Call for Submissions for September 2023 Theme

Metabolizing Grief to Nurture the Great Turning

As we noted in the March 2023 issue of Deep Times Journal, the theme that emerges for our call for submissions incorporates experiences and feelings of members of our editorial board in real time. This includes what we are reading, what is happening in our personal lives, events that are in the national news, and our embrace of the Work That Reconnects as a framework for navigating the current time with courage, grace and hope. We were inspired by a quote from Martin Prechtel that one of our members brought to us: Metabolize your losses with grief and feed the resulting beauty to life.” 

 The theme for the September 2023 issue grew out of concern for the many tragedies and injustices we witness, current and past, that reverberate across centuries unless they are skillfully metabolized–in other words: processed, digested, broken down and converted into energy and wisdom.  Our call is for articles, art, poetry and song that reflect ideas about “Metabolizing Grief to Nurture the Great Turning.”  And we acknowledge that grief can show up in many forms, including anger, fear, denial, and despair. 

To inspire you, here are two quotations on that theme, the first from a poem by Gail Onion and a second quotation from Martin Prechtel.

This is the legacy of Coyote Woman, the first Friend
of the Earth, for all that is here are kith and kin,
here to do what friends do; make sweet the bitter
make bearable the unbearable, and make more beauty 
of what we cannot bear.  
–Gail Onion, from “How Coyote Woman Shook Out the World”

To begin … we must metabolize as individuals the grief of recognition of our lost directions, digest it into a valuable spiritual compost that allows us to learn to stay put without outrunning our strange past, and get small, unarmed, brave, and beautiful. ~Martin Pretchel, 2012. The Unlikely Peace at Cuchumaquic, North Atlantic.

What we are seeking are ideas, observations, insights, processes, and illustrations of the interweaving of experiences of loss, trauma, and grief with the effects of fully experiencing them, acknowledging and celebrating the courage, perseverance, and wisdom that grows with deepening awareness of the transformative beauty of our feelings, other beings, and our world.   We are especially interested in indigenous voices on traditional ways of metabolizing grief.

Please send your submissions by no later than July 1, 2023. Please read and familiarize yourself with these submission guidelines before submitting.

All submissions must be sent to: [email protected]

What to include:

  • Your name, last name and email address
  • Your location in the world
  • A short (no longer than 100 words) bio
  • A quality headshot of you

After July 1st, we will send acceptance emails and connect you with one of our editorial volunteers. If your submission is not accepted for this next edition, we will let you know by no later than July 31st.


September 2022 Issue

Recorded by Molly Brown

Welcome to the September 2022 issue of Deep Times: A Journal of the Work That Reconnects. For this issue, we called for submissions:

…from all over the world, particularly outside the US, to show how the Work That Reconnects or other related or more ancient deep ecology ritual and practices are helping people grapple with the many crises before us all, how to stay connected or reconnect with earth and each other, and how to prepare or refresh ourselves for our role in the healing of the world.

Deep Times’s editors, mostly but not all based in the US, and all currently living in colonial and/or colonized places, recognize that while the specific Work That Reconnects methodology was primarily synthesized by white Americans, it has worldwide roots and reach, from the Council of All Beings in Australia, the Truth Mandala in Germany, and the Elm Dance–originating in Germany, taking root in Russia, and shared  all over the world–to the coining of the term “deep ecology” in Norway. And deeper than that it is informed by and indebted to indigenous wisdom, in particular Haudenosaunee teachers and Tibetan Buddhists.  

Beyond that, shamanic practices, earth-based and non-dual religions and practices throughout the world have much longer histories and track records bringing people back to life, or reminding people to remain in the flow of systems and relationship. Deep Times is especially interested in learning and sharing such wisdom and practices, from the voices of those living those traditions.

We received an amazing response in a wide variety of submissions; all have a common eco-philosophical perspective and commitment to the Great Turning–whether the Work is called Active Hope, Deep Ecology, or the Work That Reconnects.  We always welcome international authors, poets, and artists, and we hope this issue will entice more submissions from many lands and cultures. 

Many of the articles and poems appear in the native tongue of the author along with an English translation–a feature we hope to continue in future issues. The languages are noted in the title descriptions.  In most cases, the audio recordings are in both languages, too. 

We noticed a theme in some of the pieces in this issue:  the challenge in many political situations of speaking our truth–about our pain for the world, our critique of prevalent power-over structures (economic, political, cultural), or our plans for going forth. Case in point: the poet of “Some Remember” remains anonymous for their protection from authorities in Hong Kong. Those of us working in countries with more freedom of communication and assembly are called to appreciate what a privilege it is to do the Work without fear of military or political reprisal, and to increase our sensitivity to participants with such backgrounds or foregrounds. 

Some of the potential authors we approached were unable to contribute because their time and energy has been absorbed in grappling with immediate crises like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the imperiled nuclear power plants there, or endangered democracies or corporate despoilment of ecosystems around the world. We hold them and their work in our hearts and hope to include their stories in future issues.

Following the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects, we begin with Gratitude, with poems by Margaret Huff (Canada) and Colin Cafferty (Germany).  Talissa Monteiro (Brazil) and Catharina Any Sulistyowati (Indonesia) relate how the Work supports healing and transformation at their centers.

Powerful poems by Shayontoni Rhea Ghosh (India) and Abigail Brandt (USA) join the anonymous poem Some Remember (Hong Kong) in Honoring Our Pain for the WorldMaki Tajima (Japan) tells about her journeys to Fukushima, Florence-Marie Jégoux (France) shares a song she uses to honor pain for the world, and Bridget Woods (South Africa) describes her work with grief and kinship. 

Poets and authors help us See with New/Ancient Eyes, beginning with a poem by Leo Lazarus (Australia), and an account by Tracy L. Barnett (Mexico) and Hernan Vilchez (Argentina) of their transmedia series, Cosmology & PandemicChris Omni (USA) encourages gardening and celebrates Black Joy, Leina Sato (Japan, Hawaii) shares a ceremony commemorating dolphins in Taiji, Japan, and Phil Gardener (UK) tends an Earth Shrine in his garden. Daniela Tablado’s (Spain) poem of interbeing completes this section.

We received so many inspiring submissions for Going Forth!  A prose poem by Marjorie Lumet (Netherlands) opens this section, followed by a collection of responses from people attending Manon Danker’s (Netherlands) workshops. Hila Lernau and Ellen Serfaty (Israel) tell about the impact of the Work That Reconnects in their country, and two articles by Gisela Wiehe and Von Bernd Bender (both: Germany) share the effects of creating a hedge for birds at a zendo.  

An interview with Abigail Sykes (Aotearoa-NZ/Sweden) and a scholarly article by Dr. Paul( Pulé (Australia) document their work to transform patriarchal social constructs to “ecological masculinities.” Felipe Landaeta Farizo (Chile) reports on research into the impact of the Work That Reconnects at an intensive led by Adrian Villaseñor-Galarza, and Zsanna Sebesteny (France) describes her Going Forth/Holding Action film project.

Our Evolving Edge section features Adrián Villaseñor-Galarza’s (Mexico) examination of oppressive dynamics between the “North” and “South” of the Americas, and Silvia Di Blasio’s (Argentina/Venezuela/Canada) observations of why some practices of the Work That Reconnects can adversely impact BIPOC folks.  Finally, Tina Lygdopoulou (Greece) reports on offering the Work That Reconnects to staff in a refugee camp.

In Resources you’ll find reviews of two books, one by Looby Macnamara (England)  and the other by Gay’Wu Group of Women, reviewed by Marianne (Ria) Jago (Australia), as well as an announcement of the new edition of Active Hope by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone (US and UK).  

Last but not least, you’ll find a description of some very exciting developments and projects in the Work That Reconnects Network.

We hope you find inspiration and food for heart and mind in this issue.

~~Molly Brown, Editor, and Karina Lutz, Interim Editor (while Molly was on sabbatical)



Poem by Margaret Huff

Maybe Earth Healing and Human Spiritual Healing are the Same Thing

by Talissa Monteiro
The Work That Reconnects supports both individual and social/ecological healing and transformation at Casa na Árvore yoga studio in Brazil.

Healing Nature, Healing Self

by Catharina Any Sulistyowati
A Labyrinth at Kebun KAIL in Indonesia offers transformation in many forms for all who come to it.

The Spiral

Poem by Colin Cafferty

Honoring Our Pain for the World

The Seer & the Believer

Prose poem by Shayontoni Rhea Ghosh

Active Hope in Japan: Journeys to Fukushima

by Maki Tajima田嶋真紀
Maki shares her experiences and the stories she heard from people she met and traveled with in Fukushima. - Japanese & English

Some remember…

Poem by Anonymous

The sun is black

Le soleil est noir
by Florence-Marie Jégoux
The author shares a song by the band "Tri Yann" that she uses for Honoring Our Pain in workshops. French & English

Earth-grief: Conversations for revealing and healing our kinship

by Bridget Woods
A six-month series based on the Spiral offered by the author and Leigh Meinert in South Africa, exploring and embracing grief arising from loss in all its many forms.

Syrian Lullaby

Poem by Abigail Brandt

Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes

Dependent Arising

Poem by Leo Lazarus

Cosmology and pandemic: What we can learn from the responses of indigenous peoples to the current civilizational crisis

Cosmovisión y pandemia: Qué podemos aprender de las respuestas de los pueblos indígenas a la actual crisis civilizatoria
by Tracy L. Barnett and Hernan Vilchez
The authors share what they learned from Indigenous people of Latin America during research for a transmedia series with this title. Spanish & English

Greetings, My Sista Queens!

by Chris Omni
Welcome to Granny's Garden where we grow Black Joy.

Taiji Grass Boat Ceremony

by Leina Sato
A ceremony commemorating and grieving the 563 dolphins killed or captured in the 2021/2022 Taiji Dolphin drive hunt season.

Earth Shrines

by Phil Gardner
The act of tending a place--such as an Earth shrine--“provides habitations for sacred presences within the everyday world."

You are the meadow

Poem by Daniela Tablado

Going Forth

Wisdom of the Water

Prose poem by Marjorie Lumet
From an experience in a Council of All Beings - English & French

Ultimately, it is Humanity who has to heal Her wounds…

Uiteindelijk is het de Mensheid die Haar wonden moet helen...
by Manon Danker, Dirk Polder, Laura van den Berg, Lenneke Brussee, & Lida Hospers
A collection of voices for change contributed by workshop attendees in response to their experience with WTR. - Dutch & English

Once You Know, You Can’t Say “No”—the Work That Reconnects in Israel

by Hila Lernau and Ellen Serfaty
The impact of the Work That Reconnects on teachers, students, and sea turtle activists in Israel.

One hundred and forty meters of new life: A hedge for birds, bats, and insects

Hundertvierzig Meter neues Leben
by Gisela Wiehe
How a hedge for birds was created at a zendo east of Berlin, because all beings are Buddha. Companion article "Shining One Corner of the World." German & English

Shining one corner of the world

Eine Ecke dieser Welterhellen
by Von Bernd Bender
Buddhist and Deep Ecology principles of the Hedge Project at the zendo near Berlin. Companion article: "One hundred and forty meters of new life: A hedge for birds, bats, and insects" German & English.

Interview with Abigail Sykes from the Starfish Collective

by Erin Holtz Braeckman with Abigail Sykes
The Starfish Collective in Sweden works to develop "ecological masculinities" and dismantle patriarchy, integrating the Work That Reconnects.

This Critical Moment: A Case Study in Education for Change

by Dr. Paul M. Pulé
A scholarly account of Dr. Pulé's workshop series to shift the ethical and practical foundations of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) professions towards a deep, long-range, and life-sustaining future.

Exploring the Effects of the Work That Reconnects

Explorando los efectos de El Trabajo Que Reconecta
by Felipe Landaeta Farizo
A report on qualitative research on the perceived impact of the Work That Reconnects on participants in a 10-day intensive facilitated by Adrian Villaseñor-Galarza in Chile. Spanish & English

Holding Actions for Les Guilleries, Catalonia

Actions pour protéger la Vie dans Les Guilleries, Catalogne
by Zsanna Sebesteny
The Work That Reconnects inspired the author to create three films based on the Spiral to raise awareness about a destructive pylon installation in Catalonia, France. French & English

Evolving Edge

Ancestral Deep Ecology in the Americas

Ecología profunda ancestral en las Américas
by Adrián Villaseñor Galarza
There is a complex and interconnected hybrid spectrum between the “North” and the “South” of the Americas; it is imperative for industrialized citizens to wake up to the ways in which we contribute to oppressive dynamics.

When the Work hurts

Cuando el Trabajo duele
by Silvia Di Blasio
It may sound like a paradox, but the Work That Reconnects sometimes disconnects and hurts.  Spanish & English

Working in the trenches: the Work That Reconnects in the refugee reception context of Greece

by Tina Lygdopoulou
Offering the Work That Reconnects under the extremely challenging conditions of a refugee camp in Greece. Greek & English


New Edition of Active Hope by Joanna Macy & Chris Johnstone

Announcing the new edition of Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re in with Unexpected Resilience and Power. by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone.

Book Review: Strands of Infinity by Looby Macnamara

Book review by Karina Lutz
Strands of Infinity: Poetry to Reconnect
by Looby Macnamara. Poems around the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects.

Book Review: Song Spirals by Gay’Wu Group of Women

Book review by Mariana (Ria) Jago
Songspirals: Sharing Women’s Wisdom of Country Through Songlines
by Gay’Wu Group of Women is a poetic, practical and reflective account of the practice of keening milkarri, or songspirals. 


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:

Deep Times: A Journal of The Work That Reconnects

Vol. #7 Issue #2 – September 2022

Editorial Team: Editor: Molly Brown
Editorial Team:  Karina Lutz (poetry editor), Martha O’Hehir, Rebecca Selove, Carolyn Treadway, Erin Holtz Braeckman, Evangelia (Valia) Papoutsaki, Frieda Nixdorf, and Silvia Di Blasio.  More about team here.

Graphic Design: Frieda Nixdorf
Webmaster:  Silvia Di Blasio 

Deep Times is published online twice a year by the Work That Reconnects Network.

The Network provides support, guidance, and inspiration to people all over the world in their work for the Great Turning. We welcome your donations to support the Work That Reconnects Network and Deep Times. The Work That Reconnects Network is currently a fiscal project of Inquiring Systems, Inc. so all donations are tax-deductible.

Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0.

Cover Image explained March 2023

“Emerging in Findhorn”

Photograph by Valia Papoutsaki

Back in 2018 I went on a journey of seeking an “unused future”* for myself. Spent at all levels after years of intellectual pursuits that overvalued the mind and institutional status, I instinctively sought an alternative way of holistic living that did not emulate the ways of the past or the present, feeling and knowing that something different had to emerge out of the personal and collective stagnation. I was aware that the crisis I was experiencing was connected to a collective anguish resulting from our business-as-usual attitude and that I was part of a greater unraveling that demanded a new story, both personal and collective. The journey took me to Findhorn Foundation in the north of Scotland and a coaching course informed by psychosynthesis. For the few days I was there, I developed the habit of taking an evening walk by the nearby beach and its famous sand dunes, enjoying the northern summer evening light while reflecting on the day’s learning experience. It so happened that my return walk would take me through a stair leading to the sand dunes and onto the path to Findhorn. It felt like something new was emerging out of my unraveling, and this stair came to symbolize the coming up into that “unused future” I was seeking, ascending into a new horizon that had yet to reveal itself. I could not help but notice the large granite stones surrounding the stair, protecting the sand dunes from the strong waves of the North Sea, synergy of elements providing a solid and safe passage. 

*Credit to my mentor Sharon Thompson for gifting me with this concept that acted as my sea buoy that kept me afloat during my “emerging”.

Network News

Recorded by Molly Brown

2023 Gaian Gathering

The Work That Reconnects Network is excited to bring education, support, and inspiration to our global community through the 2023 Gaian Gathering, a comprehensive online conference. This global summit experience will combine online events and guided gatherings of local communities around the world.

We’re seeking an experienced online conference coordinator who will be responsible for executing the event, with the support of a dedicated volunteer committee and collaboration from the Network staff. Follow this link for more information about the gathering and to view the job description for the summit coordinator position. 

New Network Website

The design phase of the new Work That Reconnects Network website is complete, and the team is exploring how to present the Resource Library’s extensive collection of resources and practices. The site is shaping up to be beautiful, inviting and user-friendly. 

Two New Weavers

Mutima Imani, our newest volunteer Network Weaver, is known to many of you as co-director of the Spiral Journey Facilitator Development Program. A coach, facilitator, and trainer with a Masters Degree in Public Administration, her areas of expertise include organizational development, diversity training, and trauma informed healing circles. A noted keynote speaker, her mission is to improve the quality of training and educational models for transformation and change. She has three decades of experience in providing socially relevant, culturally competent training and facilitation while using 21st century tools for transformation.

Shayontoni Rhea Ghosh joined us as a volunteer Network Weaver in April, and this past fall accepted a position as a member of our paid administrative staff. Shayontoni is an artiste and facilitator, based out of Hyderabad, India. As a young artiste, she has worked with theatre groups across the country, occupying various roles and learning how to work with people in processing emotion and expressing themselves through art. She dove into the world of Work That Reconnects during the Spiral Journey Facilitator Development Program in 2020, and has been working on adapting the work to the Indian contexts since. Her areas of interest are trauma, social and cultural justice, and creative self-expression.


Luminous Darkness: Book Review

Book review by Valia Papoutsaki

Recorded by Valia Papoutsaki

Luminious Darkness: An engaged Buddhist approach to embracing the unknown
by Deborah Eden Tull. 2022. 

According to the Maori tradition, there are three baskets of knowledge: te kete tuauri (sacred knowledge/light), te kete tuatea (ancestral knowledge/darkness) and te kete aronui (knowledge in front of you/pursuit). These baskets are thought never to be full and should not be separated. All forms of knowledge are equally essential.  

Debora Eden Tull’s book aims to reinstate the “darkness” as part of the whole by bringing to our attention this basket of ancestral as well as emergent knowledge. She does this by addressing the spiritual, ecological, psychological, and interpersonal implications of our personal and collective bias toward the light that dominates our spiritual practices. This separation, or divorce as she calls it, of dark from light has perpetuated a pattern of reactivity and divisiveness in which we perceive everything different as “other.” This contributes to systemic racism, discrimination against people with darker skin, as well as misogyny and transphobia, demonization of mental illness and disability, and human domination over the natural world (consider, for example, the excessive artificial lighting of our planet).

Deborah Eden Tull, the founder of Mindful Living Revolution, is an engaged dharma teacher, deep ecologist and activist who also teaches the Work That Reconnects. All these elements are present in this book, particularly the Work That Reconnects tools that inform an essential part of this publication. 

Luminous Darkness is divided into four parts, with part one (The Journey into Endarkenment) devoted to redefining darkness and be-friending the night. Part two (Fruitful Darkness and the Realm of Emotional Intelligence) speaks to fierce compassion as the mother of endarkenment and honoring our pain for our world, which references the Work That Reconnects.  Part three (The Spiritual Teaching of Divine Darkness) takes us deeper into the author’s invitation to see into the dark and the power of receptivity, embracing change by creating new maps through inner vision. The fourth and last part (Restoring Wholeness in Ourselves and our World: Collective Endarkenment) engages with relational intelligence, moral imagination and embracing emergence. 

…the author engages with her readers in two significant ways. The first is the language she employs and the second is the way she shares practical tools for our exploration of and reconnecting with darkness.

What stands out in this book, apart from the subject matter that has its own merit, is the way the author engages with her readers in two significant ways. The first is the language she employs and the second is the way she shares practical tools for our exploration of and reconnecting with darkness. I was struck right from the start by the relatedness of her language that drew me in and had me exclaiming every so often, “yes!!”. This was deliberate, as she was very aware of the need to replace the marketplace language that has permeated our way of engaging with each other, especially through the “industry of happiness” that dominates the western spirituality and self-improvement publishing world. She has succeeded in writing a book that is accessible and meaningful at the same time. And I could not help noticing how some of the subheadings often read like modern-day mantras: focus not on what has been lost but on emergence; emergence is the organizing principle of the universe; beyond anthropocentricity is engaged hope; taking responsibility for our collective imagination; meeting one another as mystery; beyond every label is nonseparation; the democracy of darkness leaves no part out; and meeting the messy parts with fierce compassion.

The other way of engaging with her readers is through the practical tools she shares at the end of each chapter, an invitational space to engage in mindful inquiry and experiential practices. The latter are often guided or inspired by Work That Reconnects practices, like for instance, the “Brahmaviharas and learning to see each other” practice in Chapter 8 on relational intelligence. 

Endarkenment is a process of emptying oneself and letting go of a personal agenda to be a vessel for more. 

Endarkenment is a process of emptying oneself and letting go of a personal agenda to be a vessel for more. The reward is developing traits that can become guiding principles for a more engaging way of life: receptivity, deep listening, commitment to process over product, inquiry into the moment, emergence and reference for the unknown.  At the same time, endarkenment, in the author’s words, is also a path of joy – the joy of knowing our shared power through the full spectrum of light and dark. All fear is fear of loss. She invites us to focus not on what has been lost but on the emergence. It can be so much easier to bury our fear in a “business as usual” approach. By focusing on the other hand, on the emergent, we align ourselves with the organizing principle of the universe, the guiding story of Gaia.

