Julyan Davey
Supporting the emergence of life affirming, transformative cultures.

Active Hope by Joanna Macy

Active Hope by Joanna Macy

Date Read: 03/06/19

My rating: 8/10

(See my list of other books I've read)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

How should we respond to the possibility that humanity faces imminent collapse due to the climate and ecological crisis? Joanna Macy provides a framing to collapse to help avoid either denial or acceptance. To help us live with the uncertainty we face and contribute to a better world.


Active Hope

What is active hope?

Whatever situation we face, we can choose our response.

Active Hope is a practice. Like tai chi or gardening, it is something we do rather than have.

  1. First we take a clear view of reality.
  2. Second we identify what we hope for in terms of the direction we’d like things to move in or the values we’d like to see expressed.
  3. Third we take steps to move ourselves or our situation in that direction.

Three Stories of Our Time

Business as Usual: there is little need to change the way we live. Economic growth is regarded as essential for prosperity, and the central plot is about getting ahead.

The Great Unravelling: draws attention to the disasters that Business as Usual is takin us toward. The collapse of ecological and social systems, the disturbance of climate, the depletion of resources and the mass extinction of species.

The Great Turning: emergence of new and creative human responses, it is about the epochal transition from an industrial society committed to economic growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world.

Four stages of the Work That Reconnects:

  1. Coming from Gratitude
  2. Honouring our Pain for the World
  3. Seeing with New Eyes
  4. Going Forth

Part One: The Great Turning

Chapter 1: Three Stories of Our Time

Core assumptions of Business as Usual:

  • Economic Growth is essential for prosperity
  • Nature is a commodity to be used for human purposes
  • Promoting consumption is good for the economy
  • The central plot is about getting ahead
  • The problems of other peoples, nations, and species are not our concern.

The great unravelling:

  • Economic decline
  • Resource depletion
  • Climate change
  • Social division and war
  • Mass extinction of species

The Great Turning:

  • a commitment to act for the sake of life on Earth as well as the vision, courage and solidarity to do so.
  • Paul Hawken (Blessed Unrest): over one and maybe even two million organisations working towards ecological sustainability and social justice.

Three dimensions of the Great Turning:

  1. Holding Actions: aim to hold back and slow down the damage being cause by the political economy of business as usual. The goal is to protect what is left of our natural life-support systems.
  2. Life-Sustaining Systems and Practices: rethinking the ways we do things, as well as creatively redefining of the structures and systems that make up our society.
  3. Shift in Consciousness: our wellspring of caring compassion can be nurtured and developed. We can deepen our sense of belonging in the world.

Chapter 2: Trusting the Spiral

Two threads that help us stand tall and not shrink away from the immensity of what’s happening to our world.

  1. Think of the Great Turning as an adventure story.

Heroes almost always start out seeming distinctly underpowered. Then we just follow the thread of the adventure, developing capacities along the way and discovering hidden strengths that only reveal themselves when needed.

  1. The Thread of the Spiral of the Work that Reconnects

When we come from gratitude we become more present to the wonder of being alive in this amazing living world, to the many gifts we receive, to the beauty we appreciate.

Coming from gratitude helps build a context of trust and psychological buoyancy that supports us to face difficult realities in the second phase.

The term honouring implies a respectful welcoming, where we recognise the value of something.

Seeing with new eyes reveals the wider web of resources available to us through our rootedness within a deeper, ecological self.

Going forth involves clarifying our vision of how we can act for the healing of our world, identifying practical steps that move our vision forward.

Chapter 3: Coming from Gratitude

Experiencing gratitude is a learnable skill that improves with practice. It isn’t dependent on things going well or on receiving favours from others. It’s about getting better at spotting what’s already there.

Try this:

Scan your recent memories and identify something that’s happened in the last twenty four hours that you’re pleased about.

Close your eyes and imagine you are experiencing that moment again. Notice colours, tastes, sounds, smells and the sensations in your body.

Who or what helped this moment to happen? If so think of them and imagine expressing your thanks.

Gratitude builds trust and generosity

Our readiness to help others is influenced by the level of gratitude we experience.

Gratitude as an antidote to consumerism.

Affluenza is a term used to describe the emotional distress that arises from a preoccupation with possessions and appearance.

