The B Word
By Redwood Mary
Mohandas Gandhi wrote and said: Nonviolence without
the cooperation of the head, the intellect and the heart cannot produce
the intended result. Look at any conflict here on the planet each side
harboring a violence ready to break loose, then spilling out horrors
of violence, as in an uncontrollable tidal wave sweeping away everything
in its path, dignity, compassion, intellect.
And heres a passage from Gandhis writings on nonviolent
How kings played, how they became enemies of one another, how
they murdered one another, is found accurately recorded in history,
and if this were all that happened in the world, it would have ended
The greatest and most unimpeachable evidence of the success
of [the] force of love and not the force of arms is to be found in
fact that in spite of wars, the world still lives on. Little quarrels
of millions of families in their daily lives disappear before the exercise
of this force. Hundreds of nations live in peace together. History
not and cannot take note of this fact. History is really a record of
every interruption of the even working of the force of love or of the
So what does this all have to do with burnout? Gandhi hits upon the
idea of integrating the intellect and the heart. I use the writings
from Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, and various spiritual
masters and traditions as a way to ground myself. In doing work as
an active citizen I come across countless obstaclesmy
own and those presented by others. We are all striving for the same
result with different approaches and struggling with various challenges.
Burnout is real. I see many workshops in various movements, from outreach
to direct action and everything in between, but rarely a workshop on
the B wordBURNOUTand what steps we can take
to take care of ourselves doing the work we do.
How do I deal with my own burnout? I include (when I can) music, song
or dance in my repertoire of activism by collaborating with others!
We have to make it fun or why do it?
My own reference point is to work from a place of love and compassion
while keeping in mind that I am human and that it doesnt always
work perfectly. I always tell myself and others to keep forgiving and
also to remain detached from the results. This way our ego
wont be bruised or disappointed if things have to change or they
do not go as planned.
I have to make time to stop and see what I need. Am I hungry? Do I need
to take a rest or even take a day off? All of these elements seem so
simple and trivial, but many of us ignore them; behind many cranky activists
can be the simple need to get some food to stabilize the blood sugar,
or to simply get rest. And I have to keep work out of my rest time!
Most important: I limit my input. I stay away from any violence, be
it films, people or places. I limit my intake of terrible news.
I do not turn away from the problems of the world; I note them then
make a plan for what I am able to do to create a solution. I cannot
solve all of the problems of the forest or the world. I cry when I have
toby myself or with others. Grief is real and we do not cry enough!
Tears are a release and healing.
I limit phone calls. I find a balance by taking a walk in nature, locally
or in a park when I am traveling. I stop and enjoy a lunch rather than
eat when working. And I make sure I get a solid nights sleep.
I delegate what I can and let go. I make it my mantra to realize that
everyone is doing their best even when things go wrong and I may see
another way to do something. I have to move away from folks who like
to do what I call armchair activism, who have a list of
criticisms for all of our social and environmental ills and are always
telling me and others what we should be doing and how. I bless these
energy spinners and move on. I look for commonalities with
people rather than differences, and I remember that I cannot change
anyone and do not waste energy trying. I try to remember to give praise
and gratitude. If I have to give criticism I ask myself if it will
constructive and provide a solution, and check to see if it will be
I have a whole collection of tapes and CDs of calm, good-energy musicfrom
folk and new age to soft jazz and Classicalthat I play to get
into a good space. I have upbeat music for harder tasks.
I pray. I meditate. I talk to the salmon fingerlings (young fry) in
the stream when I can find them. And I hug trees and people!
As the saying goes: It is not what we doit is how we do
it and treat each other along the way. I take it a step further
and I make a point to check in with how I am treating myself!
With Love And Respect For All Life.
Redwood Mary is an environmental activist who works on behalf
of the Plight of The Redwoods Campaign. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit http://redwoods.bullhorn.org.