Honoring Our Pain, Seeing With New Eyes

By Dahr Jamail

Interviewed by Carmen Rumbaut
Excerpted and edited by Carolyn Treadway


In this Gaian Gathering presentation, Network Weaver Carmen Rumbaut interviewed award winning journalist and author Dahr Jamail about his work that has focused on how the dominant culture is destroying life on Earth. Dahr also shared his personal journey of truly learning to honor his pain, which led him to seeing with new eyes and then to ever deepening action.

Dahr began the interview by sharing the powerful story of being challenged by Duane French, a high-level quadriplegic, three days after Dahr had started working as his personal assistant. [Do watch the presentation video to see Dahr tell this very compelling story.] It taught Dahr to listen, show up, pay attention, and see the world through the other person’s eyes. It also started Dahr’s understanding of what’s going on politically, and how that affects everyone. Difficulties for his friend Duane opened Dahr’s heart. Dahr then told of his involvement with Iraq and with Joanna:

Once that [Iraq] war was launched and the suffering and death toll increased, I just knew I needed to go there.

The buildup to the Iraq war began early in 2003. I read so much about what was happening to the Iraqi people during the sanctions and first Gulf War, and what US policy had already done to that country and its people. They already suffered mightily from US policy, and were about to be attacked. Once that war was launched and the suffering and death toll increased, I just knew I needed to go there. 

I think it was because my heart broke, because I really let myself see very clearly what was happening. 

I did this crazy thing of figuring out how to get into Iraq. I went there simply with a goal of writing about these human beings, and how they were being affected. I just wanted to see that with my own eyes and tell that truth, because that was what was being grossly overlooked in the media, just like Gaza right now. I wanted to report in hopes that it would help people see and know what was going on. I ended up turning into a journalist and reporting on Iraq for years. And that is what led me to meeting Joanna. 

I returned from Iraq with severe PTSD. I was really angry and traumatized from what I had seen.

I returned from Iraq with severe PTSD. I was really angry and traumatized from what I had seen. Anita Barrows  took one look at me and said she wanted to introduce me to her good friend, Joanna Macy.  Joanna invited me for tea.  I went to her home and sat down with her. She took a look deep into my eyes, teared up, and simply said “You’ve seen so much” and I cried. It was the first time I cried for anything that I had seen in Iraq. 

That’s when I knew this woman knows what she’s doing and is seeing things in a very deep way. Joanna said that the horrible news of war crimes and atrocities is hard to hear and take in, thus my reporting was like oxygen, because in this country, we’re just not being told the truth. It was like oxygen while we were being strangled by lies. And that was really my introduction to her in the Work and the importance of bearing witness and letting my heart be broken.

That Intensive started my awareness that my work needed to come from my heart, not from my anger.

Joanna invited me to an Intensive at Land of Medicine Buddha in August 2006. I was still incredibly traumatized and didn’t know it. The first couple days I was sitting with my fists clenched. I felt like a bomb, only able to feel rage  or numbness. When we began the Work in earnest, with the Truth Mandala and other exercises, the dam broke. I just started crying and I didn’t stop much the remaining  time we were there. It was so great! I wept and wept, which was what I really needed to do for everything that I had seen. Joanna was giving me medicine that I didn’t even know I needed. That Intensive started my awareness that my work needed to come from my heart, not from my anger. I went to Iraq because my heart broke and I stayed with that work for a long time because of honoring our pain, which meant honoring other people’s pain as well as my own.

Carmen asked Dahr to speak about moral injury—the injury from witnessing what is happening and feeling hopelessness and shame or somehow being part of what caused it.

Dahr told of the moral wounding from believing in a country that claimed it was doing wartime actions for the right cause and then seeing military leaders committing war crimes and atrocities, which breaks our hearts in a very special kind of way. It is its own kind of trauma. And now we are all living with moral trauma every day because of all the horrible things being done to the earth, and so on. [Please see the presentation video for more on this topic.]

In the last part of the interview, Carmen asked Dahr to speak about what he has learned from his work with Indigenous people, how they view what this dominant culture is doing, and with some idea of how we need to shift and change. Dahr replied:

When I finished ranting, he’d say “Welcome to Indian country.”  I soon learned not to rant.

I learned much from a close friendship with my Indigenous friend and mentor, Stan Rushworth, whom I met in 2018. He essentially gave me a whole new perspective. I would call him in the early days of the Trump administration. Day after day, it was just more assaults and horrible racist power-over policies of that regime. So egregious, even more so than today. I would call Stan very, very upset, like “my God, look at what Trump’s doing now,” and Stan would just listen quietly. When I finished ranting, he’d say “Welcome to Indian country.”  I soon learned not to rant. Stan would say: “This has been life for us since 1492. Until the people of this country, not just the government, openly acknowledge and deal with the fact that this country was built on the genocide of Indigenous people and slavery of African Americans, we are nowhere.” 

Again, I think back to honoring our pain, and seeing clearly with new eyes. And until we do that, we’re trying to build a structure on top of sand, which won’t work. To this day the Indigenous population in this country is not getting its fair due and is largely continuing to suffer from erasure. What has been done and continues to be done is not acknowledged. 

These are people who have been going through the great unraveling for hundreds and hundreds of years, ever since first contact.

I have interviewed many Indigenous people for the book I co-edited with Stan Rushworth, We Are The Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island On The Changing Earth  and for a recent podcast series titled Holding The Fire: Indigenous Voices on the Great Unraveling  (available through the Post-Carbon Institute at https://www.resilience.org/holding-the-fire-podcast/episodes/.) I’ve learned from them the importance of listening. These are people who have been going through the great unraveling for hundreds and hundreds of years, ever since first contact. These are the leaders we need to be listening to, now that we are so deeply in polycrises. These are the people we need to listen to, instead of being all caught up in ‘everything is coming apart.’ Welcome to Indian country. 

How we treat ourselves is how we treat the earth.