Gratitude is about delighting in and feeling satisfied with what you’re already experiencing.

Try this: (finish the sentences)

Some things I love about being alive….

on Earth are:

A place that was magical to me as a child was….

My favourite activities include….

Someone who helped me believe in myself is or was…

Some things I appreciate about myself are…

Gratitude motivates us to act for our world

Our well-being depends on our natural world and gratitude keeps us to our purpose of taking care of life. When we forget this, the larger ecology we depend on gets lost from our sight and the world unravels.

The core tent of Gaia theory is that our planet is a self-regulating system. Living systems have the capacity to keep themselves in balance. Gaia theory shows how life looks after itself, different species acting together to maintain the balance of nature.

Try this:

Next time you see a tree or a plant, take a moment to express thanks. With each breath you take in, experience gratitude for the oxygen would simply not be there save for the magnificent work plants have done in transforming our atmosphere.

Chapter 4: Honouring our Pain for the World

The blocked response.

A key survival mechanism in our response to danger is the activation of alarm.

But often we are blocked from responding to the dancer. Often we experience an inner tension between the impulse to do something and the resistance to it.

Here are some examples of resistance.

  1. I don’t believe it’s that dangerous.
  2. It isn’t my role to sort this out.
  3. I don’t want to stand out from the crowd.
  4. The information threatens my commercial or political interests.
  5. It is so upsetting that I prefer not to think about it.
  6. I feel paralysed. I’m aware of the danger, but I don’t know what to do.
  7. There’s no point in doing anything, since it won’t make any difference.

Pain for the world is normal, healthy and widespread

When people are able to tell the truth about what they know, see, and feel is happening to their world, a transformation occurs. There is an increased determination to act and a renewed appetite for life.

Try this: Open sentences on concern

Active listening.

  1. When I think about the condition of our world, I would say things are getting..
  2. Some concerns I have include…
  3. Some feelings that come up when I think about these are…
  4. What I do with these feelings is…

When we allow feelings to move through us, we are less likely to get stuck in them.

When we experience pain for the world, the world is feeling through us.

Try This: Breathing Through

Open your awareness to the suffering in the world. Now breathe in the pain like granules of sand on the stream of air, up through your nose, down through your trachea, lungs and heart, and out again into the world.

“What we most need to do, he replied, is to hear within us the sounds of the Earth crying.”

Try this: Open questions

  • When I imagine the world we will leave our children, it looks like
  • One of my worst fears about the future is
  • The feelings about this that I carry around with me are
  • Ways I avoid these feelings include
  • Some ways I can use these feelings are

Try this: Drawing out your concerns

Take a blank piece of paper and some coloured pens. Scribble doodle, or draw any images to represent concerns you have and the feelings that accompany them.

Try this: A personal cairn of mourning

What is being lost in our world that you mourn for? Find an object that represents something precious in our world is losing.

It is tremendously reassuring to find we are not alone in feeling pain for our world.

There comes a point in many adventure stories when the main characters have seen the true nature of the crisis they face and it is far worse that they’d previously imagined.

Part Two: Seeing With New Eyes

Chapter 5: A Wider Sense of Self

The extreme individualism of industrialised countries is so well established that some regard it as our natural state.

Seeing it emerge as a fairly new phenomenon in Ladakh is a reminder that the desire to put ourselves first isn’t a fixed feature of human nature.

There are many different ways of viewing the self. The concept of a separate self, a discrete entity separate from other people and the world, is only one way.

Try This: Tell Me, Who are you?

Take turns with each of you taking five minutes in each role, one asking “Tell me, who are you?” ad the other replying.

Widening Circles of Self

Our connected self is based on recognising that we are part of many larger circles.

The philosopher Immanuel Kant made a distinction between “moral acts” and “beautiful acts”. We tend to perform moral acts out of a sense of duty or obligation. In contrast, we perform beautiful acts when we do what is morally right because it is attractive to us, the action motivated more by desire than duty.

Interconnectedness is not about merging

Experiencing the wider identity of our connected self does not mean losing our individuality. Quite the opposite: it is through finding and playing our unique role within a community that we feel more strongly part of it.

For a complex system to self-organise and function well, it requires both the integration and the differentiation of its parts.

