The Work That Reconnects

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Introducing The Work That Reconnects

Here is how Joanna Macy, who first developed this approach, introduces it on her website.
The Work That Reconnects is a pioneering form of group work that began in the 1970s. It demonstrates our interconnectedness in the web of life and our authority to take action on its behalf. It has helped many thousands around the globe find insight, solidarity, and courage to act, despite rapidly worsening conditions. Based on systems theory, spiritual teachings, and deep ecology, its methods are described in Coming Back to Life, the book I wrote with Molly Young Brown.  The central purpose of the Work that Reconnects is to help people uncover and experience their innate connections with each other and with the systemic, self-healing powers in the web of life, so that they may be enlivened and motivated to play their part in creating a sustainable civilization. In order to do this, we pursue these contributing goals:

  • to provide people the opportunity to experience and share with others their innermost responses to the present condition of our world
  • to reframe their pain for the world as evidence of their interconnectedness in the web of life, and hence of their power to take part in its healing
  • to provide people with concepts–from systems science, deep ecology, or spiritual traditions–which illumine this power, along with exercises which reveal its play in their own lives
  • to provide methods by which people can experience their interdependence with, their responsibility
  • to, and the inspiration they can draw from past and future generations, and other life-forms
  • to enable people to embrace the Great Turning as a challenge which they are fully capable of meeting in a variety of ways, and as a privilege in which they can take joy
  • to bring people into mutual support and collaboration in working for the world.

The Spiral of the Work That Reconnects

The truth of our inter-existence, made real to us by our pain for the world, helps us see with new eyes. It brings fresh understandings of who we are and how we are related to each other and the universe. We begin to comprehend our own power to change and heal. We strengthen by growing living connections with past and future generations, and our brother and sister species.
By Dori Midnight
By Dori Midnight

Then, ever again, we go forth into the action that calls us. With others whenever and wherever possible, we set a target, lay a plan, step out. We don’t wait for a blueprint or fail-proof scheme; for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities. Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and the lessons we learned. And the spiral begins again.

There are hard things to face in our world today, if we want to be of use. Gratitude, when it’s real, offers no blinders. On the contrary, in the face of devastation and tragedy it can ground us, especially when we’re scared. It can hold us steady for the work to be done.

The activist’s inner journey appears to me like a spiral, interconnecting four successive stages or movements that feed into each other. These four are:

  1. opening to gratitude,
  2. owning our pain for the world,
  3. seeing with new eyes,
  4. going forth.

The sequence repeats itself, as the spiral circles round, but ever in new ways. The spiral is fractal in nature: it can characterize a lifetime or a project, and it can also happen in a day or several times a day. The spiral begins with gratitude, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source. It reconnects us with our empathy and personal power. It helps us to be more fully present to our world. Grounded presence provides the psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world.

wtr mandala
By Angella Gibbons

In owning this pain, and daring to experience it, we learn that our capacity to “suffer with” is the true meaning of compassion. We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind, and how it helps us to move beyond fear. What had isolated us in private anguish now opens outward and delivers us into wider reaches of our world as lover, world as self.

Matrix | Pathways to Liberation

Supporting holistic systems:

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

How do we“stretch our emotional muscle” to respond in ways that are consistent with how we want to model change in the world?

  • Naming a statement that would encapsulates what triggers your despair/judgment
  • Noticing the uncomfortable feelings you have when you contemplate this statement
  • Uncovering the need or value behind that feeling
  • Really basking in the dream you have for the world to manifest your value — bring it to life; and noticing how such a rich experience of your dream sustains your resilience and uplifts your feelings
  • Finally — while remaining in such a resourceful space, finding the need of the other/others — for whom you have ‘enemy images’ — that might have led them to the conduct you disdain (that was originally such a trigger for our judgment)

“The Work that Reconnects” — Video series of a workshop with Joanna Macy

“What people most need to hear is inside them (their own inner voice).” 
~ Joanna Macy

Via Joanna Macy —

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

Joanna Macy Joanna Macy has a four-step plan to help people reconnect to the Earth.

Four Steps to a Better World – In These Times

For life to continue, we must invent a whole new way of supporting human life on earth.

Four Steps to a Better World

Joanna Macy turns despair into social activism.

BY Madison Mullen

Joanna Macy has dedicated her life to peace, sustainability and coexistence with our environment. Though she lives in Berkeley, Calif., her work has taken her to Asia, Europe and Australia, allowing thousands of people to experience with her the possibility of turning despair into social activism.

A scholar of systems theory and a long-time Buddhist practitioner, in the 1970s Macy began developing “The Work That Reconnects,” experiential workshops that help people contribute to the development of a life-sustaining society. Macy offers Work That Reconnects workshops around the world and has written several books, her most recent being Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect our Lives, Our World.

The Work That Reconnects leads people through what Joanna calls “The Spiral”–a process that begins with “gratitude,” moves to “grief for the world,” then to “seeing with new eyes,” and finally to “going forth.” Macy calls this “The Great Turning”–a necessary, revolutionary transformation from the present-day industrial growth society to a future life-sustaining society.

You write, “This is an incredible time to be alive, a great privilege.” What do you mean?

This is a time when such big changes are happening–they’re so big that most people aren’t aware of them. People who lived during the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions were probably not aware that historic forces were underway that would change people for centuries to come. In our case these changes are happening because the mainstream society is not listening, and the current political economy is not working in more and more ways. We’re consuming, we’re making money out of extracting goods from the earth that cannot be renewed. We’re driven by the economy to make money by engaging in processes that create huge amounts of waste–whether it goes into the seas, the atmosphere or the soil–that will contaminate the living biosystems for centuries to come. For life to continue, we must invent a whole new way of supporting human life on earth. That change is coming. It’s not visible to many people because it is not being reported by mainstream media–written press or electronic. But it’s happening and that’s what I see as the third revolution.

What’s happening is breaking through at the grassroots level–in peoples’ minds and behaviors. This is the big adventure, the third revolution that some of us call The Great Turning: the transition from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining society. To be alive at this time, with all this uncertainty, even when we’re not sure we can make it, is our immense good fortune.

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)

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

  1. opening to gratitude,
  2. owning our pain for the world,
  3. seeing with new eyes,
  4. going forth.

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