Dandelion drawing shaped as a spiral with the words: gratitude, seeing with new eyes, honoring our pain, seeing with new eyes, going forth

Practices for Hope & Connection in the New Year

Among the many resolutions and commitments being made this week, here is one of many visions that is possible for this coming year:

In 2018, more people will become conscious and awakened to the realities of the pain in our world.

Rather than turning away to the many distractions of our time, they will find ways to honor this pain while remaining hopeful and connected to themselves, their local and global communities, and the natural world.

In doing so, these conscious and connected people–including you–will be able to participate meaningfully in healing our world.

What can we do to participate in this vision? In celebration of the new year, we’re sharing two simple practices from The Work That Reconnects so that we can honor the world’s pain without turning away.

The Work That Reconnects

People standing in a tight circle with hands stretched up to the sky

If this is your first introduction to The Work That Reconnects, please read these short articles about the Foundations of the Work, the Spiral, and the Great Turning. It is a body of work developed by Joanna Macy and others.

“The central purpose of the Work That Reconnects is to bring us back into relationship with each other and with the self-healing powers in the web of life, motivating and empowering us to reclaim our lives, our communities, and our planet from corporate and colonial rule” (The Work That Reconnects).

Many of the practices available online and in books like Coming Back to Life are written as group exercises, which is a powerful and deeply connecting way to explore this work. Some of the exercises are also easily adaptable to personal daily rituals, which are what we are sharing today.

Grounding in Gratitude

Gratitude is a simple yet profound practice, and it is where the Spiral of the Work That Reconnects begins. Expressing gratitude grounds us in what is already present in our lives.

It helps “quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to source, 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” (The Work That Reconnects).

A daily gratitude practice can take many forms, from simply thinking of what one is grateful for, to writing about it in a journal, to sharing it with others.

Practice One: Expressing Gratitude through Open Sentences

One of the practices from The Work That Reconnects that can be adapted to different forms is Open Sentences, in which you use an open-ended sentence as a prompt for exploration.

Here are a few open sentence gratitude prompts from The Work That Reconnects website that you can share with yourself, your journal, or a partner. You can also create your own! Spend at least two minutes on each sentence, allowing yourself to go deeper than you might initially think possible. If you’re journaling, just keep writing whatever comes up. You can always edit later if you wish, or you can treat this journaling practice as a way of processing and letting go.

Some things I love about being alive on Earth are…

A place that was magical (or wonderful) to me as a child was…

A person who helped me believe in myself is or was…

Some things I enjoy doing and making are…

Some things I appreciate about myself are…  (This one always comes last so people can work up to it.)

About The Spiral

The Spiral is a way of conceptualizing The Work That Reconnects: “Over the years, Joanna and her colleagues have come to see the Work That Reconnects as occurring in a spiral, mapping a journey through four successive stages: Coming from Gratitude, Honoring our Pain for the World, Seeing with New Eyes, and Going Forth.

“These four stages support one another, and work best when experienced in sequence. They help us experience first hand that we are larger, stronger, deeper, and more creative than we have been brought up to believe.

“The spiral is fractal in nature. The sequence can repeat itself in ever new ways, and even within a particular stage of the spiral.  The spiral can be discerned over the span of a lifetime or a project, and it can also happen in a day or several times a day. We come back to it again and again as a source of strength and fresh perspectives” (The Work That Reconnects).

Practice Two: Journaling the Spiral

Dandelion drawing shaped as a spiral with the words: gratitude, seeing with new eyes, honoring our pain, seeing with new eyes, going forth
Art by Dori Midnight

This second practice of journaling along the Spiral was shared in one of our permaculture courses by our friend Della Duncan, economist, teacher, broadcast journalist, artist, and social philosopher. Essentially, you structure a daily journal entry by answering the following questions, following the Spiral:

1. Coming from Gratitude: What am I grateful for today? You can explore this by using the open sentences from practice one, or keep it simple by writing just a few words to help ground you in gratitude.

2. Honoring Our Pain for the World: What pain in the world am I honoring today? This can be something from your personal life that is causing you pain that you need to honor and process, or it can be something from the local or global news.

A practice within a practice: Honoring pain includes experiencing it, facing it, and then allowing yourself to release it so that it cannot consume you. A simple practice for this is to breathe in deeply and imagine the pain entering your lungs through your breath. As you continue to slowly breathe in, imagine the pain circling through one lung, then the other. As you breathe out, imagine the pain being released so that you can move forward.

3. Seeing with New Eyes: What is something that I recently learned, saw differently, came to understand in a new way that I want to bring into my day today? Sometimes this part of the journal entry emerges in response to what you wrote in the two stages above; other times, it’s something you have recently wanted to do or see differently in your life. Either way, it’s an opportunity to bring a personal reminder into your day to help set the tone.

4. Going Forth: How will I go forth into my day, according to my unique situation, gifts, and limitations? What are the tasks, goals, or actions I plan to accomplish today? What’s on my to-do list?

This journal practice can become a daily ritual that is adaptable to the fluctuations in your daily life. On days when you have more time, you can go deeper into one or all of the stages. On days when you have less time for this practice, you can explore each stage with simply a few bullet points.

Learn More

If you are new to The Work That Reconnects, reviewing the website in depth or reading one of the books will help deepen your understanding and experience of each of these practices. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess we’re in without Going Crazy is a great book to start with if you’re interested in learning more. Santa Cruz Permaculture also offers courses in The Work That Reconnects – see our current offerings, sign up for our newsletter, or email us for more information.

Start Today

However, we are each capable of asking ourselves these questions without any prior training. You can start today, right now, to explore deeper connections in your life in 2018 and discover your unique role in the Great Turning.

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