On the hope in hopeless times – workshop

On the hope in hopeless times. Dealing with difficult emotions about climate change

– workshop conducted by Anna Gierlińska 8th of December 2018 in Climate Hub COP 24 Katowice.



Any new information about climate change put us in a position in which a threat and a real danger becomes more and more real. In trying to tackle those issues we have to deal with many difficult emotions. If we want to win our future we need citizens and decision makers to act immediately. And also we need a higher awareness of the scale of the problem.

It means we have to find the way to beat our apathy. And to do so – we need to understand where apathy comes from and what it is, in the first place.

The aim of the this meeting is to see the roots of apathy, understand the meaning of emotions in process of engaging in pro-climate actions and find new sources of hope, in these “hopeless times”.


The Wheel of Emotions:

Emotions offer important information about the world we are living in and about what we need to do at this particular moment. They give us useful knowledge about our needs and boundaries.

Fear or anger for example indicate that we are in danger and that we need to run or fight.

You can see four quarters in a wheel with four main emotions distinguished by psychologists: joy, anger, fear and sadness. Additional terms are added which indicate more complex but important feelings to discuss during the workshop.


Honouring our Pain of the World:

Honouring our pain of the world is extremely important. We need to create a safe space to listen to all of those difficult emotions, to hear that the Earth is crying in us, as Tith Nath Han said. Otherwise we will remain frozen and we won’t be able to live our life fully. If we cut out part of our emotions such as: grief, sadness or fear – we will also lose our connection with joy, happiness or hope. All of those emotions will stay frozen and we will burn out.

Practice session:

Working in pairs we were sharing our feelings about climate change. Doing so we were finishing open sentence:

1. When I think about climate change, I feel…

2. When I talk about climate change with others, I feel…

3. What I do with all those emotions is…


Grief – Connection – Gratitude Meditation

Grief – Connection – Gratitude Meditation is based upon Joanna Macy’s meditation Breathing Through from the book “Active Hope…”. The first part is a shorter version of this meditation and the second one is my authorship.


Close your eyes. Focus attention on your breathing. Don’t try to breathe any special way. Just watch the breathing as it happens, in and out. In and out. Stay passive, like a cat by a mouse hole…

Watch the breath and note that it happens by itself. Without your will, without your deciding each time to inhale or exhale… In and out. In and out. You’re being breathed – being breathed by life… Just as everyone in this room, in this city, in this planet now, is being breathed by life. Sustained in a huge living breathing web…

Now visualize your breath as a stream of life. See it flow up through your nose, down through your throat to your lungs. And from your lungs, take it through your heart. Picture it flowing through your heart and out to reconnect with the larger web of life.

Now open your awareness to the suffering that is present in the world. Drop for now, all defences. Open to your knowledge of that suffering. Let it come as concretely as you can… images of your fellow beings in pain and need, in fear and isolation, our fellow humans, animal, all the planet … no need to strain for these images; they are present to you. Relax and just let them be…

If no images or feelings arise – there is only darkness, greyness or emptiness, breathe that through also. The darkness itself is a very real part of our world…

If you stop, being afraid that your heart will break, let it be broken. They say the heart that breaks open can hold the whole universe. Your heart is that large. Trust it. Keep breathing…

Now – watch the breath and note that it happens by itself. Without your will… In and out. In and out. You’re being breathed – being breathed by life… Sustained in a huge living breathing web…

Now open your heart to feel bliss. Let the light and warm of bliss fill you completely. Open your awareness to gratitude. Visualize a person you love. See people you love. Places you love. Think of your home. Where is it? Think of it like that: your home, your city, your country, your planet. Think of all animals and plants, rivers, mountains and oceans. Feel how happy we are to have them.

Think of all plants and herbs you eat or drink, say thanks to them. Think of the water you drink, say thanks to it. Think of all animals and other living creatures you are connected to, say thanks to them.

Your being breathed by life. Feel how happy you are to be alive on this beautiful living planet.


Some additional links:

The workshop was inspired by the book: “Active Hope. How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy” by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone;

Work that Reconnects – website of the Network of Work that Reconnects which provides support, guidance, and inspiration to people all over the world in their work for the Great Turning. The workshop was inspired and based on Work that Reconnects.

Study of the impact of emotions on the involvement of people in climate actions: “Emotions predict policy support: Why it matters how people feel about climate change”