Workbook for Change: Questions and Practice for Learning from the Past

(See here and here for an explanation, below the exercise for guidelines on doing this yourselves.)

Q: Have you already given up an activity, a system or an institution—or actively tried to destroy it—that benefited you, because of how much it hurts other people?

What was it?

What did you lose by giving it up or breaking it down?

What else happened because of this choice?

Is it a choice you have to make over and over?

What did it feel like the first time you made it?

How has that feeling changed?

When will you have to make that choice again?

Or, if you haven’t made it yet, when do think your next chance to choose will be?

*

PRACTICE: This one may vary depending on people’s answers to the above question

If you aren’t yet: Choose something you’re involved in, and that you and other people are harmed by, that you would like to explore giving up, tearing down or letting go. Learn more about its history and about the history of people fighting it. Learn about each other’s, with people in the group, or choose one together. If possible, learn about it with other people who are involved in it as well—if it’s your career, for example, this might mean inviting people at your workplace to learn this history with you, in addition to (or instead of) learning with the people you usually practice 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.
IMAGE: Three or four baby wild turkeys pecking for food in short grass, in a mix of sunlight and shade. It often seems like turkeys couldn’t possibly learn all that well, but every year, more turkeys are born.

Thank you to the Assembly of Light Choir for testing these questions out with me.

Workbook for Change: Questions and Practice for Making a Place for Grief

(See here and here for an explanation, below the exercise for guidelines on doing this yourselves.)

Q: What is a loss you’ve lived through that you can talk about?

What is a loss you know you could live through if it happened?

What power, knowledge, or freedom has your grief given you?

How can the grieving and the not-yet-grieving hear each other?

PRACTICE: Stand facing each other. Thinking of losses you have felt or fear or are enraged by, someone will start by making a quiet wail or moan, and others will join in. Add your voices, listening and matching the sounds, tones and loudness, making these more intense when it feels right to do so, until you are all as loud, wild and mournful as you can be. Someone can then start bringing the tone and loudness down, until everyone is quiet again. You can do this once or multiple times.

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.

IMAGE: A flat expanse of sand where saltgrasses used to grow, but nothing is growing right now, with strips of vegetation and water in the distance.

Thank you to Janice and to the various crews of We Gather and Interdependence Days for trying out parts of this exercise with me.

Workbook for Change: Questions and Practice for Re-Entering Your Surroundings

(See here and here for an explanation, below the exercise for guidelines on doing this yourselves.)

Q: What reminds you of the truth that you are part of nature?

What distract you from it or leads you to forget it?

What is the cost of forgetting it?

What is the cost of remembering it?

PRACTICE: Stand (if you are able) or sit, recline, etc. with others and close your eyes.

Feel gravity and envision the earth holding you to itself.

Feel your heartbeat and envision water flowing through you.

Feel your breathing and envision air holding you up and outward.

Open your eyes and look at the people you are 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.
IMAGE: Black trumpet fungus growing near moss, twigs, dead leaves and other small plants.

Thank you to the Assembly of Light Choir for testing this exercise out with me, and Monster Trux for trying it out on their own.

Workbook for Change: Questions and Practice for Thinking Ahead

(See here and here for an explanation, below for guidelines on doing this yourselves.)

QUESTIONS AND PRACTICE FOR THINKING AHEAD

QUESTIONS:

Where do you see yourself in five years?

What parts of your life does your answer include?

What parts does it leave out?

What do you see when you turn your attention to those parts?

Who taught you to see the future?

Whose stories about the future have you been listening to?

What would you hear if those stories were silent?

*

PRACTICE: Take turns choosing one element of the future you’ve imagined for yourself, and write a “budget” for it—everything that would have to come toward you in money, and also time, the effort or work of others, air and food and water, everything that you don’t control that would have to stay true or become true—and the effects that it will have on you and on the world around you. Which costs of this future will you pay? Which will be outsourced to others?

The goal of this practice is to do all of the math around your dream or vision—not just the part that touches you directly. The people whose turn it isn’t should suggest things to take into account, speaking without judgment.

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.
IMAGE: A grapevine seen from below, with vines, leaves, sunlight coming through, and grapes just starting.

Thank you to Monster Trux for testing this exercise out and telling me how it went.

Workbook for Change: How I’m Weaving It

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.

IMAGE: Close-up of chickpeas cooked with tomatoes and spices, which is what I cook whenever I want to feed a large group of people.

Drafting a Workbook for Change

Normally at this time of year, I’d be repainting the booth and setting up the season’s first Climate Anxiety Counseling shifts. COVID-19 makes it unsafe to talk to multiple people face to face at close range, so I won’t be rolling out the booth this season.But our climate anxieties haven’t gone away and the systems that drive climate change and distribute its effects unequally–environmental racism, extraction, capitalism, colonization–are also worsening, and distributing unequally, the effects of COVID-19. It is a good time, I think, to adapt our minds, feelings & relationships to the kind of action that climate change and other, related crises require of us, and I’ve started developing a workbook of ways to do that.

