Song Credits: “Gentlest of Ways”
Lyrics based on poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke
Translation: Anita Barrows and Joanna Macy
Video: Anastasia Freeman
Music: Jen Ringbauer
Chorus: I love you, gentlest of Ways,
Who ripened us as we wrestled with you.
You, the great homesickness we could never shake off,
You, the forest that always surrounded us,
You, the songs we sang in eerie silence,
You, dark net threading through us.
On the day you made us you created yourself,
And we grew sturdy in your sunlight…..
Let your hand rest on the rim of Heaven now
and mutely bear the darkness we bring over you.
After a career in High School Music teaching, Jen kick-started her Regenerative and Ecological journey when she moved to a small farm in Central West NSW, Australia in 2013. She wanted to grow as much food as possible for her family and community in the gentlest way possible. Her passion for learning and growing food ecologically, led to an incredibly formative position as Sustainability Educator at Rahamim Ecology Centre further influencing her understanding of our nestedness within the Universe. She is currently studying a B.Sc. (Regenerative Agriculture) at Southern Cross University and both a practitioner and educator in Permaculture and Holistic Management.
This poem, Chaandraat, by Khalilah Alwani, was inspired by the moon and nature manifested during recent Ramadan celebrations with dear ones, which were held in a beloved kwetlal and gary oak meadow, on the unceded traditional homelands of the Lkwungen peoples.
Together we are the night’s stars that fill the sky and map constellations
Navigating the stars, the teacher transmits the stories of the universe Found in the vast sky, and the lines of one’s palms
Palms painted with flowers and brown crescent moons
Palms cupped together, raised upward to form a bowl– to hold and drink water from To praise the beloved. To feed another
Palms meeting one another Embracing like old, dear friends Palm belly to palm belly–Unity
I bow forward, my forehead meeting the earth I breathe in the fragrance of the garden
The garden’s poem hums on the wings of a passing bee
Beeswax candles burn and melt by their own flame Marking the completion of the moon cycle The start of a new
Khalilah Alwani (she/they) is of mixed Sindhi and Gaelic ancestry and grew up on the lands of the Coast Salish. Khalilah is grateful to live on the beautiful, unceded, ancestral homelands of the Lkwungen and WSANEC peoples, where she builds her home and community. Strengthened by the ecosystems, lineages and relationships she is a part of, her current creative work lies at the intersection of ecological restoration, family history research and storytelling, cultural practice, sangha building and ceremony. She believes that we are all in this world at this critical time for a reason, and is hopeful about humanity’s capacity to wake up and unite for social and ecological transformation.
My book, due out this month, was not written with the Work That Reconnects in mind. Yet that work is never far from my awareness: my morning prayer ceremony includes a quick mini-journey through the Spiral. So perhaps I should not have been surprised when a conversation with one of our senior teachers, who had read an advance copy of Blessed Disillusionment: Letting Go of What Cannot Save Us, Turning to What Can, revealed that the Work is implicit in much of the book. The back cover summarizes some of the content:
Decades of electoral work and activism have failed to bring us sustainability, peace, or a just society. The author shows that there is a reason: the political system operates to absorb discontent while averting the transformative structural change we urgently need.
I experience pain for the world when I see daily confirmation of the gross inadequacy of our standard means for seeking social and political change. And that pain—including the forms of it we call frustration—is heightened by watching the enormous amounts of energy and good intentions that are poured into “what cannot save us.”
It can be painful to accept that our democracy is too undemocratic to be fixed in the ways we have been taught.
The book canvasses the limits of protest, other means of trying to get those beholden to the wrong people to do the right thing, and placing new and better people in systems fine-tuned to co-opt, corrupt, and confuse them. It argues that at best these slow our descent into the abyss. It also acknowledges that it can be painful to accept that our democracy is too undemocratic to be fixed in the ways we have been taught, while it contends that those teachings amount to an Invisibility Cloak that hides the real way forward.
