Tools for campaigners: Sustainability for the self

Jenny Smith and Jenni Horsfall are teaching the Sustainability and The Inside Out immersive course at CAT at the end of February. Here they talk about the ideas that have influenced the course.

As more and more people working in sustainability, experience burnout or overwhelm, the need for inner sustainability as well as outer is becoming increasingly clear.

In her Work that Reconnects Joanna Macy identifies three areas that together make long term positive change possible. Firstly, holding actions (including front-line activism) that directly challenges the injustices and flawed systems in our world. This includes people working in organisations that serve marginalised people such a homeless charities, mental health organisation and refugee work as well as direct environmental action at fracking and logging sites. This work is relentless in its effort to hold back the tide of atrocity, greed and injustice and is responsible for the highest levels of burnout in sustainability. The second area Joanna introduces refers to the creation of alternative systems and refers to those engineering and clear seeing visionaries among us who are creating new systems in fields such as energy, economics. law and education that will support sustainable futures for all of life. Thirdly, she calls us to shift our perception by drawing on our inner work to challenging our thinking, our belief systems and ultimately the ways in which we view ourselves and our relationship with the wider world. Historically reserved for a privileged few these spiritual teachings drawn from indigenous people help us to bear the unbearable, sustain the unsustainable and continue in the face of the impossible.

This third area of inner work is what sustains our outer action. It enables us to continue to keep our hearts and minds open, rather than being weighed down with cynicism and despair. Stress and burnout are now the biggest reasons for work absence and have been shown to be directly linked to long term depression and anxiety, so the call for self-care and wellbeing practices has never been louder.

Sustainability from the inside out course
The Sanctuary at CAT

Sustainability From the Inside Out draws from various bodies of work including Joanna Macy and Gestalt therapy. It offers those involved at any level of activism or sustainability, the chance to come together for the necessary process of inner re-sourcing. In our two days together we will spend time reflecting and reconnecting to our original call and motivation for our choice of work; identifying the nature and impact of stresses and blocks that we face, and exploring ways to both re-frame and move through these challenges using experiential exercises and group processes. The weekend is designed to re-source participants by strengthening their capacity to respond healthily and skilfully to the ongoing challenges in the outer world.

Set at the beautiful Centre for Alternative Technology this weekend also offers you a chance to relax and breathe in the beauty of the national Snowdonia park, eat nutritious and delicious hand made food and shed. At a time of year when nature is supporting you to make new choices and shed the old, could a weekend investing in your own psychological and spiritual sustainability be just what you need?

The course facilitators Jenny Smith and Jenni Horsfall are both very experienced group leaders, known for their gentle and affective style of group-work. They have both trained with Joanna Macy and are tutors on Shift Bristol – a practical sustainability year long training course.

Sustainability from the inside out. Residential course at CAT 28th Feb – 1st March 2015.