Not only can Indigenous leaders teach us about how to get through this, but more importantly, how to comport ourselves while all of these assaults are happening to all of us, and how we treat ourselves. How we treat ourselves is how we treat the earth. Part of the brilliance of The Work That Reconnects is how so many important Indigenous themes are deeply woven into it. We can’t face reality until we look into ourselves, the lies that we tell each other, and the ways we’ve tried to pretend these horrible things didn’t happen in our history. Until we do that, we can’t face the current reality.

I think it comes down to just being a good human being, having my heart open and having compassion for other people, it doesn’t matter what color they are, their religion, or where they live. Anytime I see something egregious happening to another human being, am I willing to have my heart broken, have compassion, and put myself in their shoes? If I am, then that’s going to lead me into ‘what do I need to do?’ Compassion pulled me to Iraq, to try to help.

I can’t really come from compassion unless my heart is broken.

For the same reasons, I’ve been working with Indigenous people now, both in the United States and more recently around the world. It’s just simple. I look atwhat’s happening to these people and what I can do about it, then follow that thread. That’s how it has informed and carried through my work leading to where I am now and will continue to be in the future. I’m coming from compassion, not from anger which I did for a long time. But I can’t really come from compassion unless my heart is broken. It takes a lot of strength to allow my heart to break. Breaking seems like weakness, but it’s not, it is allowing the truth to come in.    …

It is my honor to be part of anything that pays tribute to Joanna Macy and all the work she’s done for the earth over all the decades that she’s been on the planet. Her work has impacted and changed my life in ways that I would literally not be who I am today, had I not met her and had the opportunity to do the Work with her. Anything I can do to honor that and pay tribute to her is really my honor and pleasure. Thank you for this opportunity.

This article is an edited transcription of a talk given at the Gaian Gathering of the Work That Reconnects Network in November 2023.  A video of the full talk is available on the WTR Network website here.


Dahr Jamail is an award winning journalist whose work has focused on how the dominant culture is destroying life on Earth. His writing and podcasts provide us with a clear understanding that enables us to see and feel this deeply, thus allowing us to begin going through the spiral in a positive way. . 

Dahr’s books include: Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq; The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption; and We Are the Middle of Forever: Indigenous Voices from Turtle Island on the Changing Earth (co-edited with Stan Rushworth).

An Early History of the Work That Reconnects

By Marc Decitre

This article is a condensed and reworked transcript of the first portion of a talk given at the Gaian Gathering: “A Brief History of the Work that Reconnects”. The talk drew from research conducted for a master’s thesis, based on interviews with key protagonists as well as written archival resources–books, articles, and journals produced by various branches of the Interhelp Network (1). While the talk focuses on the entire period, from the late 1970s to the present, this article will limit itself to the early years: the emergence of “Despair and Empowerment Work” within the nuclear freeze campaign in the early 1980s. 

The cauldron: 1970s catastrophist environmentalism 

Nothing short of a complete overhaul of modes of life, especially in the industrialized West, would be necessary to turn the tide

The late ’70s in the US was a threshold period of environmentalism, marked by an acute sense of urgency, where the very planet’s survival was understood to be at stake. The publication of Limits to Growth Report, followed closely by two oil crises, gave weight to the understanding that the modes of developments that had hitherto been pursued could not continue indefinitely. That nothing short of a complete overhaul of modes of life, especially in the industrialized West, would be necessary to turn the tide. The slow disaster of Love Canal and the spectacular nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island contributed to the deeply apocalyptic ambiance that marked the decade. At the same time, a burgeoning  back to the land movement was giving rise to an awakening of consciousness on many levels including of the sacredness of the earth (laying the seeds for a “Gaian Environmentalism”). 

It is within this context that the first root experiences took form. As Joanna Macy retells it, her environmental awakening arose in 1977, when she attended a conference at the Boston Colosseum on threats to the biosphere. The barrage of bad news provoked a visceral understanding that it was possible to destroy this world, plunging her into a “dark night of the soul”. In ’78, while leading a seminar at the University of Notre Dame on the prospect for human survival, she asked the different participants to introduce themselves with an image or an experience of the moments where they felt the planetary crisis impinged on their own life. That sharing transformed the energy of approaching such heavy material. And out of that came the first article that outlined her basic insights on the idea of “Despair Work”.

This trajectory resonates with that of another early Interhelper: Chellis Glendinning. After the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, Glendinning had a similar “dark night of the soul”, taking the incident as a symptom of the apocalyptic times that they were living in. Invited to a psychologists’ conference, she offered the despair ritual, which is still in Coming Back to Life, and had a similar experience of transmuting the sense of isolation and helplessness into connection and solidarity. 

These experiences mirror each other: the moment of revelation and dread, and the lifting of the veil. Then the dark night of the soul, the despair, which is both a function of the enormity of threats that are apprehended and the absence of the social space in which to reckon with that enormity.

These experiences mirror each other: the moment of revelation and dread, and the lifting of the veil. Then the dark night of the soul, the despair, which is both a function of the enormity of threats that are apprehended and the absence of the social space in which to reckon with that enormity. And then a creative act–the seminar, the ritual–a container for a collective space in which sharing can happen. And finally, grace: the deep gift of reconnection.

These early explorations, however, were not enough to trigger the development of an entire body of practice. After writing her first article, Joanna Macy was still set on pursuing an academic trajectory and certainly not imagining pursuing her insights any further. The catalyst for that was the “Euromissile Crisis” and the accompanying peace movement that arose to counter it. 

The Euromissile Crisis and the Nuclear Freeze Campaign

In 1977 the Soviet Union developed a new type of missile (SS20) that threatened Western Europe. NATO responded two years later by installing another generation of missiles, Pershing II cruise missiles: a huge escalation because it made a first-strike attack a possibility. It meant that if one or the other side struck, it only gave the other a few minutes to respond with full force. In the wake of this new balance of power, people were living with the fear that total nuclear war was not only possible but probably imminent (and Reagan’s inauguration in ’81, who came in with very saber-rattling language, talking about a winnable nuclear war, only exacerbated these fears). 

