Hi, my name is Gracelynn Lau 劉頌恩! Born and raised in Hong Kong when it was still a British colony, I self identify as a settler of colour in Canada who is dealing with my own colonial healing. I'm a daughter, auntie, ecovillager, circle facilitator and nature-based expressive arts therapist with the Ontario Expressive Arts Therapy Association.
If you are interested to collaborate, send me a message! Love to hear about your work.
Why I am called to facilitate the Work
I first came across the Work That Reconnects back in the summer of 2012 at the Active Hope event in Toronto where Joanna Macy was teaching in person. I was finishing my graduate degree in worldview studies with a focus in ecofeminist theology at the time. The idea that remembering our planetary self and honouring our pain for the world play an important role in creating sustainable futures for all beings brew my mind. I joined a study group organized by the event organizer soon thereafter. That summer set me off on a journey to start my first community (container) garden, volunteer at a community farm in the city, get professional training in mindfulness meditation and horticultural therapy, and eventually move to an ecovillage education centre in BC, Canada for 5 years.
I see the urgent need to nurture resilience and navigate challenges collectively in time of collapses. Having co-facilitated the WTR 1-day experience two summers at the ecovillage design course, and other group processes at the ecovillage, I realize that there are lack of intentional spaces to process personal, social and ecological grief/pain/despair/hope collectively. People who want to or have been creating sustainable changes need mutually supportive container that bridges emotions to strategies, especially now that many of us are moving into the deep adaptation conversations to look closely at systemic collapses, the Spiral practice as a group process is all the more needed.
As an expressive art therapist pursuing my PhD in cultural studies, I see the importance of shifting the focus from personal wellness/healing to look at social wellness, and how healing/decolonizing the earth as heal/decolonize ourselves is interwoven with creating social/ecological change for the future generations. The Work that Reconnects provides a simple to follow yet helpful group processes for people to come together. I see so much non-verbal, creative and art-based sensory experiences from my expressive arts therapy practice can be integrated to facilitate the Work and experience the Spiral more sensually. I want to integrate the WTR and deep adaptation in my expressive arts therapy practice throughout the year of 2021.
Beside my work in Canada, I'm offering adapted WTR circles to support my birth home Hong Kong. The city has been going through drastic social and political changes/destruction in the last few years. I’ve been collaborating with a local organization to work on social trauma to social transformation. WTR is still a very new concept here, but it brings the much needed medicine to the frustration, despair, pain and lack of belonging (to the web of beings) many are experiencing right now.
How I see the Work serving the Great Turning
The spiral is very helpful and applicable as an ongoing practice. When the collapsing economy still generates fear and limitless desires telling us that we will never be enough; when politicians and the policing apparatus takes away human rights and dignity, practising gratitude (counting what we have) becomes a radical act. And in the making of social transformation, our pain and grief for the world are often repressed, devalued or ignored. The culture many of us we live in pathologizes feelings of grief. Society expects us to hide our emotional pain and hopelessness. But our pain and grief is the intelligent part of the healing mechanism, asking us to pay attention to the part of the (social and earth) body that needs healing. I love how the WTR shift this culture and affirm us that we HAVE the capacity to be with, metabolize even, the pain of others and of the world, if we choose to come together. But my favourite part of the spiral is seeing with gaian eyes. It offers fun and creative way to get out of our human-centeredness to tap into Deep Time and the perspectives of other non-human siblings. In time of societal conflict and polarity, I think it is utmost important to remember that who we are is more than our political identities, that we as human belong to a much wider collective of beings if we re-member our ecological identity. Who we are is in our blood, earth, water, air, fire memories. I love that the spiral is a never ending spiral that does not mean to end/finish. After we find the insight for action/next step, we return to gratitude and start again. That’s what I love to summarize the spiral with the key word “metabolizing”.
The wheel of the great turning: I was surprised by how helpful this framework can be for some people who are actively engaging in social activism, as if the 3 areas described help them to land how they see their own contribution in relation to other dimensions/levels of work done by others. It gives a bigger picture of what needs to happen and people seem to have more bandwidth to reconsider/appreciate other groups/peoples’ contributions as compatible rather than competitive or less meaningful in creating the change that they want to see.
Audiences I work with
I have been mostly working in community settings in the ecovillage movement context.
In the near future, my hope is to bring in the WTR in academic settings, both in the academic conversations and in experiential learning on campus. In 2021, the project in Hong Kong will focus to work with those who gear towards creating social healing and transformation.
Background & Training
Other relevant skills & experiences
My path to working with healing and wellness actually began at a fairly young age in 2006 when I lost my father in a tragic car accident, where my mother also got serious injured. I had to suspend my graduate studies for 6 months and returned to Hong Kong to support my mother’s recovery. Later, the grief and pain that my family had gone through brought me to put a pause on studying theology and went to work at an orphanage on the Tibetan-Qinghai plateau for a year (2008) and to journey with earthquake survivors (youth and families) in Sichuan, China during 2009-2010. Those work experience were humbling and healing at the same time as I see the beauty and resilience at the most devastating situations both in myself and others. I returned to Canada in the winter 2010 to work at a youth organization serving East Asian immigrant youth in Toronto for 4 years.
Experience facilitating other events & workshops
Last year Expressive arts for holding turbulence – 4 week online groups finding innate resource and resilience within to meet the challenges of our time. I integrate the Spiral into the process. Each group has 10 participants meeting weekly for 4 weeks. We ran 3 different groups during April-June, 2020.