Dear Friends and Colleagues in the Work,
In this time of Trump and other far-right leaders ‘round the world, I am more grateful than ever for the work that connects us. The simple, strongly grounded practices help us stay honest with ourselves and each other. The Spiral brings us home ever again, through grief and grit, to the promise of our common humanity.
I am moved by the growing evidence of a global community forming as the Work That Reconnects (WTR) is adopted, adapted, and nourished in other countries and cultures, sometimes despite intimidation from government and extremist groups. And I am moved by initiatives here in the U.S. to make the WTR more inclusive, accessible, and relevant across boundaries of age, class, color, gender and politics, and regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
This letter will speak to that after I report to you on other matters.
Health and Wellness Report
A year ago in September, at age 87, on the morning I headed out for scheduled events in New England and New York, I was anxiously trying not to forget all I needed to pack, from pills to pamphlets. I decided then and there to no longer combine teaching with long distance travel. I have held to that decision except for the January week leading up to Trump’s inauguration (for a priceless gathering we called “In the Dark the Eye Learns to See”) at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. The choice I made means teaching more on-line, and keeping in-person engagements pretty much limited to the SF Bay area. If you have questions about that, please contact me directly.
A couple of months ago in the middle of a six-day seminar on “Systems Thinking and the WTR,” I was rushed to the hospital; the pain that sent me there required surgery on an intestinal blockage. All went well. The seminar, co-led by Molly Brown and Victor Lewis, proceeded swimmingly (watch for the videos!). And I healed up well, despite a post-surgical infection that took me back to the hospital.
Home at last, I found Mark Jensen, an osteopathic healer from Santa Fe, setting up his table. On that table, Mark’s energy work did magic on my body-mind, not to mention my daughter Peggy’s and several other lucky friends over the next four or five days. Before he flew back to New Mexico, Mark, whose involvement with the WTR builds on years of Deep Ecology work with John Seed, suggested that I take the coming month of October in retreat. So I did that.
I feel deeply blessed by my October home retreat. How sweet to simply stop, be still, and drink in the silence and beauty at the heart of life, while held by my light-swept upstairs flat, filled with memories of Fran and family adventures. For meditation, reflection and reading, I chose to go back to the breakthroughs I experienced in the mid-1980s when I first encountered Deep Ecology. In encountering again the living presence of Earth, what came through, more fresh and vivid than I can express, was the Great Reciprocity at the heart of the universe. The month held some rough moments, be they boredom or self-denigration, but they lent reality to the journey, and I emerge now in a different place, with new energy and conviction.
This new momentum carries over into plans for my website. In sore need of revamping, it has been off-line for too long. I am happy to say that you can look for www.joannamacy.net as we enter the New Year. There you will find access to the sources and experiences I draw on as root teacher of the WTR, as well as other dimensions of my life and thought.
Report and Reflections on Evolving Roles
As many of you know, Anne Symens-Bucher was my close associate in the WTR for eleven and a half years. Last June, I made the decision to change the structural basis of our relationship, and thus she is no longer serving as my executive assistant. For those of us who have been blessed and bolstered by her warmth and intelligence, this is a real loss. It is my prayer that we will find new ways of working together going forward. I am grateful beyond words for her companionship as well as the fresh perspectives and ideas she brought to the Work. Meanwhile, I’ve had good fortune in my search for an administrative assistant.
In what is now a full year since Trump’s election I have witnessed not only divisiveness and rage aflame across the country, but also the ready, no-fuss leadership of those countless ones building networks of resistance, care, and mutual protection–including the Work That Reconnects Network. I have witnessed how you have been taking responsibility for the Work and stepping forward to share it with others. You are showing that panic and paralysis are not the only responses to violence and fear, and that relationships come to life as we speak our hearts and listen.
- I love thinking about those of you I happen to know and keep up with, including Hide, Shan and others seeding the work in China, as Noriko, Tamio, Yuka, Maki and so many others grow it further in Japan; Kirsten and William, Solomon, Markie counseling youth cohorts, along with Aravinda, Joseph and the Interhelp faithful ; Ludmila and her teams, keeping hope alive despite Chernobyl’s new fires; Kit, Cindy and Jack with Freida of the Onondaga; Anand and Gayatri steadily growing their Deep Ecology ashram in Thiruvannamalai, India; John, Bobbi, Claire, Jo, and all the Aussies you have inspired; Molly, Constance and Mutima fostering facilitators world-wide; Anne and Terry with the irrepressible Canticle Farmers in the heart of East Oakland; Karina with the Amazon inside her; Hanna, Gill, Jane and Chris in northern Scotland, weaving the Work into Findhorn’s fare; Liz and Aryeh spreading the WTR in sub-Saharan Africa; Chris, Jen, and Lydia Violet turning the Work into music and medicine; Peter in the UK with his Great Turning story-tellers; Werner faithfully designing and tending the WTR website; Sarah and Barbara, Rebekah, Kaia, and Emily; Gunter and Barbara, Xeto, Marliese, Gabi, Norbert, Gaseko creating in Germany ever new applications of the Work; Clou and the Roseaux Dansants; Kaye and Adam at the northern gate; Victor bodhisattva; Mordechai and Lynne; Adrián with the first-ever Intensive in Mexico; Helena from Belgium helping Felipe in Colombia run WTR workshops drawing farmers together with indigenous and Afrocolombian communities; Seelie and the Kathleens, Michelle, Christopher, Eileen, and the Nuclear Guardians; Dahr and Anita, facing the horror and helping us to see it– and far too many others to name.
