Saturday, 8 February 2014

The Work that Reconnects

It was a happy day for me when a mentor of mine recommended the book Active Hope by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone (see link below). Subtitled 'How to face the mess we're in without going crazy', the book is a practical guide to what is variously known as 'despair and empowerment work', and 'the work that reconnects'. The Work that Reconnects is trailblazing in its emphasis on personal transformation in this time of crisis.

In particular, the Work that Reconnects is the antidote to the frozen, numb sort of feeling that can arise when one is aware of the huge crises facing our planet, and suppresses the rage and grief that this knowledge can bring up. This suppression is quite understandable - these emotions are can be inconvenient to manage while one is attempting the stressful juggling act of 21st-century living. The rage and grief can be awkward in social settings, and one can feel the threat of being swallowed up by emotions and responsibilities unmanageable by a single, concerned individual.

It is this numbness that Joanna Macy argues is the dam in the river of interconnectedness that weaves each individual into the web of life (to mix my metaphors). It is our interconnectedness that causes us pain when rainforests are slashed and burned, when reefs are bleached, when broken Syrian families flee to refugee camps.

To quote Macy, interconnectedness is no picnic. But it is a life saver.

On February 2nd, Transition Cambridge hosted a Work that Reconnects workshop in Newnham Croft Primary School, near Paradise Nature Reserve. It was a very special and enlivening day with an eclectic range of participants (would estimate 12-15 of us; I wasn't counting). The workshop had five facilitators, from the veteran to the first-timer: Anna McIvor, Bev Sedley, Liz Serocold, Nicholas Wilkinson and Kate Honey. 

The day was modelled around the spiral of the Work that Reconnects: Gratitude, Honouring Our Pain for the World, Seeing with New Eyes and Going Forth. One exercise we participated in was completing open sentences in pairs (one scribe and one mindful listener). The sentences included 'If you knew you could not fail, what would you do for the healing of the world?' Another exercise was the Mirror Walk: one partner leads the other, who has their eyes closed, through a garden. They guide their partner to a beautiful object, which the parter explores by touch before opening their eyes. My favourite exercise was when we were all asked to mentally voice our most burning question. As we internalized this question, we wandered through Paradise Nature Reserve, and let the sights, sounds and smells of nature offer us their timeless wisdom.

May all beings be well!

Joanna Macy: 'The most remarkable feature of this historical moment on Earth is not that we are on the way to destroying the world - we've already been on the way for quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millenia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves and each other...'

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