Living Resiliently Workshop March 10, 2012

You’ve been following the news in recent years and you sense that great changes are taking place in the world because of problems around energy, the economy and the environment. You may have even done some preparations for the future, such as learning how to garden, or paying off debt, or stockpiling non-perishable food in the event of a food shortage or inflation. You’ve made sure that you’re preparing your external “bunker” for what promises to be hard times ahead.

But what have you done to prepare your “internal bunker”? Are you prepared emotionally and spiritually for the coming chaos? How can you be sure you’re as resilient as possible?

During a recent free workshop I co-facilitated with Carolyn Baker on Feburary 4th in Denver, we revealed the “3 Keys to Resilience” in uncertain times. They are:

 

1. Develop a strong community, because community is what will support, help and feed you (literally and spiritually) in hard times.

 

2. Cultivate a rich inner life, which includes a daily contemplative practice, journaling, time in nature, and other tools to know yourself deeply.

 

3. Build emotional resilience, so that you can feel what you will feel and be able to bounce back.

 

This workshop was extremely successful. Attendees met with others who shared their concerns. We fielded very good questions, listened to heart-felt comments, engaged in deep dialog, moved about, and sat quietly. We worked hard, but we also left feeling revitalized and invigorated.

 

If you attended our free event on February 4, you only scratched the surface of developing emotional resilience. Iwant you to join us as we go deeper and drop into more substantial layers of emotional resilience and building community with each other. I look forward to spending a day with you in work and celebration as we support each other in navigating an uncertain future.

 

In the full-day workshop on March 10th, we will utilize discussion, contemplative activities, storytelling and drumming and special meditations to:

 

  • Provide you with tools for strengthening your own emotional resilience, deal with the dark emotions of despair, grief and anxiety
  • Provide you with the opportunity to connect with others who are developing their emotional resilience
  • Provide you with a break from the linear/rational/ego-based consciousness of a culture in decline and offer you the opportunity to access your heart
  • Provide you with an opportunity to experience the joy of emotional and spiritual preparation for an uncertain future

 

I encourage you to register today for this unique workshop on March 10th. To register, download and return this form: RegistrationMarch10&LiabilityRelease or email magsemerson@yahoo.com for more info.

Here’s what participants from the free, 3-hour workshop we did on Feb. 4th had to say about their experience:

“An excellent workshop! The activities, group discussions and journal exercises brought forth feelings and emotions that many of us have been in denial about. Both Margaret and Carolyn were able to create an atmosphere of healthy, supportive communication so we all felt safe to express our feelings. I took away some extremely valuable tools for becoming more resilient in a time of stress and chaos.” —Cindy W.

“Carolyn and Margaret know what’s real and what’s important for now and in the times to come.  Learning to increase our emotional resilience is of utmost importance.  We can prepare by storing food, etc. but Katrina and local wildfires showed us that what we’ve stored can be lost.  Then what?”  –Ellem MacQueen

Emotional Resilience In Traumatic Times

By Carolyn Baker, PhD.

Original article can be found on Carolyn Baker’s website at CarolynBaker.net.

NOTE TO READER: Carolyn and I will be co-facilitating two workshops in Denver, CO on the 3 Keys to Resilience in Uncertain Times. If you’d like to meet others and discuss your thoughts and anxieties about what’s happening with the world’s economy and environment, and learn ways to cope emotionally and spiritually, please join us February 4th and March 10th. For more information or to register click here or email me at magsemerson@yahoo.com.

 

While mainstream media has been encouraging collective dithering over a possible U.S. government shutdown, the chilling realities of off-the-chart levels of radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, escalating upheavals throughout the Middle East, and surging oil prices have been simmering in the background, remaining the lethal environmental, geopolitical, and economic time bombs that they are. Weeks ago, I was well aware that a government shutdown was highly unlikely but would be used to distract our attention from more urgent matters, and thus, I reported only one story about it in my Daily News Digest.

