Transition Towns
Coping with
- burnout -

See also From Overwhelm to Engagement by Dr Chris Johnstone,
who has worked closely with Joanna Macy for many years


from Lucy Skywalker: We have a long way to go, to kick the unintentionally addictive habits of a lifetime and the attitudes bred into our culture for centuries.

Many people on the awakening journey of Transition will, at one time or another, experience burnout or some of the close relatives of burnout like M.E. This does not mean the end of the world, only the end of one level of coping with Reality. The shifts we have to go through at this point in history are formidable, beyond most previous scales of reckoning, and are bound to put pressure on us all at times. The spiritual resources we can now draw on have deepened greatly since people started to wake up to the coming apocalypse. But the challenges are formidable, challenges to our deepest humanity, to remain compassionate, aware, and certain of hope because certain of a higher Power in the face of life-threatening, dehumanizing circumstances. We should not forget that Nazi Germany appeared on the shoulders of the Great Depression which hit Germany the hardest, as she was penalized for losing the first World War. She shouldn't have started that war, but neither should she have been punished as she was. We could all have been caught there. We could still be caught.

Spiritual power, by whatever name one calls it, is the only thing that can lead through humanity's apocalyptic crisis to discover "a new heaven and new earth". People who have experienced this power firsthand, separate "spiritual" (meaning relating to people's direct personal experiences) from "religious" (meaning overseen by a religious tradition with set beliefs). Spiritual awakening can happen through the process Joanna Macy described originally as "Despair and Empowerment". See my piece from 1981 Apocalyptic Vision: Ecological Breakdown and Spiritual Breakthrough. See also Joanna Macy on The Great Turning


Here is Harmon Bro's picture of a typical awakening experience (Bro worked with the great healer Edgar Cayce). Harmon Bro was deeply involved all his life in helping people at all levels, helping people helping the planet. Yet Bro knew that the first signs of awakening were likely to seem the very opposite, initially. This pattern is also often seen when homeopathic remedies are working - the patient gets worse first.

Many people find help and solace in the simplest kinds of spiritual awakening, some of which may be called Fundamentalisms. It's very natural to want a simple one-off solution to all Life's problems. Christian fundamentalism can have an important place, it can help people in a big way on their journey of awakening... many true miracles of healing have been reported, and this is precious... but fundamentalist religion is not necessarily the ultimate answer for everyone, nor is it enough of an answer to handle the planetary issues.

As the challenges keep mounting, the spiritual awakening is ongoing. What worked last year, what spoke to me last year, last month, or even yesterday, may no longer speak today. This can be frightening. However, I know that Spirit has heard my call every time - when I have been truly in need and have truly asked for help. Often the help has arrived only in the nick of time, only just enough, and not even in a way I could recall afterwards to tell, let alone "prove", to anyone else - just in a way that I personally could not possibly mistake.....

Harry Potter's story epitomizes what we face, and I'm sure this is why his appeal is so great and powerful. In fairy tales, the great truths of the universe are woven inexorably and powerfully into the text - so long as one trusts the process of inspiration. C S Lewis, one of Joanne Rowlings' own mentors, worked with this awakening of the exact imagination in a groupd of some of the most illustrious writers ever, called the Inklings. Knowing the storyline gives us courage to fight, as well as an understanding of what we are fighting. Joanne Rowling is often feared by fundamentalist Christians - yet her story is profoundly Christian in its battle of the powers of Good against the powers of Evil and Darkness. She conveys a power of good magic that seems to have been lost sight of centuries ago. We miss this ancient magic, we feel in our bones that, if we could awaken it, like the legendary sleeping Knights of the Round Table, it might be able to help us overcome our plight that is great today.

We also do well to recall Alfred the Great, also in hiding and on the run at a similarly catastrophic moment in history...

key page - last updated 6th March 2008


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