Hmm. . . . “Invisibility Cloak.” Perhaps you noticed that an invitation to see with new eyes is coming—as a later chapter of the short offering suggests:
This is the vision that will inspire: To move toward the day when we need protest neither to stop wars, brutality, giveaways, and bailouts, nor to start truly taking care of our citizens and the planet. Government—in whatever form emerges—will have become our own instrument for mobilizing our collective resources in the interests of peace, social justice, economic and health security, environmental justice and sustainability, and a society that is overall hospitable to the needs of the human spirit. And that requires building a movement aimed at displacing and containing those who now dominate our society (to the extent they cannot be won over), developing mechanisms of true democracy along the way, and using those mechanisms to run our own country.
A series of chapters suggesting how to go forth in that direction lays out a plan for helping build that movement. It offers means that are both more effective and more inclusive, respectful, and loving than we often find in our polarized society. Yet those means can largely integrate with the innumerable holding actions, consciousness-raising projects, and work on alternative structures that are already happening all over, as we work to spread a vision of true democratic empowerment.
The book draws directly on many of the concepts we learn and use in the Work That Reconnects, including systems theory, the three narratives of our time, and the holding-actions/new-consciousness/alternative-structures framework.
A member of the Deep Times editorial team suggested that this essay might focus on why I wrote the book. The short version is this: “I just had to.”
For whatever reason, I see a way forward that others are not promoting.
The long version isn’t much longer. For whatever reason, I see a way forward that others are not promoting. Joanna Macy and her early colleagues once called their workshops “From Despair to Empowerment.” My activism began in 1965, and I’ve had plenty to despair about when, on too many occasions, the hopes of tens of millions of us who were in motion were dashed. There is no time left to keep pretending that what at best brings limited and temporary gains can offer real relief to the humans and other beings whom the industrial growth societies are ravaging, or that it can save the rest of us from some version of their fates.
So I hope to help empower those already in motion to step up their game. I also hope to offer a viable path to people who may look apathetic but who actually refrain from engaging at any level because they are too discouraged about the prospects.
A final note: the book is focused on dynamics within the United States. A German friend who has lived for decades in England, however, has assured me that both the analysis of the disease and the prescription for its cure are far more widely applicable.
Michael Goldstein graduated from Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs and Stanford Law School. He has defended men on death row, worked in factories and on highways, and joined Standing Rock water protectors. He threw himself into intensives and workshops by Joanna Macy and other senior teachers of the Work that Reconnects and spearheaded the formation of a peer-lead WTR sangha that met twice a month. His previous book was Return of the Light: A Political Fable in Which the American People Retake Their Country. He lives in Oakland, California.
Life Creates Conditions Conducive to Life by Beth Remmes
From the artist:
Spirals abound in nature. They are seen in galaxies, weather patterns, sunflowers, fiddle head ferns, pinecones, snail shells, and even in the shape of DNA – to name a few.
Spirals embody a creative life force. There is movement and evolution, yet everything is contained in its’ own system. Within this spiral I have repeated the patterns found in the forest; soil, seeds, wood, fungi, leaves, decomposition, and the repeated cycle over and over gaining in complexity. Towards the end of this spiral there is a magnolia pod, hydrangea flower, bird’s nest, feather, and then back to leaves and soil. There is no waste in nature’s system. Energy and matter are reused in a closed loop system, which is a powerful example of life creating conditions conducive to life.
I took a picture of this sculpture and then used an app to overlay and merge it with a picture of a spiral galaxy. It makes it look like it is woven with stardust, which is also in all of us. This reminds us that we are connected to these spirals and regenerative systems. By enhancing the natural design with a technological process, it speaks to the human potential to evolve to not only survive, but thrive.
Sacred life, you have formed and informed me in all ways: …………..the words on my lips, your song …………..the love in my hands, your prayer …………..the visions of my mind, your conceptions.
Forged through billions of years of creative emergence, this body is …………..so radically complex in its faculties …………..so intricately adept in its equilibrium …………..so wildly equipped in its adaptive intelligence that all I can do is marvel in awe at the myriad forces that conspire together harmoniously across deep time to gift “me” to myself in this moment of incarnation as …………..a brief yet timeless vessel of experience …………..a conscious node of the evolutionary process …………..a seed of possibility endowed with the impulse to blossom.
As a seed of possibility, I am a living bridge between what has been and what is arising; infused by the wisdom of the ancestors and beckoned ever forward by the future ones.
