December 16, 2012 ~ The Gift of Presence (During the Holiday Season): Four Steps to a Better World

Given the news from Newtown, Connecticut on this weekend of our call, I hoped to offer a space for a cri de coeur  for anyone who may be in need…

(see also:  President Obama’s Newtown, Conn., Eulogy)

 Sunday, December 16, 2012 ~
The Gift of Presence (During the Holiday Season):
Four Steps to a Better World


Matrix | Pathways to Liberation

Presence:  Being attentive to what is happening right now.  Not lost in thinking, emotional reactions, etc.

May all beings be happy
May all beings be safe
May all beings, everywhere, be free…

A Guided Meditation on Loving-Kindness

Buddhist practice of Maitri/Lovingkindness

May you be happy
May you be healthy
May you be safe
May you live with ease

Each time you recite the sequence of lines,
you visualize a different category of sentient being:

Those you love
Those you don’t love
Those you have never met

These three categories cover the entire spectrum of how we relate to other beings:  attachment, aversion, and ignorance.

Matrix | Pathways to Liberation

Supporting holistic systems:

Consciously participating in the creation and evolution of holistic systems that foster general well-being.

Four Steps to a Better World – In These Times

Four Steps to a Better World

Joanna Macy turns despair into social activism.

BY Madison Mullen


You have said that the spiral of your work begins with “gratitude,” goes to “grief for the world,” then to “seeing with new eyes,” then “going forth.” How exactly does this work?

We start with gratitude because that helps us be fully present, and shows us that we have a right to be here in this miraculous world. This evolving life on earth is a wonder, and gratitude helps open our senses–our hearts and minds –to this miracle, to this beauty. It brings us into presence, and I have come to realize that the most precious gift that we can give our world is to be fully present to it. Gratitude is a revolutionary act because it counters the thrust of the industrial growth society, or the consumer society, which breeds dissatisfaction. You have to make people dissatisfied with what they have and who they are in order that they keep buying.

Gratitude is an age-old practice, very strong in North American culture. When we’re fully present, then we have the grounding and confidence to look at what is inside of us as well. There is, in every person that I have met, regardless of their party politics or background, grief for what is happening to other beings. And there is fear about what is happening to our country and to our future. This pain for the world is present in everyone, but most people are afraid of it and cover it over, repress it.

When people discover that they don’t need to be afraid of the pain they feel for their world, there is great liberation of their energy. People find that these feelings of anguish for the wider planet are living proof of their interconnectedness, their radical interdependence with all life. This brings a new way of seeing and experiencing life.

The third stage of the cycle is to see with new eyes–that is, this new paradigm thinking that you hear of now and again, coming from science as well as from ancient teachings. It is this new way of seeing that will enable us to create the life-sustaining society we are committed to in “The Great Turning.”

The fourth stage is where we gather what we’ve learned in the first three stages and look at our own niche in life–where we happen to be living, what we happen to be doing, what our real relations are. This allows us to see how we can collaborate in building a sustainable, peaceful, and ecologically sane world… (continues)

Joanna Macy – Coming Back to Life:
Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World

Facing the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy | Beyond Awakening

by Terry Patten

I so deeply enjoyed my dialog with Joanna Macy on Dec 6, 2012 entitled “the Work that Reconnects Us.”  She is a singular figure, a creative pioneer in developing the deep inner work of soulful evolutionary activism. Her work contributed a great deal to the consciousness with which I framed the animating question of the Beyond Awakening series. And in this interview she showed up in a way that that was simultaneously joyful and sober, playful and serious (in the richest and deepest sense of that word).

Together we explored the implications (and applications) of the profound inner work she has developed based on her many decades as an inner and outer activist and as a scholar and teacher of systems theory, deep ecology, and engaged Buddhism.

Our dialog ranged widely, from the personal to the global, but was focused in an exploration of the Work That Reconnects, the work that developed out of Joanna’s decades of scholarship and activism to help people navigate the inner journey involved in “facing the mess we’re in without going crazy”.