In conclusion, I would like to quote Joanna Macey as she articulates so well what this book is about, “Deborah offers a strong medicine of darkness, which helps us navigate the uncertainty of our times.” I found it so refreshing in its “darkness”, an antidote to the tyranny of our sunshining culture and its focus on the external world, constantly seeking externally driven pleasure and satisfaction.

Deborah Eden Tull (2022) Luminious Darkness. An engaged Buddhist approach to embracing the unknown. Shamballa Press: Boulder Colorado. ISBN 987654321

Deborah Eden Tull is a facilitator member of the Work That Reconnects Network.

Valia Papoutsaki is a member of  the editorial team for Deep Times journal and a facilitator member of the Work That Reconnects Network.


Our Editors are reading…

Here are books and an online magazines that members of the Deep Times editorial team are currently reading.  The sheer number and quality of recent publications related to the Great Turning is cause for hope in the midst of all the crises we face.

Molly Brown:

Reclaiming The Sacred: Healing Our Relationships with Ourselves and the World, by Jeff Golden, 2022. 

Recorded by Molly Brown

Jeff Golden sent me a copy of his wonderful book after taking an online WTR workshop with me.  I found his book both inspiring and informative about the true sources of happiness (which, guess what, turn out NOT to be material possessions and money!)  Jeff did extensive research on studies about happiness as well as reading the work of psychologists, economists, cosmologists, activists, saints, and poets (16 pages of End Notes in small print). He shares the conclusions and teachings from all this in his own clear and engaging prose, with numerous quotations from philosophers and spiritual teachers from many traditions on life’s gifts of purpose, belonging, and joy. 

The Good Ancestor: A Radical Prescription for Long-Term Thinking, by Roman Krznaric, 2020.

Recording by Molly Brown

This is a splendid work of Deep Time!!  Krznaric contrasts “the marshmallow brain” with “the acorn brain,”  the former being the pleasure center in our brain that drives us toward short-term pleasures and rewards (immediate gratification and addiction) and avoidance of immediate pain. On the other hand, the “acorn brain” functions for long-term planning and visioning, a capacity developed in humans over two million years of evolution through Wayfinding, the Grandmother Effect, Social Cooperation, and Tool Innovation.  Krznaric gives us numerous examples of humans undertaking projects all over the planet and through the ages, projects that will not be complete for decades or centuries, long after the original proponents have died.  He recommends that to be “good ancestors,” we need to reclaim and develop this dimension of our thinking, and do so in community, through “deep democracy, ecological civilization, and cultural evolution.”  Although the book is full of specific ways to develop long-term thinking in ourselves and our global society, I was surprised to find only two brief references to Joanna Macy and nothing about the Work That Reconnects–that was disappointing.  But otherwise, the book is terrific!

Recorded by Karina

Karina Lutz:

 How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell

I just moved, so I touched every book in my library. So many great memories, and so many bent bookmarks, waiting for time to finish for years or even decades. But a new book was assigned by my new library’s book group, and library books always win the race, because they come with deadlines. The book is How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell. While the author doesn’t call it the industrial growth economy, it’s recognizable, if on steroids, in how she addresses the bifurcation of our attention by advertisers (through our screens), and how their intentional distraction of our attention affects our mediated relationships (through social media). Odell also doesn’t refer to Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, but her book makes  me want to finish all of Jerry Mander’s. Odell addresses the gig economy–another fracturing of our lives by the industrial growth society–and how it adds new hurdles to workers’ ability to organize. Odell offers some ways to go forth–centrally the conscious reclamation of our attention from the screen to the world, and the creation of art that helps us do that.

I’m loving Gene Sharp’s pamphlets (what took me so long?), including Making the Abolition of War a Realistic Goal. Decidedly not a strict pacifist, he recognizes that when power differentials come with weapons, the oppressed need nonviolent strategies and tactics, and he outlines, with examples from history, many. One “civilian-based defense” tactic rang loud for this time, particularly in the US and Afghanistan: “Teachers would refuse to introduce propaganda into the schools–as happened in Norway under the Nazis. Attempts to control schools could be met with refusal to change the school curriculum or to introduce the [internal or foreign] invader’s propaganda, explanations to the pupils of the issues at stake, continuation of regular education as long as possible, and if necessary, closing the schools and holding private classes in the children’s homes.” While he sees mass resistance to oppression in terms of power-over–the organized civilians are exercising power–one might as easily see most of his tactics as power with, at least within the civilian culture that is its bedrock.

Rebecca Selove:

We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy by Natalie Baszile, 2021.

Recording by Rebecca Selove

This book is a collection of gloriously diverse perspectives on the history and contemporary world of farmers of color, mostly African American, in the U.S. The 45 sections represent almost as many authors who write about their love of their connection to the land. There are beautiful photographs, moving poems, and essays describing courage, determination, injustice and heartbreak, strong generational and community bonds. Natalie Baszile, who compiled the collection, wrote several of the essays and provided some excerpts from her fictional work Queen Sugar.  This is a delicious way to get educated about the contributions of farmers who have followed their dreams despite historical and institutional racism. Prepare to be moved.

Carolyn Treadway: 

Discovering Emergence Magazine

Recording by Molly Brown

A random dropdown on my computer screen happened to mention Emergence Magazine.  Because our editorial team was developing the theme of emergence for this issue, it caught my attention. I clicked on, and previously unknown realms opened up to me. 

On the home page, a note from the editors said: 

“It has always been a radical act to share stories during dark times.They are regenerative spaces of creation and renewal. As we experience a loss of sacred connection to the earth, we share stories that explore the timeless connections between ecology, culture, and spirituality.”

Wow! Already Emergence Magazine drew me in. What an amazing cornucopia of resources I had inadvertently found! This is an online magazine plus much more: podcasts (a new one each week), a beautiful annual print edition book, online courses and programs, and in-person events aimed at providing spaces where the wider community can connect through the power of story.

Selecting “Stories” at the top of the home page takes you to an amazing array of essays, features, films, galleries, interviews, op-eds, poems, practices, and more. Tonight the website took me from slime mold and drilling ice cores in the Arctic to stories of apocalypse and into the mystery of what lies beyond endings. I started reading Ben Okri’s long story “After the End,” and could not stop until I finished it. So many offerings are equally compelling. 

Joanna Macy is featured several times, including an interview (Widening Circles 2/7/2018) and an op-ed (Entering the Bardo 7/20/2020.)

I invite you to explore Emergence Magazine to see what draws you in. Warning: You may not be able to stop looking at this magazine once you start!


Love, Rage, Rebel: Hope in climate activism

by Kirsty Heron and Tom Deacon

Recorded by authors


This essay emerged following a Work That Reconnects Network webinar on how to build global connections supporting climate activism through the Work That Reconnects (WTR). Drawing on our experience with Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain, Extinction Rebellion and global activists during COP26 in Glasgow, we share how we are supporting movements for climate justice in Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England (W.I.S.E.).

In many countries, to take to the streets and protest … would be to come up against massive amounts of state, corporate and police oppression that can be violent – even fatal.

We’d like to name here that we are operating within the social and political context of this particular place in the world, and acknowledge that activism might look very different where you live. In many countries, to take to the streets and protest in the ways that these climate campaigns do would be to come up against massive amounts of state, corporate and police oppression that can be violent – even fatal. Here, the state is introducing new laws that erode civil liberties and the right to protest peacefully, directly impacting activists in the movements we are part of. At the time of writing (December 2022), 100 climate activists are in prison in the UK.

