Process Intro: The Mourning.

The mourning is an exercise which needs to be introduced well, because it must be clear that it is worthwhile and safe to move deeply into our feelings of grief or anger at what is happening to the Earth. The person who introduces this process should be very comfortable with others expressing their true feelings, and know deeply that no harm will come to people if they do this, and that it is a very healing process.

See the transcript of John’s introduction to the mourning for more details, but the key points to raise in the introduction are:
* History. The despair and empowerment work of Joanna Macy. Process was introduced by a participant.
* The nature of feelings and how our culture teaches us to deny and suppress our ‘bad’ feelings. Feelings are a type of intelligence, how we survived before our huge brain evolved. The fallacy that can feel good by pushing away ‘bad’ feelings. Feelings are like a wave, all we can choose is the amplitude. Takes energy to keep the bad feelings at bay – creating depression, disempowerment, apathy.
* In an emotionally safe, loving and healing atmosphere, we are free to feel and express our negative feelings about what’s happening to the Earth. Freed from the fear of our bad feelings, we have more energy. We get in touch with a valid source of information about the state of the world. We can be motivated by our feelings (feelings rather then thoughts are what motivate us).
*Thich Naht Hahn: “The most important thing we can do is to hear inside ourselves the sounds of the Earth crying.”
*Instructions. Find an object to represent something that is being lost from our lives, something that you can genuinely mourn. Bring the object to the center of the circle, in no special order, just when you feel moved. Those of us on the outside will support the person in the middle. It is not a competition, not about being dramatic, etc. This is a time to genuinely grieve what is happening to the Earth.

Sometimes, participants bring hope into the mourning circle. If this happens, we may intervene to ensure that participants understand that this particular circle is a place to give permission to ourselves and others to express our deepest darkest feelings. Bringing words of hope and comfort and a more positive perspective can often prevent others in the circle from expressing their ‘bad’ feelings because they (like in our normal lives) feel expected to repress any negative feelings and look on the bright side, not give in to negativity etc. Maybe the introduction to the mourning, could explain that if people (consciously or unconsciously) try to ‘make things better’, the facilitator will interrupt and remind people that this is a circle for expressing negative feelings.

If the feelings of hope are expressed towards the end of the mourning, they might simply assist the process’s movement up from the depths towards ‘normal reality’. In a full-length workshop, the mourning can last for a longer time and can spiral ‘downwards’ to a very deep and healing place, so it is worthwhile encouraging the depth. (It is important not to invalidate people’s very real and worthy positive feelings, but just to explain that it is not appropriate to express those feelings here.)

Another process point to watch for is if the ‘sharings’ (independent sharings from the heart) turn into a ‘discussion’ (where people are commenting on others’ sharings and move towards a mind-level debate). These sorts of discussions are well worth having, but are probably better after the sacred safe space of the mourning circle.


In the longer workshop-form, this is a good place to have lunch, but encourage people to not over-eat, and to watch whether they use food and/or conversation to push-down any of the bad feelings which are left over from the mourning.

After lunch, have a sharing circle where people express anything about how they’re feeling. This is a good place to encourage people to say anything which didn’t fit into the instructions of the mourning exercise. This sharing circle helps people to process any ‘left-over’ feelings. After this sharing circle, if anyone has any other processes they wish to include (especially something physical), this is a good time. The Evolutionary Journey (see ‘Thinking Like a Mountain’ for instructions) is often included here or the Cosmic Walk..