The Global Scale of Metabolizing Grief

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by Yulia Smagorinsky

Recorded by author

This essay is an attempt to share a perspective on our world today as it has been presenting itself to me. Ever since I read this Deep Times issue’s topic, “Metabolizing Grief”, I felt the call building inside me to find an expression for this perception.

It is going to be a raw version, as I am lacking the words, the vocabulary. But I am hoping it will nonetheless be received as a gift to our collective effort in the Great Turning. And I trust that there will be many ears who can receive this message coming from the Earth more eloquently than I can express it – and hopefully take it to inspire a practice that turns it into some clearer version of communication through art, words, music. It is all a collective effort.

I drew a couple of sketches to aid in the building of this narrative:

Sketch 1, by author

“Sketch 1” shows the flow of light-love-life energy in a healthy Earth. The blue circle is indicating the surface of the Earth on which humanity dwells. You can see that much of the energetic flow happens on the inside – always reaching outward and returning to the core. There are many colors, which reflect the vividness, the light and life-giving qualities inherent in this energy. I am using the lemniscate to signify the perpetuity of flow and the different sizes of the lemniscate to show how this energy reaches to different depths in the earth, and that only some reaches beyond the surface. Please note that in the model of healthy flow, all energy is being returned to the core.

Sketch 2, by author

“Sketch 2” shows the energy flows as they are presenting themselves during the anthropocene. So many of us humans – have been holding on to our pain in the form of trapped energy for probably thousands of years now. I don’t know when it began – but the distribution of energy looked different then. There were little pockets of trapped energy while the majority of life energy was still being returned to the Earth. We have now reached a level of energetic stagnation that is depriving the Earth of her own life energy. 

The Earth is starved of her own life energy.

  In this sketch, you can see a brown cloud covering the globe above the surface. This is the energy that so many of us are holding onto, not allowing it to return to the core. If you look into the center of the drawing, you can see a much diminished energy flow activity. The Earth is starved of her own life energy. The Earth is barely able to support life systems as they were and we see this in the way all systems are wavering and growing more chaotic.

In Earth-time or deep time – millions of years into the future –  the Earth will eventually reabsorb this murky cloud of stagnating energy. The Earth is resilient in this way. But if we think about the generation of our great-grandchildren, we are called into action to remedy this state of our world with all we can give.

It is the dirty pain, the pain that so many of us are not facing, not metabolizing, that festers in our bodies

I will call the murky cloud energy dirty energy, in adaptation of the terminology from Resmaa Menakem’s work (Menakem, 2017). It is the dirty pain, the pain that so many of us are not facing, not metabolizing, that festers in our bodies and that we continue to blow through others–that is driving greed, the  growth-economy paradigm, and the destruction of the Earth herself. 

However, it is important to note that it is upon the Earth’s light-love-life-energy that this dirty pain rides. Consequently, as we fail to metabolize our pain and return it to the earth, we continue to multiply the pain in ourselves and our loved ones. This unmetabolized pain is driving population growth, retraumatization, war and destruction, because it needs somewhere to go. Energy wants to move; it wants to follow the pull of the Earth back to the core. But as we block it from returning, it spreads across the surface of the Earth and continues to thicken the brown cloud of dirty energy.

It is as if the Earth was able to tease apart each nuanced shade of color that makes up the murky soup, reconstituting them into a rainbow of light-love-life energy

We can trust the life-processes of the Earth. When we return dirty, contaminated energy to the Earth, she will take it into the great decomposition at her core, taking the energy apart into its smallest components and then reassembling it as renewed light-love-life energy. It is the great compost heap at the center of the Earth, but instead of working with decaying life matter, she works with pure energy. It is as if the Earth was able to tease apart each nuanced shade of color that makes up the murky soup, reconstituting them into a rainbow of light-love-life energy that she then propels outward, giving new life and nourishment and healing for the benefit of all living systems. This includes the atmospheric systems that control our climate, ecosystems, and ecological diversity. This rainbow of light-love-life energy also supports us in the emotional and mental work we need to do and renews our sense of love for each other. It allows us to perceive the beauty all around. 

Feel the love of the Earth passing right through your cells, right through your heart.

Try this: touch the Earth in whatever way is accessible to you. Gather some pain that has been with you and release it into the Earth, send it deep, all the way into the core. Trust that the Earth will receive it gratefully. Now imagine the decomposition process, the Earth taking the strands of energy apart, and even further apart into the finest particles. And then see, with your inner eye, the energy being reorganized and imbued with new vigor through the cosmic forces at work in the center of the Earth. See the momentum of the Earth as she is perpetually spinning around the sun, and the sun spinning in the milky way, and cosmic radiation passing through the core of the Earth. All is in movement. And this cosmic movement gets transferred into the life-giving rainbow that is now streaming from the core up and up and through your body where it touches the Earth. Feel the love of the Earth passing right through your cells, right through your heart. 

I offer this practice to you as encouragement, for every act of self-care and self-healing work – particularly through somatic work that aids in the metabolizing and releasing of our pain, our grief, our anger – supports the regeneration of the Earth in an entirely more profound way than we may be able to grasp as individuals. 

Lean in. 

Slow down. 

Take your time.

Breathe and touch the Earth.

It is the work of our human collective, 

to return the energy to the Earth.

Additional Resources and Practices:

There are many practices that allow us to return our energy to the Earth. The basic principle is that the energy wants to follow the gravitational pull – so really, all we have to do is to surrender, to let it go. Of course, that is not immediately accessible to most of us as we are experiencing a lot of active holding and blocking and are often controlled by our pain-bodies, who seem to have minds of their own. Becoming aware of our pain-bodies and their mechanisms of addiction to and recreation of pain is one way we can begin to release our pain. 

Here are some examples of ways to metabolize our pain, grief and anger:


Menakem, Resmaa. 2017. My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies.

Tolle, Eckhart. 2005. A New Earth: Awakening to your life’s purpose.

Recorded by Erin Holtz Braeckman

Julia (Yulia) Smagorinsky (they/their/them) creates spaces that invite lived experiences of being in reciprocal relationship with human and more-than-human beings. They are a cofounder and co-leader of Emergent Abundance Farming Collective as well as the director of Widening Circle LLC building community resilience and deepening nature connections. Yulia weaves together their experience as a farmer and permaculturalist, WTR facilitation as well as meditation and somatic practices. They are a graduate of the Spiral Journey Facilitator Development Program and currently work as Spiral Journey’s administrative assistant. Yulia lives in Lenapehoking, aka Pennsylvania with their two children.

One thought on “The Global Scale of Metabolizing Grief

  1. Thank you so much Yulia for this doorway to the variety of ways of letting gravity take our ‘dirty energy’ to the centre of the Earth and allowing her to alchemize it and re-release life-love-light energy! You are also giving me a pathway of connection between the work on healing ancestral and collective trauma that I do and the Work That Reconnects that is the centre of my life activity. I feel so many parallels between this ancestral healing work I’m deeply involved in and the spiral of the Work That Reconnects. But I have difficulty articulating it, so thank you for your courage to put it into words and drawings that speak even more than words, for me! So clear! And the references, which I will explore, having heard them before in the trauma work, but not having read them yet!

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