What to do When You Live In Despair

“I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I’ve been circling for thousands of years
and I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?”

Book of Hours, I 2 by Rainer Maria Rilke
Translation by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows

What do you do when the world goes crazier than ever? When the leaders who should be paying attention to the science and their own souls screaming for the Earth’s ecosystems health and the people’s suffering turn away from both and embrace even more “business as usual” in spite all evidence and danger ahead?

What do you do when the reports on wars, famines and social collapse emerge from all corners of the world and you know the cause is a combination of climate change, social inequality and greed and could have been solved so easily if people really wanted (all people, not only a few)? When injustices and challenges grow exponentially for every sector in society, hitting the vulnerable the most?

When no matter your efforts they seem infinitesimally small compared with the magnitude of sleep-walking individuals and the amorality of big corporations, the unapologetic greed and abuse of trade agreements and the aloofness of governments?

I turned inward and got sick, both physically and spiritually. I turned to my small family and focused on my work and my caring colleagues…and to poetry and books, to courses that healed and quests that will challenge my soul for good…

I also focused on what I do well: my work as a career counsellor at a non-profit, even when I know in my heart I am not fighting the system but keeping business as usual running as I help individuals to find jobs and settle in Canada, a struggle that runs through my veins as I know all the work needed at other levels and in other sectors.

But by staying here (in mainstream) I have found my call: it is not to be one more permaculturist healing the land and growing crops off the grid. While that is attractive and needed, there is work needed at other levels too: like the work I want to do helping youth and those wanting an “encore career” to go into social entrepreneurship and help healing and building resilience where is most needed: inside big cities, among common people.

Well, the Gig Economy presentation is now done and I’ve been invited to present on this topic again at the Career Education Society conference in November, so that topic is going to put on hold for a while and over the growing season as I switch my hat from career counsellor/life coach to food sovereignty/community resilience facilitator. My dedication to this topic (the Gig Economy) was born by my concerns about the emerging pattern of employers cutting on benefits and re-hiring employees as sub-contractors to avoid the responsibility and liability for accidents, safety, training and so on. This trend also shows the emergence of more contract, on call and part-time work, putting stress on skills update and creating competition among workers.

What I will be doing is publishing a series of articles, posts and ideas to how to deal with this creatively and instead of fighting a monster, making it our friend: what if we can utilize this Gig Economy to heal communities, build community and personal resilience around priorities, time and needs management and instead of competition we bring co-operation through co-ops and small local businesses that support what’s really needed and hire locally?

My next steps: apart from staying at my current job, I am working hard on my own “Gigs” from Life Coaching for Transformation and Food Sovereignty.

For those following this blog in BC, here is a list of my upcoming activities/workshops:

April 28-May 14: I will be co-teaching with other five amazing teacher assistants and under the guidance and leadership of Starhawk (yes, the well-known author of books like the Spiral Dance, Dreaming the Dark, The Earth Path, the Fifth Sacred Thing and City of Refuge, among others), permaculturist and activist.  Where? At my beloved O.U.R. Ecovillage!  For those of you who can make it, I promise this to be a life-changing training on Permaculture Design and Earth Activist training…

The weeks after I come back, I’ll be teaching Food Skills for Families at various location in Surrey, a program from Diabetes Canada targeting vulnerable communities, including immigrants, aboriginals, seniors and people with low income. This program is funded by the Surrey/White Rock Food Action Coalition (whose website I manage)

On June 10 and 17 I will be running two workshops at UBC-Farm:

June 10: The Art of Fermentation: http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/events/workshop-saeurkraut-and-the-art-of-fermented-foods/

June 17: Gardening in Small Spaces: (using permaculture principles)  http://ubcfarm.ubc.ca/events/workshop-gardening-in-small-spaces/

I am still accepting clients through my social enterprise Ethical Pathways where I offer life and career coaching to those stuck in mainstream and trying to transition into a more sustainable and ethical lifestyle, career and livelihood.

Groups of communities interested in having me to prepare and deliver workshops or presentations in topics ranging from career/life coaching, individual, family and community resilience or food sovereignty, please contact me for a quote and details on logistics, content, etc. I have special fees for non-profits and grassroots or community groups and individuals doing amazing things (or wanting to do amazing things!)

Even if you don’t need the services yourself, please share the services above with those who may need them.

I have three websites, three blogs and I have been thinking hard on whether to keep them all as a differentiated part of me offering different gigs and aspects of what I do or to marge them all into one with different sections…but for now that is not a priority as it takes time I may be doing something else, so bear with me if I post a few things on each and all of them (some of you follow me in all of them)

The best antidote to despair is action“, said someone I can’t recall now…for me, it is also taking time to reflect in the bigger picture, remember where we come from and what we are made of.

Three things bring me closer to the above: nature, poetry and reading about the work of amazing people like Joanna Macy.

I recommend this free online course for those who also rely on something bigger than us for strength and healing: https://www.coursera.org/specializations/journey-of-the-universe

Or reading and listening to poetry from here: https://onbeing.org/blog/widening-circles/

For inspiring books: Joanna Macy’s Widening Circles: A Memoir: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/536523.Widening_Circles

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