The news is enough to drive you crazy. So much stupidity and life-destructive behavior. So many mind-blowing challenges and just bits and pieces of solutions here and there. How to make sense of it all? How to live your life in the face of the insanity that surrounds us?
More and more people are desperately trying to find meaning in a world gone mad. As escalating planetary destruction threatens to overwhelm earth's resilience and our own survival -- let alone our children's and grandchildren's possibilities -- to keep going we need to tap into strengths we didn't know we possessed or had access to.
Here are seven practical things to do that can help us find direction and inspiration in the midst of chaos:
1. Reconnect with the sacred in nature. Whatever your spiritual orientation -- religious, "spiritual but not religious," agnostic or atheist -- the rest of nature is a powerful healing presence we can all experience. "Forest bathing" in the woods, surfing the ocean's rocking waves, walking quietly while listening to what the Lakota Sioux call "all our relatives," hugging a beloved person or animal, tending plants in a tiny garden near our backdoor, dancing or doing tai chi in the park -- all can connect us to cosmic powers far greater than ourselves that put things in perspective and calm our fears. (And it's also good to know that many world religions now have active "green" or "creation care" sub-groups focused on taking better care of our home planet and its inhabitants.)
2. Breathe deeply and settle into just this one moment on just this particular day. No matter what is happening all around us, at this one time we can focus on the simple and joyful act of breathing in and out, sitting quietly or moving with our breath. Meditation and mindfulness are ancient practices that are as relevant and useful today as they were in ancient times.
3. Be part of the solution, even if in tiny ways. Find people in your community who are doing good work towards peace, sustainability and planetary harmony and join them. They need help! Even if you have grave doubts that any of this work will stem the oncoming tide of destruction, this practice will be healing both to you and to all living beings who benefit from your help. So dig a hole for a plant in a community garden, rescue a suffering animal, teach a child, participate in a community protest. It all matters!
4. Take a media vacation. Not forever, of course. But take regular breaks from the swirling info-ocean on our screens, giving yourself time to put things in perspective.
5. Take the permaculture design course for a positive, upbeat approach to sustainability where you'll learn practical ways of providing for yourself and your community while having fun with a good group of eager folks.
6. Read books by wise people who are wide-awake to the challenge and yet offer positive approaches. My favorites are Buddhist ecophilosopher and ecopsychologist Joanna Macy's Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We're in without Going Crazy (written with physician Chris Johnstone) and Carolyn Baker's Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition.
7. Form a small, local circle of community members to discuss these books. If things like environmental degradation and social injustice deeply move you, it's important to have other people you can talk with who get it and are supportive. For a while, my husband and I were part of a reading circle that discussed Baker's book a chapter a week and we made some good friends doing that. It's a blessing to know other people who are not only awake to what's happening but are also involved in creating solutions and providing positive emotional support for each other -- and enjoying life to the full in the face of the huge challenges.