I recently returned from Northern California where residents there were profoundly anxious regarding the effects of radiation on the West Coast from Fukushima. How not, when on April 1, the San Francisco area newspaper, Bay Citizen, reported that “Radiation from Japan rained on Berkeley during recent storms at levels that exceeded drinking water standards by 181 times and has been detected in multiple milk samples, but the U.S. government has still not published any official data on nuclear fallout here from the Fukushima disaster”?

In typical American media fashion, out of sight, out of mind. Fewer and fewer stories of radiation realities in and issuing from Japan are being reported. An occasional comment surfaces, usually assuring us that we have nothing to fear. It’s all so benign. Apparently, we can now move on to “really important” stories like Obama’s 2012 campaign and the royal wedding.

And yet, whether explicitly stated or not, Americans and billions of other individuals throughout the world, are not only terrified about radiation but about their economic future—an economic future which will be inexorably more ruinous as a result of the Japan tragedy and its economic ripples globally. By that I do not mean that they feel mild anxiety about embellishing their stock portfolios, but rather, are feeling frightened about how they are going to feed their families, where they will live after losing their house in foreclosure, where they might find employment in a world where having a full-time job is becoming increasingly rare, how they will access healthcare without insurance or the money to pay out of pocket, or how they will make ends meet in forced or voluntary retirement.

Obviously, these anxieties are relevant to the world’s middle classes and not to teeming masses of human beings living on two dollars per day or less. Ironically, however, it is frequently the case that for all the suffering of abjectly impoverished human beings, they have seldom known any other standard of living and have learned how to survive on virtually nothing. They hear no reports of nuclear meltdowns, and even if they did, such news would seem insignificant in the face of needing to secure food or water for today—a type of existence that contains its own traumas and yields dramatically short lifespans.

Having inhabited a middle class existence, one can only comfort oneself for so long by reflecting on the plight of the destitute in far off places. One’s immediate reality is an anomalous deprivation, a stark loss of the familiar, and the looming reality that things will not get better, but only worse, and that these losses are unpredictably punctuated with frightening events such as extreme weather, natural disasters, nuclear meltdowns, or the terrifying consequences of rotting infrastructure such as pipeline explosions or collapsing bridges. These realities take their toll on the body—sleepless nights, a weakened immune system, moodiness, anger, depression, despair, and often, suicidal thinking. Whether the trauma is dramatic and frequent such as a 9.0 earthquake in Japan followed by high intensity aftershocks, or whether it slowly grinds on amid a disquieting sense of the permanent loss of so much that one held dear, the landscapes of countless lives are forever, painfully altered, emotionally littered with charred shells of once exuberant and robust routines.

Yes YOU Have Been Traumatized

But, you may argue, I haven’t been traumatized. My life is amazingly normal. I’m weathering the collapse of industrial civilization reasonably well and feel profoundly grateful.

Indeed I celebrate your good fortune, but I must add that no inhabitant of industrial civilization is without trauma because that paradigm is by definition, traumatizing.

It is only when you understand the extent to which you have been traumatized outside of your awareness that you can effectively prepare for and yes, welcome, the demise of empire and its ghastly assaults on your soul and the earth community.

In the face of extreme weather events and earth changes, skyrocketing food and energy prices, increasingly dramatic expressions of civil unrest globally, massive unemployment, global economic evisceration of the middle classes, and the proliferation of toxins worldwide—whether from fracking in Pennsylvania or leaking reactors in Japan, we are all in varying states of emotional breakdown and breakthrough. The sands are shifting under the feet of all human beings on this planet. Nothing is as it seems. “Things fall apart,” said William Butler Yeats, “the center cannot hold.”

Call it whatever you like—collapse, Transition, Great Turning. Put a happy face on it or a terrified one, but regardless of how you spin it, regardless of how much you want to feel good about it—and there is much to feel good about, the changes are dizzying, sometimes delightful, sometimes devastating. Yes, it’s an exciting time to be alive, and it’s an excruciating time to be alive. Sometimes one feels schizophrenic, sometimes bipolar. But all of that, yes all of that, is traumatizing to the human nervous system, and if we don’t recognize that, we’re probably hiding out in the “Hurt Locker” of empire.

So how do we not hide out? How do we face our trauma, begin healing it, and protect ourselves as much as humanly possible from further wounding, particularly as life becomes even more traumatic?

