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/

Appalachian Elegy (excerpts)

by bell hooks

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.


8.
snow-covered earth
such silence
still divine presence
echoes immortal migrants
all life sustained
darkness comes
suffering touches us
again and again
there is pain
there in the midst of
such harsh barrenness
a cardinal framed in the glass
red light
calling away despair
eternal promise
everything changes and ends

9.
autumn ending
leaves like
fallen soldiers
manmade hard hearts
fighting battles on this once sacred ground
all killing done now
dirt upon dirt
covers all signs of death
memory tamped down
ways to not remember
the disappeared
dying faces
longing to be seen
one lone warrior lives
comes home to the hills
seeking refuge
seeking a place to surrender
the ground where hope remains
and souls surrender

10.
here and there
across and down
treasure uncovered
remnants of ancient ways
not buried deep enough
excavated they surface
objects that say
some part of me
lived here before
reincarnated ancestors
give me breath
urge me—live again
return to familiar ground
hear our lost people speak

22.

sometimes falling rain
carries memories of betrayal
there in the woods
where she was not meant to be
too young she believes
in her right to be free
in her body
free from harm
believing nature
a wilderness she can enter
be solaced
believing the power
that there be sacred place
that there can be atonement now
she returns with no fear
facing the past
ready to risk
knowing these woods now
hold beauty and danger

© 2012 by Gloria Jean Watkins (bell hooks) Reprinted with permission from Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place, University Press of Kentucky


 

bell hooks (1952-2021) was the author of more than thirty books, including Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the twenty most influential women’s books of the last twenty years.

Cultural Emergence

by Looby Macnamara

Recorded by author


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.


This cultural emergency calls for cultural emergence,
A breaking through, a breaking free,
Of cultures of isms and schisms,
Of gun culture, war culture, rape culture, fear culture,
Greed culture, waste culture, chemical culture,
Of corporations controlling our culture,
Polluting our culture.
Peeling back the layers of oil smothering our culture,
Can we connect our roots into the Earth
And reach out to fellow beings and show our care?
Can we cultivate a
Responsibility culture,
Friendship culture,
Kindness culture,
Justice culture,
Safety culture,
Peace culture,
A culture of innovation, resilience and hope?/
Can we name and create the culture we want?
A visionary, regenerative culture?
Can we shift our priorities, phobias, patterns,
Parameters, opinions, assumptions?
Can we bend or bury our beliefs?
Will we?

Will we reflect, connect,
Respect the collective.
Direct our objections
To the system
That promotes disconnection.
Challenge not blame,
Name and reframe,
Shift our perspective to gain a directive
That allows us to be receptive
To the interconnected web
Vibrating with every step.

Disrupt the pattern
To awaken and challenge
And begin to unravel cords of conditioning
To release the story
And create space for visioning,
Allowing the possibility of the seemingly impossible
To motivate and invigorate
The genius inside of us.
Activate and initiate,
Appreciate and celebrate,
Collaborate and participate
To co-create and facilitate
The desire to germinate
And take control of our fate,
Moving away from this state

Of emergency
Into a state of cultural emergence
Where we use emergence to support emergence,
With the divergence and convergence of minds
Creating designs
With the intelligence of co-operating hearts
To give us a start
On this path
Of empowerment.

To bring fulfillment
And deep nourishment
It
 takes commitment
To trusting the process
And opening to osmosis
Of the mystical and magical
To be alchemical
With the mathematical
For practical and logical
Action and reaction,
To bring connection
And emerge the solutions
For manifestation
Of personal and global transformation.


Note: Cultural Emergence is a project to develop a toolkit, community and movement for positive cultural evolution. The framing of Cultural Emergence was birthed through a collaboration between Looby Macnamara and Jon Young. This poem started the journey. The Cultural Emergence toolkit weaves together cultural awareness, systems thinking, permaculture design and deep nature connection. Looby is a trained Work That Reconnects facilitator and  this work has been woven into the toolkit. In 2020 Looby released her book Cultural Emergence – a toolkit for transforming ourselves and the world. This poem is published here and originally in 2016 in her book Strands of Infinity: Poetry to Reconnect.


