Facing the Climate Crisis with Open Hearts and Resilient Spirits

The Rev. Rob Hardies co-facilitated Nature|Spirit|Art with Dr. Joshua Shannon, Professor of Contemporary Art History at the University of Maryland. Rob is a Unitarian Universalist preacher, teacher and activist. From 2001 to 2020 he was senior minister of All Souls Church in Washington.

My heart is moved by all I cannot save: so much has been destroyed. I have to cast my lot with those who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.

I returned often to these words by the poet Adrienne Rich during the recent Phillips workshop, Nature|Spirit|Art: Personal Resilience in the time of Climate Change. In the workshop, we used meditation, small group discussion, and creating and looking at art to explore practices that can keep us resilient and engaged as we face the climate crisis.

Workshop participants reflect on their experiences during the last session of Nature|Spirit|Art

Rich’s words touch on two such practices: acknowledging and grieving our climate loss, and committing to collective climate action. As Rich suggests, these practices are not unrelated: When we acknowledge and tend to it, our grief can lead us into compassionate connection with the Earth and with others, creating bonds of solidarity and common cause for action. At the Phillips, we considered the link between grief and collective action by studying and contemplating Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series.

Grief, of course, is the flip-side of love. Our climate grief points us back to our love and gratitude for life on Earth. Finding ways to stay connected to our gratitude is another critical resilience practice. A highlight of the workshop for me was when we took a slow, meditative walk through the Phillips’ neighborhood. A storm had just passed through and everything glistened with fallen rain; the air was alive with that post-storm freshness. Some passers-by found my slow pace and curious gaze puzzling, but the walk helped me see with grateful new eyes a neighborhood I’ve called home for more than twenty years.

Workshop participant Joe’s self-portrait, taken during a rainy walk and inspired by Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Self-Portrait as a Tree, 2000

In the end, open-heartedness emerged for me as the overarching theme of our workshop. The enormity of the climate crisis threatens to isolate and paralyze us. But if we keep our hearts open to our grief, love, and gratitude, then we can remain resilient and engaged as we struggle on behalf of life on Earth.

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