She identifies 4 Stations in the spiralof the Work that Reconnects:

1. Opening to Gratitude

2. Honoring our Pain for the world

3. Seeing with New Eyes

4. Going Forth

I began our dialog by expressing my appreciation for the fact that she begins with  gratitude, which is, I think, the foundation of sanity. Joanna responded by saying that she used to view gratitude as somewhat sentimental or even Pollyannaish and sweet. But she’s come to realize that within our consumerist culture, gratitude is actually a politically subversive act. “Because the engine that drives late capitalism is dissatisfaction and craving…it’s a revolutionary act to be thankful for what you are and what you have in this moment.”

Joanna says that the second station is another revolutionary act, one that defies a different cultural taboo—against knowing and honoring our pain.  Our dominant culture lives out an unstated conspiracy of silence that enlists our complicity in the destruction of our planet and its chemistry, climate and life forms. We remain silent because having a sense of alarm, concern and grief for the world and each other is tacitly pathologized as depressive and antisocial—a private maladjustment. “There is a whole pharmacy closet with which we can address the feelings of despair and depression that come up…” Waking up, raising our voices and speaking the truth of our pain and the world’s pain is a profound and necessary slap in face. I added another observation—that the deepest part of this voyage is to break the taboo that’s internally structured into our own psyche and cross the river of our own denial.

Joanna was careful to point out that this is not a cathartic process, where we discharge our personal pain. Rather it is a process of recognizing our pain for what it is and sharing it with others, and simply being with it. Thus it is reframed as an expression of our capacity to suffer with our world. (To “suffer with” is the root meaning of the word “compassion”.)

A basic shift of identity takes place once we open to this suffering with the world; we begin “seeing with new eyes”. The separate, isolated self opens into widening circles of care. Even our identity expands as our interdependence becomes palpably obvious. Our experience becomes resonant and deep, expressing principles of general systems theory, deep ecology, Buddhism, and other spiritual traditions. As Joanna explained “suddenly the doors of the separate ego swing open and like interstitial tissue connecting us to each other we walk out into shared experience.”  I suggested that a new kind of intimacy opens up with this new seeing, an implication upon which Joanna expanded.

Seeing with new eyes, it becomes possible to go forth as love, expressing our compassion, and doing what we can to serve others and heal the world. We look at own lives and communities and workplaces and opportunities and relations and get a clearer picture of what it is that we are most moved to do. Here we witness the emergence of our Bodhjisattva and the marrow-deep knowledge that if we are going to wake up, we are going to have to wake up together.

Private salvation is a myth, an especially outdated myth in terms of our current global crises. Joanna put out a provocative challenge, asking “what does it matter what schools of spirituality you have practiced… if you watch the earth be despoiled for all generations to come?” To those focusing solely on personal enlightenment, she says  “your spiritual practice is cheap.”

I pointed out the fractal nature of the Work that Reconnects. We can view it from 50,000 ft., writ large in the macro journey of humanity, and in our personal lifetimes of learning. It also expresses itself in the midranges, in the rites of human passage that unfold over weeks, or months or years. It can sometimes be traversed in an afternoon, or just a few minutes. The fractal quality is also apparent in our caring which is the earth caring through us, and our thinking which is the earth thinking though us.

At the end of our conversation, we had a special treat when the wonderfully insightful interpersonal neurobiologist and psychiatrist, Dr. Daniel Siegel, a past guest on Beyond Awakening, called in and helped us explore some of the implications of this deep conversation.  I invite you to listen to the full dialog here.

Beyond Awakening: A Free Teleseries on the Future of Spiritual Practice

Joanna Macy – Active Hope

The New York Times

Gail Collins: Looking for America

“I’m sorry,” said Representative Carolyn McCarthy, her voice breaking. “I’m having a really tough time.”

She’s the former nurse from Long Island who ran for Congress in 1996 as a crusader against gun violence after her husband and son were victims of a mass shooting on a commuter train. On Friday morning, McCarthy said, she began her day by giving an interview to a journalist who was writing a general story about “how victims feel when a tragedy happens.”

“And then 15 minutes later, a tragedy happens.”


Example of finding renewal out of despair (via UP with Chris Hayes):

Congresswoman recounts personal shooting tragedy

Congresswoman recounts personal shooting tragedy

See also:

The Fearless Heart ~ Adam Lanza and All of Us

Read more » by Miki Kashtan

The New York Times

Nicholas D. Kristof: Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

 FYI ~ The Work That Reconnects
  1. opening to gratitude,
  2. owning our pain for the world,
  3. seeing with new eyes,
  4. going forth.
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