January 27, 2013 ~ Active Hope

This Sunday we will be continuing with the Spiral  theme, following the two stations we explored in recent weeks (i.e. Coming from Gratitude & Honoring Our Pain for the World) and diving into the next two stations:  Seeing with New Eyes & Going Forth in our quest to embody Active Hope

Sunday, January 27, 2013 ~ Active Hope

FYI ~  A clear and inspiring introduction to the Work-That-Reconnects:
Terry Patten’s Beyond Awakening blog, introducing the dialogue, can be read here, and the recording of his interview with Joanna Macy can be listened to here (see entry for 6th Dec 2012).

Active Hope Show 1 – The Shambhala Warrior Prophecy – YouTube

Beneath via InnerSelf.com – great introduction to Active Hope


Apathy is the Greatest Danger of Our Times

We are starting out by naming this uncertainty as a pivotal psychological reality of our time. Yet because it is usually considered too depressing to talk about, it tends to remain an unspoken presence at the backs of our minds. This blocked communication generates a peril even more deadly, for the greatest danger of our times is the deadening of our response.

We often hear comments such as “Don’t go there, it is too depressing” and “Don’t dwell on the negative.” The problem with this approach is that it closes down our conversations and our thinking. How can we even begin to tackle the mess we’re in if we consider it too depressing to think about?

Can We Do Anything About It? Where Can We Begin?

Yet when we do face the mess, it can feel overwhelming. We may wonder whether we can do anything about it anyway.

So this is where we begin — by acknowledging that our times confront us with realities that are painful to face, difficult to take in, and confusing to live with. Our approach is to see this as the starting point of an amazing journey that strengthens us and deepens our aliveness. The purpose of this journey is to find, offer, and receive the gift of Active Hope.

Choosing to Respond with Active Hope

Whatever situation we face, we can choose our response. When facing overwhelming challenges, we might feel that our actions don’t count for much. Yet the kind of responses we make, and the degree to which we believe they count, are shaped by the way we think and feel about hope. Here’s an example.

Jane cared deeply about the world and was horrified by what she saw happening. She regarded human beings as a lost cause, as stuck in our destructive ways. “What’s the point of doing anything if it won’t change what we’re heading for?” she asked.

Active Hope: Becoming An Active Participant in Bringing About What We Hope For

Active Hope: Becoming An Active Participant in Creating the World We Desire The word hope has two different meanings. The first involves hopefulness, where our preferred outcome seems reasonably likely to happen. If we require this kind of hope before we commit ourselves to an action, our response gets blocked in areas where we don’t rate our chances too high. This is what happened for Jane — she felt so hopeless she didn’t see the point of even trying to do anything.

The second meaning is about desire. When Jane was asked what she’d like to have happen in our world, she described the future she hoped for, the kind of world she longed for. It is this kind of hope that starts our journey — knowing what we hope for and what we’d like, or love, to take place. It is what we do with this hope that really makes the difference. Passive hope is about waiting for external agencies to bring about what we desire. Active Hope is about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for.

Active Hope is a Practice, It Is Something We Do, Not Something We Have

Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have.

First, we take a clear view of reality; second, we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed; and third, we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.

Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide… (continues)

Chris Johnstone – Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy

“Active Hope” by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone focuses on equipping readers with a transformational mindset of active hope during a time of planet and economic crisis.

Joanna Macy as recorded by Chris Johnstone:

Active hope is not wishful thinking.
Active hope is not waiting to be rescued
by the Lone Ranger or by some savior.
Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life
on whose behalf we can act.
We belong to this world.
The web of life is calling us forth at this time.
We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.
With Active Hope we realize that there are adventures in store,
strengths to discover, and comrades to link arms with.
Active Hope is a readiness to engage.
Active Hope is a readiness to discover strengths
in ourselves and in others;
a readiness to discover the reasons for hope
and the occasions for love.
A readiness to discover the size and strength of our hearts,
our quickness of mind, our steadiness of purpose,
our own authority, our love for life,
the liveliness of our curiosity,
the unsuspected deep well of patience and diligence,
the keenness of our senses, and our capacity to lead.
None of these can be discovered in an armchair or without risk.

Defining Active Hope in a Changing World – Utne

‘The challenges we face can be difficult even to think about. Desertification, mass extinction, peak oil and economic upheaval together create a planetary emergency of overwhelming proportions. Active Hope (New World Library, 2012) by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone shows us how to strengthen our capacity to face this crisis so that we can respond with unexpected resilience and creative power. The following excerpt defining “active hope” is taken from the introduction.

Introduction of “Active Hope” here, courtesy of the Utne Reader:

“Dangerous,” “frightening,” “out of control” — as we go around the room, people are calling out the word or phrase that comes to mind as they complete this sentence: “When I consider the condition of our world, I think things are getting…” Over the last few decades, we’ve done this process with tens of thousands of people in a wide range of settings. The responses we hear echo survey findings that show high levels of alarm about the future we’re heading into.

Such widespread anxiety is well-founded. As our world heats up, deserts expand and extreme weather events become more common. Human population and consumption are increasing at the same time as essential resources, such as freshwater, fish stocks, topsoil, and oil reserves, are in decline. While reversals in the economy have left many feeling desperate about how they’re going to manage, trillions of dollars are spent on the making of war. Given these adversities, it is no surprise if we experience a profound loss of confidence in the future. We can no longer take it for granted that the resources we’re dependent on — food, fuel, and drinkable water — will be available. We can no longer take it for granted even that our civilization will survive or that conditions on our planet will remain hospitable for complex forms of life.

