Somatic Stories: From One Generation To Another

by Cara Michelle Silverberg

Cells are so smart. They remember. They carry the imprint of lived experience – mine, yours, ours.

So many people think that bodies are mechanical and unfeeling. It’s only nerve endings that feel pain or pleasure, they say. But you and I know that is not true. We know our bodies exist in a wholeness of self-experience that expresses and celebrates and armors and defends in a profoundly intelligent way. We know that wounding and resilience are deeply embodied experiences. We also know that we pass embodied knowledge on to future generations. “Cutting edge scientists” of your day called the biological dimension of intergenerational trauma transmission ‘epigenetics.’ I call it being human. I carry your stories in my bones, blood, and tissues – stories of wounding, as well as stories of great courage and strength.

I carry your stories in my bones, blood, and tissues – stories of wounding, as well as stories of great courage and strength.

You knew that the way your body was clutching to wounds – those inflicted during your own life and those passed on to you from your family and ancestors – were holding you back from showing up in the world the way you wanted to, from doing your part to tip the scales of justice in the Great Turning. You knew there was a relationship between your personal healing and collective transformation. You understood that the trauma responses patterned into your nervous system kept you in survival mode. You understood that the trauma responses patterned into collective systems (like organizations and communities you were part of) also kept those bodies in survival mode. You sought to shift those patterns into something more generative and celebratory.

You knew that bodies were hurting, and you worked so hard (maybe sometimes too hard) to heal that pain. The trauma of displacement, the trauma of sexual violence, the trauma of witnessing mass death, extinction, and suffering…you held that and so much more in your body. I remember how your back spasmed and depression swept over you when the intensity of intergenerational Jewish trauma was too intense for your body to contain. I remember how the rash on your right arch became inflamed when the toxicity of familial shame and silencing could not release itself through your skin. I remember how you got a bronchial infection when immigration policy threatened to tear a dear friendship apart.

In those times, the earth told you, “Lay down upon me. Give your pain back to me to turn into new life.”

The oceans told you, “Feel the waves wash over your heart. Soak your feet in saltwater with tea tree and calendula. Swim.”

The wind told you, “Allow new life to be breathed into you. Trust in the newness arriving.”

The fire told you, “That statuette wants to go through the fire three times. It will transform something in you. Tend your fires with humility.”

You followed those instructions. You held faith. You persisted with patience. You danced. You sang. You offered a flute song to the night birds. You rested when you needed to. Your journey required great endurance. You mourned for the dead and praised the living. You apprenticed to both pleasure and pain and emerged with ever fresh ways of perceiving the worlds around and within you. You went forth and shared what you could with others. The world’s soul healed a little bit through your work. I am grateful for your dedication. I hope you feel proud.

Thanks to your dedication to somatic transformation and intergenerational healing, I no longer have to carry those same wounds. The rage, grief, and pain of our grandmothers and great-grandmothers and so on do not plague me the way they plagued you. I danced freely right out of the womb. I was born into a world still feeling the pulsations of earthquake and drought that even seven generations cannot undo (earth time is much longer than human time). But even so, I was born into a community of people who remember the literal earth they came from and the teachings of their ancestors – teachings that continue to foster this Great Turning. Ancestral healing in your time was fringe, occult, “New Age.” Genealogy research was something retired old people did. Many people of your time, especially white people, were so disconnected from their cultures and places of origin that they scoffed at such explorations and heartfelt commitments to ancestral healing. Because you and people like you did that work despite the scoffers, many of us now are free from the clutch of hungry ghosts. We still mourn the dead and remember their stories and spirits, but we do so with an embodied spaciousness and liberated reverence that the collective body of your generation simply could not.

We still mourn the dead and remember their stories and spirits, but we do so with an embodied spaciousness and liberated reverence that the collective body of your generation simply could not.

There is more joy in the world now. More caring. More compassion. We embody these qualities, instead of the fear and greed that drove so much of the conquest and industry eras.

We can feel water moving in our bodies – not only the energetic quality of water, but literally the undulating and flowing molecules that make up over 70% of our bodies. We can feel the marrow in our bones, dense and thick, moving inside the hollow of our limbs. We can discern one lung from another and support our own breath through consciously toning our organs. Knowing our bodies is not a superpower. It is a birthright.

While many people’s eyes glaze with confusion at the “abstract” concept of embodiment, you and I smile with the secret that our bodies are the most tangible things we know. Humans – particularly those who lost their cultural knowledge through trauma, displacement and assimilation – are finally remembering how to listen to the wisdom of their bodies. They are remembering that our bodies are earth body, and that our stories are connected. This remembering has been integral in the Great Turning. May this wisdom never be lost again.

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Experiential Practices

Practice Notes: 

  • As you do these exercises, if any sensations or feelings become too intense or feel unsafe, move away from those sensations and towards something that gives you a feeling of centeredness and resilience. This could be a memory (real or imagined) of someplace that brings you peace and calm, an imagining of something that brings you joy, or a person/being with whom you feel safe or protected.
  • A few other tricks for finding a sense of grounding are: gently stomp feet back and forth to feel the earth under you, touch left hand to right knee and right hand to left knee in a back and forth pattern (10-20 touches on each side), hum or sing a song for 30 seconds, or count 5 things each that you can see/hear/smell/touch around you.

 An Open Sentences Practice:

Begin by centering yourself in your own body. Feel some part of your body connected to the earth, directly or through the floor. Without forcing anything, take a few conscious breaths, allowing your exhale to be longer than your inhale. What sensations (e.g. warmth, coolness, tension, ease, pressure, numbness, tingling, twitching, pulsating, no sensations at all) do you notice in your body? What feelings arise with these sensations? Can you be present with these sensations and feelings, without judging them?

