Active hope and The Work That Reconnects

The following information is an introduction to The Work That Reconnects, based on the teachings of Joanna Macy, and the book Active Hope she co-authored with Chris Johnstone. The text below is also informed by recent workshops and presentations by other teachers, activists and thinkers who have been speaking in relation to climate crisis , racial justice, social justice and climate justice, including during a recent Awakened Action Conference, broadcast online by Upaya Zen Centre  (Bibliography below)

Active hope

We can think of two potential meaning of ‘hope’.

  1. When we feel hopefulness, when are preferred outcome seems reasonably likely to happen
  2. Hope elated to desire. ‘Active’ hope can be conceived of as becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for. This is a practice what we do rather than have

Work that Reconnects (WTR)

The Work That Reconnects is experiental group work. It is a way to connect with each other and the web of life. It is a set of practices and insights to draw strength from, a mythic journey to be transformed by. It involves the spiral of these areas which can be repeated on multiple occasions: gratitude, honouring our pain, seeing with new eyes, going forth. Illustrated in the Flower Image above (artist: Dori Midnight).

Bearing Witness and Deep Listening

As we practice the WTR during together there will be an invitation for bearing witness, listening to different peoples perspectives. We can practice ‘deep listening’ and speaking from the heart, being authentic and present to each other. We will notice when we may feel triggered or reactionary, we can always come back into our grounding as we practice in the breathing space. My aim for offering these workshops is to provide a diverse and inclusive space, with the guidelines of respect for each other and keeping confidentiality.

3 Stories of our Time

  1. Business as usual

You have to grow the economy we are in systems of, corporate capatilism, industrial growth society, we have commodified our earth. Industrial growth society ‘getting ahead and competing for profit and power by economic growth. An aspect of this is vast consumerism. In this story the earth as a product to be consumed , and historically indigenous people were colonalised and inslaved. Recent commentaries also include thinking around structural racism in our systems too.

  1. Great unravelling

People becoming aware of climate crisis, extincition of species, social and racial injustice. The Racial injustice and climate crisis links  include that the places most impacted by climate crisis in global south, how Black and POC impacted by climate crisis, and more insight into the conditions created by colonialism.

  1. Great turning

Transition to a life sustaining culture, social justice, ecological sustainability. In the Great Turning we are working towards these goals. This encompasses all the different ways people doing this. The great turning can include more visible actions, such as activism, and less visible actions, such as being present to each other, such as in these workshops, bearing witness to each other. The great turning can also be viewed as an internal transition of vision and commitment, perseverance and trust. Moving through the spiral of WTR on one or many occasions helps us live by the story of the great turning . We being to see the interdependence of all beings. During covid-19 this was evident in terms of the spread of the virus and the need for collective actions.

We don’t have a right to ask whether we’re going to succeed or not. The only question we have a right to ask is what’s the right thing to do? What does this earth require of us if we want to continue to live on it? – Wendell Berry

Clearing by Martha Postelwaite
Do not try to save
the whole world
or do anything grandiose.
Instead, create
a clearing
in the dense forest
of your life
and wait there
until the song
that is your life
falls into your own cupped hands
and you recognize and greet it.
Only then will you know
how to give yourself to this world
so worthy of rescue.


Active Hope  by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

Coming Back to Life, by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown

Awakened Action conference:
Women leaders speak to race, poverty, climate and the pandemic on 21/6/20 (offered online by Upaya Zen centre) recordings available by registering for the program
Dekila Chungyalpa; Christiana Figueres; Jane Fonda; Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD; Sensei Wendy Johnson; Sensei Kritee Kanko, PhD; Stephanie Kaza, PhD; Diana Liverman, PhD; Joanna Macy, PhD; Rebecca Solnit; Heather McTeer Toney, JD

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