When Texas froze over some months back it was just another weird news story, like the way the Amazon burnt down, or Australia scorched. Then the Arctic started melting and Siberia burning, heat domes settled over Oregon, regular wildfires terrorized California and the Northwest, and a ‘once in a century’ wild weather has exploded across the globe on a weekly basis. I–we, just can’t ignore it anymore. Nature is broken. The beginning of the End has arrived. And I have no freaking idea how I am meant to feel, or even process this. Is this a spiritual emergency, or an emergence?
I’d been avoiding The End of the World As We Know It™ for some time. Climate shifts that I had always thought were far in the future (and could possibly be avoided), are happening now, faster than expected. It’s time to look at these changes as a unique invitation to step into our spiritual truth.
What if we finally have to face death, what lies beyond it, and why we are here anyway? What if all the ego traps of civilization are falling away and we have no real choice but to face the things we’ve studiously avoided? What if all the New Age aphorisms are true: that we are spiritual beings having a human experience, and this is our wake up call? What then?
It All Goes in Cycles
Expansion and contraction – life and death – is a natural cycle that underscores everything from how stars are born, to the rise and fall of civilizations. Nature has experienced five mass extinctions before where almost all species have died out, but then nature replenishes and new life is born. But that doesn’t make the potential impending doom any less palatable. So why do we continually look away, unable to face the most pressing issue of our times?
One possibility is that when humans are in dangerous situations the parasympathetic nervous system, led by the vagus nerve, kicks in. When we see dangers like climate change on the news, that same nervous system just blocks it out, like an ostrich burying its head in the sand. We’re wired for death denial.
But not just that, we aren’t ready to even talk about death, or what may lie beyond, where we come from, what we’re doing here – to have any spiritual context for life. Traditionally we can’t face death – our egos spend their whole life avoiding the end, and in doing so it shapes our entire lives.
It’s Not Easy To Look Death In The Eye
Like much of the world, I’ve grown up with the idea that we need to change what’s happening. We need to fight it. If we could come together and use our technology wisely, we could stop the impending climate disaster and save the planet. We just need a good leader (or leaders) who will step up and lead us to victory over the ills of the world. Even spiritual circles speak of coming back to Eden and living in a time of peace and harmony. Once enough people “awaken” the humans will come to their senses and do the right thing, just in time.
If all of that sounds like a movie plot, it’s because it’s the mythology that we’ve grown up with. Something or someone is going to save us, or we will magically awaken and save ourselves, and then everything will be alright. There will be a happy ending. Or maybe the story ends entirely, who knows?
I did not want to write this article. Researching climate change and the rate at which species are going extinct is incredibly depressing. It leaves me feeling hopeless and helpless to affect change and shift the situation. Yet many organizations and support groups have sprung up for those digesting the reality of runaway climate change, and one of the most grounded is Deep Adaptation.
Deep Adaptation to Climate Change
Dr. Jem Bendell is a Professor of Sustainability Leadership, and Founder and former coordinator of the Deep Adaptation Forum, a movement focused on how we can realistically slow climate change while also preparing for inevitable societal collapse and an increasingly uninhabitable Earth due to climate change and other factors.
Deep Adaptation is less about stopping climate change completely and more about how to understand what is coming and how to adapt to this quickly changing world. As we look for answers and road maps to survive, deep adaptation offers the opportunity to consider that there are no maps and that the “certainties” we’ve always relied on and believed in are now no longer applicable. We are in new water, and as the Hopi prophecy says:
“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart and will suffer greatly. Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey come to a halt.
The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word ’struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.
–Hopi Elders’ Prophecy, June 8, 2000
So, is it possible to face the End of the World As We Know It™ in a sacred and spiritual way? Can we accept, let go, and see where we end up then?
Climate Change and the 5 Stages of Grief
The ways we deny what is unfolding in front of our eyes is a classic symptom of the grief we are experiencing individually and collectively over the death of the old and the dangers of the new situation. Authors Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler have written on losing a loved one in their influential book Grief and Grieving and outline five classic stages when facing loss: Denial; Anger; Bargaining; Depression and Acceptance. They’re also considered the five stages of death when we clearly see the end nearing.
