A Wild Love for the World

Interview with Stephanie Kaza, editor of the forthcoming book, A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time (Shambhala, 2020).  Interviewed by Molly Brown.

Molly:  I’m so happy to be talking with you about this exciting book about Joanna and her legacy, due to be published this April.  How did you get the idea to create this book?

Stephanie:  I knew Joanna was about to turn 90 and it seemed like there would be a book like this for her somewhere in the world.  I have seen similar volumes for prominent people in academia that consist of thoughtful papers on the person’s academic contributions. These are sometimes called festschrifts. So that was the model I had in mind, thinking that if somebody was organizing this, I would like to write a chapter. I asked Kaye Jones what she might have heard, since I knew Joanna had recently visited with her family in Trout Lake, Washington. But as we checked around, it became clear there was no such project in the pipeline.

Kaye would probably tell the story a little differently, but I remember her suggesting in almost a mischievous way, “Maybe you might be interested in spearheading such a thing.” That wasn’t my intention in the beginning; I just wanted to write a chapter!  But, together, we decided it was worth discussing with Joanna. My husband Davis and I were traveling to Vancouver, BC that August, 2018 and timed the last stop to visit Trout Lake when Joanna was at Kaye’s.

Joanna wasn’t feeling so great; she had picked up a cold and her lungs were irritated from the smoke of the terrible BC fires that year. We sat together for a few hours and just brainstormed, filling an easel pad with names of people that might contribute.  We didn’t know whether any of us were ready to take this up. But we thought, let’s just see — is there any energy here around this idea? Though I had written and edited other books, I really had no idea what I might be getting into.  I had just finished my Green Buddhism book with Shambhala, so I offered to run the idea by my editor and the three of us agreed to meet again in Berkeley in September.

Joanna began telling stories and it seemed that these were key epiphanies, each story an awakening.

In that next meeting, things escalated quickly.  We were all checking our emergence barometers. Joanna began telling stories and it seemed that these were key epiphanies, each story an awakening to a breakthrough in philosophical, spiritual understanding that informed all the work that followed.  I could see what a thrill it would be to have her writing in the book as well, though this is not typical in a festschrift

Very quickly, I thought that if we were going to take this up, I wanted it to get this book out while Joanna was still 90. It was a crazy goal. It was virtually impossible. But we didn’t want this to drag out for five years; it needed to just go fast.  We agreed to take the next steps.  

In October, I shared our starter list of potential contributors with Shambhala and received a contract offer right away. They could see this would be really wonderful project for them. First invites went out and the rest unfolded from there.  There were monthly work sessions in Berkeley with Joanna, lots of brainstorming, lots of communication, lots of editing, etc. – all aiming for the book in hand by May 2, 2020.  

Molly: Can you say more about this emergence process?

We kept returning to the emergence theme of alert openness.

Stephanie: Emergence was our byword every step of the way.
 We just kept meeting and listening to what was coming up as we moved forward.  The epiphanies took shape with Kaye’s help while I worked with the authors. She would record Joanna’s telling of her stories, transcribe them, and review them (through multiple drafts) with Joanna, who is the fierce and scrupulous editor.  We kept returning to the emergence theme of alert openness and it stood us in good stead because we didn’t really know exactly where this project would take us. 

Molly: Speaking of emergence, I understand the themes changed dramatically along the way. 

Stephanie: When we looked at the first list of names and topics, it seemed to me that there were four groups: big ideas such as systems thinking and deep time, reports from international programs, applications of the work, and personal reflections from close friends and peers.  So that’s how the invitations went out. When everything came back, I worked with the great e-pile of wonderful chapters, cleaned them up, and sent in a first draft table of contents in March. 

While our editor at Shambhala was very positive and upbeat, he didn’t think the order was quite right. He felt it would be better to integrate all those sections somehow so readers could find value throughout the whole book. I was on a writing retreat at the Oregon coast and I knew the book had not yet “jelled.”  So I went for a long walk on the beach and just thought, “Well, now what? Where do we go from here?” I came back from that walk with one thought: “five.” And I thought, “Five, there will be five sections.”  That was as much as I knew. It seemed like the right number for a big book, so I trusted that as a starting point for the integration.  

“What are the big ideas here? Could we organize the book around the big ideas and fold the reflections, the global reports, the applications all under the big ideas?”

The next time we met in Berkeley, I asked, “What are the big ideas here? Could we organize the book around the big ideas and fold the reflections, the global reports, the applications all under the big ideas?” Joanna flipped!  She loved it. She said, “This is what I’ve been trying to communicate all along. I know people love the exercises, the activities, but I want them to think about the underlying principles and philosophy supporting the work.” 

So from there we were free flowing. That was a really big emergence. We had easel pad sheets posted everywhere. We were crossing things out, moving chapters right and left. Would this go here? Could that go there? Some things fit; some things didn’t fit. It was pretty ragged. But I ran the new direction by our editor and he felt we were on the right track.

Molly: And what were the five key ideas?

Stephanie: You’ll recognize them; they overlap the Spiral quite a lot. The first was Gaia consciousness, a planetary view as foundation; the second is the familiar grief work.  The third is paticca samuppada or interdependence, and Joanna’s title for this section is “the interplay of reality.” The fourth is deep time, the nuclear guardianship project and her work in Russia. And then the fifth theme is moving forward together, working collaboratively, not doing it alone—so essential to the work. Amazingly, three quarters of the submissions filled out these themes, enough that we could see they were going to work. 

And then it was really, really tough to look at the ones that didn’t fit as well. Between all the afterthought invites and the chapters that ran way over, the book had grown much longer than what our contract called for.  So the skillful eyes of a professional editor became extremely helpful.  He and I went back and forth quite a bit to shake down the order and length of the pieces until we had a more integrated table of contents. 

Molly: How did the awakening stories fit into these themes?

Stephanie: In fact, the ten epiphanies fairly easily sorted out across those five sections, two per section, in relation to the themes. As we worked out the title for the book, Joanna was especially taken with the subtitle: “Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time.” She felt that this was what the book was about. “It’s not a book looking back on my life, and telling stories about the past; it should be a book that will serve activists and thinkers going into the future for the work that needs to be done now.”  This inspired her to write the Afterword reflecting her most current thoughts framing what she sees as the work of this time.  

Molly:  What do you find most exciting or enjoyable about the book as it’s turned out?

One delight is having Joanna’s voice in the book.  This gives a sense of her presence and that adds a different kind of energy.

