Come to Our Senses
Over the past two months, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to facilitate six sessions of Engaging Active Hope at Cranaleith Spiritual Center. Each Sunday afternoon a group has gathered to share our gratitude for this precious Earth we call Home; to name and honor the pain we feel as we witness its desecration and destruction; to seek new understandings of our shared strength and determination to act for the well-being of all; and to go forth, every day, with renewed intentions to live in ways that heal Earth, and one another.
This work, inspired by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone’s book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy, has been happening for many years in congregational basements, retreat centers, study circles, and even online. But that didn’t prepare us when, halfway through the series, the exact work we’re engaged in showed up in a New York Times article, “Apocalypse Got You Down? Maybe This Will Help: Searching for a cure for my climate crisis grief.” In fact, we feel even less alone, and grateful this important work is being embraced by such a mainstream audience.
Every session of Engaging Active Hope begins in gratitude. This resonates for me, as every faith tradition offers practices of gratitude – for Life itself; for the gifts of air, water, and the good earth; and for fellow beings. I’ve dubbed my favorite practice ‘Coming to Our Senses’ because that is, literally and figuratively, the most fundamental, and most hope-filled action we can take in facing the state of our planetary home.
Here’s how it goes:
Call to mind something you’re grateful happened over the past day or two. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering. Just something that, when you remember it, you think ‘I’m glad that happened.’
Got it? Now try to call to mind what the setting was like – the light, the colors, the sounds and smells … everything that fills out the memory to the fullest. Savor the memory as your senses revisit it.
And now, silently or out loud, give thanks for what, or who, helped make that moment happen – for we are not self-made, nor isolated, beings. We are part of the interconnected web of all existence, and there is always something, seen and unseen, at work in our world.
When we are fully present, bathed in all we are gifted by a single, precious moment, we come to our senses. And when we are filled with gratitude, for even a moment, we are strengthened by the vast net of relationships that holds and sustains us. And then, we have the courage to see what we must see – that is, we Come to Our Senses – and are moved to act on behalf of this awesomely beautiful, broken world.
As you share this holiday with friends and family, remember to pause to fill your senses with the aromas of familiar foods and fall colors, especially in this time of great challenge, and boundless hope –
The Rev. Alison Cornish
P.S. We are considering offering an online version of Engaging Active Hope in 2020. If you’re interested, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can let you know our plans!