I’m weaving insights from conversations with many wise and brave people, at the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth and elsewhere, into a workbook for change: exercises to adapt our minds, feelings & relationships to the kind of action that climate change and other, related crises require of us. I’m looking for existing groups of people to try out these exercises so that I know whether and how they work for people; over the next few days, I’ll post a few that people have already tested and given me feedback on.
What’s below is an outline of the methods and I’m using to put the workbook together, and guidelines for doing the exercises (which will also appear whenever I post one). Please comment with any questions that aren’t answered here.
THE WHAT AND THE HOW
The questions and practices in this workbook are to help us imagine and practice living in, with, and through the changes that climate change is bringing to our lives, and to become who we need to be to meet them together. The questions are to expand our sense of what’s happening, how we’re reacting, and what’s possible. The practices are to—well, practice—thinking, feeling and acting in ways that may benefit us differently than the ways we’re used to.
You will want to ask and answer these questions, and do these practices, with people you already have some trust with: some of the questions are harder to answer than others, different ones will be hard for different people, and not every question and practice may work well for every group. It may also be better if they’re people you already meet with regularly for another reason, so that you can use the ways of organizing yourselves and looking out for each other that you already have. But if that’s not possible, using these as a reason to start meeting together is okay too.
The guidelines that follow are to help you set yourselves up to do these things together. Trying them out will help me revise them to be better for more people, to make them more widely available, and eventually to include them as part of a longer book on living in climate change. All of the sections will eventually have more in them!
Some of the practices, especially, are based on exercises developed by others; where that’s true, you will see those people’s or organizations’ names along with the name of the question set and practice. I am seeking their consent to include it in the published version. A list of ways to learn more about those people and organizations will be at the end of the workbook eventually. I’m working with an accessibility consultant to make sure that there will be multiple exercises that are doable for many people with various disabilities, but that process is not complete and what makes an exercise doable for some may make it impossible for others. I will also work with translators to make the exercises available in that respect.
While everyone’s reactions are different, some of these questions and practices are more likely to bring up painful emotions or memories, or to be difficult to carry out. The ones marked “yellow” are likely to be easier; the ones marked “red” are likely to require more vulnerability and strength.
You may find that the guidelines below are not the best for you—culture, context, experience, group size, group purpose and more might mean that you need to change them to be useful—but this will give you something to get started with.
GOOD TO DO
- Choose the questions and/or practices you want to do at least a few days before getting together to do them. This means that people have time to feel their way into them and no one is surprised. The reasons for doing them—outlined above—should also be really clear before you do them.
- If it’s a short gathering or if you have other things to work on, limit it to one question set or one practice.
- Whatever ways you have of looking out for each other while you’re together also apply here. If you don’t have ways of doing that on purpose, developing them before you begin would be a good idea.
- Have snacks around during the practice, and share a meal at the end. Do this even if you’re doing it remotely and can’t literally hand each other food.
- Remind each other that it’s okay to do the questions or practices in a way that makes sense for you, which might mean changing them a little.
- Every so often, offer or take the option to say how you’re feeling in your body, without needing to explain why.
- Take both formal/guided breaks where you move, breathe, or otherwise remind yourselves and each other that you live in your bodies on earth, and regular breaks where people can walk around, go pee, have a cigarette, whatever.
- Remember that people’s different histories may make these questions and practices difficult for them in different ways and amounts. Choosing a story to share, thinking in a different way, remembering and feeling can all be stressful. Be patient with yourself and others.
- Try to keep your attention in the room you’re in and with the people you’re with. People may go “in and out” a little bit in their attention if what you’re doing is stressful for them, and that is okay.
- Wind down at the end by asking people to say something about what they want to leave behind and something they want to carry with them, or something similar to help people return to their day or night.
HOW A SESSION MIGHT GO
- Choose a question set and or exercise to do together next time, maybe one that’s in line with your usual reason for getting together, maybe not.
- The next time you meet, do what you usually do to begin your time together.
- If necessary, remind each other of the things that are “GOOD TO DO” above, especially if this is an addition to what you usually do when you get together.
- Ask and answer the questions or do the practice together.
- Do whatever else you were planning to do as part of your gathering. If you’re going to include questions or practices in your next gathering, choose the ones you want to do. End the gathering as you usually do.
As we practice acting with care and courage, we get better at it. That is what these exercises are intended to help us do.