 Stephanie: Well, this is this is my first chance to answer that question! Let me see… One delight is having Joanna’s voice in the book.  This gives a sense of her presence and that adds a different kind of energy. Her epiphanies open each of the sections. They announce the topics with strong stories in her own very powerful, crisp, clean writing. The other thing I really enjoy is the range of voices. Some are a more scholarly and academic (with footnotes) and some are more personal. Some are from older people, some from younger people; there’s really a good range of perspectives that makes for a lively read.

Of course, I’m very excited about the big ideas. I am just so pleased that they emerged as a way to frame Joanna’s intellectual legacy.  This will give her and the other authors a clear platform for talking about the work of our time. I’m also excited to see where the book goes, who wants to have it in their hands. Shambala staff took promotion materials to a big marketing event in Frankfort and there was a lot of interest in the book in Europe and the UK. And, of course, she has long standing students there going back thirty years and more.  The global reach aspect is very exciting. 

We tried to engage current challenges and questions, whether on climate adaptation or issues of diversity and decolonization.

I’m really hoping this book is a springboard for the next evolution of the work.  Nobody knows; it’s all emergent. We tried to engage current challenges and questions, whether on climate adaptation or issues of diversity and decolonization — all those really difficult things. This is what the work is about now.  I’m eager to see what the book sparks after it comes out. 

Molly: Are there any particular highlights for you as the editor?

Stephanie: Personally, two things have been a particular pleasure for me as the editor. One is the cover. We were very lucky that Shambala added a new stage in their design process soliciting input from authors. I thought, “Okay, I’m not a book designer, but I know a lot of things could be really bad.” So my husband Davis (he’s an artist) and I went to Powell’s Books and spent an hour looking at book covers. I made a list of things to avoid, such as solid red or yellow with white type which was all the rage. Then I gave Shambhala some examples of book designs that we thought would be congruent with Joanna’s perspectives and philosophy.  Luckily they took many of our suggestions. Joanna is very happy with how this cover turned out. 

The other thing I’m really pleased about is that we have a bibliography in the back of the book of almost everything she’s ever written, at least everything we could find!  I don’t believe this has ever been put together before. Besides her books and book chapters, there are literally dozens of articles over the years. I believe someone (not me!) ought to do a major biography on her and this reference list would be a great place to start.  When Joanna was hitting her stride in the 1980s and 1990s, there were a number of new magazines popping out: New Age Journal, Inquiring Mind, Yoga Journal, Tricycle, etc.  She wrote articles and gave interviews to everyone, it seems, so she has quite a prolific record. It’s nice to see that all in one place.

Of course, I should add what a great joy it has been to work with all the many generous contributors and with Joanna and Kaye as a team.  The authors were a never-ending source of support and inspiration across hundreds of emails and multiple versions of the manuscript. What an incredible group of people!  I feel so blessed to have been able to work with them through this process. Our little team of three had many fine moments of breakthrough, celebration, and delight in being together – Joanna called this arbeitsfreudigkeit, or “work joyfulness.”  That is what kept me going through the hundreds of hours of editing required to bring the book to completion.

Molly: What do you hope that readers will find in reading the book?

Joanna Macy, 2016. Photo © joan beard

Stephanie:  Let’s see. Well, the books about Joanna Macy that we now have in the world include her memoir, her dissertation, the facilitator guides, the Rilke translations, and the much beloved World As Lover, World as Self. To date there has been no overview of her work as it has spread widely in the world, which requires many authors. So when people read this book, they will see what a huge impact she has had on the world. She not only changed the way people experienced their grief for the world, she introduced systems thinking and Buddhist philosophy to hundreds of thousands of people around the world. She deserves credit for that. A lot of her ideas have become quite commonplace now. 

The book should also provide a much deeper foundation for people familiar with her work who have trained with her over the years. I think they will feel gratified that she’s been so well honored. I think all of us want to honor her role in our own lives and share that with others out of respect and gratitude, because it is a profound thing when your whole way of thinking has been deeply influenced by such a person. 

It is a profound thing when your whole way of thinking has been deeply influenced by such a person.

The overall emotional tone of this book project has been a sense of gratitude to Joanna and how lucky we all are that she is in the world while we are alive and can benefit from her.  It is our good fortune that she is such a powerful and clear writer and speaker; her work is well communicated in her books and talks. As I edited the material, I tried to think about how this book could still be useful in 10 or 20 years, when the people in Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement are hitting their 40s and 50s and still wanting inspiration to draw on.

Molly: As you speak, I think of the impact that Joanna has had on my life and my relationship with her.  It is good to be in touch with that again, because it is easy to let that become background when you’re focused in on the moment. Where would my life be if I hadn’t met Joanna? 

Stephanie: She’s a very big mind and I put her in my personal pantheon of “greats,” right up there with the Dalai Lama and Gary Snyder. For me it is a joy to feel I have made a full effort to do justice to her tremendous influence on the world.  

Molly:  Are you making plans for any book launch events?

Stephanie: Yes, yes, there is a lot on the calendar for 2020.  The formal release date is April 14 and we will have a pre-reading with Northwest authors at Powell’s Books in Portland April 13 and then a super reading/party online on Joanna’s 91st birthday.  It should be very high energy!  

Molly: Where can people learn more about the book?

Stephanie: You can go to the Shambala website and browse through the table of contents and first introductory material, including the foreword as well as one of Joanna’s pieces. We encourage readers to pre-order books if they are interested, since this will give Shambhala some idea of how the book will be taking off.  We hope you enjoy these wonderful reflections and reports from the field on Joanna’s lifework and global legacy!

For more info, see https://www.shambhala.com/a-wild-love-for-the-world.html

Online book launch and birthday celebration, May 2nd at 5pm Pacific time. Please save the date on your calendar, and check the link below for further details: https://www.shambhala.com/events/a-wild-love-for-the-world-book-launch-party-with-joanna-macy/

To join the Rowe Conference Center retreat Oct 16-18 with some of the book authors, see:

Stephanie Kaza is professor emerita of environmental studies at the University of Vermont and author of Green Buddhism: Practice and Compassionate Action in Uncertain Times (Shambhala, 2019). She returned to her Cascadia bioregion in 2015 and has since been working on climate issues with local faith and justice action groups.  Other books include Dharma Rain: Sources of Buddhist EnvironmentalismMindfully Green and Hooked! Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume.  She is the editor and project coordinator for the tribute anthology to Joanna Macy, A Wild Love for the World: Joanna Macy and the Work of Our Time (Shambhala, 2020).

