Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Joanna Macy: A Letter To Us All

I am so excited to see Joanna Macy, who is now 88, when she will come to Portland in August. Meanwhile, this great teacher's wisdom is available to all through her books, articles, and teachings which span a lifetime. This letter from Joanna that I share below is from last November, but remains deeply relevant today. Blessed are those who devote their lives to the "work that reconnects." May we each be inspired and connect! - Molly

Dear People
Thanksgiving Day 2016
I know many of you hoped  to hear from me sooner, and I have been trying to write.  I labored over three letters and tossed each of them, because they did not begin to do justice to the situation we’re in. They sounded either hysterical or flat.
I’ve been asking myself: How can I be honest and not spread fear? How do I say “game over” when we mustn’t give up?
Maybe the game that’s over is the pretense of normalcy. Maybe what’s over is the delusion that with millions of souls already in prison, with millions of undocumented already deported, with over half of America already in poverty, the rest of us can stay so preoccupied with our personal pursuits.  Perhaps what’s finished is the fantasy that we can find ourselves without taking our suffering seriously.
Now, a triumphant Trump brings into the spotlight at stage center those who have been waiting in the wings: the lords of coal and oil, the masters of surveillance, the white supremacists, the war-ready generals, those eager to rule the bodies of women.
So it is good that we reach for each other, find our strength and our sanity in each other.  It is good that the churches are filling again, and places of worship choose to be sanctuaries for the hated and hunted.
I rejoice that many of you are gathering people together in your own communities, schools, and workplaces, so they can share their thoughts and feelings.  Some of you are inviting people to talk and hear each other;  some of you are offering processes from the Work That Reconnects, such as Open Sentences and Breathing Through and the Truth Mandala.  This is not only rewarding, it’s essential.  For isolation and fear reinforce each other.
For myself, I turned yesterday to the Brahmaviharas or Four Abodes of the Buddha (loving kindness, compassion, joy in the joy of others, and equanimity), which we practice interactively in workshops as “Learning to See Each Other.”  I was experiencing another wave of fear, and in the midst of it I recalled the many times I heard myself say: “See, in the actual experience of these four abodes, there is no room for fear.”
That recollection helped me—and so did what happened with my eye doctor when I mentioned that wave of fear which  I was still feeling in my body.  For the first time in the years he’s been treating me, Dr. L. stopped what he was doing, pushed the door closed, and began speaking of himself and his life.  He conveyed the impact of Trump’s election on an American with Chinese parents, the stress on his wife who couldn’t eat for days, their children’s confusion and upset.  His friend, an American-born ethnic Chinese practicing medicine at the VA Hospital, was verbally attacked at the corner store for being a “Chink” who doesn’t belong in our country.
Once again I experienced it: how, when we open together to the suffering around us, we become more real to each other. Even in the midst of grief and fear, we are not alone.  The mystery at the core of our existence is that simple: we are held in a web of mutual belonging.
Because the world needs us right now to practice our values and step into our power, it’s good to make a list of priorities.  Here are some ingredients drawn from my own list:
  • - Meet weekly with a committed group to look deeply at what’s going on and share  responses.
  • - Join efforts to protect people who are targeted for harassment, arrest and deportation.
  • - Amp up support for movements opposing global warming and nuclear weapons, including support for the epochal resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.
  • - Read (preferably with others) books on creative mass nonviolence, such as Why Civil Resistance Works by Chenoweth and Stephan.
  • - Stay steady and faithful in your vows and your meditation practice.
  • - Share the Work That Reconnects!
Since this letter is accompanied by one from Anne Symens-Bucher, I would like to close by sharing a communication I made three months ago.  Addressing a group of facilitators who were meeting to focus on the WTR Network, I wrote:
“Since I never created an organization for the Work That Reconnects, and chose to offer its theory and practices as a give-away and Open Source, I have no formal office to retire from, or pass on to a successor. But there is a person I do want to name now as one whose experience and vision I would ask you all to use and trust.  Anne has known the work for 32 years, and has assisted me on a daily basis and in many locations for almost 11 years. No one, other than I, is more familiar with its global spread and cast of characters.  I have come to believe that Anne's intuitive sense of best strategies for a coherent, bureaucracy-free organization is better than my own, and that our expanding network would be well served if she were seen as my “successor,” and consulted for her canny suggestions. What this will mean in practice is still unclear and will be sure to unfold, as emergent properties do!”
The next issue of Deep Times, the journal of our WTR community, will soon be out on-line.  Don’t miss its invigorating wealth of news and reflections from our brothers and sisters near and far.  Stay connected!
In grateful love and solidarity,
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