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My First Workshop with Joanna Macy

Well, spending two days with Joanna and participating in the exercises she lead was wonderful. I loved being around all the people, getting to know some of them and generally doing more crying, hugging and looking at people in a deeply engaged and appreciative way. The permission to really connect with each other was, for me, a wonderful tonic. I love people and am rarely in a situation where I can connect deeply, what a great experience. Joanna took us through the four stages of the work that reconnects, coming from gratitude, honoring our pain in the world, seeing with new eyes, and going forth. The people were so interesting and intense, we are all part of the Great Turning, the early adopters and change agents of the edge of a wave of the planet’s push toward preserving it’s living vibrancy, diversity, and the kind of stability required to continue building ever more complex forms of life.

I loved connecting, hugging and crying when speaking from the depths of our passion and pain. I began to get more comfortable as time went on and spoke my truth form a place I never get to speak from. I got to dance. I’ve wanted to dance for months (I have been an almost completely non dancing person) and I got my chance, after a brief bit of self consciousness I started to warm up and after a while I was dancing with abandon, dancing the dance of being alive, the dance of gratitude and joy, amazing. I hope the amazing people who participated will show up on Joanna’s website after I launch it so we can see what develops. There are a lot of people I want to explore connecting with and learning from. I hope the delays I experienced yesterday don’t dissuade anyone from coming to the new site and connecting with each other, I would feel real bad about that.

I was reading Joanna’s book on dependent co-arising and systems theory before the workshop and had seen the beauty, applicability, and transformational quality of applying it to situations when I saw the linear causal model underlying my assumptions but I was not clear about the implications of the model for my awareness of time. It became clear on the drive out to Commonweal for the workshop that past, present, and future arise co-dependently, are always arising co-dependently in our lives. During the workshop it became clear that we, those of us in the workshop and everyone else, are always changing the past – present – future all at once via our act of choosing and living. Those of us on the leading edge of the wave of change Joanna calls the Great Turning are envisioning and enacting a future that involves our transformation of the past (everything we have been and the momentum of that) – present (what we are choosing to do now and the momentum of that) – future (what we envision as the future and are trying to bring about and the momentum of that). I was able to voice this in one of our groups and I felt it resonate in some of the people in the group. There is great power in re-envisioning time from a point of view of dependent co-arising as a causal model.

Another powerful piece of the non linear, systems, causal model is that the inability to know the full effect of your actions is inherent in it. The vast inter-networked, interconnectedness of all things, means that as we change the past – present – future with our choices and actions the full effect of it can never be perceived. This is a better way of seeing the nature of our conscious attempts to do our part in changing things from a culture of self consumptive destruction to a culture of self sustaining, self replenishing, participation in support of the continued growth of our larger living self (the all inclusive living world). An interaction with someone actually becomes part of the persons ongoing transformation of past – present – future and can have a lasting effect as it combines with the other ongoing transformations of that persons life. You could never see the full effect on that person, much less the effects that spread from that person throughout their network of relations and actions. I don’t like the Buddhist language when they advise that you become detached from the results of your actions, none of us are ever detached from anything, but I would rephrase it by advising we release the need to know the full effect of our actions into the great process of the web of life that we can never fully comprehend but that we can gratefully participate in. This allows me to more fully leap into changing my past – present – future and intentionally flowing that into my world of relations in a more robust way.

Finally in the going forth part of the workshop I was struck by Joanna’s description of Sardova, probably spelled wrong, of loving kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others and peace. That is how all of are when we are doing well. This ability has been a big part of my life since my spiritual experience as a 12 year old and it was delightful to hear it spelled out so clearly and publicly. I feel this as a great support to maximize my time spent in this disposition as a conscious practice of what came so effortlessly for several weeks back when I was 12. The other thing was the future begin exercise where a human 200 years into the future was talking to us in the present. Joanna supplied the voice of the future and we sat in front of each other one being the representation of the future begin, the other being their present day self. This was extremely powerful, I’ll say more about it later.

Joana was amazing! So deep, smart, and utterly present. I am at a loss for words in describing how beautiful she is and how masterful. She is the real deal. She lived the wisdom she teaches and made the whole weekend about the greater self, we became the greater self animated in human form under her both tender and forceful urging. She was still somewhat sick from a bout of flu but handled it with grace, wisdom, and fierce commitment to the whole of life which intimately included everyone in the workshop this weekend.

Coming back home and back into all my familiar responsibilities was a shock but I am doing ok with it. This morning I started to let myself feel the discomfort I feel about the objectification of nature. I acknowledged my discomfort and it lead to something unexpected, a visceral realization that i am nature, not something different than, not something separate from, but I am nature speaking, knowing, choosing, acting, existing in a state of ever-becoming. This has been lurking as a discomfort for quite a while and I am glad I allowed it to speak to me. I am nature. Everything is nature. Nature isn’t just the animals and plants, it is everything together and that is the dynamic living process we all are. The knowledge, deep, real, undeniable arose in me, i am nature. The other thing that is that as nature I am self correcting. So enacting that and seeing where it takes me is what the weekend was about, I am nature, we are nature.

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