TW: Hey friends. This article right here does discuss feelings of despair and gloom, and what they may point to. Remember, always, if you are feeling really blue, get help, talk to someone, if necessary call the hotline 1-800-273-8255. Take good care of you, precious friend: there is only one person ever has been or ever will be just like you!
On May 3rd I had my 62nd birthday. It was a lovely day. The blossoms were out on the trees and Chameli: my beloved, adorable, exquisite, beautiful, wise, and sexy wife took me out for not just for breakfast, but for lunch as well. Then she took me shopping and bought me all kinds of goodies. I got very loving messages from both my sons… and gifts in the mail… and hundreds of birthday well wishes from long lost friends on social media.
After all this, it came as something of a surprise, with no apparent logical explanation, when a couple of days later I plunged into darkness and despair. I am no stranger to darkness. Mental illness runs rife in my family. Even without any brothers, sisters, or cousins, only one uncle and no aunts, there were several suicides among the very few relatives I had. Even the family members who did not commit suicide, talked about it a lot. When I became a young adult, I found myself plunged into these same moods of complete and utter hopelessness where the only attractive outcome seemed to be oblivion. It has been quite a while now since I have visited these places, so when the darkness came to visit a couple of days after my birthday I knew very well what it was. Hello darkness my old friend. But I was surprised to see its face after so long.
The beautiful thing about many decades of a sustained practice of sitting is that you develop the capacity to observe things without being completely overwhelmed by them. That is what happened this time. The darkness took over my mind and emotions, and any remaining flicker of optimism was snuffed out. However, at the same time, the awareness was constantly there: this is not real, it is just a mood, it will pass. I had to ask myself: Why am I having these feelings right now? My life is really good. I mean *really* good. I have a spectacularly loving marriage, which is like a honeymoon every day. I live in an incredibly beautiful house. We eat delicious healthy food every day. I live in a beautiful town. I have work that is extremely fulfilling to me. My children are thriving. I spend my days talking to extraordinarily brilliant people. With only good things going on in my life, I wondered what exactly could precipitate this darkness and despair.
A few weeks earlier I was shopping for groceries at our local food co-op. I saw my friend Kevin standing dejectedly next to the grapefruits. “What’s up,” I greeted him, “Are you okay?” Just earlier that day he had texted me saying he had to cancel the plans we had made for dinner that night. Kevin was feeling down because he had recently been given news that his mother had been diagnosed with ALS, a slow degenerative condition, which would, over a long period of time, lead to her total paralysis, including her capacity to speak. Kevin was distraught. He was making plans to go to Missouri to be with his mother as quickly as possible. Now please understand that Kevin’s mother was still in great health as we spoke among the fruits and vegetables, just the same as she has always been. She simply had a diagnosis, which meant that they predicted that her health would eventually deteriorate. Kevin was flooded with emotion, not because his mother was dying that day, but because of a prognosis. He was suddenly flooded with the desire to be with his mother: to relish his mother while she is still here, to appreciate her, to love her, and to give back to her.
When I remembered what happened to Kevin, I started to understand what was happening to me as well. That day, when the darkness set in, a report had been published by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, a United Nations Environmental Watchdog Agency. The report had taken two and a half years to compile and is the most extensive report to date on the health of the planet. The findings were unprecedented, drawing on more than 2,550 research studies. The report predicts that we will lose up to a million species of plant, mammal, insect, and fish life in the next 20 years. That is astounding. A million species lost in 20 years. If those species include the insects which pollinate our food, like bees for example, then we are also doomed.
The algorithm had not even pushed this report to the top of the list in Google News, it was in third or fourth place, after Trump’s endless petty squabbles with Democrats in Congress. We get used to seeing reports like this, but there are different dispositions we can bring to such news.
One is denial. Oh my god, this is so depressing, I hope it is not true, we think to ourselves as we get into the gas guzzling automobile to go to Costco and load up with endless consumable items wrapped in layers of plastic, that we will later throw away the same day. In that state of denial, the feeding frenzy continues unabashed.
Another disposition we can bring is outraged panic, an aim to throw out whoever in power, causing all this planetary destruction. We seek for other people to blame for the situation, then get angry and think if we could only depose them from positions of power, then everything will be okay.
A third disposition is grief. Grieving for your Mother. Grieving for Her. It is actually not such a bad thing, I have discovered. Just like Kevin on his way home to be with his mother in Missouri, grieving for the health of your mother allows you to appreciate her gifts even more. Grieving for the planet allows you to feel Her warm embrace. In the richness of everything She offers us, grieving for Her opens our hearts, and allows us to feel sorrow for all that has been done. It increases the possibility that we may care for Her more in the future, that we may become part of Her healing, rather than a part of Her rape and destruction.