Requiem for Nature

Composed during the Blue Mountains fires in Australia, December 2019 *

by Rosalie Chappie

We read in the local Australian media that the air is toxic, and the pollution levels are dangerous to our health. We read about the microscopic dust and PM2.5 particles. But what are these particles? 

Smoke from bush fires in Australia, 2019.

They are the koalas caught in the burning tree canopies, too slow to escape. The few remaining native animal species that have been able to survive in our colonial-transformed environment. 

The smell of the smoke is the one hundred species of eucalyptus trees awarded World Heritage for their outstanding diversity. Along with the living laboratory of Blue Mountains ecosystems formed across millennia. Maybe too the Wollemi pines that avoided extinction for 100 million years.

Our smoke-induced headaches are the 20,000-year-old rock art destroyed in the flames. The Aboriginal sacred sites and songlines of the Dharug, Darkinjung, Gundungurra, Tharawal, Wanaruah and Wiradjuri people. 

The pink-red glow of the sunset is the burning peat of the upland swamps that formed over thousands of years, serving as sponges that hold precious water on top of the escarpments. It is the endangered wildlife that live in the swamps, the Blue Mountains water skink and the giant dragonfly.

The sick feeling in our stomachs is the burning of the few remaining pure-bred dingoes. It is the bower that the satin bowerbird built so he could dance for his females, surrounded by painstakingly curated blue objects.

A bushfire in Arnhem land from Ubir rock in eastern Kakadu, Australia, Aug. 8, 2008. Photo by Andrew Wallace.

 The sting in our eyes is the eastern spinebill, tiny birds too vulnerable to survive the heat. The echidnas engulfed in flames with nowhere to hide.

Our tears are the moisture from the wings of the newly hatched cicadas that just emerged from their seven-year hibernation. 

All of them burning, rising, floating, and settling in our lungs. Their lives have become part of ours more than ever before – we denied our connection and we can deny it no longer.

* Inspired by and adapted from Becca Rose Hall’s Fine particles of brilliant forests, burning, written during fires in British Columbia and published by The Dark Mountain Project, Issue 15, 2019.

Editor’s Note: It is so difficult to think of breathing in the particulates of another creature’s burned flesh. And yet, this is simply telling us something we could have known if we thought about it. I want a way to breathe in these breaths on behalf of the creatures who are entering us.  Maybe we can give them life through a promise to become a new kind of stewarding human–so these beings won’t have perished in vain.  (Martha O’Hehir, Deep Times editorial team member)

Author’s comment: The tragic impacts of the wildfires in Australia this summer highlight the urgent need for landscape management that embraces knowledge and traditions of the First Australians who have been here for up to 100,000 years and are the oldest living civilization on earth. The knowledge held by Indigenous communities needs to be integrated with that of western science so the best of both traditions can be brought to bear.

Links to helpful resources:  
Aboriginal Australian prayer (passed down by the late Aboriginal elder Burnum Burnum)
Befriending Your Despair, video with Joanna Macy

Rosalie Chappie has worked in wildlife and nature conservation for 30 years, including research, university teaching, and running a not-for-profit organisation called the Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute. Rosalie is committed to: nature-based learning and different ways of knowing, especially Indigenous knowledge; education and capacity building for nature conservation that moves beyond today’s dominant paradigms; building personal, social and ecosystem resilience in the face of rapid and dramatic change; and integrating a wide range of knowledge into environmental policy and management for sound and innovative policy and decisions.

The Healing Work of Anti-Oppression: Two Book Reviews

reviewed by Paula Hendrick

Turn This World Inside Out: The Emergence of Nurturance Culture
By Nora Samaran
AK Press, 2019

My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies
By Resmaa Menakem
Central Recovery Press, 2017

We humans are designed for connection, for empathy and nurturance. The dark side of this sensitivity is that we are terribly vulnerable to the triggering of shame through violence. And shame is a powerful tool of oppression. This is a core concept from Turn This World Inside Out.

I first learned of Naava’s work (I know her as Naava Smolash; Nora Samaran is her pen name) when she advised a group of us at an Interhelp Facilitator Deepening weekend on how to organize a “repair circle.” A repair circle is a group of people to whom any member of our community can turn if they experience harm that is not understood or adequately responded to within the context/activity where it happened. (You can read about our process at Interhelp here.)

This experience with Naava led me to her essay “Own, Apologize, Repair,” included in Turn This World Inside Out. Here she guides us through a process, even including a mock script, for verbally “owning” when we have caused harm, then apologizing, and moving toward “repair” by saying what we will do to do better in the future. But what makes this essay – indeed the entire book – so valuable is that she precedes this practical guidance with a story, from her own family, illustrating what empathy is and how it can be taught, and how shame evolves. This gives the reader a basic understanding of the psychology of both harm and repair.

Turn This World Inside Out is woven throughout with stories from Naava’s own experience as a white woman. She also includes extensive dialogues with persons from marginalized communities. In this way we are also learning both about the generational harm endured in these communities and how someone (like myself) with white privilege can skillfully support anti-oppression efforts. I especially appreciated Naava’s dialogue with Aravinda Ananda, “Cultivating Empathy and Shame Resilience.” Aravinda, who is biracial, is a Work That Reconnects facilitator and member of the Interhelp Council.

Naava is showing how we can begin to create nurturance culture, in our own families and communities, in particular when people of different levels of privilege come together. Gaining an understanding of what goes on in the human body/mind/heart that causes us to hurt and be hurt, helps us take steps toward supporting healing and creating justice for all. She has a great talent for combining the theoretical and the practical, applying science to the most intimate of interactions, all with compassion and a laser focus on truth and solutions. The interweaving of her own writing with conversational dialogues adds a pleasant rhythm to the reading experience, making it easier to integrate the information. At only 131 pages, with type that feels spacious on the page, it’s a welcoming book on a challenging, fascinating, and urgent topic.

As I was reviewing Naava’s book, a friend, fresh from a weekend workshop with Resmaa Menakem, recommended his book My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. Resmaa, who is Black, is a body-centered trauma therapist who works in depth with Blacks, with whites and with police officers. This book is intended for all three groups, with some chapters for all, and some crafted expressly for each group. The kind of work he does is known as Cultural Somatics.

Resmaa provides essential background material but keeps the book accessible. For example, he explores the embodied trauma, from centuries of white-on-white violence, that European colonizers brought with them, and shows how racialized violence – in particular white on Black violence – evolved from that. Even material I thought of as familiar (white fragility, for example) jumped off the page with freshness because of Resmaa’s continual centering of the experience of the body.

