Recently I joined in a “Wisdom Circle for a World on Fire” convened by Shams Kairys and Cindy Spring—a space to join others in exploring our deepest thoughts and feelings about climate change. Here is a summary of our purpose, from Shams’ email that brought the group together:
“Those who are willing to peel back the forces of denial and look at our actual condition, who are often left feeling isolated and distraught, need to be talking with each other. In a dedicated space with a small group, we will peer into our hearts and minds and engage in honest conversation. This milieu is conducive not only for informing each other, but also for hearing our own trials and emerging recognitions in a fresh light. The focus is not so much on the facts of the matter or actions to address it as on expanding our capacity to face and integrate what we are learning, and its impact upon us.”
For our first session nine of us gathered in a member’s living room. After we introduced ourselves, one by one we spoke our hearts to this query: What is true for me about climate change?
The quality of listening in the room was special. Each person’s words were met with caring attention, without others jumping in to react, solve problems, reach conclusions, or form strategies.
Here are some of the sharings that emerged from the expectant silence.
Turning Our Gaze to What’s Coming Our Way
The issue of our time is climate change. Actually it is many issues in an interconnected web of causation.
The news is fierce and fearsome: climate disruption is already underway. What we expected to occur 50 years from now is unfolding before our eyes.
Climate change is rooted in cultural attitudes, politics, economics and religion—our whole way of life. It is an outgrowth of the way we have organized the human enterprise.
Having the Conversations that Move Us Forward
We face a global moral imperative for change. The climate crisis is a wake-up call for a broken economic system built on failed premises that don’t match our present realities.
Can humanity somehow come together in a new formation?
Where are the conversations about these deeply concerning issues?
Can we talk about all of this in a way that is loving and helpful and isn’t about shame and blame?
We’re All In This Together
The reality is that we don’t know how things will unfold, and we don’t know how people will respond.
It is more helpful to live with the honesty of not knowing than to try to predict unknowable outcomes.
The antidote to climate change—not necessarily the solution—is relationship.
It’s all of us together. None of us walks this path alone.
Shams Kairys and Cindy Spring convened the “Wisdom Circle for a World on Fire” stemming from Shams’ World on Fire work and Cindy’s involvement as co-founder of the Wisdom Circle process.
Here are the guidelines that our Wisdom Circle has been using:
(1) light a candle
(2) use a talking stick
(3) listen from the heart
(4) witness and hold the space for others’ sharing
(5) allow silence
(6) no advice-giving
(7) no cross-talk
Want to hold your own Wisdom Circle about the climate crisis (or another topic that is live for you?) A printed summary of Wisdom Circle guidelines is here. For more in-depth guidance, see Wisdom Circles: A Guide to Self-Discovery and Community Building in Small Groups by Charles Garfield, Cindy Spring and Sedona Cahill (Hyperion, 1998).
UPDATE, SUMMER 2022: Our climate wisdom circle has continued to meet monthly for over six years. The circle is a comforting constant, a safe place to be with what is (no need to sugar-coat reality), as we each navigate living within accelerating climate breakdown.