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Opening to Grief: Tools for Moving through Hard Times

Opening to Grief: Tools for Moving through Hard Times

This moment is heavy with grief—whether it be from the climate crisis, the conflict in Israel-Palestine, the war in Ukraine, or ongoing conflicts in the Congo, Sudan, Syria, and countless other crises.

Grief, defined as a deep sense of sorrow evoked by loss, is what we experience when something or someone we love dies, changes, or disappears. Although grief can feel challenging both emotionally and somatically, it is a state that ought not be pathologized in that it is a healthy response to losing something we love. Grief, in reminding us what we love, can also empower us to speak up against injustice, to gather in solidarity, and to nurture a world that supports life.

According to Martín Prechtel, author of The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise, to open ourselves to grief is one of the greatest expressions of love and praise and performs a restorative, healing function when felt fully and expressed in that it honors what we miss, be it a person, a home, a way of life, or a country. He writes, “To truly and freely grieve as an entire people can revive an entire culture just as much as it can bring back to life an individual.” 

We at Synergetic Press value centering conversations around openness, mutual care, and compassion towards one another in these trying times. We recognize that even though there are no easy solutions or paths to meet the complexities and challenges that humanity collectively faces, as Joana Macy shared, “the most radical thing that any of us can do at this time is to be fully present to what is happening in the world.” As such, we have provided a list of resources and tools for helping you to feel more deeply as well as care for yourself and others in this moment of collective grief and heartache. 

Community Care, Resources, & Practices for Grief

Room for Grief by Reimagine & BACII – Hosted every third Thursday of the month, the Reimagine community opens its arms to those navigating loss with our Room for Grief sessions. Facilitated by volunteers, these peer-led, drop-in gatherings are for you, whether you’re looking to learn about grief or seeking support in your journey. We leverage art, creativity, and prompts to foster conversation and introspection. Designed for adults across generations, Room for Grief is your safe space when you need it.

The GEN Grief Toolkit by Camille Sapara Barton – Embodiment tools and rituals to support grief work in community 

Across Lines: Grief. with Bayo Akomolafe, Professor Sa’ed Atshan, and Cecilie Surasky Starting from the premise that all people belong and all lives are grievable, the speakers will explore how honoring each other’s grief may allow us to reclaim each other’s humanity and perhaps shed light on a path forward to belonging in Israel-Palestine, for Muslims, Jews, and Christians, and for all people around the world. Bayo, Sa’ed, and Cecilie will journey into what it might be like to glimpse at the world through tears: what visions are possible when we postpone the compulsion to see everything clearly?

Books on Grief and Loss 

Tending Grief: Embodied Rituals for Holding Our Sorrow and Growing Cultures of Care in Community by Camille Sapara Barton

An embodied guide to being with grief individually and in community—practical exercises, decolonized rituals, and Earth-based medicines for healing and processing loss

The Smell of Rain on Dust: Grief and Praise by Martín Prechtel 

Inspiring hope, solace, and courage in living through our losses, author Martín Prechtel, trained in the Tzutujil Maya shamanic tradition, shares profound insights on the relationship between grief and praise in our culture–how the inability that many of us have to grieve and weep properly for the dead is deeply linked with the inability to give praise for living. 

World as Lover, World as Self by Joanna Macy

An enduring classic of the ecology movement by the founder of the Work That Reconnects, now more timely than ever. Humanity is in an existential crisis. Facing the magnitude of our global situation as individuals leaves us feeling alone, disempowered, and despairing. Who better to listen to for wisdom and solace than Joanna Macy, one of the originators of modern environmentalism, whose life’s work has been to hear and heal our pain for the planet?

The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller

Noted psychotherapist Francis Weller provides an essential guide for navigating the deep waters of sorrow and loss in this lyrical yet practical handbook for mastering the art of grieving. Describing how Western patterns of amnesia and anesthesia affect our capacity to cope with personal and collective sorrows, Weller reveals the new vitality we may encounter when we welcome, rather than fear, the pain of loss. Through moving personal stories, poetry, and insightful reflections he leads us into the central energy of sorrow, and to the profound healing and heightened communion with each other and our planet that reside alongside it.

