“What is it that you are carrying as a gift for your people?”

I have heard this question three times now, asked of me upon return from sacred wilderness journeys into the heart of Mystery. It is said to be the most important question of all that is asked of us.

And each time I have returned from that encounter with (im)mortality, I have been examined closely for hints or clues that I mustered the courage and vulnerability to allow such a revelation to be made. Is she sincere? Or is she just playing around? Does she still think the whole world is only about her private joys and sorrows?

“Who is returning?” they ask.

They want to know. They all want to know. The guides leading my wilderness quest for visionary experience become a mouthpiece for the cosmos: WHO IS RETURNING? What of me has changed or deepened, after taking pains to place myself in plain sight of Mystery, and cry out for help…? They all want to know what became of wailing from the depths of my being, from the edges of my knowing, honesty demanding that I admit: I DON’T KNOW WHAT I AM SUPPOSED TO BE DOING HERE.

While my people need help.

And I don’t know how to help my people.

And we are lost. We are so lost.

“What were you surprised by?” they continue.

Sometimes, this wily community of Earth beings tries to trip me up. This particular question wraps immense arms around my life in the late 20th and early 21st century of the so-called Common Era. The “Common Era” can sound a little off-key to the observer who notices the rising tides of “we’ve never seen this before!” in our most uncommon era of historically unprecedented change.

For example, a November 2013 report from the (conservative) International Energy Agency predicts a 3.5°C increase in the global baseline temperature by 2035. [i] Somewhere else we may find the opinion that human extinction will occur at 3.5 to 4.0°C above baseline temperature, and a certainty that human life has never existed on a planet that has been so hot.[ii] The entire web of human life support will surely unravel in such conditions, they assert …20 years from now???

What could be my gift to 2016 in relation to so ominous a 2035?

North SF Bay oil refinery by Joshua Halpern

image by Joshua Halpern ecocourageous.com

“What still lies in the Mystery?” they ask.

Waves of anxiety churn through my body, recoiling against hot steel bands that tighten around my chest and send a geyser boiling into my mind, racing at full speed.

Four drops of Bach Rescue Remedy flower essence
30 minutes of yoga asana
Quickly followed by 30 minutes of meditation (performed as slowly as possible)
Sealed with the dedication of any accumulated merit to the benefit of all beings, everywhere in the entire universe.

Yield: An ounce more steadiness. An ounce more presence.

My nervous system calmed, the spacious present moment transforms the cool, detached report of “near-term human extinction” from an intrusive shard splintering my consciousness into a wonderful blessing: the blessing of surrendering to grief. It’s wonderful not because it feels good, but because surrendering to grief and letting it destroy my illusions makes me stronger, more grounded, more steady. This strength is NOT to be confused with feelings of competence or control, as grief makes it clear that “control” isn’t really on the menu.

Perhaps the harder thing to face is that no one really knows what will happen with a 3.5°C increase or in 2035.

Am I only a human vessel of grief, that dread harbinger of change, that sinister sibling of gratitude?

“What is it that you are carrying as a gift for your people?”

It is in my utter helplessness, that I find strength.

As so often I have been shown on my journeys into the wilderness of Soul, I am not the master of this planet or the creatures in it. I do not have the power to determine how things will turn out. The grieving it requires to understand this helps to uncoil the hot steel bands from my around my chest, releasing the impossible tension wrought by illusory mastery and control, and loosing the flow of life energy. I am freed to live, to be more present, to continue to face new layers of my helplessness, which reveals what my actual, true agency is. I can have an effect, but only through the quality of my belonging to the much, much greater whole.

“What is the first action you will undertake to begin the incorporation of the vision or insights you have received?” they finally ask, mildly satisfied that I am sincere about my questing.

I choose to turn toward the suffering, rather than away from it, caring for my well-being as foundational to my capacity to tend to the well-being of all others to whom I owe my service in the creation of life-affirming culture in an era of destruction. To this path of grief and gratitude I am called. And I hope to meet you there.

[i] Viz. pp. 23-4 of the Executive Summary of the World Energy Outlook 2013 published by the IEA. Though I am baffled that “long-term” is considered to be a span of 20 to 22 years. For industrialized humans to think of a mere two decades as long-term seems a little out of touch, especially in light of the proposal to name an entire geological epoch – a designation which typically spans 3 million years – after the human being, the somewhat contested appellation “Anthropocene.”

[ii] What These Climate Scientists Said About Earth’s Future Will Terrify You