Work that Reconnects

I attended a workshop on Saturday called, "The Work that Reconnects," created by Joanna Macy. http://www.joannamacy.net/theworkthatreconnects/goals.html

My recent meeting with the local Transition Towns (TT) "Heart and Soul" group in Albany led me to this workshop, and I left feeling excited about potential of these exercises to empower and build local community. On a personal level, I feel excited about working with these people toward TT goals and that this collaboration might be really fun and fulfilling!

A little more about my experience: The exercises were really deep and engaging and led us into asking deep questions of one another. It was amazing to me what was revealed in such a short time in some of the partner activities, leaving you feeling like you really got a sense of who the person is, of their fundamental life experiences and what shapes them.

Some of the dialogue questions included asking about the person who most gave you a sense of your own worth, about a significant place from your childhood, what you love about nature/earth, and your feelings about what is happening now with the earth and other things - all very rich.

In one of the following exercises, we created a "Truth Mandala" with four corners: leaves representing grief, a bowl for emptiness, a sturdy stick for anger, and a stone for fear. We took turns visiting the corners and speaking to one or more of these emotions. I felt honored and amazed to witness others’ emotional expression, which I experienced as authentic, truthful, and without embellishment or prettying up.

I shared about grief about the current work situation in world: how limited it is and how people are expected to fit into little boxes/niches and are not nurtured and guided to express their true essence/gifts. How wounding shallow judgments can be, such as the judgment that not enough status or money=a meaningless life etc.

The grief started on a personal level stemming from recent conversations with my father and the subsequent emotional shift I've already talked about to fully claim my life and my own identity. . .but also expanded out to recognize the way our system fails so many people, fails to value and capture everyone's gifts, all of which are needed as we evolve to become a stronger, more sustainable (and humane) community/society. I felt safe to let go and openly express those things.

The final exercise we did was in triads, in which each group rotated roles with one person representing themselves and sharing their intention going forward, then alternately expressing their "voice of doubt". The second person spoke from the role of the first person's ancestor, and the third person spoke to them from the voice of a "future being".

Through this exercise, I was reassured that my gifts (counseling, training, creativity) are very much needed and was told the pill to relieve constipated creative expression is FAITH in my gifts. I need to nurture and water the seeds so they can continue to grow. The future being told me that a combination of my gifts is key and that they will be useful, especially counseling, in coming times.

Later, one of my group members, Eva, offered an idea that had really worked for her cousin about volunteering leading to a perfect wonderful job for them and also a networking opportunity with her son who teaches theatre at Berkeley high school. She said he’s gone in the schools and done some social change/socially relevant plays and explorative curriculum with the students, which sounds cool.

You never know where networking may lead. They invited me to a showing of the film, "The Economics of happiness," at their house, which I’m interested in attending and will likely have a chance to talk with their son then.

A last point: I am grateful for the facilitator, Anne, and the way she utilized her own relevant life stories and shared from her heart. She really created a sense of safety for the group.

*Side note: Synergistically, in sharing about this workshop with some ecstatic dance friends on Sunday, I think I may have found a volunteer opportunity providing career counseling services for parolees through a county mental health organization!


  1. Wow! You've got a lot on your plate. I've never been good at workshops of any kind. I really struggle with them; when I was in grad school for school counseling, I couldn't even do a trust fall. It's funny though that if I sit down with one or a few people, I can really open up to them. I'll be reading to see the next step.
    P.S. In college I volunteered at a halfway house for people coming out of prison.

  2. Hi Nell, you're my first comment! :-) I'm excited. hee hee
    I'm generally like that too about feeling comfortable in smaller groups, I think that's an introvert trait on the Myers-Briggs. This group had 14 people but felt more intimate and safe. Thanks for reading!
    -curious if you enjoyed work at halfway house or what was biggest challenge about working with that population. I've worked with youth in juvenile justice system but not adults. . .

  3. I'm with Nell... I have a hard time with workshops and it takes me a while to warm up. It sounds like this was a really interesting one though!