Rebellious Mourning: The Collective Work of Grief edited by Cindy Milstein

We can bear almost anything when it is worked through collectively. Grief is generally thought of as something personal and insular, but when we publicly share loss and pain, we lessen the power of the forces that debilitate us, while at the same time building the humane social practices that alleviate suffering and improve quality of life for everyone. Addressing tragedies from Fukushima to Palestine, incarceration to eviction, AIDS crises to border crossings, and racism to rape, the intimate yet tenacious writing in this volume shows that mourning can pry open spaces of contestation and reconstruction, empathy and solidarity. With contributions from Claudia Rankine, Sarah Schulman, David Wojnarowicz, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, David Gilbert, and nineteen others.

Waking Up to the Dark: The Black Madonna’s Gospel for An Age of Extinction and Collapse by Clark Strand

Is darkness synonymous with ignorance and evil? Or is it the original matrix from which all life emerges, and the Mother to whom it returns? Higher and higher levels of artificial illumination have suppressed our contact with the numinous since the Industrial Revolution, with dire consequences for society, our planetary ecology, and our souls. This mystical testament weaves together paleobiology, memoir, history, science, and spiritual archaeology to lead readers back into the lost mysteries of the dark.

Organizations You Can Support (Grief and Love in Action)

When contributing to humanitarian efforts in Israel-Palestine or elsewhere, make sure to exercise caution to avoid donating to fraudulent organizations. The Federal Trade Commission recommends researching charities by adding terms like “complaint,” “review,” “rating” and “scam” to their names in your search to identify any potential red flags. Given the abundance of misinformation on social media about the Israel-Hamas conflict, it is crucial to ensure that your donations go to legitimate and effective organizations.

  1. Doctors without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – an organization that provides medical assistance to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. Their teams are made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistic and administrative staff – most of them hired locally, guided by medical ethics and the principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality.
  1. The Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund – an organization that provides free medical care to thousands of injured and ill children yearly who lack local access to care within the local health care system.  Over the years, they’ve sent over 2,000 affected children abroad for free medical care, sent thousands of international doctors and nurses to provide tens of thousands of children free medical care in local hospitals, and provided tens of thousands of children humanitarian aid and support they otherwise would not get.  
  1. The International Rescue Committee – a nonprofit organization that helps people affected by humanitarian crises—including the climate crisis—to survive, recover and rebuild their lives.

Artwork credit: “Receptor” 2021 by Ashley Blanton. Follow her work here: https://www.instagram.com/faint.as.fog/

Indigenous Food Sovereignty: Nourishing Communities, Preserving Cultures

Indigenous Food Sovereignty: Nourishing Communities, Preserving Cultures

Indigenous food sovereignty stands as a critical pillar in the struggle for self-determination and cultural preservation among Indigenous communities worldwide. Rooted in the profound connection between land, culture, and sustenance, this concept embodies the right of Indigenous peoples to define their own food systems, free from external interference. Scholars and activists like Vandana Shiva and Winona LaDuke have played instrumental roles in articulating the importance of Indigenous food sovereignty, emphasizing its role in fostering sustainable practices, biodiversity conservation, and cultural resilience.

Vandana Shiva’s Perspective: Resisting Corporate Control

Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist, scholar, and author, has been a staunch advocate for seed sovereignty and the protection of Indigenous knowledge systems. She highlights the encroachment of agribusiness giants and the threat they pose to traditional food systems. Shiva argues that the commodification of seeds and the imposition of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) infringe upon the rights of Indigenous communities to save, exchange, and cultivate their traditional seeds, limiting biodiversity for future generations.

