Last month, four of NELA Transition’s members participated in a Joanna Macy workshop entitled “The Work that Reconnects”. Joanna Macy (center in the photo above) is a renowned eco-philosopher and Buddhist, who for the last thirty years has been giving experiential “deep ecology” workshops. Her words are rich with wisdom, vision, connection, and a powerful positive intention. The workshop is honed to transform the consciousness of participants. Joanna weaves talks about her own experiences with exercises, meditations, processes, poetry, and music. She synthesizes ideas about the depths of time, indigenous cultures and spirituality in ways that are stunning. All with a depth of knowledge and feeling; yet she is very humble.
The journey toward finding a personal way to contribute to the healing of the planet follows what she describes as “The Spiral”; starting from gratitude for all lifeforms on earth, moving to feeling pain for the world, for the devastation we have caused, then on to seeing with new eyes, visioning a possible world, and finally going forth with a personal commitment for specific action that contributes to planetary healing. The work contributes to the inner shift in consciousness that is “The Great Turning”.
It was a wonderful three-day experience. …
An important component [of her teachings] is her explanation of the term bodhichitta, the mind that continually strives toward awakening and compassion for the benefit of all sentient beings. It is a universal intent and guide that can pervade communities. [To illustrate,] Joanna shared a beautiful musical piece that began with a scattered heartbeat, like the busy-ness of the day’s activities, some quicker, some cheerful, some melancholic; and after a minute then entered a cello drone over all – a steady, peaceful, connecting tone that held the heartbeat melody together. For me this was a beautiful artistic demonstration to explain an elusive concept. I was brought to tears at this moment. I will use this to remind myself to pay attention to Bodhichitta within me. I am newly inspired.
One of the wonderful things that occurred … was the communication we experienced as a group … broke into a series of ever-deepening levels: Joanna speaking to us to lay out the parameters of the work, Joanna or her assistant Aries speaking with us as we did the work, [the] verbal communication between [us] as we did the work, [the] non-verbal communication as we began to transcend the work, [and] Joanna helping us to look at the next step in the journey to bring these practices to our communities.
Joanna likened this progression as the communication between species, a connecting with Gaia, god, cosmic consciousness. This sounds totally airy-fairy, but works in mysteriously profound ways. And it all gets back to extremely simple techniques that anyone can practice, i.e. being present through the breath and listening deeply.
Joanna offered us a wealth of material to bring back home for practice in our communities: exercises, songs, meditations and "The Elm Dance" … By participating, I found a renewed sense of purpose and dedication. The weekend left me relaxed and energized. And I am so grateful.
It was really a pleasure for me to be in the presence of someone who has been thinking about and living in the idea of the “Great Turning” since way before Transition Towns existed. Joanna started doing these workshops in the 1980's but has been working on these ideas probably since the 1960's, and possibly longer than that.
It was great to watch her work. Someone who has been working in a subject for decades [and] has such a command and mastery of that subject. It is really beautiful to watch her and be with her. When have you ever seen an 83 year old teaching twenty people dance steps, and then doing the dance with us? … she is the most vibrant 83 year old I've ever seen.
I would describe her workshop as a chance to reconnect to spirit. … We are all connected through spirit. It is only the industrial growth society and deeper issues that we grew up with that cements the illusion of separation. When people get this connection, they can understand that Gaia speaks through all of us. With that shift in consciousness, transitioning to a new way of being on Earth is possible.
Getting this concept is hard though. It comes from being in a heart space (feeling) rather than being in your head (thinking). The workshop is about creating opportunities for people to move into their heart space. Once there, it is much easier to grasp the connectedness of all beings.
Much food for thought, and passion for action.
Stay tuned! It will be a wonderful way to spend a day!
–Therese, David, January, & Qrys