With a practice partner, take turns with the following open sentences. Set a timer or act as timers for each other.

  1. When I imagine (something that you feel gratitude for), I sense/observe in my body…
  2. When I imagine (something painful), I sense/observe in my body…
  3. When I imagine being alive in a life-sustaining society, I sense/observe in my body…
  4. What needs to open or shift in my being in order to embody this life-sustaining society is…

A Movement Practice:

Find something alive, for example a tree, a stone, a star in the night sky, etc. Take several conscious breaths, allowing your exhale to be longer than your inhale. Notice this living thing. How does it move, breathe, exist? What sensations (e.g. warmth, coolness, tension, ease, pressure, numbness, tingling, twitching, pulsating) does it stir in your body? What feelings arise with these sensations? Can you be present with these sensations and feelings?

As you feel ready, find the shape of this object with your own body. Allow any and all feelings and sensations to inform your shape. Close your eyes if helpful, or keep sight of this being and the space around you. Give yourself as completely as you can to this shape. Then find another object and repeat the shaping process a second time (and as many times as you’d like after that).

When you find completion in shape making, notice what you are feeling and sensing in your body. How did it feel to make those shapes? Were they familiar to you? Unfamiliar? Desirable? Uncomfortable? Are you aware now of any sensations or default shapes in your own body that you were not aware of before? What does this tell you about your embodied patterns?

Feel if there is anything from this experiment that you want to take with you and remember for later. If so, symbolically hold what you want to remember in your hands, give it an intention, and then touch somewhere on your body where you want to store that feeling, that knowing, that remembering.

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A few resources for exploring the nexus of embodiment, justice, and healing:

  • Curious about how racial identity and white supremacy shape our patterns of thought, behavior, and physical comportment? My Grandmother’s Hands by Resmaa Menakem offers both theory and practice in a practical and accessible format.
  • Ever found that sitting meditation is triggering, or that paying close attention to your body makes you anxious or afraid? Trauma-Sensitive Mindfulness by David Treleaven can really help to unpack why and empower you to explore mindfulness and embodiment without getting triggered.
  • Curious to learn about how the body-brain holds trauma and how it can be repatterned and released? Check out The Body Keeps The Score by Bessel Van der Kolk.
  • Want to learn to feel water in your cells and discern one lung from another? Check out Embodyoga with Patty Townsend: https://embodyogablog.com or her classes at https://www.yogacenteramherst.com. (She is one of the author’s teachers.)
  • Want to explore the concepts of ‘collective bodies’ and the ‘trauma of whiteness?” Check out Tada Hozumi on Cultural Somatics: featured on Eric Garza’s podcast Healing Culture, #47: Healing Bodies and Healing Cultures: https://www.iheart.com/podcast/269-healing-culture-pod-30055116/episode/47-healing-bodies-and-healing-cultures-30750891/

 


Cara and Maple

Cara Michelle Silverberg (35) is a somatic educator, camp director, writer, mover, and herbalist living in Nipmuc and Abenaki homelands (also called Western Massachusetts). She is enthusiastic about fostering community experiences that help people to explore and express themselves, their relationships with place, and their relationships with each other. Dedicated to trauma-informed experiential learning and wholistic leadership, Cara aims to co-create a more just, caring, courageous, and playful world. She designs and facilitates curricula for environmental/agricultural educational initiatives, land healing projects, and leadership development programs. Cara works in both Jewish and secular communities, with both youth and adults. Her favorite times of year are autumn, maple sugaring season, and the Jewish period of time called the Omer in early Spring. She was a member of the first Earth Leadership Cohort in 2014. You can check out some of her writing at www.onthefringesofplace.com.

Acknowledging Indigenous Land and Peoples

by Cara Michelle Silverman

Why Land Acknowledgments?

In this web of community, we collectively name, honor and attempt to hear the voices of those who have been silenced – both human and more than human. The travesties of ecological destruction and climate chaos share roots with the travesties of genocide, refugee crises, food insecurity, lack of access to education, clean water and health care…and so much more. Underlying  all of this lies the cancer of conquest, white supremacy, and colonization. The ideas that one life is worth more than another, that land can be parceled, sold, and bulldozed, that Indigenous people’s lifeways are less “civilized” or less “productive” than “Western” society all contribute to the ecological loss that so many of us mourn. It is therefore vital that we acknowledge the Indigenous ancestral lands and peoples in the places where we practice the Work That Reconnects.

It is therefore vital that we acknowledge the Indigenous ancestral lands and peoples in the places where we practice the Work That Reconnects.

A Land Acknowledgment For This Moment in Time

Note: I started and stopped multiple times trying to compose a land acknowledgment from a future generation. I couldn’t do it.  I eventually realized my writer’s block came from my feeling that, as a settler, Indigenous futurities are not mine to imagine. It is my job to listen and learn, and to use my role as an educator to amplify Indigenous voices. This land acknowledgment is therefore my own voice, in the here and the now. May the futures that Indigenous people imagine come true as brilliantly as a rainbow after a rainstorm. 

I write this land acknowledgment from the hills east of the Kwinitekw, within the traditional territories of the Nipmuc and Sokoki Abenaki. I acknowledge the Massachusett and Wampanoag to the east, the Mohican and Pocumtuck to the West, the Mohegan and Pocumtuck to the south, and the Pennacook (Abenaki) to the north. I am grateful for the female leader Weetamoo’s strength and strategic acumen in staving off colonial settlers within Wampanoag lands prior to King Philip’s War. I recognize the lasting impact of the massacre at Peskeomskut in 1676, during which thousands of Indigenous women and children were slaughtered. I am grateful for David, Diane, Pam, Brent and others at the Nolumbeka Project for how they invite people to more accurately understand pre- and post-contact Indigenous life in this place, and for how they directly engage the community in repairing relationships, healing land, and celebrating the future.