In the context of Indigenous food sovereignty, Shiva emphasizes the significance of seed sovereignty as a means of reclaiming control over the food production process. When Indigenous communities have the autonomy to safeguard and share their native seeds, they simultaneously protect their biodiversity and cultural heritage. Shiva’s work underscores the importance of resisting corporate control to ensure that Indigenous peoples can maintain their traditional agricultural practices.

In her book, Reclaiming the Commons: Biodiversity, Indigenous Knowledge, and the Rights of Mother Earth, Shiva explores the ways in which Indigenous and traditional communities do not see themselves as separate from the natural world, with Western culture only just catching up to this understanding. She writes, “What our Indigenous communities already embodied in their worldview of the commons as a way of life is now slowly being moved towards by the rest of the world. In gradually tracing our way back we are walking forward into a future embracing that liminality and inseparability between the communities and their common resources. Between us and our environment.” 

Winona LaDuke’s Advocacy: Land as the Foundation

Winona LaDuke, an Anishinaabe activist and environmentalist, has been a prominent voice in the fight for Indigenous rights and sustainable development in North America. LaDuke places a particular emphasis on the centrality of land to Indigenous identity and food sovereignty. For many indigenous communities, land is not merely a resource; it is a sacred space intertwined with cultural practices, spirituality, and sustenance.

As LaDuke writes in Recovering the Sacred: The Power of Naming and Claiming, “The recovery of the people is tied to the recovery of food, since food itself is medicine: not only for the body, but for the soul, for the spiritual connection to history, ancestors, and the land.”

LaDuke contends that the loss of land and the degradation of natural resources disrupt Indigenous food systems, contributing to the erosion of cultural practices and community resilience. In her work, she advocates for policies that recognize and respect Indigenous land rights, enabling communities to manage their territories in ways that align with their cultural and ecological values.

The Interconnectedness of Food, Culture, and Ecology

The Indigenous Food Sovereignty movement aims to provide Indigenous communities with the ability to have autonomy over their own food systems, undoing the century-old colonialist food policies that have hampered their ability to control and determine their foodways. ⁠⁠

Historically speaking, food insecurity for native peoples was largely caused by colonial encroachment upon their lands, the devastation of traditional fishing, hunting, and harvesting areas, the vulnerability of populations to diseases, and the resultant depletion of cultural knowledge. The United States’ historical colonial legacy has profoundly disrupted the ancestral relationship between Indigenous Peoples and their land-based food systems.

Indigenous food sovereignty includes creating access to healthy food options, integrating and sustaining ancestral farming and food practices, as well as cultivating a living relationship with the land, and reinforcing value systems that honor interconnection.⁠⁠

Attempts to assimilate the Indigenous peoples of North America into Euro-American society included calculated attempts to decimate Indigenous food supplies, and so the practice of food sovereignty is an act of healing. ⁠⁠

Both Shiva and LaDuke highlight the interconnectedness of food, culture, and ecology within the framework of Indigenous food sovereignty. Indigenous food systems are not solely about sustenance; they are a manifestation of cultural identity and a repository of traditional knowledge passed down through generations. By protecting and revitalizing these food systems, Indigenous communities assert their right to maintain their distinct ways of life.

Furthermore, the emphasis on sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices inherent in Indigenous food sovereignty aligns with broader global efforts to combat climate change. Indigenous communities often serve as stewards of diverse ecosystems, promoting biodiversity and resilient agricultural methods that contribute to environmental conservation on a global scale.

Conclusion

Indigenous food sovereignty is a crucial element in the broader struggle for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. Vandana Shiva and Winona LaDuke’s work underscores the need to recognize and respect the autonomy of Indigenous communities in shaping their food systems. By safeguarding traditional seeds, reclaiming control over land, and promoting sustainable practices, Indigenous peoples assert their right to nourish their communities while preserving their ancestral heritage.

Photo by julian mora on Unsplash

Preserving Indigenous Wisdom and Spiritual Legacy

Preserving Indigenous Wisdom and Spiritual Legacy

The Legacy of Bear Heart

 

From our heart to yours. 

