Date: September 29, 2023
  • Blog
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Written by Joanna Tomkins

I co-founded the Gaia Speaking community of practice, along with my colleague and friend Rachael Millson to facilitate the Work that Reconnects in South Africa. Creating events that utilise the spiral and integrate song circles, ancestral ceremonies, local documentaries or nature immersions, for example, allows us to establish a node for the network in this part of the world. These variants appeal to a wider audience than the classic spiral workshops and retreats in a country where the Work that Reconnects is known only by a small number of participants. The power of the Work never fails, even when it is used in these fractal forms, as experienced by all those who attend. 

We live in a country which has greatly improved in terms of racial freedom since the early 90s and it is exciting to be a part of the healing of the Rainbow Nation – as we call South Africa – yet it still suffers great inequalities and therefore societal healing is a priority. It is important for us, as facilitators, to be aware of racial diversity and historical trauma when we choose our practices. We also take response-ability by adapting the exercises, or creating songs and texts that include the wondrous, wild and specific biodiversity that surrounds us here. 

In the past years, the international organisation of the Work That Reconnects Network has both strengthened and widened its web, by inviting in much novelty in all areas of thinking, being and doing. This represents a continuous and vast attempt to identify and transform vestiges of the old paradigm, opening up to the astounding potential that is awakening in our collective during these times of the Great Turning. Some of the pivotal adaptations and themes for transformation are highlighted and included in the offerings on the Network’s website.

This new breadth encourages more resilience within the network by shifting our patterns of thought, encouraging discussions and sharing resources around topics such as white privilege, trauma informed practices, undoing oppression, collective and ancestral trauma, etc. With the expansion of the work online, it’s interesting too to notice how it is rapidly becoming more international and less focused on American culture. 

The ongoing evolution of the network also proactively considers the emergence of more multidisciplinary formats and specific applications for the original Work that Reconnects methodology. Indeed, whilst all the workshops and events by registered facilitator members are always inspired by the Foundations of the Work that Reconnects and its Spiral, they are very often themed in areas like the arts, permaculture, rewilding, parenting, etc. This allows the Work to expand as a tool in new and wide action-oriented circles. 

Council of All Beings of in Scarborough (Cape Town) South Africa.
Council of All Beings of in Scarborough (Cape Town) South Africa. Image: Joanna Tomkins
Participants engaging in a Mabon Ceremony, in South Africa. March 2023. Image: Joanna Tomkins
Participants engaging in a Mabon Ceremony. Image: Joanna Tomkins

Some of the other aspects that make the Work that Reconnects so stable in these wobbly times are its inherent diversity and inclusivity. Indeed, Joanna Macy included different fields of wisdom in the philosophy at the roots of the Work, from indigenous wisdom to Buddhist principles, or from deep ecology to systems thinking. It thereby anchors the principles at the base of some of the most resilient strains of knowledge available on Earth and inspired by Earth in the Work. The co-founders also guaranteed that training would remain open source, so as to make it available to a wide variety of facilitators worldwide, who can self train independently of their area of activism, location or income. 

Increasingly, the resources and practices of the Work that Reconnects are incorporating contributions by activists from a variety of influential organisations worldwide. These activists often have in turn been inspired by the Work that Reconnects or Joanna Macy over the years and this reciprocity is key to the spreading and the solidity of this web. 

I have recently started to volunteer for the communications committee of the international network and I am fascinated by the ways in which facilitators around the world are contributing to all the different aspects of what the community has coined its “Evolving Edge” and very curious to see what the next chapter will bring. 

I invite facilitator members incorporating other modalities in their work to share on this blog what they are doing in their part of the world. We can further this discussion and hear first handedly what is emerging for others from the living body of the Work that Reconnects.

In gratitude.

Joanna and Gaia Speaking colleague, Rachael Millson
Joanna and Gaia Speaking colleague, Rachael Millson

Joanna Tomkins is a Work that Reconnects facilitator, wilderness guide, singer, ceramic artist, active mother and community member. She started the community of practice Gaia Speaking in South Africa in 2020 to expand the knowledge and practice of the Work that Reconnects in Southern Africa, original land of the Khoisan people. She facilitates Spiral work within song circles, ceremonies, wilderness immersions, as well as day-long, weekend or workshop series. Gaia Speaking is currently the regional hub of the Work that Reconnects for South Africa.