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Date: 01/01/2019
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  • Honoring Our Pain
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The Milling (online version)

Adapted by Molly Brown for online workshops, incorporating ideas from a version by Kaia Svien. Originally from chapter 7 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.


This works best when all participants appear on one screen. (If that isn’t possible, consider creating as many breakout rooms as needed, and broadcast audible instructions into the rooms.) Invite participants to scan slowly across the faces on their screens as they listen to the guidance provided. Please use your own words and phrasing as much as possible, incorporating the themes and ideas below.

  • The first encounter draws attention to the sheer presence of the others, and their choice to be here. These people are alive on planet Earth at the same time as you, born into the same period of crisis, danger, speed, and injustice. And they have chosen to be here today, have chosen to put aside other activities, tasks and pleasures, in order to come here to join together in a time of deep foreboding and strife, to look together at what’s happening in our world. These people spoke earlier of their love for this life. They are unafraid to love the gift of being alive on this planet. It’s like medicine. Feel your gratitude for these people’s choice to be here and silently  acknowledge your gratitude…


  • Next, the focus moves to the others’ knowledge of our present situation, and their willingness to face it. You are looking into the faces of those who have a good clue what’s going on in our world. (Give two or more examples of what’s going on, such as the following: forests being clear-cut, small farms forced out of business, crops genetically engineered, fracking, mountain-top removal, the corporate military complex and its wars, radiation spreading from Fukushima and other power plants, the huge threat of climate disruption.) Sense these people’s awareness of the terrible injustice, inequality, and pain that surround and wound us all in countless ways, especially people with darker skins or non-European ancestry… These folks know this is going on, yet they haven’t closed their eyes, haven’t turned away… Experience your respect for their courage. Silently acknowledge them for their courage.


  • Now the focus moves to the others’ experience of oppression and privilege in today’s society. Now, as you breathe and take in the presence of your companions in this Zoom room with you, let your awareness open widely to hold the complexities and confusion these people experience due to being born with their particular skin color, culture, and gender. Open to the various levels of social privilege or discrimination these people may have experienced as a result.


Invite yourself to open now to the immeasurable and unnamed losses your companions may have suffered for a lifetime of being imprisoned by oppression or even privilege… Open to your desire that you and they may liberate themselves from the layered encumbrances of both privilege and oppression… Find a simple, silent way to acknowledge the journey that you each are making to partake in life’s shared and multifaceted richness… Nod your head to acknowledge all that has moved through you in this encounter….


  1. Next we acknowledge the danger each person faces in this planet time and the gifts they can bring to it. Before you are people living in a beautiful, fragile, and poisoned planet. In their bodies, as in yours, are toxins that can bring cancer and immune disease. Any one of them, like you, can die from a pandemic, like the one we’re coping with now, or from nuclear accident or attack, or from a flood, wildfire, or drought. They could die at the hands of police. We can face this together. We must not let our common danger separate us. Let it bond us. Keep breathing… 
  • Now there’s another thing to see in these faces. Allow your awareness to open to the real possibility that these people will each play a pivotal role in the Great Turning to a life-sustaining civilization. They have the gifts, the strengths, the motivation. Allow that possibility to enter your mind and let them know how you feel about it. 


At the end of this practice you can unmute everyone and let them express their gratitude out loud altogether.


This practice was adapted from the original in-person version of the Milling found in Coming Back to Life by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown.

Contributor/Author: Molly Brown