When you fall in love, you feel incredibly bonded with your loved one and at the same time more uniquely yourself, different from anyone else in the world.

Restoring and “Restoring” Connectedness

Rather than viewing our self as a fixed thing with characteristics that can’t be changed, we can think of ourselves as a flow of becoming.

An alternative view is to think of each moment as similar to a frame in a movie.

Arne Naess introduced the term ecological self to describe the wider sense of identity that arises when our self-interest includes the natural world

Increased Connectivity is No Picnic

History has shown us many examples of people whose allegiance to wider circles of life impelled them to act in ways that brought discomfort to, and even persecution from, their peers.

Try This: Tell me what happens through you?

Our large selves feel through us. Our emotions happen through us. But where do they come from? If we see ourselves solely as separate individuals, then we think of our feelings as arising within us and understandable purely in terms of our own story.

We can look at our pain for the world in a similar way: it is the world system, or Gaia, feeling through us.

Different Stories of Evolution

A quite different perspective now accepted by mainstream science is called endosymbiotic theory.

This theory proposes that important steps in our evolution have occurred through cooperation between species, even to the point of separate organisms joining together to create entirely new forms of life.

“Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking.” - Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan.

If we trace the development of life from its earliest beginnings, we see a recurring pattern of smaller parts coming together to form larger integrated wholes.

Crisis is one of the factors that can cause people to pull together.

The Emergence of Connected Consciousness

When people coordinate their actions through a collective thinking process, we can think of this as “distributed intelligence.”

Here connected consciousness stems from a widening of our self-interest, where we are guided by the intention to act for the well-being of all life.

Within Buddhism, that intention is known as bodhichitta. Bodhichitta moves our focus from personal well-being to collective well-being.

Chapter 6: A Different Kind of Power

The old view of power is based on a position of dominance or advantage over others, a position that secures privileged access to resources and influence. This type of power is power-over

  • Feelings of powerlessness are widespread
  • Power is viewed as a commodity
  • Power generates conflict
  • Power fosters mental rigidity
  • Power becomes suspect

A New Story of Power

Power-with is based on synergy, where two or more parties working together bring results that would not have occurred if they had worked alone.

Emergence and synergy lie right at the heart of power-with. They generate new possibilities and capacities, adding a mystery element that means we can never be certain how a situation will go just from looking at the elements within it.

An action that might seem inconsequential by itself adds to and interacts with other actions in ways that contribute to a much bigger picture of change.

Shared visions, values, and purposes flow through and between people.

  1. The power of inner strengths drawn from us when we engage with challenges and rise to the occasion.
  2. The power arising out of cooperation with others.
  3. There is the subtle power of small steps whose impact only becomes evident when we step back and see the larger picture.
  4. The energising power of an inspiring vision that moves through and strengthens us when we act for a purpose bigger than ourselves.

The concept of emergence is liberating because it frees us from the need to see the results of our actions.

The process of thinking happens at a level higher than just individual brain cells - it happens through them.

Similarly, there’s no way that we personally can fix the mess our world is in, but the process of healing and recovery at a planetary level can happen through us and through what we do.

Three ways to open to power-with:

  1. hear our call to action and choose to answer it.
  2. understand power as a verb
  3. drawn on the strengths of others

Developing a sense of partnership with Earth involves listening for guiding signals and taking them seriously when we hear them.

Try This: A Letter From Gaia

If the Earth could speak to us, what would it say? We can take a step toward finding out by imagining the Earth can write through us.

Power-with arises from what we do rather than we we have. The shift in perception from seeing power as a noun to seeing it as a very has surprising potency.

Try This: Open sentences that empower

  1. I empower myself by…
  2. What empowers me is…

Chapter 7: A Richer Experience of Community

We live in an epidemic of loneliness: in modern urban environments, people can live in the same building yet still have no real connection to one another.

The danger of being too comfortable, too self-sufficient, is that we lose any sense of needing one another.

What comes into view when we see with new eyes is this interdependence. There is no such thing as a “self-made man” or a “self-made woman” n’t have to wait for a natural disaster before opening to the rich experience of community described by Solnit and others.

In our workshops we often use an exercise called “the milling” in which participants move around the room and then stop to face each other in pairs. We invite them to consider the possibility that the person in front of them might become a victim of the unraveling we face.