How To Craft A Land Acknowledgment

Within whose ancestral homelands do you live, work, and play? Perhaps your own! If not and you are uncertain, www.native-land.ca is a helpful resource for finding out.

Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambé Pueblo) offers this guide for thoughtfully preparing a land acknowledgment: https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2019/03/are-you-planning-to-do-land.html

Before diving further into this issue of Deep Times, and perhaps every morning when you wake up, I invite you to say aloud the names of the Indigenous peoples whose homelands you dwell within. I invite you to learn about the historical and contemporary leaders of those nations, and to learn to say their names correctly. I invite you to learn Indigenous place and river names, and to use them in colloquial conversation. I invite you to learn about what projects the Indigenous communities where you live are working on, and to ask if and how you can be helpful. (Settlers especially, please remember the if here.) I invite you to feel in your body what it means to be a guest in someone else’s home, and how you might be the best guest you can be. I invite you to give gratitude for the people who have stewarded land for thousands of years. They are still here.

In Gratitude,

Cara Michelle Silverberg


Cara and Maple

Cara Michelle Silverberg is a somatic educator, camp director, writer, mover, and herbalist living in Nipmuc and Abenaki homelands (also called Western Massachusetts). She is enthusiastic about fostering community experiences that help people to explore and express themselves, their relationships with place, and their relationships with each other. Dedicated to trauma-informed experiential learning and wholistic leadership, Cara aims to co-create a more just, caring, courageous, and playful world. She designs and facilitates curricula for environmental/agricultural educational initiatives, land healing projects, and leadership development programs. Cara works in both Jewish and secular communities, with both youth and adults. Her favorite times of year are autumn, maple sugaring season, and the Jewish period of time called the Omer in early Spring. She was a member of the first Earth Leadership Cohort in 2014. You can check out some of her writing atwww.onthefringesofplace.com.

Mass Mourning

by Karina Lutz

(Originally published by Visitant, and to be included in Preliminary Visions, forthcoming from Homebound Publications.)

Finally,
we cracked.
Poured out into the streets
to mourn the measure of our losses,
flooded houses of worship,
in parks held candleless vigils:
wicks couldn’t hold a flame through the driving tears.

A man (he must have heard the news
of this latest senselessness on the radio)
opened the door to his car and let the stored tears
burst into the gutter.

It wasn’t the first time we’d wept:
one time, even a President’s voice had cracked.
The mothers of pistol fodder,
the police fodder, the invisible until shot,
have been crying since ‘emancipation,’
and of course since long before, each time a mate or child stolen,
each time a massacre, a genocide occurred or obscured.
Churches had had cry-ins
at the still smoldering buildings:
and when firehose water was not enough,
our tears quelled the last of the embers.

In Colombine and Newtown,
we wept in schoolyards.
Jackson State, Kent State, Virginia Tech.
Whole communities:
Aurora and Oklahoma City and Orlando.
We stopped counting.

Surely individuals, unreported, standing,
had cried into their TVs until they shorted out
one war or another,
having given up pounding the top of the set
with their sore fists.

But this time the dam broke.
Even the color guard snapped,
laid down their rifles, kneeled over them
and cried until they washed away.
The streets were finally, literally
flooded. We couldn’t stop mourning.
The anger, the blame—now useless.
The stoicism, the cynicism—stopped.
Eyes widened, then squeezed.

Wailing, like you hear some cultures do at funerals.
Wailing, like cops’ sirens, like an ambulance.
This time it wasn’t just our own,
it was Beirut and Paris, Syria and Iraq
Iran, Vietnam, Hiroshima, Bosnia
Korea, the Congo, Yugoslavia, Guatemala, Libya,
Guatemala, Libya, again
All the places we have bombed:
Bikini Atoll, and other obscure places whose names
we can’t pronounce, places we can’t find on a map.

Finally it hits us:
How many have died?
How many loved ones and strangers?
How useless the violence has been!
Children gunned down—motive unclear.
Who to hate? Who to fear?
Children abused
women and men raped, queers bashed
all the techniques of torture and terror–
no sense to be made–
no sense

But this time even the children refused to fear
just cry.
We all refused to fight back,
for who else was left to attack?

Just cry.

Rivers overflowed and washed through Walmarts.
guns floated and sank, war games, too.
Warhead silos, rusty already, filled to the brim.
Still we couldn’t stop.
We could feel how related we are to all
we had destroyed, we ripped our garments, tore our callouses
off and cried,
it didn’t matter anymore, we were all so related,
out in that field beyond right and wrong.

There was a little calm there.
We began to connect,
little smiles of recognition,
our ancient faces, our child faces showing through
the bitter mask of this life.

Then it got worse:
we remembered the species
extinct or nearly.
A woman opened the door to the natural history museum
and the dodo bird
all the taxidermy
horn of black rhino
bones of whale
began to float, still float.

Gale winds sprung the zoo and the factory farm gates open
the wailing now howling.
All kinds of eerie voices added in:
the cry of a baby coyote separated from her pack,
the cry of a swan who’s lost a mate,
a loon’s ancient echo off a lake.

Our sorrow multiplied,
but we carried it for each other.
Our hearts squeezed, throats squeezed
then opened
like a spigot
like a fire hydrant on a hot day
in the city.

We walked through our tears
until we could gather and see each others’ faces
washed clean and open

and we listened again
to the sound of the loon
as she landed
on the lake we had made.


Karina Lutz is a writer, editor, teacher, and lifelong activist. She helped secure passage of sustainable energy legislation, thwart a proposed megaport, and restore wetlands in her home watershed of Narragansett Bay, RI. In 2013, she received honorable mention from Homebound Publications Poetry Prize for her manuscript, Preliminary Visions. www.yogaforpeace.massageplanet.com

Dreamfruit Almanac

Reviewed by Martha M O’Hehir

The Deep Times Journal rarely advertises products created by facilitators of the WTR, but there was something about this offering that struck a chord with me, personally, so I ordered a copy. 

I have been watching the videos offered by Michael Dowd called “Post Doom Reflections,” particularly the one with Joanna Macy speaking to how we humans need to re-envision ourselves, to see ourselves as cells in a larger body of the earth and as “Children of the Passage.” There are elements and cues in this planner that help me refocus on that identity.

While I am terrible at following through regularly with any planner, including this one, it offers me a window to the liminal space where dreams are born into activism. Whether or not you feel inclined to formalize your journey with a planning tool, just reading over her description, below, may give you some good ideas for your own re-envisioning.

Dreamfruit: A Lunar Planner for the Work that Reconnects 

In times of uncertainty, we find ourselves in the liminal space of no-longer and not-yet. We look for tools of transformation that can help us to bring a new world into being. Dreamfruit 2020 is an interactive almanac for radical belonging, and it is clearly designed to bring us into a greater sense of connection with our common humanity and the living Earth. This sense of interrelatedness is what radical belonging speaks to. As many of us are keenly aware, it is this restored sense of belonging that is a vital ingredient in our recovery from the effects of the Industrial Growth Society. 

Traditionally, an almanac is a reference book with collected articles on a particular area of interest, showing the movement of the sun, the changes of the moon, and other seasonal data. In the Dreamfruit almanac, each lunar month offers a “Dream from the Future” to activate our imaginative powers; provocative seed questions with space for journaling; and a guided journey through the Spiral of Reconnection. 

The almanac’s thirteen Dreams from the Future speak to the dire realities of our time while also offering a shift in perception that taps the intuitive and visionary parts of our awareness. Taken by themselves, these “dreams” present a mythic journey through our contemporary landscape of collapse and regeneration. Add to this a set of questions and creative prompts unique to each month, a calendar based on the lunar cycles, and the monthly invitation to reflect on the “Elements of Belonging” (comprised of open sentences from the Spiral), and you have a rich and immersive tool. 

A great many of us have felt ‘orphaned’ from our planet home and are seeking to return to our natural inheritance as co-creative cells in the living body of earth. Dreamfruit is filled with loving suggestions for returning to the wider circle of life and its natural intelligence. If you’re looking for a way to bring your personal path into perspective within the context of our shared world, this planner will be a treasured companion. 


As a writer, activist, and cultural creative, Elizabeth Russell has been studying and practicing the Work that Reconnects since 1992. Her community projects – including the Gaia’s Witness Pilgrimage (1999, 2000) and the Life.Art.Being Integrative Arts Festival (2012-2017) — have consistently been shaped by the principles of WTR. With Dreamfruit, she has now created a lunar planner and almanac to bring the Great Turning to life in our imagination and our daily lives. 

Dreamfruit 2020: an interactive almanac for radical belonging by Elizabeth Russell Earth Dragon Press, Eugene OR. https://elizabethrussell.space. ISBN 978-1-7342465-0-6

Martha O’Hehir is an educator and writer and has served as an editor or contributing editor for several publications, including the The Music Practitioner,The Orff Echo, and Reverberations. She wrote curriculums, elementary music and math, religious studies, and music improvisation for healing musicians. She is a facilitator of the Work That Reconnects and gives retreats and workshops connecting the Great Turning with the spirituality of Teilhard de Chardin. Ordained to interfaith ministry as an Eco-Chaplain in 2017, Martha aspires to bring greater consciousness to Earth stewardship as an act of spirituality, through her writing, music, and spiritual direction.

Dancing For Change: The Role of the Body in Creating Community Resilience

by Anna Swisher

How can you make a difference?  How can you embody systemic change at a local level?  How do you not burn out? How can you enjoy your life while simultaneously fighting violence, destruction and collapse?  What can you do in your community to support the healing of our world?

Recently, I led a community workshop focused on Dance as Activism.  We explored through movement, as well as group exercises from the Work That Reconnects.

The workshop was a huge success.  Everyone left feeling inspired, with clear action steps to take towards our intentions and initiatives.  But what moved me most was the feeling of togetherness. We inspired each other. We felt less alone. No one of us could do it all, but together, we could do so much.  

A range of emotions was expressed throughout the afternoon: Heartbreak, fear, love, longing, sorrow, anger, desire, doubt, frustration, guilt, tenderness.  Again and again, we turned to our bodies for insight, inspiration, information, and guidance. We allowed our bodies to inform and integrate our intellectual processes.  We danced around a metaphorical fire and hooped, hollered, and cheered each other on, as we burned our fears and doubts, grieved our losses, ignited our desires, and celebrated our unique forms of expression. 

As we shared our closing reflections, people were touched, moved…and hopeful.

Our entire lives take place in our bodies; they are indeed our vehicle, our home, and our storage unit. 


As humans, we have an innate impulse and capacity to use our minds to understand, create, and process things.  But this is not the whole story. Our entire lives take place in our bodies; they are indeed our vehicle, our home, and our storage unit.  We carry generations of genetic information, as well as (at least) one lifetime of experiences, in our bones, muscles, bloodstream, tissues, and organs.  We are the only animal that doesn’t automatically shake our entire body after a traumatic experience, in order to release the trauma from our bodies and continue moving through the world with the relaxed sensitivity needed to respond appropriately to our environment.  Instead, we (usually) carry all the hard stuff around with us, and we develop coping mechanisms, defenses, and addictions to enable us to continue moving through a broken and traumatic world. And then we pass these physical conditions on to our offspring, creating lineages of tight shoulders, stiff postures, mistrust, fear, dis-ease, and self-protection. 

This is why I believe we need to dance.  There is no possible way that we can find our way to a sustainable future with only our minds, when our bodies are responsible for so much of the story.  We must shake out our fear before it claims us; stomp and pound and express our anger before it poisons us. We must celebrate all that is good and beautiful by feeling it in our bodies as we spin around in circles with a grin on our face.  We must let go of our rigid, conditioned and structured ways of moving, and give ourselves permission to be weird, uncoordinated, and silly.  How else will we make it through this chaotic and unprecedented global crisis?  

How will we make it through, indeed?  Where can we look for guidance? Well, when we look to nature, and to all naturally functional systems on the planet, we find something quite astounding about how things change.  It’s called “Emergence.” 

New properties emerge spontaneously as networks connect and organisms adapt together.


Emergence is the idea that when different parts of a system come together, and respond to whatever is happening in the environment in order to continue living and thriving, something new often emerges that is different than the sum of its parts. Something unpredictable.  As connections are made between disparate parts of the system, the entire system develops new properties and capacities that no single organism possessed on its own. New properties emerge spontaneously as networks connect and organisms adapt together.  It is crucial to note that organisms within functional systems must be able to feel what is happening and move spontaneously in order to adapt appropriately. 

We need to come together.  We need to FEEL what is happening in our own bodies, as a response to what is happening around us.  Feeling is essential to responding and evolving appropriately; to preserving Life. We must loosen up our bodies and take deep breaths into our hearts, and dare to feel sorrow, pain, exhaustion, and collapse.  These are appropriate responses to what is happening in our world. And, of course, we have to be willing to change. We have to be willing to show up and come together without knowing what might happen. Then, maybe, we can evolve together in creative, functional, and unpredictable ways. 

How do we bring more organisms and networks together in the spirit of fostering emergence?   

Dance is one way; not the only way.  Our systems are complex. Our communities are already full of people, organisms, with ideas, stories, needs, skills, connections, and concerns.  I dare you to self-organize, to come together, and to see what happens.  

Raise a question that other people in your community might be curious about.  Invite them to show up for an exploration. Get your bodies involved.  If you don’t know how, then find someone who can help you learn to listen to your body.  Find a facilitator.  We need all the help we can get; why would we turn away from the wisdom inherent within us?  We’ve had centuries of denigrating the body in countless ways; let’s try something different.  Maybe we’ll even have some fun while we’re at it. 

This article was first published on Anna’s website:  https://www.tendingthesacredhearth.com/single-post/2019/10/18/Dancing-for-Change-The-Role-of-the-Body-in-Creative-Community-Resilience


Epilogue: Facilitating WTR and Movement

During that particular Dance workshop, in the Corbett exercise, I shared an intention to write an article about our experience together.  I think there is room for more conversation about embodied process within the Work That Reconnects network.  I do not find the Work to be lacking, but much of it is cerebral, and therefore complemented immensely by movement.  The Work aims to access people’s emotion, and I find the body to be the quickest and most direct way into that.  Sometimes trying to find emotion with your mind and your words can be trickier.  I find that weaving movement in between WTR practices feels very complete and complementary, and we avoid bodies getting restless or ignored during longer workshops.

We need to be placing our personal embodied experience into the context of the world we live in.

My perspective is that our body is our most intelligent resource when it comes to evolution and resilience; we just need to remember how to listen, understand, translate, and respect its wisdom.  I’ve been facilitating movement for years.  Then, as I continued to deepen into the WTR, I began wanting to bring the Work into everything I taught or facilitated — because I also don’t feel that movement alone is enough. The body and the mind need to work together. We need to be placing our personal embodied experience into the context of the world we live in.  There is a bigger story going on that we need to be talking about.

I’ve only begun experimenting with adding movement into the WTR exercises themselves. In my humble opinion, the effect of doing so would depend a great deal on the facilitator and on the approach to guiding movement–not to mention the audience/participants.  One of the beauties of the WTR practices is their simplicity and straightforwardness, and I would not want to overcomplicate anything.  I think a danger exists of isolating people who are not comfortable (or able) in their bodies, not accustomed to group embodiment practice, and/or not expecting movement; here the skill, background, awareness of privilege, and sociopolitical/racial literacy of the facilitator is essential.  My experience thus far is that movement-oriented workshops appeal to a rather selective group of people, whereas the WTR seems to appeal to wider audiences.  So combining the two approaches requires some finesse, a lot of awareness and humility, and potentially some compromise.  Simplicity is always good; even just some shaking of the hands and feet, patting or tapping the chest, or jumping up and down in place can make a huge difference.  It helps just to acknowledge the body, say hello, wake it up, ask it to come online and participate.

The physical body is the most direct way into the emotional body, and sometimes we need a little help accessing our emotions.