Looby Macnamara‘s latest book, Cultural Emergence shares a pioneering toolkit for regeneration and transformation. Looby has been teaching permaculture for nearly 20 years. During this time she has been a pioneer of personal and social permaculture, authoring the first book globally to focus on the peoplecare ethic People & Permaculture. Looby is also author of 7 Ways to Think Differently and Strands of Infinity.  She runs Applewood Permaculture Centre in the UK with her partner Chris Evans. She is also one of the partners of the European Mother Nature project, empowering mothers. Looby has been an active member of the permaculture community, and was a chairperson of the Permaculture Association and is a senior diploma tutor.

 

For more about Cultural Emergence, Looby’s books, videos, podcasts and courses see www.cultural-emergence.com

Disrupting Patriarchal Legacies of Dealing with Trauma and Pain

by Juliana Mota Diniz

 

The global scenario of the collapse of the socio-ecological health of places and the breakdown of complex social systems is, in some ways, a projection of the devastation of our internal landscapes mirroring what we, as a western society, must urgently look at within and among ourselves.

Without recognizing personal and collective pain and overcoming the association between success and invulnerability, we will be little able to make significant internal and systemic transformations. They are interdependent and begin to take root in reality when they overcome the barrier of superficiality.

We need to admit that we are hurt and find braver ways to deal with our wounds.

Going beyond compliance

In the West, our parents and grandparents generations were encouraged to hide their problems from friends and family. Almost no one talked about abuse of power, neglect and abandonment, emotional dependence, psychological disorders, etc., although these occurred in many homes and communities.

Forced to fester under the guise of social status, these problems have morphed into intergenerational wounds and constrained enormous potential for creativity and innovation. But now many young people are taking on the task of dealing with the hidden traumas handed down through countless generations. We are no longer willing to sacrifice our lives and ideals as many of our parents and grandparents did for living in a context where conformity was desirable.

The change in posture from indifference and control to care is the bridge we must cross towards overcoming patriarchy.

  The reason for so much avoidance of the realization that some scenarios of personal and social life were emotional conflict zones is that it requires emotional resilience, openness to pain, empathy and care. Moving through pain is possible when we stand as an empathic witness beside it. The change in posture from indifference and control to care is the bridge we must cross towards overcoming patriarchy.

It represents the reinsertion of feeling as part of the human condition and the possibility of reaching the core of the converging crises that threaten the planet and humanity. Touching pain, being with it and moving through it is the turning point that will make it possible to elevate humanity from the condition of enemies of oneself, of others and of nature to healthy participants in the web of life.

The effect of patriarchy

For Gabor Maté (2008), a physician specializing in childhood development and trauma, the attempt to escape pain is what creates the most pain. Due to our inability to bear pain and, at the same time, remain open to the experience, we build protective mechanisms, shelve emotions and condemn vulnerability. We start to defend ourselves from the circumstances that weaken us because we want to avoid the memory of impotence from the shocks of pain. But with compulsory avoidance we begin to replicate, collectively and at all times, our personal wound.

The automatism in avoiding pain and difficult emotions is due to the validity of patriarchy as the modus operandi of the society of industrial growth.

The automatism in avoiding pain and difficult emotions is due to the validity of patriarchy as the modus operandi of the society of industrial growth. There is a mindset, which is cause and effect of the survival of patriarchy, that overemphasizes self-improvement, competition, domination, and the “go ahead at all costs” philosophy. Since we were born, this worldview has been present in our neural circuits, restricting our responses to challenges.

In the face of any sign of pain, the nervous system leads the body and mind to the defense response. So, when not worked through, our wounds keep us stuck in self-preservation mode—the emotional fight-or-flight state. Thus we spend our days busy defending ourselves against life. The energy spent on pain relief or on the automatic defense response compromises the development of inherent potentials.

As we dissociate ourselves from the world around us or try to control everything and everyone through rationality, reactivity and aggressiveness, we become a traumatized species that specializes in creating trauma around us. Wounds left unanswered dampen the inner impulses that guide us toward the expression of the authentic vision we would like to share with the world and toward gentle, collaborative participation in our collectivities.

But the point is that everyday big and small problems open up symptoms of deep wounds that are potential gateways to perception and transformation. Admitting this is the height of personal responsibility, a mark of emotional maturity and the possible way to promote human evolution. When enough of us do this, humanity will be transformed.

