Our circle gathered in the outdoor pavilion, surrounded by constant birdsong and the shade of massive trees. Knee to knee with a new friend, I listened for the sentence stem I was supposed to complete: “Something I love about being alive at this time is….” My long list of responses surprised me because I’ve been so overwhelmed by feelings of frustration with the political trajectory of our country. I felt a wave of relief to be able to focus on the beauty and bounty of our world. And I was delighted by my partner’s answers, too, noting how many things we shared in common while appreciating the things that were distinctive based on our interests. We had begun our journey together by remembering our gratitude for life. This was the auspicious beginning of a 10-day Intensive in a body of practices called the Work that Reconnects.
From May 25-June 3, we gathered at the stone house in Mebane, NC, to learn from pioneering eco-philosopher and activist, Joanna Macy. Developed by Joanna and her colleagues over the course of forty years, the Work encompasses a transformative process that builds personal and communal resilience. Our group included 51 people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and identities; our ages spanned 7 decades! Through deep dialogue, ritual and personal reflection, we learned how to face the enormous uncertainty of this historical moment without succumbing to panic or paralysis.
As the network weaver of EMERGE–Spirit in Action’s newest network focused on healing the divides between various ecological movements–I saw the Intensive as a vital opportunity to build the kinds of deep relationships and group skills that are necessary for our very survival. Too often in our movements, we swallow heartbreak without stopping to bear witness to one another. In order to become resilient in the face of ecological and social upheaval, we must cultivate spaces for authentic connection, information dissemination and community building among diverse groups.
I am deeply grateful to Joanna Macy, her staff, the local organizing committee, the stone house staff, the donors and all the participants who made the Intensive extraordinary. I am filled with a sense of possibility as the Intensive gives birth to ongoing local and regional gatherings–“Resilience Hubs”— that will support activists to find respite and enable non-activists to learn meaningful ways to engage in issues that impact us all. We will continue to strengthen our connections that stoke the fire of positive social transformation.