THE WORK THAT RECONNECTS IS A FORM OF GROUP WORK DESIGNED TO FOSTER THE DESIRE AND ABILITY TO TAKE PART IN THE HEALING OF OUR WORLD.
Since its inception in the late 1970’s, it has helped countless thousands of people around the globe find solidarity and courage to act despite rapidly worsening social and ecological conditions.
This work is also known as Deep Ecology Work (as in Germany, Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan), Active Hope (as in Japan) and Despair and Empowerment Work (as it was known in its first years).
This work can be done alone and has enriched many individual lives, but it is designed for groups. Its effect is deeper and more enduring when experienced interactively with others, for its approach is improvisational and its impact is synergistic.
The Work that Reconnects has been developed over several decades by Joanna Macy, John Seed, Molly Young Brown with the help of Arne Næss and many others. Drawing upon their inspiring lead it is now being developed and facilitated across many continents by a wide range of facilitators.
The Work That Reconnects is informed by Deep Ecology, systems thinking, Gaia theory, and spiritual traditions (especially Buddhist and indigenous teachings), psychology, as well as group wisdom from earlier workshops. Common to all of these is a non-linear view of reality. It illuminates the mutuality at play in self-organizing systems, and unleashes the power of reciprocity.
Furthermore, central to our use of systems thinking and the Buddha Dharma is the recognition that self-reflexive consciousness is a function of choice-making. Whatever the limitations of our life, we are still free to choose which version of reality –or story about our world– we value and want to serve. We can choose to align with business as usual, the unraveling of living systems, or the creation of a life-sustaining society.
About the facilitator/s
Martin Reinholtz is a facilitator for the Work That Reconnects network, living in Oslo (Norway), and has facilitated purpose driven workshops and trainings for the past years, centered on community and organisational development. Finding resonance in the transformational capacity of the WTR.
Lately he has mostly been supporting and building grassroots activist movements. After working in leadership positions in Norwegian business life for over 10 years, Martin has stepwise, part- to full time chosen the path of environmental activism and climate justice for the last decade. Faceing and experiencing first hand, the mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that comes with bearing witness and taking prolonged non-violent direct action to stop eco-system destruction. His activism has led him to stopping several oil-rigs in the barents sea, protesting nuclear power plants in europe, and blocking bridges in Bulgaria.
Continuing with organisational and community development, he has studied systems theory, innovation, regenerative leadership, meditation, organisational psychology and ethics. Recently finishing a thesis on "Open Space Technology", the importance of eco-facilitation, and a living systems approach in Norwegian environmental volunteer organisations.
Would you like to request a workshop online, or in person? Would you like to be listed as a facilitator on this page and help develop the work together? Please send me an email.
Katharine Burke is a teacher, teacher trainer, deep ecologist, permaculturist and regenerative design practitioner. I am involved in the Work that Reconnects through the Small Earth Institute, whose aim is to nurture Earth appreciation and promote deep ecology initiatives in social systems, especially schools. I run wellness weekends at our permaculture farm, where the emphasis is wellness (wholeness) through deep time walks, through re-connection to nature and through the spiral and practices of The Work that Reconnects.
Katharine teaches high school, but has taught all levels from elementary to college, and is in herwork right now targeting teachers and schools administration. "I fervently believe if we can change the way teachers interact and connect with the Earth, we can help them bring the nourishment of the re-connected self, Earth awareness and Earth appreciation into schools and to children who can grow up re-connected".
She can be reached at: Dennelillejord@gmail.com
Structure of the Work
The experiential work follows a spiral sequence flowing through four stages beginning with gratitude, then, honoring our pain for the world, seeing with fresh eyes, and finally, going forth.
These consecutive stages reflect a natural sequence common to psychological growth and spiritual transformation. The Spiral is like a fractal, governing the overall structure of the workshop while also arising in its component parts. Within a given workshop, we can move through the Spiral more than once, and become aware that with every cycling through, each stage can yield new and deeper meanings.
The critical passage or hinge of the workshop happens when, instead of privatizing, repressing and pathologizing our pain for the world (be it fear, grief, outrage or despair), we honor it. We learn to re-frame it as suffering-with or compassion. This brings us back to life.
The Workshop is participant centered and invites to work through and develop their own voice. With activities that match each group individually, from mindfulness training to speaking the truth about the current ecological crisis.
Each part of the workshop is put together to both get participants to interact physically and verbally with each other to develop a shared sense of compassion and understanding of self that leads to taking action individually and as a group.
The work was built with the primary goal of helping activists recover from burn out and inspire communities to take action. But can be adapted to organizations that wish to make a impact on the climate crisis. In the later years the work has been developed to greatly include work with undoing oppression / decolonisation and working with communities of color. To help heal the deep-rooted divide.
The transformation of consciousness and the development of an ecological sensibility lie at the heart of a sustainable future.
Drawing on the teachings of deep ecology, systems sciences, and the Dharma, the “Work that Reconnects” comprises tools and practices which offer key insights into how we can work together to support a shift in our hearts and minds, our lives and our society that is truly life-sustaining.
Individual and group exercises, meditation, discussion, and reflection, engage the body, heart, imagination and intellect to explore how we can transform these insights and understandings into a lived reality – from the spiritual to the social, the political to the personal, and the imaginative to the inspirational!
Workshops have varied in length from an evening to a full lunar cycle.
From the first public workshop in 1978 it has been the aim of the Work to help people trust their raw experience and give voice to what they see and feel is happening to their world. Its interactive exercises frequently involve role-play and a shift in assumed identity; the Work aims to engage and expand people’s moral imagination, bringing wider perspectives on our world, while fostering both compassion and creativity.
Honoring our Pain
A Deeper Sense of Time
The Work that Reconnects includes despair work through which we discover how our pain for the world and each other actually reveals our interconnectedness and can become a source which energises our action on behalf of the world.
Joanna Macy suggests that “as a society, we are caught between a sense of impending apocalypse and the fear of acknowledging it. In this 'caught' place our responses are blocked and confused.” She thinks we are leading 'double lives': “On one level we maintain a more or less upbeat capacity to carry on as usual…. and all the while, underneath, there is this inchoate knowledge that our world could go at any moment.
Awesome and unprecedented in the history of humanity, it lurks there, with an anguish beyond the naming. Unless we find ways of acknowledging and integrating that level of anguished awareness, we repress it; and with that repression, we are drained of the energy we need for action and clear thinking.”
The work also supports us in opening up to a deeper awareness of time. Liberating ourselves from the alienation of ever shorter attention spans and the need for immediate results, we can weave ourselves into a deep time awareness.
From that, we learn to draw on the strengths of the ancestors and keep in heart the future beings who will come after us. This deep time context both strengthens us and helps us to engage wholeheartedly in a process of change in the world that has a long precedent before us and will continue beyond our own individual lifetimes.
Similarly, the work offer tools to help us to heal our alienation from the biosphere, the rich community of beings with which we share the planet and our evolutionary heritage.
In opening up our ecological consciousness this identification with the community of life also is also a source of nourishment and strength. We can find great joy and inspiration in this renewed solidarity with life.
Moving into action
Taking the compassion in the the found view of life and the courage in speaking the truth of the state of our world. We go forth into the actions that call each of us, according to our situation, gifts, and limitations.
With others whenever and wherever possible, we set a target, lay a plan, step out. We don’t wait for a blueprint or fail-proof scheme, for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities.
Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and the lessons we learned.