The critical mass quest

Rupert Sheldrake (1996), biochemist and doctor of biology, postulated in the 1980s a hypothesis about how living beings learn and acquire new behaviors. He found that when a behavior is repeated enough times, it forms a morphic field with a cumulative memory based on what happened in the past. Morphic fields are structures that span space-time and shape physical forms and behaviors.

Everything, living and non-living beings, is associated with a specific morphic field that makes a system function as such, that is, as an integrated whole rather than a jumble of parts. Unlike gravitational and electromagnetic fields that transmit energy, morphic fields transmit information so that the knowledge acquired and aggregated by an individual becomes a collective asset that is shared by all individuals in that system.

Morphic resonance, the name of Sheldrake’s theory, demonstrates that a change in a species behavior occurs when a critical mass is reached. Critical mass is the required number of individuals that need to adhere to a particular habit in order for the behavior of the entire species to change. Thus, he explains how new patterns of behavior can emerge and, with that, how the nature of species, including humans, can change.

This means that the culture of a collective of people changes when enough people change their behavior. This process begins with the unimaginable being done by some and repeated by others until a critical number of people make the change and this new behavior becomes the pattern of how we act and, consequently, of who we are. This is how human behavior change happens: we repeat behavior motivated by a principle or value enough times until, suddenly, we become what we do.

Any legitimate form of activism must go hand in hand with the understanding that our personal pain and the Earth’s pain are closely related and play a decisive role in the way things turn out

.That is why we need more and more people who are experts in their own trauma in order to prevent them from gaining collective proportions and resulting in the limitations and misfortunes we witness on a daily basis. Any legitimate form of activism must go hand in hand with the understanding that our personal pain and the Earth’s pain are closely related and play a decisive role in the way things turn out. Without this recognition, our personal and professional initiatives, although well intentioned, will continue to be fragmented, superficial, unsustainable and, at times, unethical.

Within trauma are competencies that we need to recover in order to respond to present challenges. Through the elaboration of trauma, personal and collective intelligence and power cease to be at the service of self-preservation and are directed towards self-fulfillment. Taking care of our personal miseries is a condition for acting responsibly in the world. In doing so, we act out of authentic participation and committed service to the most beautiful world our hearts know is possible.

Welcoming the pain

Going through trauma and embracing pain makes us more able to see reality for what it is and to be more honest with ourselves. This makes it possible for the individual to anchor his view of the world without excuses and defenses. Thus, existential anxiety is replaced by a sense of trust in ourselves and in life.

It takes willingness to be present with your pain without judging yourself for feeling fear, anger, sadness, guilt, shame and all the emotions that the mind translates as negative experiences. The moralizing judgment that emerges along with these emotions has to do with mistaken beliefs related to feeling like “if I didn’t feel this, I wouldn’t suffer” and “my dark aspect is shameful”. From them derive a herculean effort to avoid emotion and isolate oneself from experience. The result is a dulling of the ability to feel.

We nurture these beliefs because we, human beings, had to dampen emotional pain to bear it when we didn’t have enough resources to face it. At times, the expression of our emotions may have resulted in unwanted results and loss of affection. Emotions have become undesirable because, in these cases, they have kept us from fulfilling our needs and desires. But fear of emotions is unwarranted because it is beliefs and attitudes related to them that make them unpalatable. No matter how destructive they look, they can be metabolized and composted.

Replacing protection patterns with connection patterns

Trauma compromises our ability to engage with one another, replacing patterns of connection with patterns of protection.

By rebuking emotions they remain inappropriate and destructive in the subconscious causing us to run away from experiences. According to behavioral neuroscientist Stephen Porges (2017), trauma compromises our ability to engage with one another, replacing patterns of connection with patterns of protection.  It is a paradoxical isolation. Inhibition and isolation as a protective measure against exposure does not prevent what we fear and makes us lose the potential of life that we could access if we did not refuse involvement and flee the experience.

We realize that true security comes from living from the raw, open, real core of presence within us.

The price to pay for emotional overprotection is too much. Blocking the ability to feel pain also blocks access to pleasure. Though it may not seem like it, pain is a life-giving experience. It releases pent-up energy and dulled creativity. Without attachment or aversion to emotions, feeling them is life-giving and liberating. Listening to emotional pain gives birth to the understanding that we are beyond any disconcerting emotion and, no matter what, we are alive and, in the end, that’s what matters most. We realize that true security comes from living from the raw, open, real core of presence within us.