This book is a plea for all of us to grow in body awareness, and he lovingly introduces the reader to the vagus nerve (soul nerve, he calls it) where we experience the felt sense of all the emotions. The how-to sections throughout the book help us learn, step-by-step, to settle our bodies, soothe ourselves, and move beyond the reflexive fight/flight/freeze responses, except when these responses are necessary. This is more than a do-it-yourself book, however. Many chapters are on healing in community, and bringing the engaged body into our activism.

Human beings have a profound need for belonging; when we experience belonging, we feel safe. We crave this feeling in our bodies. The work for white people (like me) is to grow in responsive resilience to events that trigger my white-person’s inherited/embodied trauma response. Then I can begin to let go of the fearful or rigid aspects of “whiteness” to which I have clung because they make me feel safe. That work begins in the body. Resmaa says that the work of Black people, and of law enforcement personnel, begins in the body, too.

This book has it all, for me: context; how-to on both a personal and communal level; and the feeling of being accompanied by a compassionate guide.

Paula Hendrick, a Weaver for the Work That Reconnects network, serves on the governing Council of Interhelp, a networking group for Work That Reconnects in the northeast US. Interhelp has recently committed to becoming an anti-racist organization.

A Guided Self-Practice Of The Work That Reconnects

Created by Kathleen Rude

The Work That Reconnects is an interactive experience that is designed for group work. Its power to transform comes from the synergy and interplay inherent in connections with others. A challenge that many workshop participants experience is how to take the magic and inspiration of the workshop with them once they return to ordinary reality. How can they apply the spiral on an on-going basis, especially if they don’t have a community of practice? To help address this need, Kathleen Rude, a long-time WTR facilitator, has crafted a guided self-practice that makes the Spiral journey available any time. 

The Guided Self Practice is a 40-minute experience of the Work That Reconnects spiral, moving through Gratitude, Honoring Our Pain, Seeing With New and Ancient Eyes and Going Forth. The practice offers rich visualizations and moving music that guide the listener into a profound experience of the Spiral. As in a workshop, the listener is given opportunities to express feelings, insights and imaginings. The listener is invited to speak responses out loud, write them down or respond in silence. 

Kathleen has found that this practice can also serve as a way to introduce people to the Work That Reconnects. After sharing a brief introduction to the Work That Reconnects spiral, she has people go through the practice together as a silent meditation and then share their experiences together afterwards. There is a detailed guide for sharing this self- practice with a small group on her website.

The Guided Self-Practice can be used as a weekly or monthly practice or whenever you feel the need to be supported by the Spiral journey. This recording is the first in a series of guided self-practices of the Work That Reconnects that Kathleen is creating.

The Guided Self-Practice of the Work That Reconnects is available on CD and as a download from Kathleen’s website: www.GaiaWisdom.org/media.

“I am moved by Kathleen Rude’s Guided Self Practice. This inviting and effective recording will nourish the listener and help to keep the workshop experience alive and inspirational. This is a meditative resource I will certainly use to harvest the gifts of the Spiral. Kudos to Kathleen for bringing us these practices that honor listeners’ wisdom and process while beautifully providing the guidance for a transformative journey.”   ~Joanna Macy

Kathleen Rude fell in love with the natural world as a young child and found her voice for environmental activism at age 10. She has a B.S. in Wildlife Ecology and an M.S. in Natural Resources. Kathleen began her career as an environmental writer. Her studies of indigenous spiritual practice eventually led her to become a shamanic practitioner, ceremonial leader and teacher. She is a senior facilitator of the Work That Reconnects, offering workshops and lectures throughout the Midwest and the Rocky Mountain Region. She is affiliated with the Joanna Macy Center at Naropa and is a Work That Reconnects Network Weaver. Building on the brilliance of WTR, Kathleen is developing a process for helping people be an effective force for change in their lives and in the world through the choices they make every day. She will detail this practice in her upcoming book, How To Be An Every Day Difference Maker. She is the author of the novel, The Redemption of Red Fire Women, a spiritual story of suspense and romance in the Colorado high country.   www.GaiaWisdom.org

Writing Coming Back to Life with Joanna Macy

By Molly Brown

In the summer of 1996, Joanna Macy requested my help with two writing projects.   She was working on Widening Circles (her memoir) and she also wanted to revise Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, at the request of New Society Publishers. She needed someone to read through and update the material in Despair and Personal Power while she focused on her memoir.  

I had been a part of the Nuclear Guardianship Project after attending a Nuclear Guardianship workshop with Joanna in 1990.  I then studied with her at Starr King School for the Ministry, and served as a teaching assistant in two courses she taught at California Institute of Integral Studies.  In the process, we had become colleagues and good friends. I was thrilled when she asked me to help her with these writing projects.

For over a year, I made frequent trips to Berkeley from Petaluma (where I lived at the time) to help Joanna organize and conceptualize Widening Circles, and to begin revising Despair and Personal Power for a new edition.  As she completed the memoir, and I worked on the update, it became clear to both of us that a whole new book was asking to be written. In the year that followed, the first edition of Coming Back to Life came into being.

Coming Back to Life (cover)

Keep in mind this was in the relatively early days of the Internet and computer programming.  We didn’t have Google docs to work with and had to send Word files back and forth to one another. Joanna worked on a pre-Windows PC with green lit-up letters on a dark background (remember?).  One of us would take on the writing of a particular section and then share it with the other—who would send feedback back to the author. Then we’d get together in person and read aloud the results to one another, for further fine-tuning. 

Joanna was a hoot to work with!  Often, when trying to find the right words to express a concept or nuance, we would get really silly and suggest all sorts of nonsensical phrases to one another.  This nearly always cleared the way for one or the other of us to find just the right words—and the other would immediately say, “That’s it!”. We experienced “group intelligence” frequently in our writing process together, contributing to a rich and enjoyable experience of collaborative creativity.

We experienced “group intelligence” frequently in our writing process together.

Still, it was Joanna’s work we were writing about, and even though I had some experience leading workshops, Joanna had the final word about what we included and how we expressed it.  I was comfortable with that, because I was still learning the Work through writing about it.  