Four levels of community:

  • groups we feel at home in
  • the wider community around us
  • the global community of humanity
  • the Earth community of life.

A group we feel at home in can support us through remarkable personal transformations.

Acting as a group for the Great Turning elevates our friendships and graces them with new beauty.

They give us a foundation of resilience that helps us adapt to changing circumstances, recover from setbacks, and find strengths in times of adversity.

Try This: The Council of All Beings, it invites us to step aside from our human identity and speak on behalf of another form of life.

When we have this “team spirit” heightened sense of spiritual connection with life.

Chapter 8: A Larger View of Time

  • Short-term benefits outweigh long-term costs.
  • We don’t see disasters coming our way.
  • Narrow timescapes are self-reinforcing.
  • We export problems to the future.
  • Narrow timescapes diminish the meaning and purpose of our lives.

Try This: travelling in time

They are meeting exactly one hundred years ago today to try to understand, with their limited mentality, the ways their “experts” are containing the poison fire.

Connectedness with ancestors and with future generations lifts us out of the micro-plots of Business as Usual and places us in a truer and more expansive story.

We are part of the most extraordinary unfolding. Where will it go next?

Ecological intelligence involves thinking in terms of deep time a temporal context that includes our whole story. We need to do this now because given our technologies, our actions have consequences extending millions, even billions, of years.

Learning to live in a larger timescape opens us to new allies and sources of strength. Our ancestors can be our allies, and we ourselves, as the ancestors of future generations, can play the role of ally to them as well.

Try This: Letter from the event generation

Close your eyes, imagine yourself journeying forward through time and identifying with a human being living two hundred years from now. Imagine what this person would want to say to you. Open your mind and listen. Now begin putting words down on paper as if this future one were writing a letter just to you that starts Dear Julyan..

Try This: Letter to the Future

Write a reply to three questions you have received from future beings. Assume that important changes (i.e. the great turning) took place in the early twenty-first century that allowed human life to continue.

  1. What is it like for you to live with the knowledge of the great unravelling?
  2. What were the first steps towards the great turning?
  3. Where did you find the strength to continue working so hard, despite all the obstacles and discouragements?

Part 3: Going Forth

Chapter 9: Catching an Inspiring Vision

How our Imagination Gets Switched Off

From an early age, we are schooled in a worldview that values facts over fantasies.

The term dreamer is used as a dismissive put-down when someone’s ideas are considered unrealistic; daydreaming in the classroom can even be a punishable offence.

“Several generations of children have had daydreaming bred out of them. Our literacy is confined to numbers and words. There is no image literacy.”

To underline the crucial importance of visioning, consider how many aspects of our present reality started out as someone’s dream.

To change something, we need to first hold in our mind and heart the possibility that it could be different.

“Begin with the end in mind is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and physical or second creation to all things.”

If we’re only interested in “factsmit ourselves to looking at what has already happened, which is a bit like trying to drive a car by looking only in the rearview mirror.

To avoid crashing, we need to look where we’re going

Liberating Our Imagination

A design principle that boosts creative thinking is “what comes before how.”

First identify what you’d like to happen; working out how comes later.

An important distinction is to be made between the creative phase, in which we generate ideas and possibilities, and the editing phase, in which we choose and evaluate them. Placing an embargo on editing in this first stage liberates our creativity.

Our intention in the creative phase is to catch a vision so compelling that it touches us emotionally.

To remain motivated during difficult times, we need to really want our vision to happen.

What helps here is recognising the difference between static and process thinking.

Static thinking assumes that reality is fixed and solid, resistant to change. When people say things such as “the problem is human nature, it is never going to change”or “you can’t change the system “they’re taking this approach.

With process thinking, we view reality more as a flow in which everything is continually moving from one state to another.

Each moment, like a frame in a movie, is slightly different from the one before. These tiny changes from frame to frame generate the larger changes seen over time.

Because we can never know for sure how the future will turn out, it makes more sense to focus on what we’d like to have happen, and then to do our bit to make it more likely.

