Joanna Macy: The Work that Reconnects

Jack Choules is a member of The Haven staff, working in the maintenance department. Here he writes about his experience of Joanna Macy’s recent workshop at The Haven.

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Lecture (Friday October 9th 2009)

She’s smaller than I expected ­ maybe five feet tall and small-boned and yet her enormous spirit filled the Phoenix Auditorium .  No notes, no slides, no theatrics.  Just one very authentic human being with a simple message ­ our present way of life is unsustainable.  Our current levels of production and consumption are killing the  planet and we can’t wait for governments or industry to respond to the crisis.  It therefore falls to each of us, whoever we are, wherever we are, to take action, to take personal responsibility for creating a sustainable world.  Personal responsibility.  Where have I heard that before?  LOL.

“Breathe in the Pain….” (Saturday Oct 10th)

Today Joanna invited us to think about gratitude and grief.  Gratitude for the things we love.  Grief for the things we miss, the things we fear we will one day miss.  I felt… I feel…tremendous gratitude for those I love ­ for Diane,  my family, friends and colleagues.  And I’m deeply grateful for the places that lift my spirit: the Haven under a blanket of newly fallen snow; Prince Edward County during a lush Ontario spring; the grasslands near Kamloops during a hot BC summer; and Parc Gatineau in Quebec when all the leaves are brilliant reds, oranges and yellows.  My heart fills with love when I think of these people and these places ­ but also with fear when I think one day that I might lose them.

Our session today ended with a group song:

“Breathe in the pain,
right on through the core,
let my heart be the place,
where the world is changed…forever.”

Seeing with New Eyes (Sunday Oct 11th)

Last night I dreamed of death and despoliation. I felt blood in my mouth; smelled smoke in the air.  This morning Joanna talked about how to avoid becoming trapped in despair, how to avoid feeling helpless.  The key for me was taking action. But how to help create a sustainable world in face of the tremendous momentum of industrial capitalism? Here Joanna offered us two important insights ­ change our view of power from “power over” something or someone to a “power with” relationship where the power of two or more people is enhanced through synergistic collaboration.  Her other insight was to change the scale over which we measure time ­ from months and years to generations.

Seven generations have passed since the industrial revolution began to threaten the sustainability of the planet, and it will take at least another seven generations to restore the balance.  I find it interesting that knowing that it will take at least seven generations to heal the world doesn’t seem to lessen my sense of responsibility for doing omething…now.

This Moment (Monday Oct 12th)

This morning we talked about what we were going to do to help create a sustainable world and what’s holding us back.  I talked about my interest in starting a water consulting business ­ helping clients in rural areas determine their fresh water needs and then helping them develop a system of rain water collectors, wells and cisterns to meet their needs in a sustainable way.  The way I imagined the consultancy was on a big scale with an office, computer software, vehicles etc. and among the obstacles  that I foresaw was the huge amount of effort required to get a new business up and running.  Some of the feedback that I got (and that I gave myself) was that the consultancy could be on a much more modest scale. I could do it and still enjoy a personal life.  Need to think about this.

This has been an amazing weekend full of laughter, loving, tears and song (lots and lots of song). I am left with a deep sense of responsibility to this planet and the beings who live on it as well as a much stronger sense of how I am going to help create a more sustainable world (and have fun doing it).

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