An Q&A Introduction to the Work That Reconnects

by Joanna Tomkins

What is the Work that Reconnects?

The Work That Reconnects is the result of decades of development by Joanna Macy and her colleagues, integrating their core knowledge of Buddhist Nonduality, modern systems thinking, deep ecology and first nations’ ancestral wisdom and ritual. The Work is also informed by the lived collective experience of thousands of Work that Reconnects workshops and retreats held throughout the world since the 1970s. Hundreds of facilitators across the planet have empowered themselves and others to engage in the Great Turning in meaningful ways and to also share and adapt the Work to meet the needs of their unique places, times and communities.

Tell us about the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects.

The Work That Reconnects, based on the teachings of elder Joanna Macy, unfolds as a Spiral journey through four stages. Each of these stages leads naturally to the next.

Firstly, the Spiral begins by “coming from gratitude”, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source, stimulating our empathy and confidence. It helps us to be more fully present and opens psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world.

Secondly, in owning and “honouring our pain for the world” -and daring to experience it – we learn the true meaning of compassion: to “suffer with.” We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind. What had isolated us before in private anguish now opens outward and delivers us into the wider reaches of our interbeing.

Thirdly, experiencing the reality of our interbeing helps us to “see with new eyes”, or sometimes, in fact, with the ancient eyes of our ancestors. We can sense how intimately and inextricably we are related to all that is. We can taste our own power to change, and feel the texture of our living connections with past and future generations, and with our brother and sister species.

Lastly we go forth into the actions that call each of us, according to our situation, gifts, and limitations. With others whenever and wherever possible, we set a target, lay a plan, step out… And we can return to the Spiral again and again, with each day, each project and each circle of beings.  The journey helps us experience first hand that we are larger, stronger, more creative – and more deeply interconnected – than we knew.

All the events that Gaia Speaking organises integrate this Spiral work, including our Song Circles (Songs that Reconnect), our “Screening&Sharing” Sessions (Films that Reconnect), our day workshops or our retreats

What is the Great Turning?

Joanna Macy wrote, “In the 1990s a name emerged for the purposeful and earth-based solidarity we were experiencing and for the promise it carried – the Great Turning.”

In the Work That Reconnects, we refer to it as the transition from the Industrial Growth Society to a Life Sustaining Society. It’s a goal we all work for, in countless different ways. We long passionately for its full realisation. To counteract the painful witnessing of the daily acts of destruction of the “Great Unravelling”, we engage the hope for this transition within us and through our actions. Although we cannot undo the encroached “Business as Usual” as fast as we would want to, at least with our soulful participation in this transition, we hope to collectively activate the change that we yearn for.

In which ways does human society take part in the Great Turning?

As we explain in our workshops, The Work that Reconnects describes the Great Turning as happening simultaneously in three areas or dimensions that are mutually reinforcing. If you are reading this, you are probably already engaged in all three, as they are all part of our calling as agents of transformation.

So, firstly there are Holding Actions led by activists on the forefront to slow the damage to Earth and its beings, for example documenting the impact of the Industrial Growth Society or organising protests and lobby movements. In South Africa, we can mention for example the recent and successful lobbying against the damaging prospection led by some oil companies.

Secondly, there is an industrial and economical movement towards Sustainable or Gaian Practices in our society, in the form of cooperatives, sustainable housing, renewable energy farming for example, and initiatives to reduce the extraction of resources and their consumption. In South Africa in particular we have many renewable energies that we can use to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.

Thirdly, these dimensions both depend on a fundamental Shift in consciousness, one that shall modify our world-view and values and instil spiritual awareness. Through somatic practices to connect to our bodies for example, local community networking, or a resurgence of shamanic practices, we can awaken in us and in others our capacity to act as agents of transformation. This is the area in which Gaia Speaking is mainly engaged, although we also network with other initiatives through our events and in the blog articles that we share. The seeds of consciousness spread by the Work that Reconnects and by many other transformation movements happening at the moment are taking root across all communities of South Africans, for we all hold in common the love for our freedom, our wilderness and our ancestral lands and traditions. Deep social and cultural emancipation can only happen if we all increase our attention now to the fires that burn our home planet.

I’d like to end with two quotes by Joanna Macy:

“The most radical thing any of us can do at this moment is be present to what is happening in the world.”

“Active Hope is not wishful thinking. Active Hope is not waiting to be rescued. Active hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act”.

Thank you. This is Gaia Speaking.

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