Of course you might be fortunate enough to live in a place where the right to protest is protected; we celebrate that and hope that you can use these liberties to pressure the decision-makers in your country to act now for a future that includes all life.

Although these stories are personal, we are also telling the stories of the collectives we have the honour of being part of – collaborations with facilitators of the Work that Reconnects whose dedication and care have helped make this possible. This is an evolving story, one story among many in the Great Turning, and so we write this with a curiosity of what it might inspire in you.

We have brought WTR into direct action spaces, resilience building workshops and ceremonies amidst thousands of people.

Although a first look at offering the Work That Reconnects within these campaign groups might suggest attention to just one of the three dimensions of activism – “Holding Actions” – we are also exploring how it can be part of “Building the New” and “Shift in Consciousness”. We have brought WTR into direct action spaces, resilience building workshops and ceremonies amidst thousands of people. In this way, the WTR is helping to shape different ways of organising and growing community within these campaigns, as well as supporting regenerative cultures to develop and emerge within activist organising.

Photo from XR website:

Extinction Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion is a global movement with a focus on using nonviolent mass civil disobedience to force urgent action on the climate and ecological emergency. Its “Three Demands” are: “Tell the Truth”, “Act Now”, “Decide Together”. 

Our journey began in 2019 during a two week Extinction Rebellion (XR) protest in London. Prior to the Rebellion, a small group of WTR facilitators had been organising a schedule of workshops to take place at various designated locations in the streets that were to be occupied by XR protestors. Most of us didn’t know each other; it was all organised online. We had times, dates and co-facilitators all lined up yet, the reality turned out to be somewhat different. The police put pressure on all the occupied encampments in the streets, and the venues in which we had hoped to offer our workshops didn’t exist. As a responsive self-organising – and determined – system, we adapted. Meeting as buddy pairs in the middle of giant, noisy crowds to plan a workshop outline, we grabbed a microphone and invited people to join us in a small tent where a group was gathered to move through a short “Spiral” of the Work. This connective conversation touched into the gratitude and grief that brought people out of their homes and onto the streets. More accustomed to running workshops with clear and calm boundaries, of times and locations and even participants, we learned a lot about adapting to rapidly changing, dynamic, and often chaotic situations.

The shift in energy was palpable as people turned to their neighbours and shared some of their deeper motivations for being there.

We’ve also brought ceremony to the streets of London. In 2020, on a tidal beach of the River Thames in London, a “Council of All Beings” was held at low tide, police watching curiously over the walkway wall. Bringing the voices of other beings into the midst of an intense period of nonviolent direct action, we honoured the voice of the river itself through integrating a “bowl of tears” ritual that then flowed back into the river. The motto for that rebellion was “flow like water”…a fluid response to the policing tactics used previously to disable the protest through confiscating all infrastructure. In October 2022, during an XR Youth Climate March in London, a facilitator of the Work led 1000 people in an “Active Hope Spiral”, inviting people to connect in threes using sentence starters. The shift in energy was palpable as people turned to their neighbours and shared some of their deeper motivations for being there. This inspired a whole crowd of people to tune into their hopeful visions of the future!

Insulate Britain & Just Stop Oil

Photo by Victoria Jones/PA

These two campaigns identify as enacting nonviolent civil resistance, building pressure for specific political action relating to the climate crisis. Insulate Britain, using high level disruption of major motorways in the UK, brought its demand of insulating Britain’s social housing. Just Stop Oil, through a range of disruption tactics including targeting oil infrastructure, roads, and high profile art/sport, has challenged the British government to halt all new oil and gas licences. 

We are involved with a team called Resilience to Resist that offers, among other kinds of emotional and practical support, workshops called “Building Trust and Courage” online for Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain activists. These use the Spiral of the WTR as a backbone. For the past 18 months, activists in these movements have been able to access these workshops once, twice, or sometimes three times a week when there is a build-up in preparation for actions. We have also offered day-long workshops of the WTR this winter across the regions of Wales, England, and Scotland. These are community-building gatherings where we can meet in person, share food, stories, tears and laughter. 

We see that the Work can help to mitigate burnout, through the sharing of feelings of both gratitude and grief, finding a wider sense of community…

The regularity of these offerings means that “Active Hope” is practised in community and can support and inform the way that a movement resources itself. In climate activism, as with other activism there is a tendency for people to give and give to a point where they are empty – we call this “burnout” and it is increasingly common as the urgency of the climate situation grows. We see that the Work can help to mitigate burnout, through the sharing of feelings of both gratitude and grief, finding a wider sense of community by seeing other people, other groups and nature as allies, and also reframing activism in the context of the three dimensions of the Great Turning.

One result of introducing the WTR into these climate campaigns has been that we’ve received quite a few requests for training and skill-sharing from participants who can see the value in the work and would like to bring it to their local groups. We were fortunate enough to receive some funding to develop a training we called “Active Hope for Activists”. With a lot of gratitude to the Emergence Foundation for supporting this project, we appreciated the opportunity to gather with a group of 12 committed activists spanning both climate and social justice campaigns to share skills in facilitation of this work and how to offer it in activist spaces. 


COP 26, the UN climate talks held in Glasgow in November 2021, encompassed a whole lot more than simply a meeting of government officials, scientists, and of course the corporate lobbyists. At the same time that these talks were happening, a festival of climate consciousness was taking place across the city with tens of thousands of people engaged in creative conversations, workshops, music, art, film, poetry, and protest. 

In unifying our visions and hopes with others, we sought to generate determination, resilience and more love in action.

At one of the civil society opening ceremonies, we were part of a facilitation team that offered a “Council of All Beings” as part of a beautiful ceremony that included people from La Minga Indigena, a collective of indigenous nations from across the Americas. Minga is the coming together of people when there is a calling. Indeed, at COP26, many of us had followed a calling to add our voices to the protests against the continued exploitation of people and planet and the selling off of the future–to the demands on global nation state leaders to take action on climate and for the richer nations to pay loss and damage to those least responsible for climate change yet the most vulnerable to its impacts. In unifying our visions and hopes with others, we sought to generate determination, resilience and more love in action.

A collective of 7 facilitators offered Work that Reconnects workshops every day for two weeks in a community garden sanctuary space. The schedule included introductory workshops, as well as sessions dedicated to truth telling and honouring pain, mitigating for burnout and the three dimensions of activism (the “Great Turning”), listening to the voices of the more than human world with a “Council of All Beings”, resourcing ourselves with Deep Time, visioning the future we wish to create, shifting to Seventh Generation perspectives, and a deeply grounding session on “Gratitude”. Furthermore, as WTR network collaborators with the makers of the film Once You Know, we screened the film in a city centre venue and offered a post screening Work that Reconnects experience in-person with global climate activists. 

…we also took the opportunity to draw on the Work that Reconnects to either deescalate tense situations, or generate connection in moments of frustration or despondency.

