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Date: 01/01/2014
  • Practices
  • Going Forth
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Strengthening our Intentions (or Corbett)

Originally called Corbett, this practice is from chapter 10 of Coming Back to Life by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown; second edition, published 2014. Please acknowledge the source when you use any of these practices.


Time: 45-60 minutes


The Work That Reconnects recognizes the intrinsic organizing power of intention. Even in an uncertain world, we can still choose, by and large, where we put our minds and how we respond to circumstances and events. As Joanna Macy points out, intention is what shapes our identity — the character, consistency and direction of our stream of being.

In this practice our capacity for intention is amplified by hearing from multiple perspectives: 

  1. the person who holds the intention
  2. the voice of Doubt
  3. the voice of an ancestor
  4. the voice of a future human

The practice was created during a workshop near a small town named Corbett in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, US.  



People sit in groups of four. Allow some moments of silence for each person to select an important intention to explore further. Then one person begins by describing their intention to the others in their group, and the others respond in turn (going clockwise) from their assigned perspectives: the voice of Doubt, the voice of an ancestor, and the voice of a future human. (The voice of a more-than-human being may be added.)

Explain that each of these voices is meant to serve the person holding the intention. The voice of Doubt is helpful by bringing up misgivings and fears that could derail or weaken the intention if they are not faced squarely. The ancestral voice brings in the wisdom of the past, and the future human opens vistas of what this intention could mean to coming generations. Each gets about two minutes to speak, while the intention holder listens silently.

Allow time at the end of each round for the intention holder to reflect on any insights that have arisen, thanks to the other voices. Foursomes have found it helpful to assign each perspective to a chair and move to new seats before each round. By the end of the exercise, every person in the group gets a chance to speak all four voices.



This practice can also be done in groups of three, in which case the fourth voice, that of the future, is spoken by the person who has spoken as Doubt. The value of this is two-fold: it saves time and it often allows the voice of Doubt to speak more boldly, knowing there will be a chance to take a more encouraging role.

The “intention holder” can present both the intention and speak the Voice of Doubt at the beginning, then listen to the other voices (ancestor, future being, and perhaps more-than-human being). This avoids putting anyone in the position of having to give voice to someone else’s doubts.

Contributor/Author: Joanna Macy & Molly Brown