Quaker futurist Elise Boulding developed a workshop called Imaging a World without Weapons. It’s structured process moves through the three levels of visioning we’ve described. Here is how she describes it:

There are two basic components to this type of imaging. The first is intentionality. We must allow ourselves not only to wish for but to intend the good. Our intentions about the future must be serious, so the first exercise in the imaging workshop is to make a list of things we want to see happen in the world thirty years into the future. We choose thirty years because it is far enough into the future so something can have happened, and near enough so that many of us will live into that time. Participants must make their own lists. The items on it become their intentions. The second component of imaging involves unlocking the total store of imagery in our mental warehouses…. To help participants get into that fantasying mode, the second exercise is to step into a childhood memory. Participants are asked to pick a happy one. I often go back to age nine and climb an apple tree in our yard. It is essential to use all one’s inward senses in experiencing the scene; see the colours, feel the textures, smell the smells, hear the sounds, note the expressions on peoples’ faces… After a couple of minutes of remembering, each participant turns to a neighbour and describes where he or she has been, then listens to where the neighbour has been. Sharing the experience helps to clarify the memory. It is this type of imaging you do when you image the world thirty years from now. You will see a world without weapons around you with the same vividness, as fragments from your stored experiences get recombined in a kind of movie reel inside your head.

The third stage of the workshop invites us to imagine ourselves standing in front of a huge, thick hedge stretching as far as we can see to the left and right. On the other side of this lies the world we hope for thirty years from now, where the intentions we identified in the first stage have been realised. We can move through or over the hedge any way we want and have a good look around. The goal is to be an observer and to collect information that can be reported back on. After the imaging, we are invited to share with others what we have experienced. The more specific our observations are, the more real the image becomes to the person we’re describing it to. So rather than using generalisations such as ‘no one is hungry’”re encouraged to be specific in describing what we see or hear. Each of us only sees a fragment of this potential future, so the next and fourth part of the workshop involves piecing together information yielded by different people’s imaging to build a more coherent picture of what this future offers. How are decisions made? How does education work? The imaging provides clues that groups can build on. Boulding continues:

“We are in no way prophesying or predicting or compelling the future by this kind of imaging, any more than we are compelling the future when we pray. The enactment of the future depends on what we do, how we individually and collectively respond to what we envision.”

After spending time working together on developing a vision of our preferred future, we need to remember how we got there. Standing in the world thirty years from now, we look back at how the changes we have just envisioned were brought about. Moving back year by year, what happened?

As we trace back to the present moment, we reconstruct a history of the preceding thirty years from the perspective of this possible future.

Finally, we need to see the role we play in this process. Looking at the different areas of our lives, what are we doing that helps build the future we hope for? There will be many things, and some might stand out - what are they?

Imaginary Hindsight

A powerful mental shift takes place when we stop telling ourselves why something can’t happen.

By inhabiting this vision with all our senses, imagining what colours and shapes we see, the expressions on people’s faces, the sounds we hear, the smells, taste, and feel of this future, we bring ourselves there in a way that activates our creative, visionary, and intuitive faculties.

As the poet Rumi once wrote: “Close both eyes to see with the other eye.”

Research has shown that when people approach a problem by imagining that it has already been solved and then look back from this imagined future, they are more creative and detailed in describing potential solutions.

Rob Hopkins used this “imaginary hindsight” approach when founding the Transition movement. He told us: “It was more a case of thinking “I wonder what would happen ifnd then imagining what a permaculture response to the challenge of peak oil would look like, particularly a response that could easily catch on around the world”.

If we’re facing a challenge in the next twenty-four hours, we can imagine its successful resolution a day from now, and then look back from that point at what we did. The story of how we rose to the challenge directs our attention to the steps we need to take.

The Storytellers Convention

We can play with this imaginary hindsight process through the use of storytelling.

When giving talks, Chris sometimes guides audiences in imaginary time travel to a hoped-for future hundreds of years from now.

In pairs, they take turns sharing their stories of the Great Turning.

Though things didn’t look too promising at first, a widespread awakening occurred, and huge numbers of people rose to the challenge of creating the life-sustaining society familiar to the storytellers now.

Nightmares can Inspire Us Too

However, it is not only positive visions that guide us. Our nightmares can alert us to dangerous conditions and summon us to respond on behalf of life.

Joanna had a particularly lucid and disturbing dream. She saw her children left behind in a barren, toxic world.

