If I could give one gift to every person setting out on the path of thinking deeply about climate change it would be knowledge of what helps them process grief. This is the skill I need to be in it for the long haul. Without processing grief, I have found it impossible to find space for joy. I don’t know about others, but I simply can’t learn about the large and small consequences of climate change; really see the structures of exploitation and domination holding up modern societies; witness the neck breaking speed at which decades of environmental protections have been dismantled, even as the scale and frequency of natural disasters skyrocket and then return to everyday life in the next breath. I feel so much sadness daily, but am committed to affirming life in its fullness, which includes laughter and frivolity, love and lots of joy. And this, rather than giving my life energy over to fear and grief. But if my eyes are to remain open to what’s happening, I have to move the pain of it through my body and eventually on out in a healthy way.
At a friend’s invitation, I recently began dancing Bollywood, and found it serves this purpose for me of washing away grief. With its roots in Bhangra and other Indian harvest dances, this pop dance style is silly, exuberant, and powerful. In a word, life-affirming. Partway through the quarter, I started feeling extraordinary gratitude during each class. Gratitude for being alive, for living now, for being able to exercise, for this music, for feeling my heart working and my breath deepening, for being able to dance with other people. In other words, pure connective joy. I don’t dance to disconnect from hard feelings. I feel them and then dance to reconnect with the rest of life. And I have to do it pretty much daily. Bollywood is not what does it for everyone, needless to say. Whatever you choose, I’d recommend it be unquestionably and completely cleansing at the cellular level.