May my life carve a pathway of meaning and sanctuary …………..for all who feel lost and alone in these tumultuous times of Great Unraveling. …………..May my heart join with the many others breaking open across the globe …………..as fuel for The Great Turning of our times.
May I wield both ………….. …………..the humility to kneel down before the cosmic forces that have shaped me and …………..the dignity to rise up to take my rightful place as a child of creation: ………………………..grieving all that must be mourned as a testament to what matters and ………………………..taking up that which is mine to carry as a joyful honor.
Sacred life, may this sovereign life serve as a living prayer rooted into time and place whispering of the wild possibility that you might be stewarded ever onward through the growing of a life-sustaining world for all our relations now and yet to come.
Alia Stewart-Silver is a Co-Founder of SEEDS (School for Ecocentric Evolution & Design Strategies), a grassroots organization striving to help catalyze the emergent shift in consciousness toward a life-sustaining and life-enhancing world. Alia weaves together the diverse threads of her training background as a licensed therapist, restorative justice circle-keeper, permaculturalist, Vision Quest guide, energy healer, and cultural visionary. Alia applies this breadth of experience to offering sliding scale holistic counseling, facilitating group learning and justice spaces, guiding earth-based rites-of-passage ceremonies to support psycho-spiritual maturity, and collaboratively designing sustainable cultural and agricultural systems as innovative models for place-based regenesis. Connect @jointheseeds.com.
When we find ourselves buffeted by the winds of our ephemeral ethos, our spirits becoming thinner, ever more gaunt, When we cannot bear the pain and loss that touches each life,
twisting us into a gnarled knot, Let us not cling tighter to what is already broken.
Let us instead know our sorrow as gift and allow this kiss of anguish to annihilate all grasping,
plunging us ever deeper within where suffering and beauty simultaneously arise.
Let us ride our horse into the land of grief giving full reign to its innate knowing of our finitude, Let us ululate with/in the rocks and crevasses, our inner and outer canyons reverberating with our lamentation
Let us get down on all fours and rest our heads on the ground, creating an echo chamber, amplifying the intensity of our despair, until we become luminous dark glorre.
Let us hear the world respond to our wailsong: the trees groan, the ocean rumbles, the cats mewl, the
flowers droop, the bees plummet from flight, the very earth quavers; the deep darkness weeps with us. Let us wail until we know that there is ever only one heart.
As we hold this death in our heart, let us hear the pristine note, its essence a mourning and morning,
our spirits empty, holding no-thing and yet magically love floods from the depths, rippling with possibilities. Let us arise, together, as new day dawning from the bottomless deep.
Tim Weidman: I was born on a path of light nestled in the warmth of my extended family. Life appeared as a golden tapestry spun with threads of joy. Predictably, darkness entered stage left. For many years I denied this darkness as part of me, instead treating it as enemy to overcome. The fruition of this struggle found me interred in the underworld. I screamed to be let out. But no one answered me. One day instead of beseeching the sky, I let go my grip of my tombstone and spiraled deep within. My art is the story of this journey.
Audio descriptions under each photograph recorded by Rebecca Selove
The pandemic of 2020-2021 found me stranded unexpectedly in a quiet village on a huge and marvelously beautiful lake in the south of Chile. This strange time brought my life a much-needed pause, and like many others, I have experienced a kind of forced contemplative retreat. The isolation here has been intense at times, and I have also felt relieved to have some repose from the chaotic pace of what previously had passed for normal.
Concrete-ring-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan
Exploring daily along the lakeshore in conditions ranging from mirror-quiet to whipping storms, revisiting the same coves and rock formations, my eye slowly attuned to the subtleties of Lago Llanquihue. The ever-changing surface of the water became my meditation. Time slowed down. My camera exposures stretched from seconds to minutes to hours. Underneath the layers of movement, a deep stillness began to reveal itself.
Rock-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan
This experience offered a container to hold and metabolize the dark news emanating from home and around the world. From this place I watched the spread of unconscious fear in the public mind, morphing into collective psychosis like an immense nascent spirit-demon willing itself into existence. I felt the challenge to hold it all in balance, and the centering energy of this lake became an increasingly powerful ally. In this way these times have taught me the importance of cultivating a nuanced relationship with stillness. Whatever absurdities are happening in human culture and in our own minds, at its center is an empty space where a wordless knowing takes place, without worry or fear, judgment, or thought.