In response a mass movement took form: the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which demanded a freeze on the production of nuclear weapons and for those new missiles to be taken out of Western Europe. The early Interhelpers were part of that movement, part of a wider web within the environmental, peace, and feminist movements, which “stood at the intersection of the political, the spiritual, and the psychological” (to use Sarah Pirtle’s expression). In a context of heightened urgency, they put a pause on whatever they were doing in an all-hands-on-deck emergency mode, to come together and come up with these transformative practices. 

One of the elders was Joseph Havens, a 60-year-old Quaker who had studied depth psychology and humanistic psychology with Carl Rogers.

Joanna Macy played a central role, of course, but so did a number of other figures in those early years. One of the elders was Joseph Havens, a 60-year-old Quaker who had studied depth psychology and humanistic psychology with Carl Rogers. He  and Sarah Pirtle had been experimenting with similar despair work processes together in Massachusetts and he co-led the first Despair Work workshop with Joanna Macy at a Quaker Conference in 1980. 

Sarah Pirtle was working for the Traprock Peace Center in Massachusetts at the time of the campaign. She had grown up during the Civil Rights Movement and had participated in and led early consciousness-raising groups in Cleveland, Ohio. She wrote songs for the ecofeminist movement, being present for most of its founding moments: the Women and Life on Earth Eco-feminist conference Spring Equinox 1980, the Pentagon Action, and the Seneca Peace Encampments (see this article for more details on the ecofeminist wing of the peace movement). She marked the culture of Interhelp by the particular emphasis given to music and the importance of the spiritual dimension, as well as fostering an atmosphere of kindness and friendliness to all aspects of organizing. She later devoted significant time to working with young people through peace camps and books (including a novel about a teen-led peace group, which she just re-edited). 

Fran Peavey … was the one who pushed to create a network, taking on a lot of the backstage organizational work, giving it its nonhierarchical form, inspired by the  Movement for a New Society.

On the west coast, one of the major figures was Fran Peavey, who with Joanna was considered a primary founder. Coming to San Francisco from the Midwest in the ‘60s during the Civil Rights and antiwar movements, she later joined the Movement for a New Society, (MNS, a revolutionary organization that brought together anarchism and pacifism). She attended the first workshop in 1980 and was the one who pushed to create a network, taking on a lot of the backstage organizational work, giving it its nonhierarchical form, inspired by the  MNS. She was also quite instrumental in creating a lasting bridge between the US and Australia as the deep ecology side of the work was taking form. The Australian chapter of the Interhelp Network used Fran’s phrase and called their conferences “Heart Politics Conferences,” inspired by her book on the topic. She also developed a comedy show for the Nuclear Freeze Campaign as a way to engage people with the issue. Her work in New South Wales was done with Tova Green, her partner at the time (now a Zen priest), who had taken on important leadership roles in New England after the network’s founding. Fran made a ten year commitment to help clean up the Ganges River and with Joanna was instrumental in broadening the work internationally. Their skills dovetailed as Fran was an expert at making deliberate organizational choices that were critical in the formation of Interhelp.

Chellis Glendinning, a psychologist deeply involved in the feminist and ecofeminist movement…translated many of the tools from consciousness-raising groups into Despair and Empowerment Work.

Finally (and this is far from an exhaustive list), we must mention Chellis Glendinning, a psychologist deeply involved in the feminist and ecofeminist movement, who translated many of the tools from consciousness-raising groups into Despair and Empowerment Work. Unfortunately, during this time, she was facing a very severe illness, which is why she had to take a step back, but was certainly one of the very important initiators of the work, and went on to be an active voice in the fields of eco-psychology (with key works like When Technology Wounds).

The founding of Interhelp

The first Interhelp gathering was held in October 1981 in Northern California. Joanna Macy’s article, “Despair and Empowerment in the Nuclear Age” had engendered more response than any other in New Age Magazine and helped summon people to the gathering. Other presenters at the gathering included Barbara Hazard and Kevin McVeigh who offered how to incorporate co-counselling methods.  Kevin’s article “No feeling, no healing” described their way of addressing nuclear apathy. Fran Peavey and Charlie Veron presented their work called Humpty Dumpty and shared their Atomic Comics show.

In May 1982 Joanna Macy and Joe Havens invited Kevin McVeigh and Sarah Pirtle to assist them at the first training for trainers (which was held in Temenos, the retreat center in Western Massachusetts founded by Joe and Teresina Havens). This began a practice of linking people across the country by holding a National Interhelp gathering on the west coast one year followed by an east coast location the next year. 

Interhelp acted as a seed ground for people to launch projects and deepen their approach to preventing nuclear war. Kevin McVeigh became the first National Coordinator of Interhelp in September 1983 when he opened a national office in Northampton MA. In addition to monthly newsletters, he coordinated national and regional gatherings, as well as arranging and co-leading trainings. His gift was both writing and giving individual attention to everyone who contacted the office; he was responsible for helping individuals find a way to plug into the network. At the same time, Rosa Lane started the quarterly journal. The Interhelp mission statement stated:

Interhelp is a nonpartisan network whose purpose is to provide people the opportunity to experience and share with others their deepest responses to the dangers which threaten our planet–be they dangers of nuclear holocaust, environmental deterioration, or human oppression. We aim to enable people to know the power that comes from their interconnectedness with all life and to move beyond powerlessness and numbness into action.

This was the key stake, the key question that guided their work: how to reclaim one’s power to act in the face of such overwhelming threats. 

Psychic Numbing, the Civil Defense Program, and Interhelp’s Responses

The Civil Defense Program…was…one of the biggest propaganda campaigns in US history, where the State Department allied with…mass media to create “preparedness” towards the threat of nuclear war. 