Learning from other fluid protest situations, we also took the opportunity to draw on the Work that Reconnects to either deescalate tense situations, or generate connection in moments of frustration or despondency. During a tense moment of protest outside an exclusive dinner for world leaders, there was an opportunity to take the microphone briefly to invite everyone to connect with someone next to them (in a dark rainy Glasgow park) and share an appreciation, frustration, inspiration and next-step relating to the situation they were in. The darkness exploded into a cacophony of connective chatter. A few days later, still in the rain, outside the high metal fence of the official negotiation space, many people gathered as the COP faltered toward a messy end. The feelings of despair and frustration were evident. Here small connective conversations were initiated, bringing people together to connect and to voice their feelings, again using the “Spiral” stages as an informal structure, to build connection and process the moment.


We have seen how the WTR is a body of work that supports deeper understanding of community within a campaign, and offers a way to build and explore regenerative cultures within and beyond the movement. The adaptability of the practices mean that it can be offered in wild nature, in sanctuary spaces in a city, and on the streets, and that regular offerings and practise of the Work strengthen resilience and demonstrate a different way to organise, relate, and take action together. 

What might this look like where you live?

We’d love to continue this dialogue with other facilitators of the Work that Reconnects. If any of you are already offering WTR in activist spaces, then perhaps we can share more ideas and resources? Also, if you are curious and inspired to engage more with climate activist groups where you live, then please do get in touch and contact us at [email protected]



Extinction Rebellion:

Insulate Britain:

Just Stop Oil:


Love, Rage, Rebel: Climate Activism and the Great Turning – WTR Webinar and Conversation Cafe Series Webinar

Three Dimensions of Activism – WTR definitions of activism

Walks That Reconnect – WTR-inspired series of interactive audio walks developed for activists

Contact: [email protected]

Recorded by Erin Holtz

Kirsty Heron: I am a wanderer of Earth, currently making my home either amongst the mosses of the temperate rainforest of Scotland’s west coast, or on an organic market garden in mid Scotland, getting to know all things about perennial fruit.  I love beauty, wildness, generosity and passion. My work, my life, is dedicated to connecting people with information, ideas and experiences that can shift perspectives and lead to action on behalf of life on Earth. Being part of collaborative networks of people that encourage, support and empower each other is a gift in my life.


Recorded by Erin Holtz

Tom Deacon feels most at home immersed in the elementals of mountain and coast. He draws great inspiration from weaving and facilitating lived experiences in wild places with the transformative processes of the Work that Reconnects. As a mountain guide, climate trainer, group facilitator, and activist it is in the entanglement of the web where all these elements of his life meet that he feels most alive. Tom is enlivened by being a part of generative networks of humans, by growing vegetables in collaboration with the soil and sun, and by leaping into the arms of cold water.

The Spiral – a musical journey

by Linda J. Chase

Recorded by author

…music connects people across borders and traditions

Teaching music students from around the world has reinforced my belief that music connects people across borders and traditions. It has also shown me the urgent need to not only integrate social justice education into musical arts curriculum, but also to provide artfully relevant methods for students to practice active hope during these turbulent times. 

How can educators address the anxiety and feelings of helplessness that the climate crisis triggers in many young people? Students feel the burden that their generation will have to bear and are hungry to engage in honest dialogue. They are curious to discover how artists are speaking out about environmental justice issues. To educate for social change and inspire action through the arts, it is important to encourage students to respond to concerns using their artistic language. I find that Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnston, provides a structure for emerging musicians to grapple with their fears and articulate a vision of hope. This kind of hope is not a possession, but a practice. Just like music, we practice and grow. 

My students at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory engage with the Spiral through songwriting, improvisation and other sounding activities. One exercise we do is a musically recreated “Industrial Walk” (a reenactment of ‘industrial society’ and ‘business as usual’ practiced at WTC workshops). This exercise requires participants to mill around the room without looking at one another. Gradually they begin to make eye contact and join with that person for discussion. To practice this musically, students mill around the room playing their instruments (flutes, violins, guitars, and voices) but avoid eye contact with each other and listen only to their own sounds. Eventually they are drawn rhythmically, melodically or harmonically to another musician, and join together for discussion. 

Listening means paying attention.
What can it mean to listen to the Earth?

Listening to Earth’s songs of joy and of suffering has greatly influenced my musical life. Wild geese call, inviting reverence. The river sings of resilience. Uranium mining scrapes trauma on sacred land. Desecration is heard in the dumping of nuclear waste on Indigenous lands, causing dire consequences to all species. Joanna’s work around nuclear guardianship showed me the importance of comprehending and speaking out against the dangers of nuclear catastrophe. 

But being close to disaster makes a difference. On March 11, 2011, I heard the Earth cry out.

Sixty miles from Fukushima during the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown the train shook to a stop, altering my path forever. We filed out of the derailed train and walked to the next town. The streets were dark without electricity, roads were closed and phones didn’t work. That night, sleeping on the floor of a middle school gym–turned shelter, still feeling many large aftershocks, I took refuge in The Ink Dark Moon, a book of thousand-year-old poems by Izumi Shikibu and Ono no Komachi, translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani. These poems sustained me and led to write music about the resilience of a 400-year old pine tree growing on the coast of Fukushima that survived the tsunami. 

This pine tree by the rock
Must have its memories too
After a thousand years,
See how its branches
Lean towards the ground.
               (Ono no Komachi, in Hirshfield, 1990)

After returning home to Boston, a friend shared the book, Pass It On (Macy, 2010), which helped me process my experience. The chapter on Chernobyl describes a workshop that Joanna and her team led in the town Novozbkov (100 miles from Chernobyl). She wrote about a man who told her, “the trees hold the radioactivity a long time. And that is very hard for us because, you see, our ancestors were of the forest, our old stories are of the forest.” Much can be learned from cultures that look to ancestors for guidance, remembering that we all will be ancestors to future generations, and actions chosen today will affect generations to come. These insights and the exercises from “A Larger View of Time” in Active Hope explained the ancestral connection I felt with the poets from the ancient court of Japan.

Music is my companion
Singing together shows us 
we are not alone

Several years after the earthquake, I was grateful to attend a Work That Reconnects training at the Rowe Center in Western Massachusetts. The conversations from that training deepened my understanding of the Spiral and Joanna’s words remained in my heart, “If we are afraid to feel the grief, rage and fear about our world we become stuck, but can begin with gratefulness and move towards an active hope.” In response, I composed a 90-minute multi-media oratorio The City is Burning. Inspired both by the Spiral, and insights by theologian, Harvey Cox. The music reflects on what it means to listen to the quiet voice of the soul and asks how feelings of uneasiness might invite an awakening from inaction to a place of action. 

Responding to the concept of Honoring Our Pain, this song spilled out with tears for the state of our world. “Lift Me Up” illustrates the process of awakening to respond to injustice through active hope. The tears never end, the spiral continues. 

