The Gifts of Uncertain Times

Kaia Svien recently gave a talk at the center entitled “Bringing the Gifts of Uncertain Times into Your Daily Practice”, about relating to climate change. She wanted to share some of Joanna Macy’s teachings that inspired her talk.


Joanna Macy’s list of key gifts of uncertain times:

1) The Present Moment is the most fruitful place to be.

Unexamined Uncertainty of these times provokes many of us, like ping pong balls, to bounce back & forth between hope and fear. This kind of reactivity orients us to the future in a desperate, ungrounded way in which we draw on our past of separation strategies. Exhausting.

When our senses hold us in the present moment, we are fed by what is here now. We are available to acceptance which allows us to see with fewer delusions like “wishing things were different”, “loyalty to unflagging optimism. “ It is the immediacy of the moment, rather than a canned concept of optimism that guides us.

2) Selecting actions from place of caring & compassion
We’ve been trained to value measurable outcomes almost exclusively. Yet the dominant culture’s story of separation sets us up to be easily driven to those outcomes by worry, anxiety about the future.

The new story of interbeing guides us to teach the self to select actions from places of caring, compassion, and welfare of all instead. We can draw on interbeing that allows us to sense our essence, our legacy in love lasting longer than our own lifetime. We learn to cherish the ability to care for others we’ll never meet.

3) Befriending of pain & the mystery it brings.
When heavy emotions of anger, sorrow and fear feel for our world,  our society arise, many of us turn away and distract because the pain over  the losses appears too unbearable.  Unbearable if we face it alone, lost in the deluded loneliness of the separate small self. When we come to trust the awakening process and learn to face into pain with others, we come to know profound love underneath. These heavy emotions are gateways to our deep love, to our nobility that has given us a heart & mind big enough to contain whole world.

4) Forging greater solidarity with all life forms.
The losses of these uncertain times continue to reveal our interconnectedness as we learn about ecosystems in distress everywhere. As we make room to feel these losses inside ourselves, we are brought ever more deeply into the marvelous wonder of our interrelatedness with all of life.

5) Opening to an awareness of immensity of time.
We see how decisions our ancestors made have charted the courses we are on now globally.  We learn to make room for guessing at how our actions affect future beings of all species. Beyond the distresses we recognize by doing this, we are held by a deep knowing that we can extend love and actions that create wellbeing for those yet to come.

As we find the courage to let the messages of uncertain times into our minds and hearts, countless gifts, invisible to us now, come forward.  As a CG member noted recently, simply being able to talk together about the losses of these times as we share the pain and the love beneath them shows us how to cherish each other more deeply.

From Joanna Macy’s “The Hidden Promise of Our Dark Age,” presented at the 2009 Bioneers Conference

To pursue Macy’s work locally, contact: Kaia Svien, 612-722-2650,




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