Manage the emotional highs and lows of climate work


By Jeff Joslin, co-chair of CCL Peer Support – Ongo Action Team

Valerie Bane is enjoying a roller coaster of emotion. The latest climate news hits every loop-the-loop: excitement, celebration and inquisitiveness over the newly introduced Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, and anxiety, despair and mourning over the dire findings of the recent IPCC and NCA4 climate reports. High to low and back again. Many of us are also experiencing emotional ups and downs. But “enjoy?” How does she enjoy the ride? Would you like to more enjoy your ups and downs in the new year?

Valerie, who serves on CCL’s Governing Board, just completed of one of CCL’s Peer Support – Ongo Groups. Through Ongo, group members listened to Valerie with invigorating empathy, in ways she doesn’t often experience in daily life. She worked through guided exercises that taught her more about people’s fundamental needs, and how she can meet those more fully for herself. And she identified which of her own emotional strategies have worked and which come up short, while learning simple new ideas that help her move toward her goals. It is uplifting, and she can enjoy that roller coaster thanks to this support and knowledge.

ongo bookValerie says that Ongo has pulled together in one place an easy program that provides a safe space, allowing her to explore current, emotional or sensitive topics in ways that support her wish to connect more deeply with other people and their needs. Valerie says that Ongo’s consistent attention to fundamental human needs helps her pre-assess the groups she speaks to. She’s able to more fully be the volunteer, friend and partner she longs to be.

CCL’s Peer Support Action Team began the Ongo program in 2017, with its first 12-week group. (Ongo refers to an “ongoing” personal or spirit-filled practice.)  A CCL Ongo practice utilizes mindfulness, forgiveness, empathy, compassion and self-care, in an effort to learn how to further understand ourselves and others.  Through daily practices, working with a buddy and weekly group meetings, we can make a significant difference in our approach to challenging situations, including those we encounter as CCL volunteers. The practice can help mold our choice of words when encouraging people to become involved in our mission. It can improve a wide range of interpersonal relationships.

Valerie’s excitement for the recently introduced Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act is deeply personal. Her father has a serious respiratory condition that is worsened by poor air quality and climate change. Reductions in air pollutants would have lessened or eliminated much of the pain and anguish he and her family experience. Her hope for future generations and families is that reduced greenhouse gas emissions will ease their lives. Knowing her work with CCL may lessen the burden of other families provides comfort and satisfaction.  

The empathic skills Valerie has honed in Ongo have changed her conversations.  For instance, her self-empathy helps her better convey her story to members of Congress and then compassionately reflect on the reception she receives in return. Valerie finds that she is better able to connect with Congressmen and women, their staff and others. She says, “People really appreciate being seen and heard more fully and compassionately. It’s been very rewarding.” She enjoys learning, connecting, understanding and growing.  

Is Ongo for you? Consider this: Ongo is a time-intensive program. Immersion provides deeper practice and insight. It can help change frustrating reactions toward more effective responses. Sometimes just being present to our needs and those of others provides satisfaction or relief, even when we’re unable to effect a change. As one participant said about their group experience, “Ongo’s values aligned perfectly with CCL’s. I made some great connections and shared learning experiences with some fabulous people across the U.S. and Canada. This course is food for the soul that helps immensely with my climate activism.” Lining up our values, skills and training to support our highest goals is what Ongo is all about.  

An Ongo groups will start later this month and continue in the months ahead. For more information and to sign up, visit our CCL Peer Support – Ongo Action Team information page.