They march the articles out across our newsfeeds: pictures of the Statue of Liberty submerged in water up to her chest, horrifying headlines reading "Are humans going extinct?", images of forests on fire.
When I'm in a certain emotional space around this topic, I'll sometimes walk outside and sit in the tall seeding grass, beside the conifers, willows, and aspen. I just sit there, feeling my body pulsing under me, the subtle river of sensations cascading through me, my attention hanging close to my breath, and to the movement of the brush around me. I feel suspended in time, this precious moment.
The teeming world around me feels alive, mysterious, other-worldly. It hits me that we used to see trees as people, that some cultures still do, and I feel why. I sense a subtle beingness in those trees, and then think about how old colleagues in the sciences would have had a coronary over that statement. I used to not be able to stay this still; the pain inside me was like a never-ending torrent overwhelming and drowning me. These days it's different. I settle more easily, these barely perceptible undercurrents of life around me more noticeable as I do.
I feel a quiet begging inside, too.
‘Please. Where do I belong in this? Is this what it will come to? After everything, is this how it unfolds? I'm scared, but I'll do it. What do you want me to do?’
I start to cry, my core heaving, noticing the sensations in my body as I feel a gentle insight (or a response?) that I don't need to do anything. I'm okay, sitting here, right now.
Ah, the sweet spot.
Every time I meet these feelings of desperation and fear, and yet still honor and witness the protest in me, the thrashing and chaotic thoughts, without losing contact with where I am, something magical happens:
My embodiment of the dying culture that got us here becomes palpable. Those thoughts and beliefs, and the pain that tends to be associated with them, pop out in my awareness and I can see our culture manifest in my body-mind. I don't fight any of it. I don't berate it for killing our world, countless people, our bodies and souls. I see it play out, and in the space of seeing it there's room for new life: I realize that I don't have to do anything to save this planet, or other people, or even myself. Nor do I have to do anything to be good or enough.
And then something even more beautiful happens effortlessly and naturally: I find that feeling my good enoughness - including my pain and struggling - transmutes into motivation to step out into this holy mess anyway. Because I'm grateful to be alive. Because I'm in love with this wild planet.