To understand why this psychological dimension seemed both so important and so neglected, we need to look at the longer history of the Civil Defense Program. This was essentially one of the biggest propaganda campaigns in US history, where the State Department allied with different forms of mass media to create “preparedness” towards the threat of nuclear war. Between 1953 and 1963, the program was deployed in every single school, church, and community in America, theatricalizing the possibility of nuclear warfare, with films like Operation Q, which showed a fake town being destroyed by a nuclear bomb. The idea was to calibrate emotional reactions to nuclear war, reconfiguring the image of nuclear ruin as a site to demonstrate the American spirit of preparedness and overcoming the harsh conditions of the frontier. (See “Survival is your Business” by Joseph Masco.) You have to think about what it means for a country to create a mass circulation of images of its own ruin. At the time it reached 150 million people over 10 years, making the threat of nuclear war percolate into the very intimacy of daily life, while at the same time creating a total taboo on discussing the omnipresence of this threat and the emotional toll it took. 

These tropes were initially remobilized by peace groups working for a Nuclear Freeze. The British movie “War Game” depicted the horror of nuclear war, showing people a reality that no one would want to live through. The underlying idea was that if people were more informed, they’d mobilize. But these films often had the opposite effect, relying on images of nuclear ruin, without regard for their psychological toll. 

The nuclear threat was so overwhelming that people just shut down.

Eminent psychologists Robert Jay Lifton had shows how the nuclear threat was so overwhelming that people just shut down. He coined this reaction “psychic numbing” (we would say dissociation today) through his work on survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The intuition of the folks who started Interhelp was that one of the reasons why there wasn’t a mass mobilization was because people just felt completely frozen, and there was no space to discuss the emotional toll of the possibility of nuclear war. When they began to articulate this need there was a huge demand for it within the movement. 

And so the specific practices got developed in this practical process of trial and error, responding to calls from churches, universities, communities who were organizing for the nuclear freeze campaign. Sometimes it would be very simple open questions during an evening forum: “When I think about the threat of nuclear war, I feel…” and people would open up. At Traprock Peace Center, Sarah Pirtle led Interhelp-style conversations in pairs when she was asked to accompany “War Game.” The idea was to antidote it. She wrote and distributed a pamphlet to teach other centers this option. When the movie “The Day after Tomorrow” was slated to be shown nationally, Interhelper Wendy Roberts from California put aside her therapy practice to respond to the upcoming movie by working full-time on what she dubbed “The Day Before.” Wendy organized Interhelp members across the country to lead programs the night before the TV showing. This is an example of what Kevin McVeigh describes:  “Interhelp gave birth to a wide range of endeavors primarily led by educators, therapists and people from religious communities.” 

So the Interhelpers participated in this surge of invention to come up with these practices under the incredible pressure of the Euromissile Crisis, guided by a desire to have a balance between heart and mind, to weave in emotion, singing, dance and art with more politically oriented strategy and action. Because these practices were serving a specific movement, action was woven in organically, the “empowerment phase” sometimes involving a simple action like canvassing for the freeze, or creating long-term activist support groups

As the wider peace movement began to wane, members split off into their own direction, and the practices…took on a life of their own as they circulated in other contexts.

By 1983, Joanna Macy coalesced the fruits of this collective effort in the first guidebook: Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age. [Chellis Glendinning wrote her own perspective on that time a few years later, in 1987 (Waking up In the Nuclear Age).] The guidebook opens a second phase of development of the Work that Reconnects: one of international circulation as the guidebook spreads, through tours and international Interhelp conferences, to the UK, Germany, and Australia. As the wider peace movement began to wane (especially after 1987, with the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty), the Interhelp Network held its last national conference in 1988 (though regional chapters, like the Northeast continued). The members split off into their own direction, and the practices, summarized in the book, took on a life of their own as they circulated in other contexts, the most important being in New South Wales, Australia, which ultimately gave rise to Deep Ecology Work.

(1) This version received generous reviews from Sarah Pirtle and former National Coordinator Kevin McVeigh. An unexplored source of material rests in the twenty boxes of Interhelp newsletters, journals, correspondence and thematic files such as “Nuclear Arms race” given by Kevin to the Dubois Collection at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst under the “Famous Long Ago” section. Kevin McVeigh also did an interview on history for the collection.

This article is an edited transcription of a talk given at the Gaian Gathering of the Work That Reconnects Network in November 2023.  A video of the full talk is available on the WTR Network website here.



Marc Decitre is a Brussels-based playwright, academic, and activist, who situates his work at the intersection of social ecology and eco-spirituality.  He is currently working on a play that revisits the Tower of Babel story through an ecological lens. 

News from the Work That Reconnects Network

by Frieda Nixdorf and Jo delAmor, Staff Weavers

The Work That Reconnects Network is delighted to announce a new volunteer member of our Weavers team and the Deep Times journal team: Carmen Rumbaut.

Here’s a bit of her story:

Carmen Rumbaut

I entered WTR via my friends in Buddhism in 2017 while living in the Seattle area [Washington State, USA], and quickly began to facilitate gatherings (both live and online); attend the beginnings of the Anti-Oppression Resource Group; and serve as a member of the editing team for Deep Times journal. My background before that was in climate change activism. I was trained through Al Gore’s Climate Reality Leadership, but became aware back when Jimmy Carter was president [1977-81]. I was a child immigrant, am a retired social worker and attorney, and am bilingual Spanish/English. What brings me joy: meditating, studying mystics, painting, drawing, writing songs, playing guitar, singing in a Unitarian Universalist choir, publishing poetry and stories, visiting my granddaughters and emailing my five siblings. 

Paula Hendrik and friends

Also this month, Paula Hendrick is retiring after five years as a volunteer Weaver. We have valued Paula’s steady presence and thoughtful contributions to the development of the Network. We will miss her on the Weavers team but we are excited that she’ll continue to offer her skills as a member of our Communications Committee.

And, speaking of volunteers, 17 people have recently stepped up to serve on our Gaian Gathering committee, joining our administrative staff and core volunteer members. The enthusiasm, energy, and skills of this globally diverse team are awesome!

