The Work That Reconnects is meant for anyone who longs to serve the healing of our world in a more powerful and effective way. This interactive group process was developed by Joanna Macy, in cooperation with many colleagues, over several decades. The Work That Reconnects draws on foundational teachings, including Systems Thinking, Deep Ecology and Deep Time, Spiritual Traditions and Undoing Oppression.
“The Work That Reconnects helps people discover and experience their innate connections with each other and the self-healing powers of the web of life, transforming despair and overwhelm into inspired, collaborative action.”
– Joanna Macy
The Work That Reconnects Spiral
The following is adapted from Coming Back to Life, by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown.
The Work That Reconnects guides you on a Spiral journey through four stages:
- Coming from Gratitude
- Honoring Our Pain for the World
- Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes
- Going Forth
In practice, each of these stages flows naturally to the next. We depict the process as an open spiral, because every journey through the process changes us. We return to Gratitude with a fresh perspective to engage with the spiral again and again.
The Spiral begins in Coming from Gratitude, with an invitation to reflect on what we are grateful for. This process quiets the frantic mind and helps to ground us. Feelings of inadequacy may fall away, as we open to both empathy and confidence. We become more fully present and emotionally grounded in preparation for the next phase.
In Honoring Our Pain for the World, and daring to experience it, we learn the true meaning of compassion: to suffer with. We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind. What had isolated us in private anguish now opens outward and delivers us into the wider reaches of our inter-existence. Honoring our pain opens us up to our love, courage, imagination and sense of justice.
As we experience the reality of our inter-existence, we begin Seeing with New/Ancient Eyes. We can sense how intimately and completely we are related to all that is. It becomes clear how social justice and environmental justice are intertwined. We can taste our own power to change, and feel the texture of our living connections with past and future generations, and with our sibling species.
In Going Forth we move into the actions that call each of us, according to our situation, gifts, and limitations. Working with others whenever possible, we set a target, lay a plan and begin to take action steps. We don’t wait for a blueprint or fail-proof scheme, for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities. Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and the lessons we learned.
It’s helpful to experience the Work That Reconnects Spiral over and over again. Each time we move through the stages, we gain new insights, boost our resilience and strengthen our resolve to act on behalf of all life.
Experiencing the Work That Reconnects
Workshops are the most powerful way to experience the Work That Reconnects. One- and two-day gatherings are most common, but two-hour introductions and intensives lasting up to 10 days are also offered.
While all Work That Reconnects workshops present the four stages of the Spiral, the specific practices, rituals and teachings will vary. Facilitators can choose from an ever-expanding library of interactive practices and other resources to craft workshops tailored to their gifts and the needs of their participants.
Traditionally folks have gathered in person for workshops, and this is the most wonderful way to experience the Work. However, during the global pandemic many facilitators have adapted their offerings to online formats with powerful results.
Sharing the work online has its gifts. It makes the Work more accessible for some people, and it provides opportunities to gather with others from all around the world. The Work continues to be adapted for various settings and audiences, and elements of the spiral are often used in activist settings.
You may also consider joining or starting a Community of Practice to explore the Work with others in this way. The book, Active Hope, written by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone, provides support for creating book groups to engage in a self-guided process with the Spiral. Chris Johnstone also developed a free, self-paced online course based on the content in Active Hope.
Facilitating the Work That Reconnects
The Work That Reconnects is “open source.” It is available for anyone to use, with proper attribution. If you’re called to facilitate WTR we encourage you to study the materials, participate in WTR experiences with several different experienced facilitators and dedicate yourself to the practice of facilitation.
Given the complexity and transformative power of the process, the WTR Network offers guidelines, support, education and community for those who are called to Facilitate the Work That Reconnects.