Elana Meta is a name to bookmark and remember. She is one of the brightest, most alive, most passionate, and sanest human beings wandering the planet today. She has big bold things to say about all this, and you will be hearing a lot more from her very soon, as there is a kick-ass book in the making. She makes the important distinction about the different dimensions of the feminine.
- *her* is the way she refers to the feminine principle in all of us, while
- her refers to a physical woman, as opposed to a man.
- Her is how Elana talks about our mother, the earth.
- HER is the universal divine feminine principle: the feminine face of God.
If we open ourselves to all that has gone down, we grieve for Her in all of her dimensions. We grieve for what we have done to the soft feminine voice in all of us. As men, we grieve for the way we have each treated the women in our lives. We grieve for what we have done to Her, the planet. We also grieve for the way that the feminine principle, university, has been subjugated. The feminine face of God has been defaced, leaving only a white-bearded grumpy patriarch.
If you have been feeling sorrow for no reason, like me, it may not be personal at all. Like Kevin, you may be grieving for your mother, the great mother who gives us all life. And like Kevin, it may be time to come home to Her, to appreciate Her in all that she gives us while she is still alive.
Thank you Arjuna for your article and the connections you make.
When you shared about the different reactions one could have on mass extinction I immediately remembered an event I took part in just ten days ago. It’s called “12 characters in search of an apocalypse” and is a creative way to gather and spark conversation around this topic. I loved it. Maybe people in your audience like to gather as well and read and hear those different voices to open up conversation.
Best greetings Simone (Vienna, Austria)
thank you, dear Simone
Ok, but what is born also dies without exception. If we live in the Unborn all cares are resolved in the Unborn. Honestly, we’ll be just fine without anything that was born.
thanks Steven for this perspective
i am so with you! thank you for this article! grieving is the beginning of changing. it’s a long road, and as with ALS it is fatal. yet…
thank you for having shared this most tender moment. it’ll help us to be as brave and do the same.
your birthday may bring you a happy brillant most radical new year!
thank you dear friend
Thank you Beloved Arjuna! I have been grieving and feeling foreboding. I have used the practices of embracing instead of pushing away these dark feelings and thoughts. You taught me that. I am so grateful for you and your powerful loving messages.
thank you sweet Sherry
Thank you. These words you write capture an essence ….a presence …Her Love cries out to us all. My own being feeling into Her pain and my own being part and whole of Her. Upon reading this my heart expands more into my responsibilities to care for Her.
thank you so much, Mary
Thank you Arjuna, for this vulnerable and inspiring article. Something so comforting to me in my own grieving process to hear it named, to see it, to examine the root system.
thank you sweet friend
Dear Arjuna, I had a hunch the minute I saw your article title the “who” you were grieving was our mother planet. This sorrow is a constant backdrop of my days; I wish I were a Sierra Club lawyer, environmental crusader scientist, political influencer. But I’m just a drop in the human ocean who contributes as best I can to preserving and honoring “Her” and all the elements and creatures that us humans rapaciously exploit. Thank you for the thoughtful insights that resonate with some of us sentient beings. Happy Belated Birthday! Sangati
thank you. You voice and your actions all contribute. You may be just one drop, but if you as a drop align with her, and you encourage others, many drops become an aligned ocean
Thank you Arjuna
Would you like to write about the practical (and possibly uncomfortable) changes we need to make in order to better care for Mother Earth?
Specific things in daily life, what you do, and in general terms – for inspiration and a kick in the butt.
Grief is good, and what next?
sure. We also have podcast guests coming up who will talk about that
I have been having this exact scenario in my experience. It may not have taken over my mood and and all encompassing state of mind. But it’s occurred repeatedly that Giaia is crying out through animals and coincidences not to mention the weather. I’m also experiencing it as disgust. And then right over to anger because I want to blame a whole lot of “others”. Easily, almost too easily, identifiable. I have two more problems. One is that humans are made to find solutions so it’s impossible to surrender to the “inevitability”. Two is that it invites the “always right” gene in my mind. It’s definitely have an affect on my mental state. Meditation helps. Of course it’s making meditation all that much harder.
thanks for sharing this, John
Thank you, Arjuna, for speaking what has been my own experience – grieving the loss of SHE, of the Divine Feminine, and of the earth itself. My deepest despair arrived with the melting of snow, the happy news of remission, and the anniversary of my marriage 39 years ago to a spectacularly sensitive, deeply spiritual man. I was dumbfounded, and have struggled since with a lack of clarity about its origins. Your post has informed my own heart through yours, and I am truly grateful.
Thank you Kathryn for a beautiful response
Thanks for sharing this wonderful article. It opens me to my own grieving, tears, and healing. I loved the different expressions of “her.” May we all feel and heal together.
thank you, my brother….