Save the Date for the Gaian Gathering!

The Gaian Gathering will be a dynamic and inspiring five day online global gathering held from November 1st through November 5th, 2023. It will be an opportunity for our global WTR community to learn, experience and engage together, as well as a chance to celebrate the Work That Reconnects and Joanna Macy as she approaches her 95th birthday. 

This global summit will be a combination of online events and guided gatherings of local communities around the world. Beyond the typical online summit experience, this gathering will include inspiring and educational content, opportunities to practice WTR together, training for community members to up-level their skills and facilitated conversations for collaborative learning.

Our Gaian Gathering coordinator, Shala Massey, has been doing an excellent job guiding the process and collaborating with our team of dedicated volunteers and Network staff to put all the pieces together. As we work behind the scenes to connect with speakers and WTR Facilitators, dream up inspiring and creative ways to connect with each other and see the plan start coming together, we can hardly wait to share it with you all. 

Stay tuned for the updates and information we’ll be sharing with you over the next couple of months as we come closer to this special event!


Book Review: Strands of Infinity by Looby Macnamara

Book review by Karina Lutz

Recording by Karina Lutz

Strands of Infinity: Poetry to Reconnect
by Looby Macnamara
2016: Greyhound Self-Publishing, Malvern, UK 

Readers of this journal will recognize some poems in British permaculturist Looby Macnamara’s collection of poetry, Strands of Infinity: Poetry to Reconnect, as we have published a few here. The slim but powerful volume is a response to and useful for the experience of the Work That Reconnects. I recommend it to anyone who wants to freshen their workshop habits with new poems to enhance your workshop participants’ experience of any of the four stages of the Spiral.

The first few poems explore the poetic or creative urge, but soon the poet’s awe of the experience and how poetry helps her connect to the flow of life gives way to more classic themes of Gratitude, including a sweet poem written by the author’s 8-year-old daughter, which starts, “Thank you Earth for everything.” Then it’s clear the book is structured around the Spiral.

Her poems for Honoring Our Pain for the World are often raw expressions of the pain of patriarchy. Others link all kinds of social ills and injustice and ecological crises, as she sees them all as coming from “the system/that promotes disconnection.” The poem “What colour is my rage?” would be a great debriefing prompt for Honoring; in it she describes fearing her feelings, and from that “skating on the numb surface…plunging” into them, where she finds “Instead of the unbearable depths of grief expected and rage that explodes through my body and throat/I find the connection with a deeper channel” and “This current of grace has swept away my rage and grief/leaving a dynamic peace, /and transformed the ice into/a crisp layer of power, resolve, and trust.”

Poems on the theme of Seeing Anew with Ancient Eyes inspire like seeing that “power, resolve, and trust” in the faces and actions of our comrades, colleagues, collaborators, and kinfolk in the work she calls “cultural emergence.” Poems in the Going Forth sequence, like the one called “Cultural Emergence,” ring like anthems of social change. 

This is a treasure trove for facilitators of the Work.

What’s Cooking in the Network

by the Network Staff

Many things are happening behind the scenes at the Work That Reconnects Network that we love sharing with the wider Network community:

We are embracing a Workers Self-Directed Nonprofit structure:

It is all about living the Great Turning. While we have been working on an inclusive and quite organic environment for years, we recently discovered that, as a Network, we would like to be more proactive and openly engage ourselves in what is known as a Workers Self-Directed Nonprofit (WSDN).

Some of the WSDN practices we use are:

  • We make decisions together and ensure all the voices are heard
  • We’ve created a structure where most work and decisions are made within smaller “circles” or “committees”, which include representation from staff, weavers and volunteers
  • We choose to share responsibilities and accountability with each other as opposed to being accountable to a “boss”
  • Rather than hierarchical structures, we have adopted a sociocratic decision-making approach

There are many other aspects of being a WSDN, you are welcome to learn more here.

We are also embarking on a shared learning journey called: Collaborate to Co-liberate:

Through a 12-month journey facilitated by the Nonprofit Democracy Network we will be exploring, among other topics:

  • Movement lineages, and consider themes including mutuality, reciprocity, Black queer feminism, and decolonization/anti-colonialism  
  • Facilitation tools that center on building strong, trusting, open and accountable relationships
  • Tools for equitable and democratic conflict engagement and transformation.
  • Leadership development, supervision, and personal growth
  • Decision-making structures and processes
  • Democratically distribute labor and responsibility within your organization
  • And much more!

In our most recent session, we explored a number of approaches to decision-making and how organizations are currently overcompensating for previous models of  non-inclusive ways of making decisions. Asking the questions of which voices need to be heard and what information to collect, whether our desire to have a say reflects our level of commitment and the tension of decisions under urgency or boundaries of budget, time and other factors. The reality is that those for whom many decisions are made are disproportionately under-represented in the process while usually being the most impacted. We learned that transparency with the public we serve helps to build trust and inclusion, even when most members may not have the time, energy or desire to be part of the decision-making. 

Learn more about the Nonprofit Democracy Network here.

We are working on the creation of a new, engaging and more functional website that will be:

  • Globally oriented
  • Accessible
  • Co-created by staff, weavers, volunteers and members of the Network
  • Filled with WTR resources for newcomers, emerging facilitators, and experienced facilitators
  • An expression of the breadth and depth of the WTR, with images of people offering the Work around the world

We are in our third year of running our most successful initiative

The Webinars & Conversation Cafe program has recently hosted many amazing speakers and presenters to share topics including: Postactivism, Transraciality and Decononiality, Principles and Practices of Deep Transformation, Regenerative Livelihoods for the Great Turning, Men in the Work That Reconnects and much more. We are excited to explore and share much more coming in the next weeks and months:

  • Ecological Civilization: Humanity’s Transformational Alternative
  • Conducting Effective WTR Rituals and Ceremonies
  • Love, Rage, Rebel: Climate Activism and the Great Turning
  • Liberation for All: Bringing Tenderness to Conversations of Power and Privilege

Learn more, watch past recordings, and register here.