“Reading this masterfully architectured book, you will know Bear, and you will know your own heart, and you will know a man about whom not enough can possibly be written – Bear Heart, Keeper of the Sacred Wisdom of the Muscogee Creek Nation, healer, warrior and storyteller who lives on not only in the Forest of Spirit but with us here in the Land of the Seeking. Deep deep gratitude to Bear Heart’s life partner, Reginah WaterSpirit, through whose art and writings, the invaluable teachings of Bear Heart will live on and on far beyond any of us.”
Rabbi Gershon Winkler 

Beart Heart was a Muscogee Creek Native American Church Road Man with a talent for seeing people as individuals, and for making them feel seen and special in their own ways. 

He was born in Oklahoma in 1918 and was a member of the Bear Clan dedicating his life to bridging the gap between indigenous traditions and the modern world. He traveled the globe, sharing the wisdom of his ancestors through storytelling, lectures, and workshops. His teachings focused on the importance of balance, harmony with nature, and the interconnectedness of all living beings.

Bear Heart teachings reflect the spiritual depth of indigenous cultures. His stories and insights provide a unique perspective on the interconnectedness of all life and the importance of living in harmony with nature continuing to inspire indigenous youth to embrace and celebrate their heritage. Their stories serve as a beacon of hope for those seeking to reconnect with their roots and traditions.

When Reginah would ask Bear Heart exactly how he made his medicine, he always answered, “I don’t make the medicine, it was here before me. I’ve been entrusted to be a caretaker of certain sacred ways.”

The Bear is my Father is not just a book; it is a profound testament to the enduring wisdom and spirituality of indigenous cultures. Bear Heart and Reginah Waterspirit, through their stories and teachings, leave a legacy that reminds us of the beauty and importance of preserving the traditions and values of indigenous communities. Their work serves as a bridge between the past and the present, inviting us all to learn from the wisdom of our ancestors and live in harmony with the Earth.

Bridging the Gap between Western and Indigenous Cultures

Bridging the Gap between Western and Indigenous Cultures

Recognizing the Role of Indigenous People in our Planet

As we step into a new era, one marked by a growing awareness of the world around us, it is imperative that we acknowledge the invaluable role of indigenous people in our planet’s well-being.

For centuries, our society has been driven by a relentless pursuit of material wealth and personal gain. The insatiable appetite for riches has taken precedence over the harmony and stability of our planet, leading us down a perilous path of environmental degradation and imbalance. Throughout these tumultuous years, indigenous communities and tribes have been pushed to the brink of extinction, their cultures marginalized and their knowledge forgotten in the wake of colonization and the spread of capitalism.

In 1997, a glimmer of hope emerged with the establishment of the Indigenous Peoples Rights Act, aimed at recognizing, protecting, and promoting the rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities/Indigenous Peoples. This act created a National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, paving the way for mechanisms, appropriate funding, and the reclamation of their ancestral lands. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples further emphasized the urgency of respecting and promoting their inherent rights, including their political, economic, and social structures, as well as their spiritual traditions and connection to the land. Yet, despite these efforts, global governments and multinational corporations continue to exploit indigenous lands, particularly in places like the Amazon.

Indigenous peoples, who make up only 4% of the world’s population, play a pivotal role in safeguarding 80% of the world’s biodiversity. It is high time we recognize and appreciate the immense value and importance these communities hold for the survival of our planet.

So, how can we bridge the gap that has separated indigenous cultures from the Western world? We must revere the ancient knowledge they possess and the profound connection they maintain with the Earth.

As we seek to learn from them, it is our duty to treasure their wisdom as much as they do and treat their willingness to share it with us with the utmost respect. Gratitude is essential for the tireless efforts of indigenous communities. They are the guardians of the world’s biodiversity and, in turn, the frontline defenders against climate change and deforestation. Their fight is not separate from ours; it is a shared battle that we must acknowledge and actively support.