Joanna had been referring to this body of work as “Deep Ecology work.”  However, she came to believe that was too broad a term, in part because it was used by many other people with different approaches.  I remember vividly when that title changed, during a writing session at Joanna and Fran’s Berkeley home. As Fran passed through the dining room where we were working, Joanna asked for his opinion on the question.   Fran responded by asking Joanna, “Well, what does this work do?”  Joanna replied, “It reconnects people to themselves and to the web of life” (or words to that effect). Fran said, “So call it ‘the work that reconnects.’”   We decided to use similar wording for the subtitle of that first edition of Coming Back to Life: “Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World.”  And “the Work That Reconnects” became the name Joanna and many of her colleagues have used for the Work ever since.  

In 2012, Joanna proposed we write an updated edition of Coming Back to Life, nearly 15 years after its first publication in 1998.  (I was now living in Mount Shasta in far northern California, about a 5 hour drive from the Bay Area.) The original publisher, New Society, supported the idea.  So much had happened in the world since 1998–crises intensifying and new ones arising–that Joanna wanted to address in the new edition. Moreover, she wanted to speak more directly to what she saw as institutionalized “dukas” (causes of suffering from a Buddhist perspective)–specifically corporate capitalism with its global markets and prioritizing of profit over all other concerns. And of course the Work itself had evolved, with many new practices she wanted to share.   

Cover of 2nd edition of *Coming Back to Life*

For this new edition, Joanna made it clear that she wanted me as a more equal partner.  She was fully aware that the years were taking their toll on her ability to focus her thoughts and needed me to help hold the focus.  Moreover, I had much more experience in the Work by then, having led several workshops in various settings over the years, experience which I could bring to the new edition.  Our work together was just as satisfying–if not more so—this time around.  

Each of us poured through our copies of the first edition, making notes in the margins about what we saw that needed to be changed.  Then we posted big sheets of newsprint on the wall of her study to outline the chapters and what we wanted to include, adapt, or add to the new edition. 

Now we each had a laptop and access to much easier programs and interface.  Even so, Joanna preferred to print out chapters once they were in draft form. We would read them aloud to each other and make notes in the margins of any changes needed.  

Joanna loves to salt her writings with poetry and pithy quotations from many sources, to communicate how much the Work That Reconnects is part of a larger world-wide movement.  We both made lists of favorite quotations and poems, which we would consult whenever we needed an epigram to begin a chapter, or remembered something relevant to the topic at hand.  Quotations often presented themselves in communications we received through email, websites, or even social media–often appearing at just the right moment. Needless to say, we could not include everything from our collections.

As we worked through the old edition and envisioned the new one, we agreed on four major changes: 

  1. We wanted to describe the Spiral more fully. In the earlier edition, there was a brief reference to the idea related to “sequencing.” However, in the years since, Joanna had developed the Spiral as a major feature of the Work.  We described it in some detail in Chapter 4, “What is the Work That Reconnects?”
  2. We wanted to revise Chapter 5 on “Guiding Group Work” fairly drastically.  Joanna thought it was woefully inadequate, so we virtually rewrote that chapter from scratch, with many hours spent thinking together about what was needed. We also changed the title to “Guiding the Work That Reconnects.”
  3. Although Despair and Personal Power had a chapter on working with children, we had left that out of the 1998 book.  Joanna wanted to acknowledge the work being done in that field by several creative facilitators, and asked me to gather and integrate that information in a chapter on working with children and teens–which I did.
  4. Historically, most of the people attending Work That Reconnects workshops were white middle class folks, predominantly female and middle aged.  With the climate crisis heating up, more young people became interested in the Work, including young people of color. As the number of people of color attending workshops began to grow, Joanna and her assistant Anne Symens-Bucher gathered a group of people of color for a dedicated facilitator training program held at Canticle Farm. Joanna as the root teacher was the only white person in attendance.  Joanna wanted to report on that experience in the new edition, along with a section on “Deep Culture” from Patricia St Onge (who presented her work during the second cohort), as well as essays from some of the participants.  Thus a chapter on “Learning with Communities of Color” came into being.  

Note: Since the completion of the new edition, many facilitators in the Work That Reconnects have met to examine the unconscious assumptions of power, privilege, and oppression that are endemic in white society today and may be carried into Work That Reconnects workshops. In response, Joanna and I have revised some of the practices and the Three Stories description to broaden the language and perspectives beyond that of the predominant white culture. These revisions appear on the workthatreconnects.org website.

As we neared the completion of the new edition, we had to decide on the title and subtitle–something entirely new or similar to the previous edition.  We decided to keep the main title, Coming Back to Life, and change the subtitle to name the Work up front: “The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects.”  This also signaled that the book is a guidebook on how to facilitate the Work. This was especially important to Joanna to distinguish it from Active Hope- How to Face the Mess We’re in without Going Crazy, which she had recently co-authored with Chris Johnstone.

Joanna has always welcomed new insights and practices into the Work.

In my experience, Joanna has always welcomed new insights and practices into the Work, because she sees the Work That Reconnects as alive and evolving. This was why she wanted to write an updated edition of Coming Back to Life.  At the same time, she is committed to staying true to the basic principles of the Work: 

  • the movement of the Spiral, 
  • the roots in systems thinking and spiritual teachings, 
  • the vision of the Great Turning,
  • the need to “sustain the gaze” as we confront the Great Unraveling,
  • the need to honor our pain for the world as evidence of our radical interconnectedness with all people and all beings within the web of life, and
  • the intention to act for the sake of all beings as an organizing current in our lives.

So although she wanted the Work to be shared with the world as “open source” or “creative commons,” Joanna hoped Coming Back to Life would serve as a guidebook and resource to help people offer the practices in the context of these principles.  May it be so!

Personal note:  My relationship with Joanna changed the course of the second half of my life.  I was 48 when I took that first workshop with her; my children were grown and I was entering a new phase of life.  It’s hard to imagine now what would have unfolded if we hadn’t connected. I have learned so much through working and talking with Joanna, more than I can begin to summarize here. And largely due to our friendship, the Work That Reconnects has become my life’s work, too.

Molly Brown, editor of Deep Times, co-authored Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects with Joanna Macy. Molly brings ecopsychology, the Work That Reconnects, and psychosynthesis to her work writing books and essays, teaching on-line courses, phone coaching, talks and workshops. Her six books include Growing Whole: Self-realization for the Great Turning and Lighting a Candle: Collected Reflections on a Spiritual Life. With Mutima Imani and Constance Washburn, Molly directs and teaches the Spiral Journey Facilitator Development Program for the Work That Reconnects.  Website: MollyYoungBrown.com.


The Work That Reconnects Network

The Work That Reconnects Network is a vibrant global community with 120 registered facilitators from over 15 different countries, 4,000+ friends and newsletter subscribers, and over 7,000 followers on Facebook.  