The Dream of the Earth

When we think of ourselves as interconnected parts of a larger web of life, just as we may feel the Earth crying within us, perhaps we can experience the Earth dreaming within us too.

Within the framework of systems thinking and the ecological self, this makes perfect sense.

Inspired dreams and visionary moments are simply times of increased connectedness with the deeper flows of our collective identity.

If we’re able to receive guiding signals from our larger ecological self, then rather than catching inspired visions, perhaps we could say it is the inspiring vision that catches us.

Try This: Sharing Inspiration

“Something that inspires me at the moment is…”

Progressive Brainstorming

  • Each person daydreams for a few minutes about what he or she would like to see in a life-sustaining society.
  • These features are then listed on a big sheet of paper.

For example: clean air, renewable energy, lifestyles of voluntary simplicity, widespread ecological awareness.

  • The group selects one of these and has a brainstorm process generating responses to the question: “What would be needed for this?”

As the goal of brainstorming is to spark creative thinking, it is guided by three rules:

+ first we don’t censor, explain or justify our ideas.

  • second we don’t evaluate or criticise the ideas of others.

+ third we save discussion for later.

We’re creating options not editing them.

Choose and being chosen

With so many options, how do we choose where to invest our energy?

The challenge is to listen for the vision that calls us most strongly and to recognise that to follow this well, we will need to refine our focus so as not to dissipate our energy.

Like seedlings that need thinning out, we need to choose which visions we support, and then clear space around them so that they have room to develop and thrive.

Joseph Campbell wrote, “Follow your bliss - and doors will open where there were no doors before.”

Chapter 10: Daring to Believe It Is Possible

This chapter explores how to protect ourselves from disillusionment if we are struggling to believe that what we hope for is possible.

The reference points that support our sense of possibility are crucial:

  • inspiring examples from history
  • the phenomenon of discontinuous change
  • facing your threshold guardians
  • our own experiences of perseverance
  • witnessing the great turning happening through us.

Aspects of Current Reality Once Dismissed as Hopeless Dreams:

  • Women have the vote in nearly every country in the world.
  • An African American can become US president.
  • Apartheid came to an end in South Africa.
  • Most people now accept that the earth orbits around the sun.

But along with continuous change, there is also discontinuous change. Sudden shifts can happen in ways that surprise us; structures that appear as fixed and solid as the Berlin Wall can collapse or be dismantled in a very short time.

Joseph Campbell coined the term threshold guardian to describe whatever is guarding or blocking the way.

The hero or heroine then rises to the challenge by confronting, tricking, befriending, or bypassing the blocking entity in a way that allows the journey to continue.

The times when we have eventually found a way through offer another important reference point of possibility.

Try This: Identifying your goals and resources

  1. If you knew you could not fail, what would you most want to do for the healing of our world?
  2. What specific goal or project could you realistically aim to achieve in the next twelve months that would contribute to this?
  3. What resources, inner and outer, do you have that will help you do this?
  4. What resources, inner and outer, will you need to acquire? What might you need to learn, develop or obtain?
  5. How might you stop yourself? What obstacles might you throw in the way?
  6. How will you overcome these obstacles?
  7. What step can you take in the next week, no matter how small - making a phone call, sending an email, or scheduling in some reflection time - that will move you toward this goal?

Chapter 11: Building Support Around You

We will look at how we can cultivate support at the following levels:

  • the personal context of our habits and practices
  • the face-to-face context of the people around us
  • the cultural context of the society we are part of
  • the eco spiritual context of our connectedness with all life


“Does the way I live my life support the changes I want to bring about?”

If we recognise that we are living at a crucial point in human history, when our actions and choices will have consequences lasting thousands of years, is what we do any less important than an Olympic contest?

Vows (I vow to myself and to each of you):

  • To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
  • To live on Earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.
  • To draw strength and guidance from the living Earth, the ancestors, the future generations, and my brothers and sisters of all species.
  • To support others in our work for the world and to ask for help when I need it.
  • To pursue a daily practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart, and supports me in observing these vows.

They offer an anchor point reminding us, again and again, of the purposes we hold dear and the behaviours that support us in serving them.


Since looking for ways to develop synergy and co-intelligence is part of the Great Turning, the very process of seeking support is a positive step for change.