Lastly, there is a pressing need for respect—for the land, the knowledge, and the people. Our lack of respect for the land has fueled the overproduction of resources in these areas, contributing to ecological imbalance. It is high time we recognize that indigenous lands are not commodities to be exploited but sacred spaces to be preserved and protected.

To build a more sustainable and harmonious world, we must embrace indigenous cultures with reverence, gratitude, and respect. Their knowledge, connection to the Earth, and efforts in environmental preservation are invaluable gifts that we must cherish and support. It’s time to bridge the gap and stand together for the well-being of our planet and all its inhabitants.

70 Ads to Save the World: Winner of IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award

70 Ads to Save the World: Winner of IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award

In an era where advertising often seems synonymous with consumerism and manipulation, Jerry Mander, an advertising visionary, took a bold step forward to harness the power of the medium for a greater cause. In his captivating book, 70 Ads to Save the World: An Illustrated Memoir of Social Change, Mander invites readers on a remarkable journey through his groundbreaking work that challenged the status quo and aimed to make a positive impact on society.

The IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, a prestigious recognition in the publishing industry, recently acknowledged the remarkable achievements of 70 Ads to Save the World. By winning the silver award in the Political and Current Events category, the book has received well-deserved acclaim for its innovative approach to advertising and its potential to create a better world. This recognition further solidifies Mander’s position as a visionary and validates the impact of his work in driving social change.

70 Ads to Save the World is more than just a memoir; it serves as a catalyst for action. By sharing his journey, Mander motivates readers to rethink their own relationship with advertising and consider how it can be harnessed as a force for positive transformation. The book challenges us to question the prevailing narratives, examine our own beliefs, and explore creative solutions to pressing global issues. It empowers readers to believe in their ability to make a difference and inspires them to take action in their own lives and communities.

Mander’s perspective on advertising was unlike any other. Rather than utilizing advertising solely for corporate gain, he believed that it could be a powerful tool for social change. Mander’s book showcases 70 compelling ads that were designed to provoke thought, inspire action, and challenge societal norms. These thoughtfully crafted advertisements covered a range of pressing issues, including environmental sustainability, social justice, and political reform.

An illustrated memoir that masterfully combines images and narratives to create a lasting impact, Mander understood the potency of visual storytelling, recognizing that captivating visuals could communicate a message more effectively than words alone. Each ad presented in the book is accompanied by an insightful commentary, providing readers with an in-depth understanding of the creative process and the underlying social message. Mander’s work defied conventional advertising norms by breaking away from the relentless pursuit of profit and redirecting the focus towards the greater good. Through his thought-provoking ads, he aimed to promote critical thinking, encourage dialogue, and ultimately inspire positive change. By challenging societal assumptions and exposing the flaws within our systems, Mander’s ads stimulated discussions that had the potential to reshape public opinion and drive collective action.

Jerry Mander’s 70 Ads to Save the World: An Illustrated Memoir of Social Change represents a groundbreaking work that pushes the boundaries of advertising. By utilizing the medium to challenge societal norms and advocate for positive change, Mander demonstrates the immense potential of advertising to shape the world we live in. With its thought-provoking content, visually engaging illustrations, and recent recognition at the IBPA Benjamin Franklin Awards, this book serves as a rallying call to harness the power of advertising for the greater good. Let Mander’s memoir inspire us all to explore new avenues and embrace advertising as a means to save the world

 

When Philanthropy Reinforces Colonial Dynamics

When Philanthropy Reinforces Colonial Dynamics

Image by Freepik

When Philanthropy Reinforces Colonial Dynamics

While the act of giving has historically been seen as a benevolent gesture, there are underlying systems and ideologies that serve to perpetuate colonial and capitalistic structures. Traditional philanthropy, rooted in wealth accumulated during colonial eras, often reinforces the power dynamics of the past. When wealth derived from oppressive systems is redistributed without relational attunement, deep introspection, or systemic change, it can inadvertently uphold the very disparities it seeks to alleviate. This article explores these critical perspectives on the changing landscape of giving.