We’ve also recently started offering Conversation Cafés every other month to provide opportunities for meaningful and engaging discussions on topics that emerge from our recent webinars or directly from the community. Hosted by WTR Network Staff and facilitated as council-style discussions, these unique gatherings allow us to connect with each other more deeply while entering into edgier conversations and exploring actionable ideas that can contribute to our personal and/or professional lives as WTR facilitators, emerging facilitators and/or participants. 

The main content of each Conversation Café will continue to be generated by the participants as we learn from and with each other. In order to create a more interactive and intimate environment, Conversation Cafés are not recorded. 

With the intention to delve directly into discussion of the selected topic, we may provide material to review ahead of time.

We are engaging our full team of weavers, staff and volunteers in inspiring ways: 

Our team of volunteers has been growing beautifully over this past year and each of us is busy with the work of our committee projects, working closely with our fellow committee members. To strengthen our connections across committees and support the extended team we’ve created opportunities for the full team to connect with each other on a regular basis beyond the busy-ness of our projects. The entire WTR Network team gathers six times a year, alternating between Council sessions and Full Spiral WTR experiences. 

Using the principles of the Council Way, councils are centered in inquiries that help people get to know each other and assure that each person is heard. The councils are facilitated by members on a rotating basis.

With a desire to engage in the Work That Reconnects on a regular basis and deepen our connection with each other as a team, we host three Full Spiral WTR experiences per year for our entire team (weavers, staff and volunteers)

The team actively working to support the WTR Network is now 28 people strong:

  • 3 paid staff from two different countries
  • 5 weavers from three different countries
  • 20 volunteers from seven different countries

While most of our staff, weavers and volunteers are WTR facilitators, some are not, but all share the love and dedication to this Work.

To learn more about current weavers and staff see here. To learn more about our volunteers and committees, check here. If you’d like to join us please apply to volunteer on one of our committees.


New Edition of Active Hope by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

In June 2022, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone released a 10th anniversary revised edition of their well-loved book, Active Hope.  This new edition features many updates from the first edition, including a new subtitle: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience and Power.

Isn’t “unexpected” a wonderful word? It brings to mind the concept of “emergent properties,” from systems science. Something new and unexpected arises as the components of a system interact. Co-authors Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone offer a straightforward brew of concepts, exercises and imagery to stir the pot of our psyches, so we can face the mess we are indeed in, and rediscover our resilience and creativity. Active Hope is a recommended guide for book groups, circles of practice, as well as individual study.

A beautiful visual (page 42), offers a simple and inspiring example of a journey through the spiral using “open sentences” or “sentence starters.” This can be experienced in pairs, as a group, and could be a great entry point for those new to the work.

You can find the introduction and first two chapters, including this practice, here.

The main thing that’s different from the first edition published a decade ago is the context  the book address – our world conditions have become significantly more scary and  depressing. The book has been updated and improved, drawing in new insights and  practices that help us play our part in responding to this. The paragraphs below, from the  introduction, describe the task the book sets out to serve. 

So this is where we begin: by acknowledging that our times confront us with realities that  are painful to face, difficult to take in, and confusing to live with. Don’t be surprised if you  find yourself feeling anxious, defeated, or in despair.  

There’s something else we’d like to bring in alongside this difficult starting point. It is a  recognition that when we’re at our most exasperated, we can sometimes surprise  ourselves. We might discover strengths we never knew we had or experience degrees of  aliveness we’d not even suspected were available to us. This is a time to reach out and find  new allies, as well as to discard forms of thinking and behavior that have led us astray. In a  process known as adversity activated development, our very act of facing the mess we’re in  can help us discover a more enlivening sense of what our lives are about, what we’re here  to do, and what we’re truly capable of.  

Do you hope this will happen for you? Or that you might play a role in helping this happen  for others? If so, we invite you to join us in our journey. Together we will explore how we  can access unexpected resilience and creative power, not just to face the mess we’re in, but  also to play our part in doing something about it.  

The authors describe some of the key changes in the book that build on this starting point:

  1. The dedication at the start of the book – previously this was ‘This book is dedicated  to the flourishing of life on this rare and precious earth’. We’ve now added ‘and to  the role each of us can play in responding to our planetary emergency’. 
  2. In the first edition, the collapse of our civilisation was viewed as a risk for the future  that might be preventable if we acted in time. With such significant worsening of  planetary conditions over the last decade, the new edition begins with a recognition  that a collapse process is already underway. 
  3. A central theme the book explores is how we can engage in  a collective transition referred to as ‘the Great Turning’. The new edition brings a  shift in emphasis in the way we think about the Great Turning, from outcome to  process and from ‘will it happen?’ to ‘What helps this happen?”. Looking at how this  larger story can happen through us in any moment brings a focus on three types of  turning – turning up with an intention to play our part, turning away from that  which causes harm and turning towards a way of doing and thinking and being that  supports the flourishing of life.
  4. The first chapter describes the mismatch between the scale of the problems we face  and that of our collective response, looking at factors that block engaged responses,  and also those that promote enlivened ones. 
  5. Decolonization is identified as a key element in the shift in consciousness integral to  the Great Turning
  6. The second chapter brings a new practice that offers a way for two people to go  round the spiral of the Work That Reconnects in a half hour conversation. 
  7. In Chapter Five, we’ve added a new section on applying inspiration from the  Shambhala Warrior Prophecy in our lives. 
  8. Addressing the toxic polarisation tearing apart communities, we look at what helps  us stand together rather than turn against each other. 
  9. In Chapter Ten, we address the need to recalibrate our hopes, so that we can let go  of those no longer supportable, or that lead us in the wrong direction. Drawing on  insights from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, we look at how to both be  grounded in reality while also maintaining a sense of visionary possibility.
  10. In Chapter Twelve, a new section draws on health psychology research in looking at  how to nourish and strengthen our motivation to act for positive change. 
  11. The last chapter draws threads of the book together in building towards a climax  that identifies resilience as a powerful and creative force of nature that can happen  through us in unexpected ways. It identifies three ways we can open to active hope, with a  framework of three Acts of Opening.
  12. The resources section at the end of the book has been updated, with links to a free  video-based online course in Active Hope at https://www.activehope.training, and  other resources that can support the activation of hope in and through our lives. 