The Transition movement has provided us with a treasure-trove of resources for cultivating logistical resilience in our communities through awareness-raising, reskilling, and creating self-sufficient and sustainable communities. Anyone not involved in this kind of logistical preparation is only half-awake, yet many individuals believe that no other preparation is necessary. Might that not, in fact, be one characteristic of trauma? Just as the PTSD-scarred combat veteran insists that all he needs is another good battle to make him feel better, it may be that the hunger for one more gold or silver coin, one more case of freeze-dried food, one more bucket of barley, one more permaculture class, one more emergency response training is yet another means of avoiding the emotional healing and preparation work every human being needs to do in order to navigate the accelerating unraveling of the world as we have known it.

A Few Ways Of Developing Emotional Resilience

1)     Understand that industrial civilization is inherently traumatizing. Make a list of the ways it has wounded you and those you care about.

2)     If you are involved with a Transition initiative, start or join a heart and soul group where the psychology of change (see The Transition Handbook) can be discussed in depth and group members can share feelings about the acceleration of collapse as well as share how they are preparing for it emotionally.

3)     Become familiar with your emotional repertoire and how you deal with your emotions—or not. Imagine the kinds of emotions that you and others are likely to feel in an unraveling world. How do you imagine yourself dealing with those emotions? How would you prefer to deal with them?

4)     Think about how you need to take care of yourself right now in an increasingly stressful world. What stresses do you need to pull back from? What self-nurturing activities do you need to increase?

5)     Who is your support system? If you do not have people in your life with whom you can discuss the present and coming chaos, you are doubly stressed. Find people with whom you can talk about this on a regular basis.

6)     What are you doing to create joy in your life? Do you have places in your life where you can have fun without spending money or without talking about preparation for the future?

7)     What are you doing to create beauty? Life may become uglier on many levels, including the physical environment. How can you infuse more beauty into the world? Use art, music, poetry, dance, theater, storytelling and other media to enhance the beauty of your community and your immediate environment.

8)     Consider creating a regular poetry reading salon in which people come together perhaps monthly to share poems or stories which express the full range of human emotions. Many communities have found poetry sharing events to be incredibly rich venues for deepening connections and their own emotional resilience.

9)     Spend as much time as possible in nature. Read books and articles on ecopsychology and take contemplative walks or hikes in which you intentionally engage in dialog with nature.

10) Engage at least twice a day in some kind of mindfulness practice such as meditation, inner listening, journaling, guided visualization. Still another tool for mindfulness and community deepening is sacred earth-based rituals which can be done individually or shared in a group.

It is important to remember that challenging experiences are not necessarily traumatizing experiences. The collapse of industrial civilization will be challenging for those who have been preparing for it; for those who haven’t, it will constitute massive trauma. The less attached we are to living life as we have known it, and the more open and resilient we are—the more we are utilizing the myriad tools that exist for preparing our emotions, our bodies, and our souls for collapse, the more capacity we create for navigating a formidable future.

All of the above suggestions are related to releasing stress from the mind and body. As the external stresses of an unraveling civilization accumulate, we all need ways for letting go of them. My friend, Jerry Allen, of Transition Sebastopol, California who is also a Marriage and Family Therapist, recently penned an article entitled “The Importance of Effectively Discharging Accumulated Stress As Our World Moves Into Crisis,” in which he states:

Learning to effectively release accumulated stress is not some peripheral process that is needed primarily to treat returning soldiers and victims of abuse, as important as that treatment is. Learning to let go of accumulated stress and discharge new stresses is a vital skill for all of us who are preparing ourselves to face the unknown future. It is as important as doing physical emergency preparations. We have witnessed the chaos, rage and panic that can grip communities when devastating changes happen. When panic hits as someone yells “fire” in a crowded theatre, other voices need to be ready to stand aside and start singing loudly to calm the people and re-direct their energies.  Such work has saved hundreds of people from trampling deaths in panicked crowds. If we are still too activated by our own build up of trauma, we will not be in a position to discharge fast and take quick decisive community initiative.