This radical integrity is the necessary foundation for building a life in the service of a society that celebrates life. Metabolizing the pain itself makes us anchor a more potent level of truth. In doing so, we put our originality and eccentricity at the service of the world. The clogged channels and wounds related to broken bonds become the portals to realizing a deeper, indestructible bond that connects us to everything and everyone.

It is a paradox that by coming into contact with the pain of separation we have the chance to experience our inseparability from the world. Facing pain doesn’t annihilate us as the ego supposed. On the contrary, it creates a new relationship with life. From separate and disconnected we have come to feel deeply interrelated. With the relinquishment of masks, defenses and justifications, we enjoy the incredible pleasure of being intimate, open and vulnerable to life.

Collective healing is in supporting each other on this path. It’s worth it because we stop seeing life as an overlay of traumas and realize its exuberance and preciousness. We see connections more than oppositions and adversity begins to look like adventures. Each challenge can present itself as an opportunity to make different choices from those made so far. By learning to take care of ourselves, we become more available to others, expanding our sense of empathy and our circles of affection.

Some guidelines to make friendship with pain

There are many scientific approaches and ancient wisdom traditions that offer ways to embrace pain. As facilitators of Work That Reconnects, it is important to know and experience some of them in order to discover how they can support our work with facilitation of groups and difficult emotions. From my experience with phenomenologically based psychological approaches and trauma studies, I have come to realize that an interesting path of coping with emotional pain involves:

  • Curiosity to investigate the hidden meanings of events
  • Reverence for the truth of phenomena (internal and external world)
  • Admit whatever happened without resizing or fantasizing
  • Perceiving adaptive defenses and cognitive biases
  • Stop the dramatic telling of outdated stories
  • Embrace shame and practice self-compassion
  • Remain open and choose to be real and authentic

These simple guidelines can be found in many of these ways and perhaps, I hope, inspire us to search for effective practices and perspectives to do our work of compassionately witnessing personal pain and the pain of the world.

References

Maté, G. (2008). In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction. Knopf Canada.

Porges, S. W. (2017). The Pocket Guide to the Polyvagal Theory: The Transformative Power of Feeling Safe. W. W. Norton & Company.

Sheldrake, R. (1996). The Presence of the Past: Morphic Resonance. Piaget Institute.


 

Juliana Mota Diniz

Juliana Mota Diniz is Brazilian and has translated her essay from its original Portuguese.  She is a social scientist with emphasis on anthropology, co-founder of the Institute for Regenerative Development (IDR), and a facilitator of Gaia Education and Work That Reconnects. She has academic and practical experience related to traditional knowledge systems, socio-biodiversity, ethnodevelopment and decolonization.  Based on phenomenology, ecophilosophy, and regeneration,  she combines her anthropological and holistic experience to facilitate personal and collective learning and transformation that promotes planetary health and protects the Earth’s biocultural memory.  

Juliana  participated in the first WTR training in Brazil, in 2019 under the guidance of Ádrian Vilaseñor Galarza. WTR is one of the foundations of her  personal and professional practice.  She considers it an honor to offer this essay as a contribution to WTR. 

Our Aching Conscience: Moral Injury and the Work That Reconnects

Audio recording by author

by Molly Brown

Honoring our pain for the world in an interconnected world includes honoring the pain of moral injury that we all share, consciously or not.  Here’s how the Moral Injury Project at Syracuse University defines and describes moral injury: 

Moral injury is the damage done to our conscience or moral compass when we perpetrate, witness, or fail to prevent acts that violate our moral beliefs, values, or ethical codes of conduct. 

Moral Injury breaks the spirit. It makes people question their ability to do the right thing and leaves them contaminated with the feeling that they’re “bad,” “disgusting,” or “beyond redemption.” They may feel that they have an evil twin lurking inside. Moral Injury often leads to self-harm. People turn to alcohol, drugs, and self-isolation to avoid the pain of their feelings. (1)

Military service people have suffered moral injury in wars and military actions for centuries, but only recently has this wounding been recognized as distinct from PTSD (although it can accompany PTSD) and as needing spiritual healing.  This is an issue so close to my heart–the harm we do collectively sending soldiers off to war, into situations where they have to violate their moral values to follow orders or survive.  Are we not then complicit in the moral injury they suffer?