Most of all, the book invites people to engage in a strengthening and transformative  journey designed to nourish and build our capacity and commitment to play our part  in the Great Turning. Each chapter has been revised to better support this journey  from the context we face now. 

For more information, please see https://www.activehope.info.

Eyes Wide Open to the Injustices, Challenges and the Possibilities – The Passing of Three Greats

by Silvia Di Blasio

It is probable that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual. The next Buddha may take the form of a community, a community practicing understanding and loving-kindness, a community practicing mindful living.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The sea is made of drops of water.
~ Desmond Tutu

“Dominator culture has tried to keep us all afraid, to make us choose safety instead of risk, sameness instead of diversity. Moving through that fear, finding out what connects us, reveling in our differences; this is the process that brings us closer, that gives us a world of shared values, of meaningful community.”
~ bell hooks

We start 2022 with gratitude for all that is: as root teacher Joanna Macy has said, just being alive on this Earth is enough to celebrate.

We have, however, experienced three recent important losses: social activist and author bell hooks, human rights activist Desmond Tutu, and master precursor of the concept of engaged spirituality Thich Nhat Hanh.

Each of them left us with eyes wide open to the injustices and challenges as well as the possibilities. And their passings open the doors for new leaders and actions based on the inspiration they sowed.

Looking at the legacy of these three great human beings, it is time for us to honour the deeper roots and repercussions of the work we do: beyond the Spiral and the Work That Reconnects practices, we may ask: “How do different cultures and peoples of the world express gratitude, honour their pain, see with new and ancient eyes and support each other to go forth? Aren’t these practices what create resilience for peoples who have been historically suppressed, silenced, oppressed or left out of the conversation and big decision-making?”

Thay (as many lovingly called Thich Nhat Hanh) once said that there is actually no birth and no death, another way to see the concept (also created by him) of inter-being. How would this affect the work we do, the way we see the future, and our own role in all?

The invitation this time is to allow ourselves to observe around us and open our senses to what our immediate environments may teach us about the appropriateness of the Work That Reconnects practices. How can we enrich and expand our work as Work That Reconnects facilitators and practitioners to honour the deeper roots that have been carried by all the peoples and traditions of the world?

Remembering bell hooks and her enormous legacy:

Desmond Tutu in his own words: ‘He loved, he laughed, he cried’:

No Birth No Death | Thich Nhat Hanh:


Silvia Di Blasio works supporting various organizations and projects including the Work That Reconnects Network, the Capra CourseGaia Education and the Facilitators Development program. In her spare time, Silvia tutors permaculture design students for the Women’s Permaculture Guild, gardens, cooks for her family or enjoys reading her collection of books about almost anything and everything. Silvia’s role in the DTJ includes receiving, organizing and posting the submissions and organizing the website.

The Birthing Room

The Birthing Room by Jane Sherry

by Jane Sherry

Artist’s statement

The fires in California and parts of western North America last year, as well as the burning of the Amazon to make way for more meat consumption, were all stirring within as I created The Birthing Room, which envisions a forest nursery where we can be as children again; a place for Life to ripen. 

The forest is my respite from patriarchy and polarization; but with the ecological devastation all around, the forest also does not deny the realities of degradation nor the deep sorrow at what is taking place. And yet, it can revivify our spirits; even the burned forests will regenerate with new life.

 I have always believed that the messy work of looking within and allowing space for pain while finding the Sacred in Beauty is a part of life which must be honored. Perhaps this is why The Birthing Room is a dark forest – a night forest, where the shadows and intimations of new life abound, if only we have the eyes to see it; to see her, our earth, our Mother.


Jane Sherry has been making mixed media visual art, incorporating language into her visual works for over 50 years as well as a keeper of dreams, a writer and performer of poetry and prose. She has had a limited edition artist book published by Steve Clay of Granary Books in NYC called Venus Unbound. It resides in many university artist book collections as well as the NY Public Library and the Getty Museum. Her work is sparked by the “ancient traditions of priestess, shaman, scribe and storyteller” using myth, symbol, etymology and the sacred in her writings and imagery. 

Great As You Are

By Susan Griffin 

Recorded by Karina Lutz

Note: Due to website limitations, poem line breaks will not be right on all screens, particularly narrow ones. To see the poet’s intended version, please click the Print Friendly button. Or try turning your phone or tablet to landscape orientation.

Be like a bear in the forest of yourself.
Even sleeping you are powerful in your breath.
Every hair has life
and standing, as you do, swaying
from one foot to the other
all the forest stands with you.
Each minute sound, one after another,
is distinct in your ear. Here
in the blur of mixed sensations, you can
feel the crisp outline of being, particulate.
Great as you are, huge as you are and
growling like the deepest drum,
the continual vibration that makes music
what it is,
not some light stone skipped on the surface of things,
you travel below
sounding the depths where only the dauntless go.
Be like the bear and
do not forget
how you rounded your
massive shape over the just ripened
berry which burst
in your mouth that moment
how you rolled in
the wet grass, cool and silvery, mingling
with your sensate skin,
how you shut
your eyes and swam far and farther
still, starlight
shaping itself to your body,
starship rocking the grand, slow waves
under the white trees, in the
snowy night.