Can you imagine the feelings of gratitude and wonder that well up in me as I see the initiatives you are taking, the vulnerability you accept, the steadiness of presence you bring? Could this be the kind of successor that an open system generates?
Report on Anti-Oppression Work and the WTR
We see more clearly every day how ecological destruction is inextricably linked with the trashing of human rights and welfare. As witnessed by the climate justice movement, the war on nature means war on people, ripping up lives and cultures. It is essential that the WTR support people in uncovering and responding to patterns of oppression in which they take part.
We can help each other do this. I, for example, am helped by colleagues in the U.S. who have long acknowledged the reality of white supremacy and the need within the WTR to honor the experience and aspirations of people of color. Yet, in the WTR Intensive in California last June, I learned that our focus there on racial dynamics in the U.S. was not found to be very relevant or useful to participants from overseas. In their lands, ethnic animosities and violence take other forms, with other historical, religious, and ethnic roots. Let’s remember that these patterns of oppression vary from culture to culture, region to region. And they are all exacerbated by corporate globalization, with the military industrial complex backing it up.
Here are some specific challenges and guidelines that I as a white US American want to offer to other white US American facilitators. I invite those of you from different lands to see what relevance these points may have to the fault lines of oppression in your own society.
I would urge you to:
- recognize how deeply white dominance, indeed white supremacy, is rooted in the creation and history of our nation. Founded on genocide, it drew its wealth from a stolen land with the labor of a stolen people. For both the suffering and the privilege that ensue from this, I believe we whites share in a collective responsibility.
- learn how white privilege has limited our perceptions of other’s lives and our impact on them. This expansion of consciousness is integral to the Great Turning. I am benefiting greatly from participating in a “White Awake” group, and urge you to join such an effort, too. Long-term structured group learning is invaluable. Check out these excellent educational resources: whiteawake.org for a group work manual, blogs, consultations, and White Awareness Insight Curriculum for Uprooting Privilege (WAIC UP!), a Dharma and Racism Study Program. Don’t miss the special issue of our own Deep Times Journal and the conversation between its three guest editors: http://journal.workthatreconnects.org/2017/08/29/in-conversation-patricia-st-onge-ann-marie-davis-and-aravinda-ananda/
- conduct your workshop with a co-facilitator of color, if possible, and/or one with anti-oppression training and skills—in addition, of course, to being skilled in the WTR. This may be a tall order, but it’s worthwhile to hold that intention; it propels us in the right direction.
- consider engaging a consultant in anti-oppression work. The value this can provide is emphasized by Aravinda Ananda: “…we ended up meeting with A and K five or six times before the workshop, using on-line video conferencing. They helped us with workshop design, but most important was helping us see and attend to the power, privilege and oppression dynamics between us as a facilitation team. I appreciate that they used an intersectional approach, and it was not just about racism, but we did not shy away from racism.”
- prepare your workshop participants for issues of diversity by providing them some preliminary readings and resources, so that harms to people of color are minimized and white resilience is increased. I have found that this fosters learning even in workshops consisting entirely of white-identified people. For resources, see : (https://workthatreconnects.org/category/evolving-edge/)
Isn’t this a remarkable and beautiful moment in our history? Slowly, by fits and starts, we are beginning to wake up to the suffering we’ve caused ourselves and each other. We are starting to walk out of our separate isolation cells of fear and shame. The Great Turning is calling us back to the solidarity we yearn for and need if we are to survive.
To close, let me share this poem that has been singing in my head ever since my October retreat filled me with grateful wonder about “the Great Reciprocity at the heart of the universe.” It is the very first poem in Rilke’s Book of Hours, translated by Anita and me.
The hour is striking so close above me,
so clear and sharp,
that all my senses ring with it.
I feel it now: there’s a power in me
to grasp and give shape to my world.
I know that nothing has ever been real
without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
and they come toward me, to meet and be met.
Bless you for the part you play in the healing of our world.