UK Charity Dimantles Itself, Recognizing Philanthropy as a Colonial Capitalist Force

Last month major charitable foundation based in the UK, Lankelly Chase, which distributes approximately £13m annually to numerous organizations focused on sectors like social, racial, and climate justice, expressed its concern about the way in which traditional philanthropy is “entangled with colonial capitalism”, expressing its intentions to form innovative paths forward.

In a statement published on their website, they write, “We have recognized the gravity of the interlocking social, climate and economic global crises we are experiencing today. At the same time, we view the traditional philanthropy model as so entangled with Colonial Capitalism that it inevitably continues the harms of the past into the present.”

Over the next 5 years, the organization plans to redistribute its assets and dismantle itself to redistribute its assets and dismantle itself, “so that money can flow freely to those doing life-affirming social justice work. We will make space to reimagine how wealth, capital and social justice can co-exist in the service of all life, now and for future generations.” 

Taking a look at the connection between colonialism and philanthropy, Edgar Villanueva, author of Decolonizing Wealth, commented, “Colonization has a lot to do with philanthropy. Organizations and individuals who invest money need to understand the trauma that exists because of how wealth has been accumulated. We must own our part in perpetuating colonizing dynamics in order to really practice grant-making and investing with a lens of racial equity.”

Lankelly Chase’s recent decision to explore innovative ways to make change as a philanthropic organization mirrors Villanueva’s call for organizations to take responsibility for their impacts, proactively taking steps towards fostering true equity.

What is Philanthrocapitalism?

Philanthrocapitalism is a relatively new term coined by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green to describe a “new way of doing philanthropy” which mirrors the way that business is conducted in the for-profit world. 

In this model, philanthropists act akin to venture capitalists, seeking measurable returns on their social investments. The focus shifts from merely giving away money to strategically investing it in initiatives that promise both a social and a financial return. In theory, philanthrocapitalism combines the ideals of the capitalist marketplace with the desire to bring about positive social change. Critics argue that by aligning philanthropy too closely with market principles, it risks sidelining the voices of those it aims to help, and may inadvertently perpetuate systems of inequality. Yet, its proponents believe that by applying business methodologies, greater efficiency, transparency, and long-term impact can be achieved in the realm of charitable giving.

Philanthrocapitalism as a Colonial Force

However, author and environmental activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva, critiques the notion of philanthrocapitalism in her book titled Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy. Dr. Shiva suggests that philanthrocapitalists are perpetuating and creating new forms of colonial violence through the use of digital technologies. In particular, her critique of philanthrocapitalism centers on how billionaires and corporations are amassing wealth and power through philanthropic interventions in land, food, and farming in the Global South. 

She writes, “When technology is seen as a religion, a civilizing mission to be forced undemocratically on people, and a means for money-making elevated to human ends, it goes beyond ethical, social, ecological, and democratic assessment. Instead of being chosen, adopted, or rejected, we see technology as a forced recolonization in modern garb.” 

Ever since the advent of the Green Revolution, companies have dictated what constitutes a “profitable venture” for farmers. However, as a direct result of such ventures many small-scale farmers found themselves burdened with debt, leading to the loss of their properties. In some tragic instances, the overwhelming pressure of these debts pushed them to take their own lives.

Dr. Shiva goes on to explain how such ventures “elevate corporate tools to a new religion and new civilizing mission, which has been imposed to civilize the ecological, independent, knowledge-sovereign farmers who are seen as the new “barbarians.” New technological fundamentalism makes corporate tools a measure and indicator of human progress, immune to social and democratic assessments.

In conclusion, as the philanthropic sector grapples with its complex legacy and evolving practices, it is imperative to prioritize introspection and accountability. Dr. Vandana Shiva’s book, Philanthrocapitalism and the Erosion of Democracy, offers invaluable insights into this very critique. By actively engaging with such critiques and prioritizing the voices of those affected, we can begin to compost ideas that perpetuate inequality and cultivate novel pathways that work to benefit all beings.

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