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.

Over the next few days, I’ll be posting exercises that have already been tested–either by me with a group of people I’m part of, or by a group of people that doesn’t include me–as well as some explanation of how I’m putting them together and some guidelines for trying them out yourself. If you’re interested in trying an exercise with a group you’re already part of, write to me at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, or comment here with your interest, your questions, and a way to get in touch with you. I will be grateful for your help in making this workbook more usable and useful.

IMAGE: Photo of flat land with water, grass and a few trees. A white woman with glasses and long dark hair is standing in the foreground on cracked, dry mud, taking notes on a piece of paper. Photo is by Dezaraye Bagalayos.

The Southside is not a dump! Two chances to say so are coming up

South Providence and Washington Park residents are asking people to join them this Friday, March 13, 3-5pm, at the corner of Allens and Thurbers Avenues, to declare our opposition to a dump that will heavily increase truck traffic, toxic dust and greenhouse gas emissions.

NO TRANSFER STATION! This is our HOME, NOT A SACRIFICE ZONE

Meanwhile, the company that wants to build this garbage depot has asked Providence City Plan Commission for another 60-day extension on their application. The Commission will decide whether to grant this request on March 17, 4:45pm, at 444 Westminster St in downtown Providence. Come to the 1st floor meeting room that day to show them that we’re paying attention and need our voices heard.

TODAY: Testify against a RI bill that’s calculated to make police and facist violence more dangerous

CW: Police/state and fascist violence

If you’re able, please come to the RI state house today (starting at 4:30) and testify against Rep. Corvese’s bill that would make protections like masks/face coverings, knee pads–knee pads!–and gas masks illegal for protestors, putting them at risk of a year in prison or a $1000 fine if they use these protections, and at risk of increased harm from both fascist militias and police if they don’t.

Steve Ahlquist has written more about the bill and its effects if it becomes law. He writes powerfully about fascists’ methods of targeting and threatening people online as well as in person if they can see their faces, in order to frighten people into accepting fascist violence–especially people who our government also often fails to serve, or actively targets for violence, in other ways.

If you are someone who for whatever reason can’t attend protests (rallies, demonstrations, marches) but recognize the work they do to bring the wrongdoing of power to light and to resist structural violence, you can help support them in that work by testifying today.

Please come to the RI State House today (Tuesday 3/10) at 4:30 pm to testify against H7543.

Stop Poisoning the Southside: Doorknocking 2/29

Another polluting business wants to operate on the Southside. On 2/29, 12-3pm, meeting outside the Washington Park Library, you can doorknock with No LNG in PVD to let people in the neighborhood know what’s going on and what they can do about it. Spanish and English speakers needed! RSVP-ing would be good: use the Facebook event to sign up or email me at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, with questions.

WHAT IS IT THIS TIME?
Truck exhaust and toxic dust in the air, and garbage juice in the water, from a new scrapyard company that is trying to build on Allens Avenue—unless we stop them.

TRUCK EXHAUST?
188 or more trucks–probably diesel trucks—would go to and from the scrapyard every day, on and off the highway. When they can’t unload right away, they will circle the Allens Avenue area, pumping even more toxic exhaust into the air that we and our kids breathe.

TOXIC DUST?
Digging to build the scrapyard will stir up over a hundred years of polluted dirt, containing lead, arsenic and other dangerous chemicals. The construction garbage that the scrapyard wants to process is also full of materials that it’s dangerous to breathe.

GARBAGE JUICE?

Leachate is garbage juice—liquid that comes out of the things that people throw away, including machines and moldy things, and collects in the trucks. Leachate can sink into the soil and get into the water, and the company has even said they’re going to spray more of it to keep the dust down!

WHAT CAN WE DO?

Tell your friends, family and co-workers about it, especially if they live in the neighborhood.

Doorknock with No LNG in PVD on 2/29!

Attend the City Planning hearing on March 17th at 4:45pm at 444 Westminster St, Providence (the big brick building at the corner of Westminster and Empire, downtown).

A construction and debris demolition operation has been proposed for this nearly 4-acre site between I-95 and Allens Avenue in Providence. (Google Earth)

Resilience Celebration and Climate Justice Report for Providence

Today, join Providence’s Racial and Environmental Justice Committee in celebrating our city’s resilience and sharing the Climate Justice Report for Providence. Providence residents have worked with the REJC and the city’s Office of Sustainability to put together a plan that doesn’t treat any place like a sacrifice zone, or anyone as disposable, but makes the well-being of our city’s people a priority.

If you have questions about what the plan will mean for you, your family or your neighborhood, or how you can participate in carrying it out, this is a great place to ask them! If you don’t know the people of your city that well, this is a great place to meet them.

12-3pm, Davey Lopes Recreation Complex (227 Dudley St), Providence. Spanish-English interpretation will be available, as will food for the first 100 people. I’ll be there with the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth.

There’ll be music (live and DJed) and stuff for kids too. Please join us.

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