I’ve been walking through these stages as I prepared to write this article. Like clockwork, I found myself thinking that the negative information only creates more negativity, so we need to not focus on that and manifest what we choose to see in the world. This wreaks of spiritual bypass and ultimately did not feel like truth to me.
I’ve been angry at what’s happening on the planet, watching the beautiful mountains where I live get clear-cut for the wealthy to build their 2nd and 3rd homes, and for companies to take over. So, that anger simply amplified for me. I wanted to see everyone feeling as urgent about the impending death of our species, and the rest of the planet, but all I see around me is business as usual.
Then I started researching in order to bargain how we can change it, how we can at least slow down climate change, so we have more time. I started considering if I should start prepping and gathering supplies for the coming chaos.
Fear of Social Collapse
The chaos of societal collapse is what really shut me down. I got depressed and couldn’t write. I no longer wanted to research or think about it. Watching the world lose its collective mind during a pandemic, where instead of coming together to help everyone, we collectively divided into camps and used social media to shame and blame, just did my hope in.
People lost their jobs, their homes, and their lives. If we can’t evolve during a pandemic, how do we expect to fare during the societal collapse that is inevitable when the speeding advance of climate change continues to create wildfires, droughts, floods, superstorms? Eventually this will cause the food chain to break when land is no longer farmable. Potable water will be at a premium and even the banking systems will collapse as the world heats up and becomes increasingly difficult to live on.
A Timeline Reality Check
So, when is this timeline meant to begin in full force? The IPCC just released a report that has made it clear that we need to act NOW. We needed to aggressively act decades ago. We could see our way of life shifts beyond the breaking point within a few years, and the insane weather of 2021 could seem calm and relaxed compared to what’s to come.
According to some of the leading Artic scientists, runaway climate change bundled with exponential heating from the ‘tipping points’ already crossed adding to the momentum, we could have as little as 4 years left. This is ridiculously soon. My brain rejects the date instinctively. It’s like I just can’t process this sense of impending doom, and I suspect all of us do this. We’re stuck in denial because the next step is just mind-boggling painful. Impossible. And yet, necessary.
A Spiritual Journey
Nothing is meant to live forever and that includes the Earth. In Dr. Bendell’s article Adapting deeply to likely collapse: an enhanced agenda for climate activists?, he offers clear data as to how quickly our climate is actually changing for the worse and encourages us to not turn away from the collapse of society that will happen.
At the same time, he shares a vision for how we can live more fully in the present and rely on each other as we walk boldly into this extinction event. Bendell offers the possibility of being honest with ourselves while not living in doom and gloom. He calls it “doom and bloom.”
“In facing our climate predicament,” Bendell says, “I have learned that there is no way to escape despair. But there seems to be a way through despair. It is to love love more than we fear death. That love is why we experience loss and grief. After loss and grief there is still that love. So as things get really difficult in the years to come, I hope I will keep asking myself – what does love invite of me now?”
Being Present With Our Death and our Life
With every new report of our dire circumstances and the impending changes, the five stages of grief begins for me again and I continue to walk in the not-knowing and emotions of reconciling to the death of the human race and much of what lives on the planet. It’s a process, and one we all have to face.
What I’m finding in this process is that each time the anxiety, fear, fatigue and sadness comes up, it’s less intense than it was before. I find myself relying on my tools more and more in order to tether to what is real for me. Instead of being angry at the tribe of humanity for not doing more to stop this train that is hurling toward the abyss, I’m focusing on appreciating each individual who is in my personal experience.
Each moment seems more precious now that I see the end more clearly.
Having a tangible sense of the end of all that we know is frightening at first, then humbling, and finally freeing. There’s no more room for illusion around whatever may have seemed important. There’s no need for striving or arguing; no need for anger or lack of forgiveness. There’s only time for connection and love.
We already know this, and now the runaway climate on planet Earth is offering us all the opportunity to walk consciously into our death, our rebirth and the true awakening that was always meant to be.
We have to change. We have to trust. And more than anything, we have to love, deeply, while we still can.
Bloom Post is a freelance writer, ceremonialist, teacher, and author of the books Shaman’s Toolbox: Practical Tools for Powerful Transformation and Plant Spirit Totems. For more information: www.BloomPost.com