Many indigenous cultures recognize moral injury, calling it by other names.  They recognize when a member has fallen out of harmony and needs to be restored through ceremony, chanting, drumming, and community support.  

The Moral Injury Group at the Philadelphia Veterans Administration Medical Center offers a 12-week program that works with veterans, both individually and in group sessions, to help them explore the moral and spiritual dimension of their military experience, and appropriately address moral and spiritual pain and struggle. (2)

Many of us, both soldiers and civilians, are suffering moral injury by witnessing—and in some cases participating in—acts of violence and oppression.

In today’s world, we all live within systems of oppression, racism, exploitation, extraction, and consumption that likely violate our deepest moral values if we allow ourselves to take it in.  Understanding the concept of moral injury can reveal how many of us, both soldiers and civilians, are suffering moral injury by witnessing—and in some cases participating in—acts of violence and oppression.  When we learn about the many environmental assaults going on today, do we not suffer moral injury?  

The Water Protectors engaged in civil disobedience at the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota have been subjected to “harm compliance” by police, who inflict extreme pain and injury on peaceful protestors to force them to give up.  I believe all parties involved—Water Protectors, police, journalists, and other observers—are likely suffering moral injury as a result. 

In the Work That Reconnects, as we honor our pain for the world, let’s explore ways we can bring moral injury into awareness and into practices like the Truth Mandala.  Simply explaining the concept may be liberating for people, giving them a name for an inchoate feeling they’ve carried within them. Offering community support for talking about the moral injury they’ve suffered can be a first step to healing.  We can also design community healing rituals to help everyone feel at home once again in the family of all beings.

References

  1. The Moral Injury Project, Syracuse University. https://moralinjuryproject.syr.edu/about-moral-injury
  2. The Moral Injury Group: https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/92169/moral-injury-group-place-of-healing-place-of-peace/

Molly Brown co-authored Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to thWork That Reconnects with Joanna Macy and edits Deep Times journal. 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 co-directs Spiral Journey, a Facilitator Development Program for the Work That Reconnects   MollyYoungBrown.com.

Recorded by Rebecca Selove

 

Held in Love: Life Stories to Inspire Us through Times of Change

Audio recording by Molly Brown

Edited by Molly Young Brown and Carolyn Wilbur Treadway
Psychosynthesis Press, 2009

Twelve years ago Deep Times editors Molly and Carolyn edited and published Held in Love. We bring it to your attention now because it is especially relevant to the “Sacred Wisdom, Sacred Earth” theme of this issue of Deep Times and to connection with the sacred that is so much needed in these troubled times.

Held in Love is a moving collection of stories, poems, and artwork from 72 writers and artists who share experiences of connection with a loving Source within and beyond themselves—in times of hardship or unexpected grace, alone, in nature, or with others. These writings and images offer examples of ways love can guide and sustain us through the challenges of the Great Unraveling and the Great Turning.

Endorsements for the book: 

Joanna Macy: “Here in many voices, forms, and stories we encounter afresh the mystery at the core of our existence—the mystery we belong to and essentially are. This beautiful, humble, and amazing book sings my heart and mind awake.”

Bill Plotkin: “We are each uniquely who we are by virtue of our relationships to everything else, including the mysterious totality that holds everything. Not only are we not alone, we are in an intimate dance with all things, a dance that defines us and supports us. In this wonderful collection, Molly and Carolyn have gathered from a host of colleagues poignant stories and poems describing how people discover, often unexpectedly and astonishingly, their full belonging to Earth, Universe, Mystery, Community, or Self.”

Bill McKibben: “Thank you for doing this book. It is a goodhearted, wholehearted one.”

Order Held in Love online or through local brick-and-mortar bookstores everywhere. For more information about the book, visit PsychosynthesisPress.com.


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 Spiral Journey, a Facilitator Development Program for the Work That Reconnects   MollyYoungBrown.com.