We are starting out by naming this uncertainty as a pivotal psychological reality of our time. Yet because it is usually considered too depressing to talk about, it tends to remain an unspoken presence at the backs of our minds. Sometimes we’re aware of it. We just don’t mention it. This blocked communication generates a peril even more deadly, for the greatest danger of our times is the deadening of our response.

We often hear comments such as “Don’t go there, it is too depressing” and “Don’t dwell on the negative.” The problem with this approach is that it closes down our conversations and our thinking. How can we even begin to tackle the mess we’re in if we consider it too depressing to think about?

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About the book

Follow these links for:
Contents; Extracts; Key Themes; & Endorsements.
See also:  ActiveHope.info/news

Spirituality & Practice: Book Review: Active Hope, by Joanna Macy

By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat

Joanna Macy, author and activist for peace and deep ecology, and Chris Johnstone, who trains and writes on resilience and positive change, know that we are living in hard and perilous times. They write about three stories that are afoot in our culture that address our situation. The first is “Business As Usual” with its emphasis on economic growth, consumption, getting ahead, and using nature as nothing more than a commodity. The second story is “The Great Unraveling” which focuses on economic decline, resource depletion, climate change, social division and war, and mass extinction of species. The third story is “The Great Turning” which involves campaigns in defense of the earth; a change in our perception, thinking, and values; and developing new economic and social structures.

To choose the third story is to live in active hope. This practice has three steps: taking a clear view of reality, seeing the direction we’d like things to move in, and taking concrete steps to change things. Macy and Johnstone envision gratitude as a practice that animates us to act for our world. They also believe that it serves as an antidote to consumerism.

The planetary emergency often promotes such a feeling of pain that we are immobilized or sidetracked to trivial pursuits. The authors present practices and exercises to help us honor our pain for the world. Active hope also provides us with a wider sense of self and the desire to connect with like-minded souls.

It is hard to cope with feelings of powerlessness in the face of so many global problems. But we can derive new strength by relying on a wider view of community, a larger view of time, catching an inspiring vision, and daring to believe it is possible. We can stem the tide of catastrophe by building support for ourselves, maintaining energy and enthusiasm, and accepting uncertainty (we really don’t know how things will turn out).

The Work that Reconnects – Joanna Macy

The Spiral


Steps Three & Four ~ Seeing with New Eyes & Going Forth

Joanna Macy:

“That third part of the spiral of the Work that Connects is Seeing with New Eyes. We see our place in the holographic immensity of time. We see the vastness of our self-interest. We stop identifying solely with the self inside this bag of skin, or with the family. We see we have to defend not just our lungs, but the lungs in the Brazilian forests, the forests of the Pacific Northwest.

We’re at the moment when scales are falling from our eyes, and there is a shift in our identity. So many artists and poets bring this forward. One of the things I love about the discoveries is what our power is. Coming out of centuries of hyper-individualism, we think we can only act out of our own supply of diligence, smarts, our inner strengths. It’s not enough. I don’t have courage enough, I don’t care enough, for what’s called for right now.

It doesn’t matter — I can use some of yours. We can draw from each other. Life can live through us, think through us.”

Joanna Macy: Active Hope Reconnects Us to Life

Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone:  “What helps us face the mess we’re in is the knowledge that each of us has something significant to offer, a contribution to make. In rising to the challenge of playing our best role, we discover something precious that both enriches our lives and adds to the healing of our world.”

Try This:  Tell Me, Who Are You?

Imagine a stranger keen to get to know you and who asks, “Tell me, who are you?”  Write your reply in a notebook, imagining being asked again once you’re finished with a response.

Try This:  Tell Me, What Happens Through You?

Repeat process above, with your journal, or as a dialogue with a partner.

For those affiliated with a particular organization/movement:

“What first inspired me to work for…”
[ex. the EPA or to become a physician or activist, etc.]

“What I find hard in this work is…”

“What I hope can happen for us in this work (or organization) is…”

Goals & Resources for the Great Turning

If you were unblocked by fear and in direct contact with all the power that is there for you, in the web of life, what would you do for the healing of our world?  What would you like to actually do, within the next year, towards this overall goal?  What resources do you already have to help you do this?  Both inner resources (qualities of character,  experiences, knowledge, information, inner strengths, skills) and outer resources (contacts, friends, institutions, money in the bank)?  In answering this, avoid modesty, it’s not helpful – make a fearless inventory of all your resources.  What resources do you still need to acquire (i.e. learn/earn – in order to do this)?  What obstacles to doing this might you be likely to throw in the way of your doing this?  How might you stop yourself?  What can you do in the course of the next week to move you forward in this goal?  What can you do in the next 24 hours, no matter how small the step, to move you towards this goal?

Part 2: You Can Do This Work – The Work That Reconnects

wtr mandala
By Angella Gibbons

Joanna Macy on UncertaintyYouTube

Active Hope is based on intention — identifying what it is we want to see happen and then taking steps to bring that about.

Part 12: Widening Circles – The Work That Reconnects

Poet ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it

 I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?

Causes of UncertaintyYouTube

Beneath via www.breakoutofthebox.com/circle.htm:

Circle of Concern – Circle of Influence

Of all the good suggestions in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Habit 1: Be Proactive” is particularly useful when you feel powerless against life’s forces. Covey recommends examining what you can do instead of focusing on worries over which you have no control. First notice all your concerns.

Then, among those concerns, determine where you can take action:

Think of ways to be more proactive and address the things you can do something about. Your circle of influence will enlarge and your circle of concern will shrink:

Covey distinguishes between the have’s (“If only I had…”) and the be’s (“I can be…”). Focusing on what you don’t like is disempowering. Focusing on what you can do is proactive and empowering. “Be part of the solution,” Covey suggests, “not part of the problem.”

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