Lift me up, I’ve been down so long I can’t arise. 
Wake me up, I fell asleep because I chose to close my eyes. 
You promised peace, you promised hope at least so I must start walking to see. 
Shake me up, I wanna hear the voices that cannot speak. 
Take away, my sense of fear that keeps me numb and weak. 
The tears never end but they melt my heart again so we can be the light!
Lift me up, so I can raise my voice and join in the song. 
Wake me up, there’s many ways to make a world where all can belong. 
We can make peace if we decide to be, standing together to be free. 
Shake me up, so I can feel the life all around. 
Take away, what isn’t real so I can hear the sound. 
The song of the land, a music that understands that we can be the light!
Don’t be afraid of your light! (1)

In the performance of The City is Burning, the song, “Just Remember Your Light” is preceded by a reading of this Joanna Macy quote: “Active Hope is not wishful thinking…it is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act… The web of life is calling us forth at this time. We’ve come a long way and are here to play our part.” (Joanna Macy)

Seeing with new eyes, the singers step into the aisles. Facing audience, they sing:

You don’t have to be right, you don’t have to be strong. 
You don’t have to know which way to go when the road is long. 
You don’t have to be wise, just keep open your eyes!
You don’t have to know the way, you don’t have to know why.
You don’t have to feel like being brave, in the rising tide.
You don’t have to be wise, just keep open your eyes!
When the nights’ growing long, and you’re feeling so cold.
Just keep singing your song and you won’t be alone.
Just remember your light will keep shining through the darkest of nights.
Just remember your light! (2)

My most recent large scale composition is another oratorio, For Our Common Home – Resounding Ecojustice inspired by the encyclical Laudato Si. Based on a canticle of St. Francis of Assisi, Pope Francis addresses not only people of faith, but everyone on earth, calling on humanity to acknowledge the urgency of the environmental crisis and work toward building a just and sustainable world. The message focuses on working together across all divisions, to mend and care for our common home. Laudato Si’ calls us to be compassionate and to take action – going forth – reminding me again of the Work That Reconnects. I interpret the text as a call to action through music.

Our goal is not to amass information or to satisfy curiosity, but rather to become painfully aware, to dare to turn what is happening to the world into our own personal suffering and thus to discover what each of us can do about it. (Pope Francis, 2015)

One of the 23 movements in my new oratorio is titled, “Gratitude.” While composing this movement, I realized that it had grown from seeds planted by the Spiral years before.  Circling around, I conclude with gratitude.

In gratitude and affirmation
The work of solidarity
The sacrifices taken to heal the suffering
So hate and fear may cease, may cease to be
Who work for justice: root of peace
With tireless devotion build community
Who seek to restore
Resolve the causes of suffering 
Rebuild our common home
Reveal the common soul
In gratitude we speak
Proclaiming equity
Faith is turning dreams to deeds 
The urgency of healing needs
A dialogue for all to speak till all are free (3)

(The last three lines of the song Gratitude refer to famous quotes by Clarence Jordan and Martin Luther King Jr. “Faith is the turning of dreams into deeds,” Clarence Jordan. “We are not free until all are free,” Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Notes & Links

(1) Words and music by Linda J. Chase
Nedelka Prescod, voice, Anna Unchu Pyon, piano

(2) Words and music by Linda J. Chase
Sarah Matsushima, voice, Pavle Zvekik. piano

(3)Words and music by Linda J. Chase
Stuart Ryerse, piano, 
Carduus Chamber Choir
More music from the oratorio:


Hirshfield, J. Aratani, M. (1990) The Ink Dark Moon: Love poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan. Vintage Books.

Macy, J. Johnstone, C. (2012) Active Hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. New World Library

Pope Francis. (2015) Encyclical on climate change and inequality: On care for our common home. Melville House

Recorded by Rebecca Selove

Composer / flutist Linda J. Chase teaches at Berklee College of Music and New England Conservatory. Her music weaves elements of classical, jazz, and gospel, blending boundaries between musical worlds. Her music often focuses on themes of peace and justice, striving to create art that will have a positive impact in the world. She founded and directs the Peace and Justice Arts Café concert series, joining music students with local communities to invite dialogue and demonstrate the arts as a vehicle for social change. Chase recently completed a 23-movement oratorio for ecojustice, For Our Common Home, based on Laudato Si’.

learning to say good-bye

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.

By Susi Moser

Recorded by author

as my heart 
into yet more 
over the world,
all i want 
is to see 
more of it
with you.
every corner
with the soft 
of love. 
go to the ends
of the Earth.
sit there 
and touch it.
remember it.
thank it.
be with it.
tend to it.
see it 
to the end
and say,
“we loved
even if
it was not

© Susanne Moser, 2023

Recorded by Karina Lutz

Susi Moser is a committed pilgrim to soul, lover of Earth, long-time friend of Joanna Macy, and practitioner of the Work That Reconnects. In the world as we know it, she has worked as a climate change scientist. And while that survival dance is on its way out, she remains feverishly committed to saving all that is worth saving, fostering necessary transformative shifts among humans, building and strengthening capacities for the Great Turning through the Work That Reconnects, and when the muse moves through her, writing poetry to sing the Earth’s and life’s praises.

The Work That Reconnects in Academia – Visioning an imperfect but possible future

By Eileen Laurie

recorded by author

A researcher makes a mask of a Brazilian bird with feathers from a city park; next to him another researcher wonders how to portray a cloud; on the floor at the back of the room, a third researcher turns art materials into the nitrogen molecule. Just an ordinary day in academia?

I would like to present the workshop I led in October 2022 at Lund University, Sweden, developed from an invitation from Christie Nicoson, PhD student at Lund University’s Agenda 2030 Graduate School. I had discussed my work as an artist with her, and we also spoke about sustainability, art and care and academic teaching and research. The workshop – Visioning an imperfect yet possible future: Art-based methods for sustainability researchers – was developed from these discussions. The participants in the workshop came from different disciplines, departments and fields. The goal was to learn new methods, try out new approaches, and to open the mind and stretch the imagination through the practice of experiential and embedded artistic activities. 

My art practice is about looking and really seeing what is around me. Today, this unavoidably means seeing a world that seems to be careening out of control.

I am an artist and educator and my art practice is inspired by the natural world and how people interact with this world and with each other. In my art education work with children, youth and adults, I encourage creativity, dialogue and connection, situating art-making within the context of our lived world. Like every visual artist, my art practice is about looking and really seeing what is around me. Today, this unavoidably means seeing a world that seems to be careening out of control. The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2022) from February 2022, was unequivocal in its findings on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. It does not look good. 

Working with visual art can help to push the pause button and create a space for reflection, creation and action.

Yet even the academics working in the fields of climate change and sustainability can find themselves stuck in certain patterns of behaviour and ways of thinking that hinder necessary change. The project SUSPLACE, Sustainable Place-shaping notes that “innovations for sustainability researchers often stay within a narrow comfort zone” and that “more unconventional ideas and action plans evoke discomfort or resistance”. Working with visual art can help to push the pause button and create a space for reflection, creation and action. The design of my Visioning workshop embedded art-making practices within the spiral of the Work that Reconnects and aimed to create a space for just such “unconventional ideas” and where “discomfort and resistance” could become points of departure, and not dead-ends.

After more than two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation and a complete change in my working practices with a lot of online interaction and not much human-to-human connection, I was more than ready to facilitate a group process again, but also a bit nervous. My aim was to deliver a workshop that would be relevant to academia, with its specific codes, structures and unspoken rules. The participants were highly-educated and well-versed in scholarly debate, and obviously open to my proposal, as they had signed up for the workshop. My task was to facilitate the spiral in a way that made sense to them. 

How would things pan out for a group of people working with these methods together for the first time? 

Would they learn from embedded practices, or find it all too “touchy-feely”? 

I knew an important task was to create a “group container” for active listening, honest exchange, reflection and hands-on work.

