This process is called Dare to Care and the purpose of it is to connect us with our deeper feelings about what is happening in the world and allow us to feel the so called “negative” emotions that we are often told by society we should not have or should not express.
The first thing to do is collect these objects from nature. Get an empty bowl to put the objects in (the bowl will also serve as one of the objects). Find a largish stone that fits nicely in the palm of your hand, two handfuls of dead leaves, and a short sturdy stick. If you can’t find these things, that’s okay, just use whatever you have around that works for you. Find somewhere quiet and private, preferably a cozy place. Find yourself a cushion or chair, if you need one. Place the cushion in a clear space on your floor. Around that cushion place the four objects- the empty bowl, the stone, the pile of leaves, and the stick. If you need to use a chair, clear a table and put the four objects on the table. If you would like to, light a candle and place it nearby. This is not necessary, but it is a nice way to symbolize bringing light into the situation.
Like all of the processes in this toolkit you can either do this Dare to Care process alone, with a friend, or with a group of people. Sharing it with others truly deepens the experience and what you get from it.
If you are with a friend, get two cushions and put the objects between you.
If you are in a group, sit in a circle with the objects in the center. When someone wishes to speak they will go into the center of the circle and pick up whichever object they wish to speak to.
The purpose of the dare to care exercise is to connect us to our deeper feeling about the state of the world. An opportunity to focus on the so called “negative” feelings our culture and society tells us either that we shouldn’t have, or if we do have them, that we should hide. This Dare to Care process helps us discover what we really care about. What do we love? What really matters to us? What moves us?
Contrary to what we might expect our so called “negative” feelings, such as fear, anger, sadness, and overwhelm are often the keys to finding our motivation and our life’s passion. Sharing these feeling with other people who we feel safe with also deepens our connection with them and helps us realize that we are not alone. We encourage you not only to Dare to Care but to Dare to Share.
This process is based on the Truth Mandala, which was developed by Joanna Macy as part of The Work That Reconnects, and is included in her most recent book Active Hope.
So, get yourself a glass of water, maybe some tissues. Take off your shoes. If you’ve chosen to use a candle, light it now.
Sit down and get comfortable, either on your cushion or in your chair. Take a few really deep breaths, and with each exhalation feel all the muscles in your body relaxing. Allow any tensions to release. Close your eyes. Bring your attention to the earth beneath you, feel it supporting you as it always does. Feel yourself sitting on the ground, or feel the soles of your feet on the ground, and allow this sensation to connect you to the earth and also to be a symbol of entering and experiencing a deeper level of consciousness. See if you can feel that sense of relaxation, gratitude and support just sitting there.
While you are in that space, start to allow images and thoughts and feelings to arise about the destruction of the earth and its ecosystems, climate change, social injustice, war, famine, economic collapse- all the things you know about that are happening in the world right now that make you feel distressed. Just allow any feelings that you have to surface. Now gently open up your eyes and allow your gaze to rest upon the four objects around you. Each of these four objects symbolizes a different emotion. The rock symbolizes anxiety and fear- as you gaze at the rock, allow those feelings to arise. The stick symbolizes anger and frustration- as you gaze at the stick allow those feelings to arise. Now turn your attention to the pile of leaves, these leaves symbolize your sadness and your grief about what is happening to the world. As you gaze at them, allow those feelings to arise in you. And finally, gaze at the empty bowl- this symbolizes feelings of not knowing, of emptiness and despair- allow those feelings to arise as well.
When you are ready, pick up one of those objects, whichever one calls to you first, whichever one you are feeling most strongly at that time. Allow yourself to fall more and more deeply into the feeling. Welcome it, accept it, don’t try to change it. Feel the physical sensations that come along with that feeling. Maybe you are slightly shaky, perhaps tears begin to come- that is okay, just let it happen. Once you have allowed yourself to feel this emotion, try to speak it out loud. Even if you are alone, giving voice to your emotions is a powerful and often relieving thing to do. Speak in the first person, trying to express whatever feelings you feel symbolized by whichever object you are holding. Repeat this process for each object when you hold it. Feel free to come back to an object or feeling you have already expressed if something else comes up for you about it.
If you are with a friend, simply take turns sharing. Don’t be afraid to allow silence between your sharing.
After you feel you have completed this process, make sure to listen to the Dare to Care II podcast.
Now, remember that the rock symbolizes anxiety and fear, the stick symbolizes anger and frustration, the leaves symbolize your sadness and grief about what is being lost, and the empty bowl symbolizes a state of despair and not knowing what to do.
Thank you for having the courage to get in touch with your deeper feelings, speak them write them, share them. Know that you are not alone in having these feelings. There are many of us who share your experiences, your knowledge, and your reactions. Remember, too, that each one of your feelings is a healthy psychological response to the current crises and the unhealthy state of the world.
We would like to remind you that each of these “negative” feelings also has a flip side to it. When you were holding the rock and feeling afraid and anxious, know that courage is not possible without those feelings of fear. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to take action despite feeling afraid.
When you were holding the stick and feeling angry or frustrated, know that anger is nothing more than a passion for justice and that it is a necessary force in empowering and motivating you to make change.
When you were holding the leaves and feeling sadness and grief at what is being lost, know that you wouldn’t feel those feelings unless you loved or cared for those very things. So the leaves also symbolize your deep love and care for the planet and for people.
When you were holding the empty bowl and recognizing your despair and not knowing what to do, know that we need that emptiness, that not knowing, that space, in order to imagine new solutions, make the changes that we need to make, and create a better world.
So thank you for your courage, your passion for justice, your love and care, and your openness and ability to change. Thank you for daring to care. Imagine what is possible if we apply each of those feelings, and the strengths that come from them, to making a difference in the world.