Emotional Honesty

Emotional Honesty

Lately in meditation I have received the same message repeatedly….be emotionally honest. I’ve shrugged off the idea because who wants to hear it? I don’t even want to. But with the recent suicide of Anthony Bourdain I thought perhaps it’s exactly what people need to hear…so they wouldn’t feel alone in their pain.

For the past twelve years I have dedicated my life to documenting and sharing beauty…and destruction…of our beautiful planet. The Deepwater Horizon Disaster awakened me to get serious about the work and after a year spent documenting seven beaches along the Alabama coast I was an emotional wreck. I was angry and broken-hearted. I saw people turn away once the well was capped….and I thought that event would awaken humanity to rise up and be planetary stewards.

When people ‘went back to sleep’ I was so frustrated. So angry. Still brokenhearted.

In an effort to heal my brokenness, I attended a week-long intensive with Joanna Macy. She’s an eco-philosopher, Buddhist scholar and created a body of work called, The Work That Reconnects. I found, during that week of healing, a strong desire to document beauty. People don’t turn away from beauty…maybe that would help generate planetary stewardship.

I returned to North Carolina determined to continue the work in a bigger way….write more, create more books, take more photographs, travel to experience beauty and power of the planet and its wildlife. My energy went into opening my heart more, my mind more and listening deeper to Nature, the Ocean…to Life.

Good things have come of that but when people comment positively about the work and say, It’s so cool that the work supports you financially….well, I smile and say….It doesn’t.  Everything I have has gone into the work and I’ve made leaps of faith that would scare the strongest soul. I’ve never been ‘in’ the work to make money…but rather to give to the planet my heart, mind, talents. All of who I am and what I have is ear-marked for Mother Earth.

Living on the edge like this has allowed me to experience joy, wonder, gratitude, as well as fear and anxiety…society says, Play it safe, but my Path says, Leap.

Some might say I am reckless with financial resources because I don’t abide by the societal ‘rule’ of fear-based actions and penny-pinching until you die. I’m all-in. How could I hold back, selfishly guarding something that’s not really mine to begin with?

Over the past several months I’ve felt a strong desire to down-size and simplify my life to support my environmental educational/stewardship efforts. When I recently placed my home on the market I developed respiratory crud. As a person accustomed to being healthy and strong, the lengthy illness has tested my patience. Fears have arisen about health coinciding with fears about relocating with a dog and four cats and beginning work in an area that is calling to me….a new community, a new state…everything snowballed into a tangled ball of physical illness, emotional turmoil and spiritual distress.

Nobody promised the journey to wholeness would be easy, that the Path would demand anything less than my complete attention…not only to that which I am called to do but to my self as well. When we ignore the feelings they don’t go away. They build and get stronger.

Uncertainty about my health, home, move, environmental efforts grew. I needed something to help shift and open me.

Last week I joined an online book club with Joanna Macy and many others about her book, Active Hope. As I sat at my computer looking at faces looking back at me through computer screens… people that love and care for the planet….and listening to Joanna share, I felt such a sense of relief. I realized how very alone I have felt in this journey of dedicated work. Yes, there have been people in my life but I’ve never been truthful about the despair I feel for our planet. I keep it superficial because….maybe I felt a strong person makes a good leader. People aren’t always comfortable with emotions. I don’t think that anymore….I suspect powerful leaders are those who are emotionally honest and have the courage to share with others their experience of pain– that are willing to risk opening the heart to reveal truth. Anthony Bourdain’s suicide yesterday really spot-lighted that truth.

So here’s my emotional honesty….I feel despair about humanity’s destruction of our planet. The grief is so strong that I have ‘armored’ myself so I don’t feel grief….which cuts me off from the work and people willing to help. After documenting the oil spill I lost my ability to accept simple pleasures for a few years. My heart breaks every day when I see cruelty. I cannot pretend everything is okay in the world. And…I have a deep and abiding trust that Spirit is guiding me, even when I feel afraid. I am determined to heal whatever needs healing within myself to become whole…for with that wholeness comes the ability to channel more love and light into the world. I am passionately in love with this planet. She is my Beloved. Nothing comes before the work I feel called to do….nothing.

We are not alone. What would happen if we were collectively emotionally honest with each other? What if we didn’t hide our hearts but took the risk to open them?

A parting thought….Joanna said this the other night during our cyber meeting: “Let the strengths of that which we love pour through us as grace.” When we remember we have a dynamic relationship with that which calls us, we feel less alone. When we surrender and allow that strength to move through us we stay centered in our Higher Selves and let ego rest. Joanna also said, “Don’t be afraid of the suffering of your world.”

Let us not turn away from the suffering of our world or ourselves. May we listen with an open heart and mind and open ourselves to the strength of that which calls us.

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