Our Vision

The Work That Reconnects Network provides support, guidance, and inspiration to people all over the world in their work for the Great Turning, in diverse communities, schools, universities, businesses, government agencies, and NGOs.

The Work That Reconnects Network functions as a vibrant living system, providing communication, education, mutual support, and collaboration in creating curricula, practices, books and articles, music, poetry, and art.

Our Mission

To design and build a network of facilitators and community members in the Work That Reconnects for optimal communication, collaboration, inspiration, and mutual support, and to contribute to the Great Turning.

To promote the Work That Reconnects in the world by building relationships in person and via social media, an interactive website, a periodic journal, and other means.

To develop a support system with funding and staff to enable the Work That Reconnects Network to fulfill its vision.

Our Values

Openness, transparency, connectivity, collaboration, inclusivity, diversity, kindness, service to the welfare of all beings of the three times and to the healing of the planet.

Network Organization

Although networks arise from the self-organization of all members, a few people have stepped up to get things going, calling ourselves the Network Weavers: Aravinda Ananda, Werner Brandt, Molly Brown, Paula Hendrick, Kathleen Rude, Emily Ryan, and Constance Washburn.

The Core Team of Weavers hold monthly online meetings to make decisions by consensus.  Other Weavers attend meetings of the Core Team when they are able, or when they want to bring up a proposal or concern. If you want to be involved in the Weavers group or the Core Team, please let us know via our Contact Form. We especially welcome international Weavers (from outside the USA).

Part-time staff “coordinators” have supported the Network for the last two years: Silvia Di Blasio, Frieda Slavin and Jo Del Amor.

Current Projects: 

  • Regional gatherings for facilitators and friends of the Work That Reconnects around the world.   Read reports about these gatherings on our website.  
  • A new and improved website launched in September 2019 with greater accessibility and resources for our global network, including multilingual and international resources.
  • Educational webinars and interdisciplinary experiences for and by WTR facilitators to foster cross-pollination and collaboration. 
  • Deep Times journal, published twice a year, with articles, essays, poetry, artwork and resources to inspire and inform our Work That Reconnects global community.

Fund-raising Campaign

The Network is currently engaged in a major fund-raising campaign to support these projects, including Deep Times journal. We welcome all donations, large and small.  

Opportunities To Get Involved

We welcome volunteers experienced in the Work That Reconnects to help expand the Network and its activities. Please use the Contact Form to let us know if you want to help in these areas:

  • Coordinator of volunteers
  • Network Weavers core team
  • International Advisory Board
  • Network engagement – involving folks in the activity of the Network
  • Editorial team for Deep Times journal (currently full)
  • Scholarship fund development (policies, procedures, and funding)
  • Fund-raising and grant-writing to support the website, journal, scholarship fund, and other Network endeavors
  • Organizing and creating/facilitating webinars for facilitators and/or friends of the Work That Reconnects.
  • Anything else you think needs doing!


What Matters Now

By Minx Boren

From Poems of Hope and Poems of Despair about the state of our world. 


What matters now
in these dimmer days
when gloom and doom
conversations occupy the tables
in every corner of concern?

What counts now
when countless folk
feel harried and hungry
for the richness of more
fulfilling times
when gold stars of hope
are needed to illuminate
their heavens and shine on
their wishes?

What matters and what counts
are the grit and gumption
to not give in to the sordid
all day all night
not-so-newsworthy dramas
to not reward the greed and
fiscal cleverness that have left
disaster in their wake
to not succumb
to the sin of dismay
no matter the twists and tangles
of evidence hell bent on constraining us
and detaining us from claiming
a bigger better brighter vision
for ourselves and our world.

What matters and what counts
are imagination and inspiration
a “Hail Yes!” we can attitude
and a roll up our sleeves movement
of such magnitude that the future
can hear us coming
with our heads held high
above the cloudy predictions
and our knap sacks filled with
our gumption and grit
our good will and willingness-
the building blocks of new
cornerstones of possibility.

©2019 Minx Boren. All rights reserved. May be shared with attribution.

Minx Boren,
MCC, is an ICF master certified coach as well as a published author, motivational speaker, and workshop facilitator. Minx offers workshops, classes, and webinars on many topics including the Art and Science of Flourishing, Journal-Keeping for Self-Discovery and, most recently, training to facilitate The Empowered Elder webinar series for EAN. Minx is also a longtime community leader and activist, now focusing on local Sustainable Living initiatives. More information at www.coachminx.com. 

Raised in the Shadow of the Bomb by D. Leah Steinberg

Raised in the Shadow of the Bomb: Children of the Manhattan Project, by D. Leah Steinberg, 2016: Ingram Spark

Book review by Karina Lutz

As the sciences of healing trauma and epigenetics seep into cultural awareness, deep time work, or inner work with our ancestors and descendants, takes on a new and more vibrant meaning. What if the work we do in the “seeing with new/ancient eyes” part of the spiral effects much more than our sociological imagination? What if the Work that Reconnects doesn’t just make us feel better, wipe the brows of the fighters before setting us back out in the activist ring? What if we really do “heal the past in the present moment” as Thich Nhat Hanh says, and our imagining the perspective of our ancestors and our descendants actually connects us with them, gives us more power to change the trajectory of humanity and earth?

These are just some of the questions that arose from a reading of Raised in the Shadow of the Bomb: Children of the Manhattan Project, an informal oral history of children of the physicists and others who secretly labored to develop the atom bomb for the US during World War II. One these children, D. Leah Steinberg, interviewed others, including her siblings and cousins, about what it was like to grow up with parents—mostly fathers—who they did not know at the time were recruited or drafted to work on the bomb.

Steinberg found themes of guilt or denial about the impacts of the work  

 Across her interviews, Steinberg found themes of guilt or denial about the impacts of the work; the legacy of secrecy and living under constant surveillance (the FBI kept an eye on all of the scientists, in some cases long after the project was complete); perfectionism and the inability or ambivalence about measuring up to their parents’ brilliance, drive, or accomplishment.

Steinberg tries to communicate her own mystical or quantum non-local sense of a deeper meaning of how the scientists were connected before and after death, and their quest for understanding the secret structure of the universe, and their karma for having done so in the destructive form they did. She found that many of the scientists were much more interested in basic science and driven to crack the code of nuclear physics more than they were motivated by the war effort, although most believed they “had to” develop the nuclear bomb before the Germans did.

Denial, it appears, does not insulate children from the truth.

