The Work That Reconnects maps a process that helps us build motivation, creativity, courage, and solidarity for the transition to a sustainable human culture. The sequence works as a spiral because it repeats itself. The spiral can take place over the course of a day, a project, or a lifetime. We come back to it again and again as a source of strength and fresh perspectives.
1. COMING FROM GRATITUDE
To be alive in this beautiful, self-organizing universe—to participate in the dance of life with senses to perceive it, lungs that breathe it, organs that draw nourishment from it—is a wonder beyond words. The spiral begins with gratitude because that quiets the frantic mind and grounds us, stimulating our empathy and confidence. It helps us to be more fully present and opens psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world. There are many practices that we can use to strengthen our sense of gratitude. Even the simple act of naming the things we love about being alive can help us as we move from gratitude to honoring our pain for the world.
2. HONORING OUR PAIN
This is a dark time, filled with suffering and uncertainty. Like living cells in a larger body, it is natural that we feel the trauma of our world. So don’t be afraid of the anguish you feel, or the anger or fear, because these responses arise from the depth of your caring and the truth of your interconnectedness with all beings. “To suffer with” is the literal meaning of compassion. For each person the process of honoring our pain involves acknowledging our despair for the world, validating it as a wholesome response to the present crisis, letting ourselves experience the pain, and acknowledging it with others, recognizing that we are not alone.
3. SEEING WITH NEW EYES
Out of this darkness a new world can arise. Even though we cannot see clearly how it’s going to turn out, we are still called to let the future into our imagination. We will never be able to build what we have not first cherished in our hearts. We can sense how intimately and inextricably we are related to all that is. We can taste our own power to change, and feel the texture of our living connections with past and future generations, and with our brother and sister species. For individuals this shift to seeing with new eyes arrives in different ways at different times. You can’t force it to happen, but it will come naturally as a result of doing the work of gratitude practices, honoring our pain, and experiencing our interconnectedness with the world.
4. GOING FORTH
We go forth into the actions that call each of us, according to our situation, gifts, and limitations. Many people don’t get involved in the healing of our world because there are so many different issues that seem to compete with each other. Shall I save the whales or help battered children? The truth is that all aspects of the current crisis reflect the same mistake: setting ourselves apart and using others for our gain. So to heal one aspect helps the others to heal as well. Just find what you love to work on and take joy in that. Never try to do it alone. Link up with others; you’ll spark each other’s ideas and sustain each other’s energy. 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 is helpful to go forth by stating a particular action or path you intend to pursue to others, and receiving their blessings in return. This way you can carry the support of others in your intentions to heal our world.
I vow to myself and to each of you:
To commit myself daily to the healing of our world and the welfare of all beings.
To live on earth more lightly and less violently in the food, products, and energy I consume.
To draw strength and guidance from the living earth, the ancestors, the future beings, and my brothers and sisters of all species.
To support others in their work for the world and to ask for help when I feel the need.
To pursue a daily spiritual practice that clarifies my mind, strengthens my heart, and supports me in observing these vows.
– Joanna Macy and Sam Mowe