I knew an important task was to create a “group container” for active listening, honest exchange, reflection and hands-on work (Lakey, 2020). To do this I would have to find the right pace and rhythm, and have a clear understanding myself about why I was working with specific practices and what I wanted to achieve. Any workshop, no matter what design or methods it builds upon, benefits from moving between ebb and flow, between speech and silence, between sharing and quiet reflection. My aim was to offer art-based and embedded activities that nonetheless converged into a coherent whole, and could be adapted by the participants for future use. 

The workshop was in three parts – a full-day workshop, two self-organised activities and a half-day workshop. We began on an uncommonly warm autumn day in October; maybe it was just “weather”; maybe it was a portent of something else – I decided to simply enjoy the feeling of the sun on my face. The very simple art materials – paper, scissors, glue, wool, feathers, modelling clay, etc. – were set up on a dedicated table, an “art invitation” typical of the Reggio Emilia approach (Reggio Children, 2022). To begin, I chose a simple and playful ice-breaker, a “convening” exercise of drawing stencils of our hands (The Re.imaginary Group, 2020). The activity linked us to ancient artists and set the tone for the entire workshop – not working with screens, not only with abstract concepts (as important as they are), but instead – hands-on.

Image 1- hand stencils

I then introduced the Work that Reconnects and the entire spiral, explaining that we would begin with Coming from gratitude and continue through three more stages. We began with a guided meditation that focused on all the senses. The participants then spoke in pairs about what they were thankful for. The energy in the room felt light and open; the participants were really willing to talk.

Despite my misgivings, the researchers did talk about their fears and the ways they avoided them, and the discomfort experienced.

We moved on to Honouring our pain for the world. I introduced the idea of working with our feelings of pain and grief with what I call the “litany of misery”, the endless, soul-crushing list of what is already lost and cannot be repaired, but must be faced. We then worked with open sentences, journaling and a group reflection. Having gone through the spiral many times, I have come to understand that grief for the world comes from love for and connection to this world. Yet Honouring our pain always seems too soon, too hard. All I could do was trust the process and continue. Despite my misgivings, the researchers did talk about their fears and the ways they avoided them, and the discomfort experienced. Before beginning the sharing activities, I emphasised that everyone had the freedom to decide how much and what to share, but in retrospect I realise that I need to be more explicit in future that “what we say in the room, stays in the room”. 

After lunch, as we moved into Seeing the world with new eyes; it was time for the more-than-human world to enter the room. We began with an interview with nature, adapted from Deep Nature Play by the inspiring nature educator Joseph Cornell (Cornell, 2018). Working in pairs, the participants took on the role of a rock, natural feature or an animal. This led into the next activity – choosing to be a more-than-human being and creating a mask to represent this for the Council of All Beings. One participant commented that the mask-making and the Council meant she was not just “left alone” with painful emotions of the morning, but could process them through practical and creative activity. I thanked her and said this was part of the spiral’s design. And made a note to myself to remember what I had just said!

I felt that the full ceremonial version of the Council of All Beings was not suitable for this specific academic environment and time available. During the mask-making session, the participants very quickly had a clear idea of the being they wanted to represent and what the mask would look like. The simple art materials were used in a great variety of inventive ways – at the end, we had masks representing clouds, nitrogen, snails, blue-throated macaws and much more.

Image 2 – mask wearers

For the Council the participants sat in groups of four and each person had time to talk about the powers and perspectives of their more-than-human being, about relationships with other beings and the problems caused by humans. The next stage was to offer suggestions to humans on how to take better care of the planet, our shared home. Active listening is absolutely key in this type of activity, and as I walked around listening to the Councils, it struck me how rarely we do this in our everyday lives:

How often do we just listen, not just take turns until we can finally say what we want to say? 

We wrapped up the first day of the workshop with self-organisation: the participants set up meetings to create a mind-map of Malmö, the third-largest city in Sweden to prepare for the stage of Going forth. The mind-map drew on the work of Transition UK (Hopkins, 2022), and asked three questions: 

What do you want to keep? What do you want to give up? And what needs to be repaired?

I also requested that the participants try a nature activity known as the sit spot, and that they spend at least 30 minutes alone in a natural environment and focus on really seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting what was around them.

…the participants developed three sketches off the cuff, and acted them out: keep, give up, repair. It was very entertaining.

Just over a week later we met again, for a morning session on Going forth. To bring the ideas from the mind-map to life, the participants developed three sketches off the cuff, and acted them out: keep, give up, repair. It was very entertaining; the participants very quickly came up with great ideas and used the physical space, gesture and story to bring the city to life. And I was faced again with my own discomfort; I had been worried that drama activities would be “too much”, but the invention, humour and intelligence of the participant-actors made it clear that I was mistaken. I will include more playful acting exercises in the next workshop I facilitate! We moved on to create our vision of an imperfect but possible Malmö in 2050. I asked the participants to consider questions like:

What if we took play seriously?  What if we followed nature’s lead?  What if we slowed down? 

The groups first discussed the kind of future they wanted. Using a large paper map of Malmö, they then built their vision with tape, stickers, pens and modelling clay. They reimagined a slower, more caring city, with, for example, no cars, canals throughout for transport and pleasure, food production on land and sea, and even large areas for humans and animals to play. The visions were presented and the discussions continued. It was an engaged and creative process. And, again, there was a learning for me: truly imagining a better future takes time. A longer session would have enabled more preparatory activities to help the participants unleash their imagination to dream the future. Yet in the short time we had, the visions were impressive and inspiring.

image 3: Malmö map

Knowledge about the perilous state of our planet is one thing, the workshop took the participants beyond this “knowing”.

And then, all too soon, it was time to finish. The closing circle was brief but generous. These participants work every day with ideas and concepts, problems and solutions. They brought their knowledge and verbal eloquence with them; we built on this with activities rarely found in seminar rooms. Qualitative inquiry and the “messy” art-based, experimental and affective methodology applied in this workshop can generate and enable new ways of understanding and articulating subjectivity. Knowledge about the perilous state of our planet is one thing, the workshop took the participants beyond this “knowing”. They not only thought more broadly about what kind of world they wanted to live in and how to bring about this world. They also participated in embedded, experiential learning that could be adapted for both teaching and qualitative research.  

Designing a workshop that made sense and also tested boundaries was a very enjoyable challenge for me, and one I look forward to again in the future. I also received detailed and insightful written feedback from the participants that will enrich my next workshop. I hope very much that the participants will have the opportunity to apply their learning from this experience in ways that are meaningful to their own research practice. 

I am going to end with a link to a poem by Kathleen Jamie, a poem from my home country of Scotland – a reflection on what the more-than-human world thinks of our conferences and talks and directives and agreements. Enjoy!

What the Clyde said, after COP 26, Kathleen Jamie


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Recorded by Evangelia Papoutsaki


Eileen Laurie is an artist and art educator. Born in Scotland, Eileen has a Master of Arts degree from Glasgow University and has studied fine art in Northern Ireland and Sweden. Her art practice focuses on the more-than-human world and its interactions with humans. Eileen creates illustrations, prints, textile work and Land Art. In art education work, she works in schools, universities, and different communities, creating a space for creativity, dialogue, and connection. The Work that Reconnects has been part of her life since 2009, and Eileen looks forward to facilitating many more workshops following the spiral.