Jo Hamilton

Why do you to feel such passion about inner-led change? What is it within your own lived experience that it touches and moves your heart to feel this is so important?

My concern and passion about inner led change came about as my ways of approaching social change without any forms of inner-led change quickly reached their limits, in the form of burnout and disillusionment. I’d experienced how not addressing group dynamics can fracture  groups, causing arguments and opposition instead of ways that supported greater understanding and awareness. 

Through working on climate change engagement from 2000 onwards, I felt passionate about making the emotional dimensions of climate change visible, and permissible. I’d seen what happens when the inner side was absent: withdrawal, and getting caught up in the guilt-tripping, blame and moral superiority games which undermine any cause. Whether it was running climate change speaker trainings or workshops about climate change, I’d always include some aspect of emotional reflection, and I’d see the difference that it made. There was a sense of relief, that people were not alone in their feelings, and that they could be more present. 

I’ve experienced the transformational (and hard won!) power of sustained periods of meditation. I experienced how aspects of my thinking and behaviour were not serving me, and how I could change my responses and approach. I’ve also found group work approaches such as The Work That Reconnects a powerful way to connect with my deeper feelings, and a safe space for me to acquaint myself with and transform the feelings of anger, rage and grief that I didn’t know how to work through in other ways. These experiences have inspired me to facilitate processes where the more painful emotions are welcome, not excluded, where they can be explored and moved through. 

Through all this I have practices that can sustain me to keep going, to bring as good a response as I can to the situations presenting us. Knowing that there are organisations and people who are approaching the intersecting crises of our time with holistic and systemic visions, compassion, and tools and practices that can promote healing instead of further polarisation and division enables me to ‘stay with the trouble’ (as Donna Haraway puts it in her book of the same title).

My work in the world

My journey to this work has been a weaving of threads that have run concurrently through my life. 

Environmental and social justice:  A concern for justice and actions to stop destructive behaviour and practices has been with me from an early age. Going on CND marches was part of my upbringing, along with an understanding that unjust laws need to be challenged and sometimes broken. And the fear and terror that accompanied knowledge of nuclear war as I grew up.  This concern - and fear - fuelled my early activism in Earth First and student campaigning in the 1990s, but also left me ill-equipped for dealing with the emotional impacts and overwhelm associated with activism. Experiences of burnout presented the opportunity to work on the associated emotions. Since 2000 I’ve been focused on climate change - raising awareness, encouraging engagement, supporting community action  in Oxfordshire, encouraging peer-to peer learning, taking non-violent direct action and campaigning. More recently, I’ve been exploring and taking small steps in decolonising environmental issues.

Decolonising through groups exploring racialised identity: I’ve been exploring my own identity as someone racialised white. This has usually been through small groups exploring the invention of race and whiteness, making visible the harms that racism and divisions along racial identity has - at personal and systemic levels - then taking steps in organisations and through my work to challenge and dismantle practices that perpetuate racism. It’s work that I feel at the beginning of, but can already sense the ripples of transformation and liberation. 

Music and creativity: I’m a musician, and have found great joy playing with others, and supporting the causes that I love as I do so. In the early 2000s I played and toured  with Seize the Day, experiencing first hand the power of music and community. I can remember a friend coming up to me after a gig, and saying “I didn’t want to come to your gig as I knew I’d cry, but I came, and I cried, and I’m so pleased for both”. 

I vividly recall how playing and bringing street band music to marches can transform atmospheres, breaking down tension, creating glorious diversions of dancing. I’ve also seen and experienced how creative approaches to issues such as climate change can create a way to engage with the emotions through a creative practice, such as writing and poetry, and through creative experiences: being moved by music or art or poetry. Creativity is such a potent portal.

Research: I’ve researched community responses to climate change and community energy, and more recently, I’ve completed my PhD at the University of Reading on ‘What we do with how we feel about climate change’ (links coming soon), focused on the role of emotions in engaging and sustaining engagement with climate change. This drew me to a wide range of inner approaches, which left me questioning why these weren’t well known or accessible, and wondering how to increase accessibility to these approaches. This drew me to the other co-founders ... who were asking similar questions.

Nature connection: Walks in wind and rain on Dartmoor instilled a love of the big wide world from an early age. Together with open water swimming, my soul needs regular doses of the more- than-human world, and I’m strengthened through connection by it.