I will certainly be experimenting more as I continue to grow as a facilitator, but currently I am content to juxtapose movement with WTR practices.  I have enjoyed weaving WTR prompts or related ideas into movement practice, in preparation for a deeper dive into a WTR exercise; again, this mostly comes from my perspective that the physical body is the most direct way into the emotional body, and sometimes we need a little help accessing our emotions.  And, as I speak to in the article, it is essential that the organism is able to FEEL in order to RESPOND appropriately.  I also feel that movement practice can bring people closer to one another, allow them to share more vulnerably, and stimulate connection where words might not.  It also has the potential to bring up wounding and conflict, which is also essential to the conversation.  So it seems important that we prepare ourselves for that.


Anna Swisher “Garden headshot”

Anna Swisher is a community activist, ecopsychologist, youth mentor, movement teacher and Work That Reconnects facilitator from California.  She currently lives in western Ireland. Find out more about Anna, and her work, at www.tendingthesacredearth.com

Lilikoi, A Song Of Connection*

Lilikoi, Passion fruit flower

by Skye Mandozay

Sitting with Lilikoi, inhaling her sweetness a moment–she offered me a great gift in recognition of my devotion to her wild beauty… She offered to share with me her path to becoming…

One that implicates the rhythm of my own breath…
The rivers of water in my ancestor’s tears and veins…
The bodies of ancient forests that once covered this world…
And the spectacular, violent and fiery deaths of the stars that seeded it…

Following that path back
I discover that nothing I touch is excluded from her flowering body…

That held within it, is a vast net of relationships…
From lichen to whales, from oaks to algae, from nebulae to that very 1st moment of the great flaring forth…

Yet somewhere along that path my people forgot how to call out the true names of their kin…
To trace the myriad intersections of mutuality that emanate from a single flower such as her…
to see the many ways we are tugged by those same threads…
The ways in which our bodies are woven into a larger pattern of becoming with all other bodies…

A pattern whose shape our individual eyes will never behold… in the same way a thread will never know the tapestry… or a single cell, the body…

Lilikoi is helping me to remember…
That nothing resides in a fixed and finite form…
neatly bound and packaged…
belonging only to itself and responsible only to itself.

That instead we are altered and transformed as we move through our world… just as each of us alters the world in turn… My shape taking on and taken in by each encounter… made and remade by every interaction…

Try as we might to forge our independence, permanence and then rule what we see from a distance…
In truth, we are inextricably connected and hopelessly vulnerable to a dazzling array of circumstances to take even One. More. Breath…

Our life is sustained by these gifts pouring forth with such constancy that we can no longer see… a gift our ancestors made sure to acknowledge and taught strong the laws of reciprocity…

Yet the wound in our minds has built a wall against this recognition and forged deeply the habits of separation…
And this fictional boundary that stops at the edge of the flesh i call ‘me’ has led me to forget the true impact of each act…

But slowly, Lilikoi reveals to me, what was always there but I could not see.
That I am of the Earth’s body, and the Earth’s body is me…

(*Lilikoi=passionfruit)


Skye Mandozay grew up on a farm in South Africa and spent her early years immersed in wildlife conservation and rehabilitation before going on to work as a wilderness guide. She then spent 5 years living in the Peruvian Amazon jungle where she was immersed in the study of traditional plant medicine of the indigenous Shipibo people and co-facilitated healing retreats alongside them for many years.

Skye moved to Melbourne, Australia in 2017, where she first encountered the Work that Reconnects through the workshops of John Seed and has been diving deeply into the study and facilitation of the work ever since. She also works as a nature connection mentor for young children using the model of Jon Young.

 

The New Website for Work That Reconnects Network

reviewed by Martha O’Hehir

Our web site is a valuable tool for reviewing philosophy and practices, for ongoing WTR development, for finding music appropriate for each stage of the Spiral, and for planning activities for our workshops and presentations. We can find new material on evolving edge topics such as decolonization. Visiting the site periodically and before presenting a workshop, provides updating and inspiration for facilitators.

Here is a link to a handy introduction to the new site.  https://mailchi.mp/workthatreconnects/december-2019-newsletter

It takes just a little while to navigate around the new web site to find where old favorites are now located. Note we have two banners above with navigation buttons, a new side bar with all the major front pages, and if you scroll down to the bottom of the home page, some of our most used tabs are there as colorful large buttons.

News items appear as blogs on the home page.  Notice the many reports on regional gatherings taking place from September 2019 through March and April 2020, as well as the announcement of book launch parties for A Wild Love for the World – Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time.

In the past, I added links to the old web site to my PowerPoint slides which I bring for informational content, such as videos of Joanna, the Elm dance, or songs to sing along with. Some of my favorite videos are not currently on the new website, but they can be accessed through Vimeo. It’s easy to recheck any links used in the past and relink as necessary. The new site looks great and it is set up a little differently, so I recommend visiting it in advance of needing something specific. There are multiple tabs for finding our resources: the top banner, the bottom of the home page, and the side bar icon.

Thank you to everyone who worked on creating this fabulous web site!


Martha O’Hehir is an educator and writer and has served as an editor or contributing editor for several publications, including the The Music Practitioner,The Orff Echo, and Reverberations. She wrote curriculums, elementary music and math, religious studies, and music improvisation for healing musicians. She is a facilitator of the Work That Reconnects and gives retreats and workshops connecting the Great Turning with the spirituality of Teilhard de Chardin. Ordained to interfaith ministry as an Eco-Chaplain in 2017, Martha aspires to bring greater consciousness to Earth stewardship as an act of spirituality, through her writing, music, and spiritual direction.

 

The Luminous Dark

© by Elizabeth Glenn-Copeland

 

   Blessed Silence,
  Wise Mind,
      Grounded in Blessed Earth,
I rest
that I might remember who I truly am
and so
be of service.

 Embraced in your warmth,
that which I am
I wholeheartedly offer
in perfect
and indefatigable
Wonder
Reverence
Love.

