by Angelina Cook, Program Director

I recently had the great fortune of participating in HOME Jam. The annual convergence took place at the end of March in the California redwoods, just east of Santa Cruz. Healing Our Movement Ecosystem (HOME) Environmental Movement Jam is an evolution of the YES! organization. YES! was founded 30 years ago by Ocean Robbins, to empower Youth for Environmental Sanity (YES!).

Tucked into a majestic forest that reeked of resilience, almost 30 people of diverse ethnicities, ages, and backgrounds committed to a week of sharing gifts and unique perspectives.  More of an initiation, than a workshop or retreat, every exercise seemed to pierce through veils. By showing up present in a screenless setting, free of substances and stress, our combined wisdom shed light upon the true meaning of environmental justice.

One premise of HOME Jam is that the work of transformation requires attention to sensory details, which are easy to ignore in our fast-paced, competitive, techno-industrial, producer-consumer economy. When individuals step into a safe space for genuine communication, however, suppressed emotions get unleashed. Authentic expression pours out in streams of laughter, tears, movement, bewilderment, and raw unadulterated inspirational art.

Once decried as characteristic of ignorant women, emotions are making their way back into the halls of justice. Perhaps non-linear, emotional intelligence allows people to be heard, which makes way for people to listen. To be heard, and to listen, are the pillars of compassion. And compassion is the keystone of democracy.

Veteran HOME Jammers are benevolent. They are creative, conscientious, compassionate, and they love to give and receive. They are succinct, so that everyone has a chance to share. And they are experts at managing paradox, because ecological economies are rife with irony.

Take environmental injustice for instance. Now that the unearned supremacy of patriarchy has exploited nature and subjugated human rights for a sufficient amount of time, its infrastructure has been established. Even the most brilliant ecologists are implicated as unwitting accomplices of our own demise by perpetuating prejudice and participating in the petrochemical parasite.

External realities are a reflection of our inner landscape. If we want to heal the environment, we must heal ourselves. On the personal level, we have a high level of influence to adjust our toxic exposure, intake and projection. But at the collective level, our health is only as strong as the community. HOME Jam amplified Gandhi’s notion that the most powerful way humans can heal damaged ecosystems, is through non-violent diligent focus on self-healing. Deep, holistic, often fun, sometimes scary and gut-wrenching healing of the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual spheres of being.

As the consequences of atmospheric carbon loading unfold, perpetual waves of sunshine merging with water, earth, and air will continue to breath light into our lives, providing opportunities to be vulnerable. HOME Jam, like a river, reminds people to show up, trust gravity, surrender to the flow, and accept responsibility for self, as essential for rebuilding community.

For humanity to leave a living legacy, everyone must play a part in Planet Earth’s narrative.  As for my role in transitioning to an environmentally just society, my tasks became clear at HOME Jam. For now, they are to 1. Listen, 2. Dance like trees blowing in the breeze, 3. Share my emotions, 4. Have more potlucks, and 5. Attune my vibration to receive guidance and hone self-inquiry.

Of the many nuggets of emotional intelligence that were shared at HOME Jam, my favorite quote was uttered by April, a divine representative of the feminine principle living in Berkley. When she said, “I can’t afford to let my gifts die because I refused to heal” a tiny wall got dislodged in my heart and reinforced my resolve to remain on the healing path.

By the end of the week, my faith was restored that little by little, I too can heal. And little by little, California is learning to embody the ecological ethics that capitalism tends to discourage.