s past – without your conscious mind even thinking about it. Give thanks for your thoughts and the facility of your mind that is drawn to read, think, and grow with ideas like this.
We allow the Gratitude to open us to Pain.
Pain for the world. Pain for those without clean Air. Pain for those who struggle to breathe. Pain for those who are trapped in painful, repetitive, anxious, angry thoughts. Noticing that we are not so different. Noticing that we also have moments of struggling for Air and struggling with painful stories.
As we sit with the Pain, we start to notice we can sit with it. It won’t just overwhelm us. We can let it in. Without needing to change it or fix it or figure it out. We can admit that Pain exists within us and outside of us in the people, animals, oceans, plants, and soil around us. As we dare to let ourselves feel both Gratitude and Pain, we start to come alive to the connection between us and others.
We notice our stories. We notice the connection to all things. We rewrite our stories. We honor our connection.
From our connection, comes the desire to Go Forth.
Going Forth is the step where we take our theory and we do something with it – we act. In Healing the Personal, Healing the Planet we always have at least one act of inner work and one act of outer work.
Stepping out into the world can happen with small steps. You don’t have to save the whole world all by yourself. In fact, when you try you are likely to get paralyzed by your own smallness compared to the bigness of the problem. Getting paralyzed is a way of both suffering and letting ourselves off the hook. When we don’t take the actions we can take, we are denying the power we do have. You are more powerful than you know. Your power grows, like a muscle, when you exercise it. Speaking up, gathering friends together, doing your inner work, and daring to think about your place in the family of things are all acts that build your “power muscle.” Daring greatly, you build confidence in yourself and confidence that you will use your power for good. Thank you!
This progression of Gratitude to Pain to Seeing with New Eyes, to Going Forth is from Joanna Macy’s “Work that Reconnects.” I am delighted to be bringing Joanna Macy’s ideas – as I understand and am inspired by them – together with Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability. Together with Parts Work as taught to me by Jerry Donoghue we have powerful theory to create the strong container for “Healing the Personal, Healing the Planet.”
This article is based on Healing the Personal, Healing the Planet‘s, Week 3 class focused on Air. We’re taking an elemental journey with Earth in the first week. Earth my body. Earth the soil of the planet. Earth the thin skin of the planet that supports all life. Earth the ground that holds each of us without needing to change, fix, or figure us out.
Preview of what’s to come…
Week 5 will bring us into the Fire of our desire. The Fire of motivation. The Fire that can warm and inspire. The Fire that can singe and destroy. It’s good to have a strong container when you’re working with Fire. That’s exactly what we’re forging in our Year of Joys classes.