Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Finding Encouragement

It’s easy to get discouraged: bees are dying, radiation is leaking into the ocean, and everyday there are people who do not have the basic necessities of life for themselves and their children.

How do we inform ourselves about what is happening in the world so we can participate fully, without overwhelming ourselves with news that could breed hopelessness? 

For me, it’s about taking in information in the moments when I have the heart and energy to do so (not just before sleep) and finding encouragement that helps me to stay present, patient and hopeful.

Recently, I watched Bill Moyers interview one of my favourite writers, Wendell Berry. And I received grounded encouragement.

Berry is a poet and a farmer, an activist and an elder. As he describes his involvement in creating sustainable agriculture, warning that these changes will take time, Moyer understandably asks, “Do we have time, given what agri-business is doing?"

Wendell Berry replies, “We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it?”

He's right, and whether we are talking about personal or collective choices about how to live, we need to take care not to discourage or paralyze ourselves by worrying about whether or not the action we are called to take will be big enough or fast enough.

We all need encouragement. We are small and brief and highly bio-degradable, and the world is large and on many fronts, in need of tending. But we are also resilient, connected and contributing every day to shaping the world by our choices about how to be here. 

When I become overwhelmed- whether by news of another species being endangered or with concern for someone I love going through a challenging time- I remember and focus on these words from Arthur Ashe that have become a guide for focusing on life instead of wasting precious energy on attachment to results we cannot foresee: 

Start where you are. 
Use what you have. Do what you can. 

We need both practical solutions and poetry, strategies for living in balance and stories that sustain the heart and soul. There are infinite ways to contribute to how the world unfolds. 

This year- 2014- adds up to a seven. In the shamanic tradition in which I work seven is the number of the Dream- the Collective Dream and the Sacred Dream of each individual. May we each ask for, find, and have the courage to do what Life asks of us this year. May we encourage each other.

Oriah House (c) 2014  (Today's blog is an excerpt from the January 2014 newsletter   
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  1. Thanks for this wise encouragement.

    I came across this quote right before turning to your page:

    "As for the future, your task is not to foresee it, but to enable it." --Antoine de Saint-Exupery


  2. I thought of a recent piece by Massey-laureate Wade Davis, in which he says “Pessimism is an indulgence, despair an insult to the imagination.” Yes, there are bad things in the word, but they are the exception, not the rule. Bill Gates’ annual letter focuses this year on the reasons for optimism about our world, which are deep and profound. ( Perhaps people choose to see it as hopeless because it gets them off the hook? If it’s all going to hell, why do I need to do anything?

    1. Peter, saw the piece by Wade Davis recently and enjoyed it- shal have a look at the Gates letter. You may be right about why people would choose to see it as hopeless, but I think for many it is not so much a choice or perspective but a genuine feeling of hopelessness that arises cultivated by what is reported and how it is reported. On my less-hopeful days I wonder if this is a deliberate cultivation of hopelessness by those who ha\e a Big stake in the status quo and an immobilized population.