Carolyn Treadway is a therapist, pastoral counselor, social worker, and life coach, now retired after more than 60 years of facilitating change and growth in people’s lives.  She “speaks for Earth” as a climate leader and mentor (trained by Al Gore and the Climate Reality Project), anti-nuclear activist, conference planner, workshop facilitator, writer, editor and photographer.  She has been part of the Work That Reconnects since the early 1980’s. With her husband Roy, she lives in Lacey, Washington. Their three children and four young grandchildren constantly fuel her motivation to preserve our precious Earth. Contact her at [email protected].

Recorded by Rebecca Selove

Love for the Sake of Life; Live for the Sake of Love

Book review by Martha O’Hehir

Becoming Gaia: On the Threshold of Planetary Initiation, by Sean Kelly. Integral Imprint Publishing.

Sean Kelly’s new book, Becoming Gaia: On the Threshold of Planetary Initiation, is not an easy read, but it is an important one, because “it takes enormous courage to face our fear.” He helps me find the moral and physical courage Joanna Macy calls forth in the story of “The Shambala Warriors.” https://vimeo.com/191169785

Sean Kelly is steeped in the Work That Reconnects and understands Joanna Macy’s call to a new lifeway for western industrial citizens. He also understands history and post- and meta-modern philosophies and theologies. His grasp of the science of climate change and the current Great Dying is evident. He joins others who see these as the End Times. 

I struggle to read his book because the words and ideas are big and they are true, and they are sometimes scary. I have to read slowly and ponder deeply, especially the beginning chapters of the book. It may not be good news, but at least, I am facing reality. Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I am afraid. I am always given food for thought for where we are and how we got here.

I find in Kelly’s book… a way to face and embrace this “planetary initiation.”

At the same time, for practical reasons, like trying to live in the face of global extinctions, injustices, pandemics, genocides, and economic inequities, I have to find a way to get up in the morning. For this, I find in Kelly’s book, especially the last chapter, where he makes distinctions and connections from the perspective of the Work That Reconnects, a way to face and embrace this “planetary initiation.” He brings Joanna’s life message to light in a way that helps me live in the moment while accepting all the pain and joy, the beauty and the moral injury, with integrity, face on, no denial. 

I immediately recognized the last chapter, “Living in End Times: Beyond Hope and Despair,” as the long essay that was initially published online as a response to Jem Bendell’s rather earth-shaking essay/blog of the summer of 2018: “Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy.”(1)   In that essay, Bendell outlined that our planetary jig was up, by our own doing. Kelly’s response did not negate Bendell’s “terminal diagnosis,” but it brought forward important messaging about how to live and face death in the end times. In other words, how do we prepare for “a good death”? 

I recommend reading this last chapter first because, as a WTR facilitator, these words are immediately accessible: easy to understand and useful for workshops. Then, begin at the beginning of the book, and take as much time as you need to ponder and absorb Kelly’s foundational ideas. 

Sean invites us to think of “going forth” more as “planetary hospice workers.”

As facilitators of the Work That Reconnects, we are already hearing less and less about successfully bringing about a Great Turning before the Great Unraveling is complete. There is little time for correcting what is mayo mana, for rethinking our bad ideas that brought us to this moment. Sean invites us to think of “going forth” more as “planetary hospice workers.” Reading this book can prepare us to speak to this new consciousness of a destiny that defies hope and calls for courage as we go forth “to love for the sake of life, and live for the sake of love.”


(1) Bendell, Jem. (2018). Deep Adaptation: A Map for Navigating Climate Tragedy. https://jembendell.com/2019/05/15/deep-adaptation-versions/.

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Martha O’Hehir is an interfaith eco-chaplain and a facilitator for Joanna Macy’s Work That Reconnects. Her primary gifts are her voice, writing, and analytical skills. She has employed these as a musician, liturgist, educator, curriculum writer, retreat facilitator and editor. As an eco-chaplain, Martha joins fellow seekers attracted to Spirit through the Integral Christian Network and Wild Church. As an editor and writer, she serves the American Orff Schulwerk Association and the Work That Reconnects as a member of the editorial boards of their respective journals, The Orff Echo and The Deep Times Journal. In recent years, she has been exploring the kin-dom of plants and their medicine as a way of growing into a more grateful and earth-loving lifeway. Her greatest joys are receiving inspirations from Spirit, journaling, and knowing that her children and former students are blessing the world.

Recorded by Martha M. O’Hehir