As we prepare to serve in a helping role among many, it makes sense to train a vibrant cadre of our community members on how to cultivate body awareness, let go of stress fast, remobilize our adaptive capacity and be ready for action. It also makes sense to explore and adapt the use of story, song, dance, ritual and whatever works to help our communities come together, heal together and strengthen our joint body for action.

My just-published book Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition is chock full of re-usable tools for creating and maintaining vibrant emotional resilience. It is also ideal for use in Transition heart and soul or study groups focused on creating emotional resilience.

I do not assume that a world of increasing crises will be a world devoid of cooperation or community building. In her brilliant 2009 book, A Paradise Built In Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise In Disaster, Rebecca Solnit notes that in most natural disasters, human beings, in most cases, unite in a spirit of cooperation to support each other. While I certainly concur and reviewed Solnit’s book in an article entitled, “Disaster: The Gift That Keeps On Giving,” I am also well aware that cooperation is not the only response to trauma. Furthermore, the collapse of industrial civilization is most likely to play out in an irregular, “lumpy” fashion in different locations at different times. How it plays out and over what period of time will dictate how humans respond. One thing is certain: Responses will not always be benevolent, caring, and cooperative.

Thus we must prepare for a very uncertain future by consciously cultivating emotional resilience. This involves addressing the myriad ways in which we have been traumatized by the current paradigm and training with intention for encountering situations in the future which may be even more emotionally challenging in a world unraveling.

 

Carolyn was a psychotherapist in private practice for 17 years and a professor of psychology and history for 10. She is the author of several books, including Navigating The Coming Chaos: A Handbook For Inner Transition (2011) and Sacred Demise: Walking The Spiritual Path of Industrial Civilization’s Collapse (2009). She manages her website, Speaking Truth to Power at www.carolynbaker.net. Carolyn publishes the Daily News Digest which is a collection of independent news stories focusing on unprecedented transitions and options for navigating an uncertain future. She also writes a regular column entitled Collapsing Consciously for Mike Ruppert’s website, Collapsenet. Carolyn tells stories with an African drum and leads workshops on Navigating The Coming Chaos and on Relationships In The Long Emergency. She has a Transition coaching and spiritual direction practice locally in Boulder, Colorado and by phone or Skype worldwide for people who want help with dealing with the unprecedented challenges of our time.

Carolyn Baker and Margaret Emerson Book Talk

Carolyn Baker and Margaret Emerson at Boulder Book Store, May 4, 2011 from Michael Brownlee on Vimeo.

This book signing and talk took place on May 4, 2011 at the Boulder Bookstore.

Carolyn discusses her book, “Navigating the Coming Chaos”, and the psychological implications of the impending collapse of industrial civilization. Margaret discusses the benefits of contemplative hiking and time in nature.

Book Signing at the Boulder Bookstore

Join me, Margaret Emerson, and author Carolyn Baker at the Boulder Bookstore on May 4th for a discussion and book signing!

WHERE:
Boulder Bookstore
1107 Pearl Street, Boulder Colorado

WHEN:
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
7:30 p.m.

COST: FREE!

SPONSORED BY: Boulder Bookstore and Transition Colorado

Margaret Emerson

 

I will be reading from my book, Contemplative Hiking Along the Colorado Front Range, and talking about ways to reconnect with nature and cultivate mindfulness while hiking.

If you enjoy exploring the trails around Denver and Boulder, you’ll love the essays and suggested activities in my book. My book will help you explore more than just the outer landscape—you’ll learn how to explore your inner landscape by asking yourself deeper questions and searching for real meaning in our complicated, busy lives.

Carolyn Baker

Carolyn Baker will discuss her newest book, Navigating the Coming Chaos: A Handbook for Inner Transition.

The collapse of industrial civilization, well underway since at least 2007, presents humankind with unprecedented and daunting challenges in the area of energy, environment, and economics. Navigating The Coming Chaos provides a toolkit of emotional and spiritual preparation for an uncertain future. It offers us an opportunity to step across an evolutionary threshold in order to become a new kind of human being living in conscious self-awareness of our intimate connection with all life in the universe.