Many were drafted into the project against their will, others felt they had no choice. Many were against the use of the atom bomb against the Japanese, as the Germans had surrendered. Several of the scientists formed the Federation of Atomic Scientists to try to steer policy against nuclear armament, and many of their children took up that mantle, even, in many cases, not knowing the extent of their parents’ involvement in the Manhattan Project or their resistance to the use of the bomb. Denial, it appears, does not insulate children from the truth. As the book’s epigram reminds us, “Your children shall know your fruits” (Virgil).

Oppenheimer said, ‘The physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.’

“The secrecy carried over after the war,” Steinberg quotes descendent Wendy Walin. “We were trained in denial….[T]here’s an awareness that there is this terrible thing in the world and, if we have contributed to it, all we can do is to do something to remedy it.” Steinberg responded, “Oppenheimer said, ‘The physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge which they cannot lose.’ I believe those ideas carried over to many people: the scientists, their families to some degree, and the rest of the world as well. For some reason, I took on the guilt and it propelled me to this project of my own. ….What are the karmic lessons, what am I supposed to be learning?” 

Kristi Grove spoke of her father, John Hite Grove: “I think the fact that they thought he was going to give away secrets destroyed him inside. I believe it created such a deep wound; that’s why he never talked about that aspect of it.” Yet the daughters (more than the sons, in this sample) are willing to talk about the project, its horrors and wounds, including those carried by the weapons designers and their families and communities.

‘Just keep quiet and don’t say anything more about it to anyone.’

Some of them even broke the denial pact as children. Carol Caruthers tells the story of speaking up during a “duck and cover” drill. She told her teacher “with great confidence, ‘Getting under the stairwell won’t protect us from a nuclear bomb.’ She told me to be quiet, that I was scaring everyone half to death. …[W]hen I told my dad what I had said, he told me, ‘Just keep quiet and don’t say anything more about it to anyone.’” 

How much energy must it have taken for the whole culture to repress so much fear, and to this day? How much honoring of our pain is needed to redeem those repressed fears and truths? And how much energy for change might be released in the process—might it be like unlocking the bonds of the atom, but of our spirits, our capacity for change?

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 Visionswww.yogaforpeace.massageplanet.com

Think Resiliency and Winona LaDuke’s “The Seventh Fire”

Resource review by Martha O’Hehir

‘Think Resiliency’ is a program of Post Carbon Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping the world transition away from fossil fuels and build sustainable, resilient communities.  https://www.resilience.org

Every day, I may be uplifted, encouraged, and challenged by articles published by resilience.org through a weekly or daily digest. I receive word of world-wide creativity and the stories of prophetic people who are responding to climate and fossil fuel based collapse with solution-oriented projects that are re-teaching us how to live on this planet. 

This morning, my growing suspicion that we cannot live without the forgiveness and wisdom of those who were native to the bioregions of the earth, was affirmed through the gracious and bold testimony of Winona LaDuke in her article, “The Seventh Fire.” <https://www.resilience.org/stories/2019-07-18/uncertain-future-forum-winona-laduke-essay/>

The web site also offers Richard Heinberg’s online course called “Think Resiliency,” and since taking it, my life has not been the same. The first half of the course explained how we got to where we are on this planet, and it did so historically, compassionately, and matter-of-factly. This was not about blame so much as an evolutionary history. The second part is a call to evolve away from our previous choices and toward what is regenerative. He may have been the first to articulate what Deep Adaptation might look like. https://education.resilience.org/

This perspective is very useful for calming the paralyzing terror and uprooting the powerlessness we sometimes feel over the magnitude of planetary crises. It reaffirms Joanna’s story from Buddhist traditions: “What humankind has done, humankind can undo.”

I highly recommend this site for seeing with new eyes and finding our call in going forth. Even if it is too late, we do what we can, we act on every opportunity to which we are called,  and we celebrate each other’s efforts, going forth.

Martha O’Hehir is an educator and writer and has served as an editor or contributing editor for several publications, including The Deep Times JournalThe Music Practitioner, The Orff Echo, and Reverberations. She wrote curriculums for elementary music and math, high school religious studies, and music improvisation for adult 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 nurture growth in consciousness and to promote Earth stewardship as an act of spirituality, through her writing, music, and spiritual direction.

Holding a Council Of All Beings, Behind Bars

by Jo Bauen 

On January 17, 2019, I returned to work to visit and hold circle with the 18 incarcerated men in my class at San Francisco County Jail #5. I had been away for a month and both the schedule and jail location had changed. Still, I contacted Francisco, my volunteer extraordinaire, and he agreed to join me in the new place at the new time.

These men will spend an average of two years in jail, and during that time they can never go outside, or see the sky.

Francisco had also been away, in Tanzania, on a safari. He’d brought photos he’d taken of the wildlife. “Do you think I can bring them in?” Francisco asked. I said yes, thinking they could be justified as harmless, restorative, and related to my curriculum. Once inside, we arranged the 50- photos around the circle’s centerpiece. The men entered the room and quietly walked the circle, asking permission to handle the photos. I noted that the men’s attention was focused, and they were extra appreciative of the color photos against the drab, windowless jail. These men will spend an average of two years in jail, and during that time they can never go outside, or see the sky. 

The guys began asking questions. Francisco described his trip, and what it meant to him to see the animals. The men were rapt. Our circle that afternoon focused on the web of life, and all the while, the men held Francisco’s photos in their hands. We wove wildlife and nature into our entire 2-hour circle. The men spoke longingly of fresh air, clouds, animals, and their desire to live in the wild, rather than jail. Someone said he would live in the wilderness even if it meant death, “Because life without nature is not life.” 

The men asked Francisco for a copy of their favorite animal photograph. We made a formal request to the appropriate jail authorities in order to give wildlife photos to the inmates. 

January 24 

As we passed the talking piece, we considered how each of these animals could bring power and solace to our lives.

While waiting for permission to bring the photos in, I continued to hold circle with a focus on animals, nature, and the notion of restoring our bond to mother earth. We discussed how in many native American traditions, people are given or choose an animal as a power animal or spirit guide. As we passed the talking piece, we considered how each of these animals could bring power and solace to our lives. I had made copies of brief descriptions of animals as power animals, and the men read these with interest.

January 31

I shared with Francisco that I was stumped as to how we would encourage the men to best embrace their connection to their chosen animals. Francisco responded, “You know Jo, we could do the Council of All Beings.” 