Rocks-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan
Everyone I know has felt some form of desolation during these times. As part of the teachings from these days, let us remember the value of aloneness, and the consequent slowing down that beckons the mind toward a widening perspective. In this space we gain access to the healing power of beauty. May its sacred medicine remind us of our loving nature. May its eternal song illuminate our hearts.
Sand-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue-Chile-202 – Photo: Chris Jordan
Rock-water-and-time-Lago-Llanquihue.jpg September 20, 2021 – Photo: Chris Jordan
~cj, Patagonia, Chile, 2021
Chris Jordan is an artist and cultural activist whose work explores the territory of collective consciousness. Edge-walking the lines between science and art, beauty and horror, abstraction and representation, the visible and the invisible, Jordan’s work challenges us to look both outward and inward at the complex realities of our world. His paradigm-breaking film Albatross reached a global audience with its story of plastic-filled birds on a remote island in the Pacific. Chris’s new work now turns back toward the basics: centeredness, silence, and stillness, as a container for the experience of these times.
It was your fate to find the truth
as the crows of Istanbul found you
on a balcony overlooking the Bosphorus,
coming to drink water you placed there for them,
carefully dipping their dagger-like bills in the cup
on the railing, looking you in the eye, giving thanks
to this stranger who understands
the common language of kindness.
Here you marveled at the peace of the dogs in the street,
petted and fed, at home in the world, sleeping
in cobblestone passages under your window.
Here you ate roasted corn with salt in the square
by Yeni mosque, and watched a man feeding the gulls
with the leavings of fish, dressed in a shirt that said, “Impossible.”
Here you walked past the Roman aqueduct to Saraçhane park
and a crow came to meet you in the afternoon sunlight.
Here you watched the evening sky turn pink and amber
as gulls gathered on rooftops, their bodies bright as comets.
In the morning, you drank coffee in the park as parrots flew overhead,
green and outrageous, free as the songbirds stopping on their way
to Africa, anything but impossible. All the while the crows were close
at hand, meeting your eyes, as if to say: we can show you a place
you have lived all your life but never seen,
where there is space for all of us.
Where there is kindness, we share a language, as when your brother
Francis spoke with us, not far away, as we crows fly, and long ago,
but we remember. If you think you’re forgotten, we don’t forget.
Let us show you what you, without knowing, always knew:
that the God of all of us makes the impossible into the possible,
and makes the possible into the truth, so that what you thought
was the end of the world
is the beginning.
Nico Arcilla, PhD, is a conservation biologist based in Sweden and director of the International Bird Conservation Partnership, whose mission is to foster and support research, outreach, and partnerships to advance the conservation of birds worldwide (www.birdpartners.org).
Vivienne Elanta was the major practitioner of the “Work that ReConnects”, in Western Australia until her death on the 16th August 2004. In 2019 at the Global Ecovillage Network International Conference I told the story of her last words, which have been set as a deeply moving youtube video. Her last project was the organisation of the 30 day long workshop, with Joanna (and Fran), in January/February 2005, at the Cove, Denmark, Western Australia, with 43 people from all around the world.
John Croft, co-founder of the Gaia Foundation of Western Australia, has worked in community development and education in many parts of the world. He has taught at several Universities and worked as a consultant in community building and environment action practice with non-government organisations. Through his work the Dragon Dreaming method has been introduced from China to Brazil, from Ghana to Finland. John has run workshops in Re-Earthing, The Work That Reconnects and Social Artistry for the last 25 years, integrate personal growth and empowerment, community building, community economics and environmental action within the ‘deep ecology’ paradigm. He has written and published widely in many fields.
Sam Lacey is a lifetime explorer of inner and outer realms, who’s wandered wild across many continents until making her home in southern Spain. Her poetry is a relational dance of intimacy, born of her connection with this mysterious, beautiful and elemental world.
She brings her grief, love, curiosity and creativity in service of life. A keeper of hearth and home, she offers space for healing and transformation – trusting wholeheartedly the wisdom of nature and her ever-changing cycles. She works with groups and individuals to cultivate deeper intimacy and connection with self, other and the natural world. www.samlacey.me