 Blessed Silence,
Wise Mind,
Grounded in Blessed Earth,
I …

 


Elizabeth Glenn-Copeland is a writer / theater artist / artist facilitator whose work evolves at the intersection of arts and activism. Her short stories, personal essays and poems have been published in Resilience, The Furious Gazelle, and Forge Journal, among others. As a spoken word artist, she performed alongside musician-husband, Beverly Glenn-Copeland at the Dawson City Music Festival, and at MoMA PS1 (NYC). Her novella, JAZZ won the 2014 Ken Klonsky Prize, was later shortlisted for the 2015 ReLit Award. As 2018 Writer-in-Residence at the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Joggins Fossil Institute, she wrote, “Daring to Hope at the Cliff’s Edge: Pangea’s Dream Remembered”, a narrative eco-poem exploring our relationship with the animate earth. www.elizabethcopeland.ca

 

Mandalas of the Spiral

After attending a Work That Reconnects event, Diane Szymaszek created a series of images, one for each stage of the spiral, as a gift of thanksgiving to Joanna Macy.

Click on each image to enlarge.


Gratitude grounds us to face the destruction that is taking place in our world. This painting represents the first part of the Spiral, “Coming From Gratitude.”

Gratitude by Diane Szymaszek

 

The second part of the Spiral is “Honoring Our Pain For The World.” This painting shows the destruction of the forests and the pollution of our waters. It expresses our anger, sadness, fear, and emptiness that we feel with all that is being done to our beautiful planet.

Honoring Pain by Diane Szymaszek

 

The third part of the Spiral, “Seeing with New Eyes,” shows our connectedness to the earth and all that is. It also connects us to those who have gone before us, our ancestors, and to those who will come after us, the “future beings.”

Seeing with New Eyes by Diane Szymaszek

 

The last part of the Spiral is “Going Forth.” This includes all we can do to make the world a better place–actions we can take to slow down the destruction of the world. It includes learning how the present system works and creating structural alternatives and most importantly going forth requires a change of consciousness.

Going Forth by Diane Szymaszek


Diane Szymaszek is a retired art teacher. She attended her first workshop with Joanna in 2011 as a retirement gift to herself. This was a day long workshop during the Institute of Noetic Science conference in San Francisco. The following year she went to Vancouver Island for a nine day intensive and has participated in Joanna’s workshops at Rowe in Massachusetts. 

“The Work That Reconnects has inspired me to do artwork with a message. These four mandalas are taken directly from the Spiral of the WTR and includes words by Joanna.The style is a combination of acrylic painting and collage.”

Purposeful Memoir as Another Doorway into the Work That Reconnects

By Jennifer Browdy, PhD

Although I didn’t fully realize it when I wrote my memoir, What I Forgot…And Why I Remembered, the practice I call  “purposeful memoir” follows the four stages of the Work That Reconnects spiral. 

What I Forgot begins with gratitude for the warm and loving childhood my parents created for me, as well as for the opportunity to form a deep childhood connection with the natural world. I wrote about how, when I awoke to the climate crisis in 2011, I was overcome with grief and anger over what humans were doing to our planet and went through a potent stage of honoring my own pain for the world. To help me find my bearings in the new, harsh reality of our tumultuous epoch, I drew on the new and ancient wisdom of women writers I had been studying for years—fierce, wise women like Rigoberta Menchú, Gloria Anzaldúa, Audre Lorde and Joanna Macy herself.

I ended the book by setting out my intention to “go forth” with others to realize my vision of “active hope.” What I was envisioning, I see now, is a form of the Work That Reconnects that draws on my training and experience as a longtime professor of literature and writing.

I’ve come to see that purposeful memoir is a contemplative practice that can benefit anyone who wants to understand our present moment more fully, in order to more intentionally create the positive future we yearn for.

 Based on what I’d learned through my own process of writing a purposeful memoir, I wrote a guide book, The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir: A Writer’s Companion, and began to actualize my intention of “doing hope with others,” offering dozens of purposeful memoir workshops with hundreds of people in the U.S. and Canada. As I’ve done so, I’ve come to see that purposeful memoir is not just for memoirists—i.e., people who want to publish their life stories. It’s a contemplative practice that can benefit anyone who wants to understand our present moment more fully, in order to more intentionally create the positive future we yearn for.

Embarking on the Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir

In offering the process of purposeful memoir to others, I use the four elements—Earth, Water, Fire and Air—as potent metaphors and organizing frameworks for different stages and aspects of our life experiences. Earth is the childhood ground of our being, birth to age 12, the years when most of us are as connected as we will ever be to our Mother Earth. Water represents the teen and young adult years, ages 13 – 23, when we join the larger cultural stream of our time and place, and either start going with the flow or swimming against the tide. Fire represents our passions, which can ignite in us at any time of life, as well as the trials and tribulations we all face during our individual life journeys, and the challenges faced by societies and by the planetary community. Air is the space of reflection, which we engage in daily through dream, memory and contemplation. 

I also invite people to undertake what I call “aligning the personal, political and planetary” in their life experience: setting our own individual experience into the broader, deeper stories of our communities, including the larger Earth community of which we are all a part. As we do this, we explore the historical timelines of the decades we’ve lived through, taking note of how specific events, unfolding in particular places and communities, have had an impact on our personal lives as well as our generation. 

Aligning the personal, political and planetary in our life stories involves both gratitude and honoring our pain for the world. For example, we consider our ancestral lineages, both physical and spiritual, with gratitude for the role our ancestors played in paving the way for us; and we also honor the pain and suffering that they went through as individuals, and/or that communities went through in their time and place, including the larger Gaian community. We consider the new science of epigenetics, which shows us that traces of the psychology of our ancestors persist in our own orientation to the world. Through our writing, we declare our intention to become a strong link in the chain between past and future, cultivating the legacy we want to pass on, while jettisoning that which no longer serves us or our world. 