Try this: Creating a support map

  1. Start by placing your name in the centre of the piece of paper. Around it, write the names of the people who are significant in your life.
  2. Draw arrows to represent flows of support, with the arrows going toward your name for the support you receive and away from you for the support you offer.
  3. Once you’ve drawn your map, ask yourself how satisfied you are with the flows of support you receive and offer.

Cultural Context

Social psychologists Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson describe the growth of a new subculture committed to ecological values, social justice, and holistic perspectives. Extrapolating their findings, they estimate that tens of millions of these “cultural creatives”re leaving behind the old story of Business as Usual and creating something new.

Ecospiritual Context

Contact with the natural environment can be powerfully restorative to our well-being. We’re describing an experience of connection that leaves us feeling held and supported even when there’s nobody else around and nothing particular we’re doing.

Try this: finding a listening post in nature

Is there a place where you feel more connected to the web of life?

Chapter 12: Maintaining Energy and Enthusiasm

How can we remain fired up for any length of time without being driven to exhaustion?

  • Recognise enthusiasm as a valuable renewable resource.
  • Broaden our definition of activism.
  •  Follow the inner compass of our deep gladness.
  • Redefine what it means to have a good life.
  • See success with new eyes and savour it.

Recognise enthusiasm as a valuable renewable resource

To develop forms of activism we can sustain for decades, we need to address our requirements for renewal.

If we are to create an approach to activism that we will want to stick with over a lifetime and that others are drawn to as well, then we need to look at what feeds our enthusiasm too.

It is similar with our enthusiasm: if we see it as valuable, then we become more interested in how we can nourish, renew, and restore this precious resource.

Try This: Open sentences on maintaining energy and enthusiasm

  • Things that drain, demoralize, or exhaust me include
  • What nourishes and energizes me is
  • The times I’m most enthusiastic are when

Broaden our definition of activism

Having a larger map of activism encourages us to move more freely between these different dimensions, as well as to combine them in ways that empower us

Follow the inner compass of our deep gladness

Our degree of enthusiasm can act as a guide, like an inner compass, that helps us steer toward the sort of activity we’ll want to stick with in the long term.

Redefine what it means to have a good life

Luxury doesn’t challenge and stretch us in a way that leads to satisfaction. But activism does in a number of ways.

First, when we act in alignment with our deepest values, we experience an inner sense of rightness behind what we do. Second, when we apply ourselves to facing a challenge in a way that absorbs our attention, we are more likely to go into flow states.

See Success with New Eyes

To call an individual cell “successful” while the larger body sickens or dies is complete nonsense. If we are to survive as a civilisation, we need the intelligence to define success as that which contributes to the well-being of our larger body, the web of life.

Try This: Reflecting on success

Taking your definition of success as that which contributes to the well-being of our world, how often do you feel you are succeeding?

Try this: Savouring success

A recent step I’ve taken that I feel good about is..

Chapter 13: Strengthened by Uncertainty

In this chapter, we explore how our very not knowing can enliven us; by making friends with uncertainty, we can become strengthened by the gifts it has to offer.

If we take action only when we are reasonably sure of success, uncertainty can be paralysing.

In tackling climate change, for example, we can’t be sure we haven’t already passed a tipping point that sets us on track for a doomsday scenario.

After all, what is the point of making an effort to improve things if we believe catastrophe is inevitable?

When we fall in love or start out in a career, can we be certain it will work out well?

Our awareness that the outcome is uncertain is what prompts us to prepare; it calls us to attention.

Neither complacent optimism nor resigned pessimism has power to motivate us; they don’t generate a hunger for learning or provoke our best response.

Uncertainty Adds Mystery and Adventure

What is it that keeps people’s eyes glued to the ball when watching a sport?

It is our not knowing what’s going to happen yet our wanting to.

Uncertainty Brings Us Into the Present

Our intentionality endows the present moment with direction.


In the Buddhist tradition, bodhichitta is seen as something very precious, something to treasure and protect.

We can think of it as a flame in our hearts and minds that guides us and shines through our actions.

Finding the Pearl of Active Hope

An oyster, in response to trauma, grows a pearl. We grow, and offer, our gift of Active Hope.