Core Assumptions of the Work That Reconnects
- Our Earth is alive. It is not our supply house and sewer; it is our larger body.
- Our true nature is far more ancient and encompassing than the separate self defined by habit and society. We are as intrinsic to our living world as the rivers and trees, woven of the same flows of matter/energy and mind. Having evolved us into self-reflexive consciousness, the world can now know and see itself through us, behold its own majesty, tell its own stories—and also respond to its own suffering.
- Our experience of moral pain for our world springs from our inter-connectedness with all beings, from which also arise our powers to act on their behalf. When we deny or repress our pain for the world, or view it as a private pathology, our power to take part in the healing of our world is diminished. Our capacity to respond to our own and others’ suffering can be unblocked.
- Unblocking occurs when our pain for the world is not only intellectually validated, but also experienced. Cognitive information about the crises we face is generally insufficient to mobilize us. But direct experience of our own deep emotional response can reveal our mutual belonging in the web of life, and free us to act.
- When we reconnect with life, by willingly enduring our pain for it, the mind retrieves its natural clarity. We experience not only our inter-connectedness in the Earth community, but also mental eagerness to match this experience with new paradigm thinking. Significant learnings occur as the individual re-orients to wider reaches of identity and self-interest.
- The experience of reconnection with the Earth community arouses desire to act on its behalf. As Earth’s self-healing powers take hold within us, we feel called to take part in the Great Turning. The steps we take can be modest ones, but they should involve some risk to our mental comfort, lest we remain caught in old, “safe” limits. Courage is a great teacher and bringer of joy.
The four main cycles of the Work that Reconnects include: Coming from Gratitude; Honouring our Pain for the World; Seeing with New Eyes, and Going Forth.
It offers, as Rudolf Steiner so eloquently puts it, a way for the ‘healthy social life’ of both individuals and a community to be realised.
Earlier in its development, this approach was known as “despair and empowerment work,”or “psychological peace work,” and sometimes just “deep ecology work.” Its theory and practice are described in the following books: Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, by Joanna Macy in 1983; Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings, 1988, by John Seed, Joanna Macy, Arne Naess and Pat Fleming; Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World, 1998, by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown; and Active Hope: How to Face the Mess we’re in Without Going Crazy, 2012, by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone.