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The Awake Activist: Joanna Macy

Rain ran down the massive hospital window as thick clouds enveloped the Berkeley hills on a chilly afternoon. In her 94th yr, Joanna Macy, the Buddhist scholar and environmental and social activist, regarded frail with tubes hanging from her hospital robe giving a way of foreboding. Her labored breath sounded worrisome. And but, my pal’s eyes regarded shiny and spirited and her smile warmed up the room. “I am so glad to be alive at this time,” she mentioned softly, respiration with issue. “I am so glad that we are together. Let’s look out on the beautiful redwood trees,” she continued. “They feel as though they are hugging me from both sides.” 

I mentioned, “The earth still wants you here.” 

“Yes, there are still things I want to do,” Joanna answered. She smiled at me, “Let’s do a meditation together.”

The meditation started with a felt sense of the physique. Then we moved into the resonance of the center after which widened our consideration to the body-as-a-whole, after which to the resonance of consciousness itself. “Feel awareness as body, awareness as heart, heart as awareness,” I mentioned. Swiftly our meditation expanded out into the huge ocean-like area of consciousness itself. Joanna had typically informed me about Prajnaparamita, Mother of all Buddhas, the sphere of pure, awake consciousness out of which all Buddhas come up. “There is the groundless ground,” I mentioned, “and you are part of it, arising and dissolving back into it.” Joanna’s hand touched her coronary heart and she or he nodded softly. We sat silently collectively, so blissfully, for a protracted whereas.

Joanna Macy has been advocating on behalf of the earth for over forty-five years. For a number of many years she has been instructing what she calls The Work That Reconnects. This physique of labor brings collectively non secular follow and activism and helps these engaged on behalf of our world to face up to burnout and ethical misery, whereas remaining resilient and impressed. The Work that Reconnects unfolds as a spiral journey by 4 phases. Coming from gratitude we turn out to be conscious of the emotional and social wealth we have already got, and we acknowledge the gorgeous world we’re a part of. This permits us to really feel that life is “good enough” which provides us confidence. With that interior expertise of wealth, we’re sturdy sufficient to honor our ache for the world. 

Then we will see with new/historical eyes—new as we aren’t caught up in our small-self, or ego story and historical as a result of we faucet into the fullness of common actuality. This encourages us to go forth into our engagement with life itself. Each of those phases naturally leads into the subsequent. This experiential journey helps us really feel that we’re bigger, stronger, extra artistic—in addition to deeply interconnected—greater than we ever knew.

When we dwell into this spiral from the angle of pure, awake consciousness, then it turns into doable for us to have an outlook that’s a lot better than our small frightened, possibly even terrified egos. Now we don’t have to “try” to be good residents or accountable activists, as a substitute, we naturally really feel like we wish to relieve the struggling of others. Resting in pure, awake consciousness permits us to really feel a way of ease and interior safety. We really feel open-hearted and beneficiant in an uncontrived means. 

Joanna is conscious of her progressively fading well being in addition to the state world is in. She witnesses the numerous refugees in addition to the diminishing species, wars and what Joanna calls the tragedy of financial injustice. Yet, she shares that she stays comfortable and peaceable. “I am so glad to be alive at this time so I can be helpful, so I can be part of it all,” she whispers. “This gives me so much meaning.”

Being conscious of the predicaments of the human situation could make us depressed and go away us overwhelmed. We would possibly wish to shut down or hand over. However, I realized from observing Joanna that once we can relaxation in pure, awake consciousness not less than a few of the time, we will keep current and loving in occasions of hardship. Now, our perspective can remodel from the small ego-self to a much bigger and broader perspective. This new outlook then turns into useful in occasions of sickness, private misery, and once we are overwhelmed by the better challenges in our world.

As we gazed out the hospital window, glimmers of sunshine all of a sudden appeared. The fog lifted and we had been capable of see the gorgeous Berkeley hills. A couple of minutes later, rays of sunshine flooded in from the appropriate nook of the window, even because it was nonetheless frivolously raining on the left. “There is a rainbow,” she referred to as out as she popped off the bed and stood in entrance of the window, smiling with apparent delight. The rainbow assumed intense neon colours of purple, orange, yellow, inexperienced, and blue. Then, ever so faintly, we noticed a shining double rainbow emerge. This was the primary time Joanna had left her mattress to face up since coming into the hospital! She leaned softly in opposition to my aspect, her hand intertwined in mine, and whispered, “Our world is a miracle.” 

“This all is here, and I am here too.”

Now, three weeks after my go to to the hospital, I’m once more visiting Joanna, this time again at her dwelling. She is slowly recovering and a twinkle has returned to her eyes. And, as all the time, she units me straight about what is really essential and significant in life, particularly salient now on this new yr. I ask her how she may be so high-spirited now, as her physique and our world are struggling. She muses for some time, then says, “You know I am so grateful now, full of gratitude to be here.” Looking across the room slowly, pointing, she provides, “I am grateful for this, and this, and this. This all is here, and I am here too.” 

I needed to go deeper and requested her, “Joanna, where does this gratitude come from? I imagine it is hard to feel it when we are stuck in our contracted ego, when we are scared and frustrated.” I continued, deep in thought, “How can you hold personal and universal reality at the same time? You must be living in a different place now, in yourself.” She replied, “I must be, it somehow happened.” She paused, then moved her arms and spirals and mentioned, “The world is spacious and alive now. It all feels so alive and sacred, and I am so grateful to be here, and to be of service,” Joanna smiled at me, timid and but mischievous on the identical time. Besides being delighted for her, I search to be taught a lesson: How can we maintain a spacious, loving perspective in order that it’s doable for us to remain in good spirits and stay resilient, even in occasions of hardship?

Spiritual follow, in Joanna’s case over sixty years, transforms our perspective and the stance with which we meet these round us and our world. As we follow, this spacious place of pure awake consciousness can turn out to be our default state of being. Then our ego-self retreats into the background and our efforts come naturally from a spot of huge knowledge and open-heartedness. This permits us to not personally take the result of our contributions, and we finally turn out to be much less rattled by the eight worldly winds akin to reward and blame, success and failure, pleasure and ache, and fame and disrepute.  

When this new outlook of awake consciousness is paired with service, with compassionate motion, and with embodied interdependence, then our impact on the world will probably be potentiated. And, we will probably be much less vulnerable to burnout or to expertise compassion fatigue or ethical misery signs, stress issues which frequently undermine many activists’ efforts. Again, these ‘reactions’ are sometimes associated to experiencing the miseries of our world from a spot the place we, personally, really feel overwhelmed and damage, from the small ego-self. 

Learning to narrate to life from the bigger perspective of pure or awake consciousness permits us to be emotionally rich sufficient to really feel gratitude, even when issues are tough. From there now we have the energy to really feel our ache for a struggling world. Then, surprisingly, a shift occurs, and we see life with the brand new eyes of affection and interdependence. Now we go forth with loving engagement in a life that rises as much as meet us. 

Joanna lives this broader view, in a non-dual means, and as intermingled with love for the world. One of Joanna’s many books is titled World as Lover, World as Self.  Joanna tells us that she shouldn’t be solely in love with the world, but additionally, that she experiences life from the angle of the huge conscious internet of life itself. I assume that the earth and life love her again. 


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