“Of course”, I floundered. Why hadn’t I thought of this? Joanna’s Council of All Beings is an exercise that involves participants choosing an animal, and speaking for and through that creature in a council setting. It brings out a groups’ best thinking on how to engage in solving both social and environmental crises.

I called to tell Joanna we were using her exercise, and to invite her to attend the council—which I scheduled for next month. She replied, “Jo, I’m coming to join you!” We planned for a date in March.

February 14

To my amazement, permission was granted to share Francisco’s photos, and after just four weeks of waiting, the day came to bring the photos in officially. We entered the pod, nodding and waving to our equally eager participants. I checked in with the deputy and she raised her microphone, about to announce our class. Then an overhead light flickered. Briefly. Once. Phones began ringing, and walkie-talkies sputtered static. All programs were immediately cancelled, due to the possibility of a power outage. Our class was cancelled, so I asked permission to share the sanctioned wildlife photos with the inmates at their cell doors. The Deputy approved.

Francisco and I walked from cell to cell, checking in on each of our 18 participants. The men were pacing behind heavy glass barriers that create their outer cell wall. They appeared calm, but perturbed by the lock-down that prevented us from having class. They appreciated our one-to-one visits, and seemed to cherish the photos. 

After the cell visits, Francisco and I went to check out with the deputy. A co-worker had joined her, and they both peeked at the leftover photos in Francisco’s hands. The deputy said, “Oh, yeah, I saw those. We had to review them for clearance. They are cool. I really like the tortoise.” 

Her co-worker said, “For me it is the giraffe. I just love giraffes, and have you seen the way that jaguar can take one down? That’s amazing.” Soon they were pouring over the photos, and Francisco asked if they’d like copies. 

Both jailer and jailed need connection with what is wild and connection with the planet.

“YES!” both replied.

So there it was: both jailer and jailed need connection with what is wild and connection with the planet. All of us suffer from the human-dominated, command and control worldview.   All of us need to re-invent our humanity, our world, and our definition of justice. 

March 14, 2019

Francisco and I picked up Joanna for the drive to San Bruno. We estimated that the 20-mile drive would take 90 minutes, and it did. Joanna was ready for the day: proper clothing, nothing in her hands, heart and soul present.

I introduced Joanna as an ‘Eco-philosopher,’ environmental activist, and Buddhist scholar. I explained that Joanna’s work makes room for grief; we can’t fully know joy without fully knowing grief. I shared that Joanna sees the earth as sacred; her environmental activism is guided by her spiritual view of life; her work fully embraces the Web of Life. Everyone clapped and thanked Joanna for coming.

Next I introduced the group of incarcerated men as my colleagues, my teachers, and my brothers, and I passed the talking piece, inviting the circle to check in. Francisco, Joanna and I listened and responded with empathy.

Beginning Joanna’s protocol for the Council of All Beings, I introduced the concepts of deep ecology and deep time, stopping to allow participants to ask questions, and for Joanna to share her thoughts. Deep Ecology states that reality is not made up of isolated, random bits, but rather, that each being is part of, and essential to the interconnected whole. I proposed that to embrace the web of life is a radically different way of living; if we really are part of the web, we must care for each other and for the planet. 

Deep time is the idea that time is not simply linear, moving in one direction from past to future, with us in the ‘now.’ Modern society values speed, and devalues slowing down. This cuts us off from our ability to use our senses, and to develop creativity. We look at rocks, hills, mountains as just rocks, and fail to see that everything is in motion, if you slow down. Deep time allows us to invoke our ancestors, to invoke our future: to shape our legacy over time. “

We could say some people ‘do time,’ and others ‘do deep time.’ 

Noticing the potential for metaphor, I added, “We say some people ‘just do time,’ while others make the most of their incarceration, reaching into themselves, their past, and their future.” I suggested, “We could say some people ‘do time,’ and others ‘do deep time.’”

A Council of All Beings

Finally, I announced, as planned, we would transition away from two-legged existence, and welcome the animals each man had been studying. I established myself as the human circle keeper, and I would be a circle keeper as coyote, too. Mick offered to drum on his plastic chair, and I invited movement and sound to represent the animals. Nico, as owl, jumped on a chair and began rapping. Brandon scurried around gathering items like a squirrel. Paul slumped in his chair, playing dead like a possum. 

After a few minutes, I welcomed the animals to sit in circle. I opened with a question. “Please introduce your animal and its sound and/or movement, and its characteristics.” I demonstrated, “I am coyote; I travel by night. I am a trickster and a rule-breaker.” I howled! Then, passing the talking piece around the circle, we heard each animal’s sound, its qualities and attributes: the hunters (wolf, lion, alligator), those with night vision (panther, owl), the leaders (antelope, bear) and the uncommonly generous (turkey). Addressing those who had not yet spoken, Joanna added the prompt, “What do you love about being this animal?” Snake and butterfly spoke of the skill of transformation. Crow expressed his desire to step outside of human law, to bring peace. 

Next I asked for volunteers to represent humans, to sit in the center of the circle and not speak, noting that this could be a difficult task and no one needed to stay longer than they wished. Two men volunteered, and as they tired of the post, they asked for replacements. I invited the animal participants to explain to the humans, “How do you see life on earth at the present time? What are the issues/problems/opportunities?” We heard about pollution of the environment, scarcity of wild lands, violence, and human greed dominating the world.

As a final round I asked, “What are the gifts/skills we can pass on to the two-legged?” Turtle offered patience, and told humans to take their time. 

Pig said, “See me for who I am, don’t misunderstand me.” 

Possum suggested to humans, “Learn to play the game.” 

Buffalo said, “Prayer.”

“Legalize freedom,” said Eagle.

“Stop seeing humans as superior,” demanded alligator, “Don’t gentrify the wild!” 

“Remember to play!” shrieked dolphin.

“You humans are experiencing a chemical imbalance!” said Owl.

“Leave us alone,” growled Wolf.

Lion reminded us, “Enjoy the sensuality of gender.” 

“Stop worrying,” said Jaguar.

“Get rid of government,” offered Orca Whale.

“Get thicker skin,” said Snake.

“Utilize your gifts,” pronounced Buffalo.

Finally as our circle time ended, Mick drummed us back into our human form. We shed our animal skins, and we passed the talking piece again, performing our check-out round and thanking Joanna for the exercise. During the check-out, someone said, “We really are responsible for the planet, and we should take action.” 

Someone else said, “This helps me appreciate life and demonstrates everyone can be selfless.” 

Another man said, “We are connected.” 

And another spoke, “We have wisdom.”