Engaging in the Alchemy of Purposeful Memoir

As I’ve gone on with this work of introducing others to the process of purposeful memoir, I’ve recognized how people can become stuck in the pain they feel for themselves, their communities and our world. While honoring our pain for the world is essential, it is only one stage on the spiral journey towards “the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible,” to quote Charles Eisenstein. I’ve developed some techniques of purposeful memoir that help us see our own life stories “with new and ancient eyes,” nurturing the spark of positive creativity that is essential for the courageous momentum we need to “go forth” productively into the world.

In my “Alchemy of Purposeful Memoir” workshop series, I invite people to look back on their life stories with an initial focus on positive qualities that we want to see more of in ourselves, our communities and our world. We go through another spiral, coming from gratitude for where these positive qualities have shown up in our lives, and honoring our pain for those challenging moments when the positive was lacking. Then, seeing with new and ancient eyes, we give ourselves permission to engage in what I’ve come to call the alchemy of purposeful memoir. By vividly re-imagining a challenging life story in a more positive light, we release ourselves from the hold of that old story, and are able to “go forth” with courage and joy into the next stage on our ever-spiraling journey. 

The practice of purposeful memoir explores the past in order to better understand the present, and to envision the future with more clarity and intention. I believe that this “new and ancient” technique is emerging now to help those of us who are awake to “the pain of the world” to come to grips with how we got to this perilous moment in human history—on the personal, political and planetary levels—in order to see our way more clearly into the thriving future that it is our task to co-create. 

Purposeful Memoir as Active Hope

One of the most challenging questions I ask myself daily is the one Mary Oliver set out so beautifully in her poem “The Summer Day”: what is it I should be doing with my “one wild and precious life,” at a time when so much is at stake, and there is so much that needs attention? 

My own answer to that question has come to me through my deep engagement with the practice of purposeful memoir. Through this essential inner work of understanding our own individual lives more fully, as well as the social and environmental landscapes in which we’ve lived, we clarify our intentions for the future, and fortify ourselves for grounded, effective action in the world.

Through this essential inner work of understanding our own individual lives more fully, as well as the social and environmental landscapes in which we’ve lived, we clarify our intentions for the future, and fortify ourselves for grounded, effective action in the world. 

In her own memoir, Widening Circles, Joanna wrote of her early forays into the Work That Reconnects: “I learned…that the pain for the world which I carried around inside me was widely and deeply shared; and that something remarkable happened when we expressed it to each other. Instead of miring ourselves in doom and gloom, the opposite…happened. We…turned some key that unlocked our vitality” (180). 

Joanna quotes the poet M.C. Richards, who wrote: “Learn to move in the world as if it were your lover” (199). One of my workshop participants wrote about her experience of the practice of purposeful memoir invoking the same principle: “I’m a little in love with this writing workshop—the leader, Jennifer, so engaging, generous and encouraging. And the women so earnest, intent on digging into their psyches to meet the questions of the day. Where does inspiration come from, in what secret places in our being might it be hiding?  And what emerges? A force from some mysterious place tugs at us, pulling up memories, ideas, feelings from both past and present, colliding. This brings me to life! This feels like love.”

I believe that purposeful memoir, informed by the Work That Reconnects, offers another key to open the door of positive engagement with the world we love. We take the practice of “active hope” into an exploration of our own life journey, and as we honor our “one wild and precious life,” we develop the loving capacity to act in the service of nurturing that life force we call Gaia. Through the “widening circles” of aligning the personal, political and planetary in our individual and collective lives on the planet, we expand the rings of love that go rippling out from our deep inquiry. Our practice of purposeful memoir becomes the center from which we can begin to do our part, in our own sphere, to create the thriving future we envision for ourselves and our world. 

Works cited

Anzaldúa, Gloria and Analouise Keating, ed. Light in the Dark/Luz en lo oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality.  Duke University Press, 2015. 

Browdy, Jennifer. What I Forgot…And Why I Remembered: A Journey to Environmental Awareness and Activism Through Purposeful Memoir. Green Fire Press, 2017.

Browdy, Jennifer. The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir: A Writer’s Companion. Green Fire Press, 2017.

Eisenstein, Charles. The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible. North Atlantic Books, 2013. 

Lorde, Audre. Zami: A New Spelling of My Name. Crossing Press, 1982.

—–. Sister Outsiders. Crossing Press, reprint edition. 2007.

Macy, Joanna. Widening Circles: A Memoir. New Catalyst Books, 2000.

Macy, Joanna and Chris Johnstone. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy. New World Library, 2012. 

Menchú, Rigoberta and Elisabeth Burgos, ed. I Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala. Second Edition. Verso, 2010. 

Menchú, Rigoberta. Crossing Borders. Verso, 1998. 


Jennifer Browdy, Ph.D. has taught literature, writing and media arts at the college level for more than 30 years and is currently chair of the Languages and Literature Division at Bard College at Simon’s Rock. Her memoir, What I Forgot …And Why I Remembered was a finalist for the 2018 International Book Awards. Her writer’s guide, The Elemental Journey of Purposeful Memoir, won a 2017 Nautilus Silver Award. She provides coaching and manuscript review for authors in fiction and nonfiction, and offers memoir workshops widely, including at Kripalu, Bioneers, and upcoming at Findhorn, Scotland in May 2020. JenniferBrowdy.com.