© 1998 by Susan Griffin. Reprinted with permission of the author from Bending Home: Selected Poems 1967-1998.  Port Townsend, WA, Copper Canyon Press. www.coppercanyonpress.org


Susan Griffin has written over twenty books, including non-fiction, poetry and plays. Her book, A Chorus of Stones: The Private Life of War, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and a New York Times Notable book. Woman and Nature, considered a classic of environmental writing, is credited for inspiring the eco-feminist movement. She and her work have been given many awards, among them a Guggenheim Foundation Award, an Emmy, and the Fred Cody Award for Life Time Achievement by Northern California Book Awards. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Susan’s new book will be published in January 2023.

The Work That Reconnects Network Visions for 2022-23

by the Work That Reconnects Network Weavers Team

The Weavers’ team for the Work That Reconnects Network created these vision statements to guide us in the coming year. They are written in present tense because that’s a best practice for visioning and setting intentions. Some of these intentions have already come to be; others have yet to bear fruit, but we hold them all in our hearts and minds as we continue our work together as weavers in the Network. 

International Diversity

The Work That Reconnects Network is an international resource that provides support and inspiration for and collaborates with WTR facilitators from all areas of the world. 

We are strongly committed to deepening communication and collaboration among people of different backgrounds and cultures. With a deep bow to the sacredness of each person and the life paths we each walk, we make time to invest in the hard conversations, growth and learning that support our shared work together, which is informed and strengthened by these differences. 

Our core team of Weavers includes representatives from many regions of the international Work That Reconnects community with a diversity of race, country, language, culture, gender, age, and ability. 

As an organization devoted to dismantling oppression, we dedicate a portion of our revenue and programing to uplifting historically marginalized members of the WTR worldwide community. 

Quality of Core Team

Our diverse core team of 9-13 members prioritizes skillful collaboration and is dedicated to continual team and leadership development. 

We engage in our shared work with enthusiasm, creativity and joy. We hold our work in a sacred manner and support it with Work That Reconnects practice, ceremony and reverence for mystery, guided by Gaia. We prioritize personal wellness and self-care for all of our team members and honor the humanity, dignity and personal needs of each person on the team.

When the time is right, we will gather together in person to connect with each other, hug, share food and swim together in a beautiful body of water.

Organizational Maturity

In 2022, the Work That Reconnects Network continues to grow into a new level of organizational maturity, as we welcome new core team members, create an Advisory Council and expand our organizational structure to include more dynamic involvement, feedback and collaboration with a wider spectrum of the global Work That Reconnects community. We are evolving an effective governance model which provides clear pathways for input and decision making from our global community. 

This new structure is articulated in a beautifully diagramed organizational map that is, in itself, a piece of art. It is clear, inspiring and orients us deeply to our shared mission. This visual representation of our organization is presented clearly on our website along with clear explanations and navigable calls to action. 

The result of this work is more clarity in how we are perceived in the world, a greater sense of inclusion and involvement within the Work That Reconnects global community and a greater ability to reach out to and attract those who can truly benefit from this Work. 

Community Engagement / Network Weaving

The Network provides an engaging and supportive network for all of our Facilitator Members, uplifting their work and facilitating connections for them within the Work That Reconnects community. New facilitators are welcomed with celebration and a warm embrace, invoking the feeling that they’ve stepped over a threshold and have arrived home. 

Most of the WTR facilitators in the world actively participate in Network activities and projects, contribute resources and content, and support the Network financially as they are able.

There are Work That Reconnects Communities of Practice in each area of the world that meet regularly and work on supporting local facilitators. They have a clear path of communication and collaboration with the Core Team of the Network and feel that they are integral parts of the global WTR community. 

The Network facilitates active network weaving to connect facilitators with similar interests or skill sets so they can collaborate. The Network also intentionally weaves WTR into the mainstream business-as-usual world (educational institutions, governments, mental and physical health care institutions and the corporate world) as well as extending further into activist communities and the progressive world.  

The Network begins to establish professional relationships with partner organizations who are serving the Great Turning in various ways. We uplift their work to our Network and seek ways to develop mutual support.

Resources and Support

The Network provides a wide range of resources, support and platforms for connection to WTR facilitators and WTR enthusiasts around the world, based in a highly functional website that is beautiful, easy to use and has room to grow.

The website provides excellent resources for facilitators, including tools and training to support their work, an ever-expanding library of practices and resources, marketing materials and techniques for working with different populations.

The Network hosts a vibrant and engaging interactive forum for facilitators and community members to meet on a regular basis to exchange tools and resources and connect with each other on their own terms. 

The Network-hosted Webinar and Cafe Program is thriving and provides high quality educational content to our community with frequent Facilitator Member events and several high profile fundraiser events per year. 

The Network also hosts a series of ceremonial/ritual events each year that provides a space for our community to come together to grieve, celebrate and commune with the sacred, perhaps moving through the spiral once a year. 

The Network hosts an annual online global multilingual gathering for our Facilitator Members and Communities of Practice with a line up of different speakers, a variety of sessions for different areas of interest/focus and breakouts for geographical areas and for areas of interest.

In 2022, the Network develops a new program that connects qualified Facilitator Members with opportunities to facilitate WTR experiences for our Partner Organizations and their teams. 

Financial Ease and Health

The Work That Reconnects Network is supported by a robust and diversified array of income streams and enjoys a sense of financial abundance and flexibility. What we need to operate and serve the WTR global community flows in easily, with integrity and is given joyfully. 

We are able to expand paid staff hours and provide a stipend for members of the Core Team of Weavers. We are guided by sound and creative budgeting, planning and visualizing that meet the growing needs and desires of the Network. 

We continue to develop relationships with private donors who happily support our work, cultivate relationships with foundations that begin to provide an ongoing portion of our annual budget, increase our membership and community-based monthly donations, develop paid programs that are widely attended and integrate passive income streams through the website.

The Weavers Team: Constance Washburn, Helen Sui, Kathleen Rude, Paula Hendrick and Network Coordinators Silvia Di Blasio, Jo delAmor, and Frieda Nixdorf.  Molly Brown  helped compose these vision statements before her retirement from the team on March 31, 2022.  Weavers’ biographical descriptions and photos here: https://workthatreconnects.org/network/