Joanna Macy: The Work That Reconnects (Part 1)

The newest episode of our university podcast, ‘Mindful U at Naropa University,’ is out on iTunesStitcher, Fireside, and Spotify now! We are honored to announce this week’s episode is the first of a two part series with special guest Joanna Macy, PhD, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology; and a visionary force in environmental activism for over five decades. Learn more about Joanna Macy’s work from the Joanna Macy Center at Naropa University.

 play-icon Joanna Macy, PhD: The Work That Reconnects (Part 1)

“You know what’s happened in our time is something quite certain. I’m thinking the middle of the 20th century on, is a realization on the part coming to us from science that the Earth is a living system…The ancient ones in all of the ancient traditions have carried that knowledge that we are in a larger living home. We belong there, and there are certain traditions, certain original instructions for living with reverence for this living home—to taste it, to hear it, the fragrance of it, the beauty of it for the eyes. This wonderful body that can take it in, and all the sudden you’re waking up into the most incredible garden of reality. It doesn’t feel and smell and look like a garden now with industrial wastelands and endless factories, but that our planet is alive, has become such an important anchor for me.”

Full transcript below.

Joanna Macy PhD, author and teacher, is a scholar of Buddhism, systems thinking, and deep ecology. A respected voice in movements for peace, justice, and ecology, she interweaves her scholarship with learnings from six decades of activism.

Her wide-ranging work addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and postmodern science. The many dimensions of this work are explored in her thirteen books, which include three volumes of poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke with translation and commentary.

As the root teacher of The Work That Reconnects, Joanna has created a ground-breaking framework for personal and social change, as well as a powerful workshop methodology for its application.

Based in Berkeley, California, close to her children and grandchildren, Joanna has spent many years in other lands and cultures, viewing movements for social change and exploring their roots in religious thought and practice.

Podcast host David DeVine and Joanna Macy, PhD.
Full transcript
Joanna Macy
The Work That Reconnects Part #1

[MUSIC]

Hello. And welcome to Mindful U at Naropa. A podcast presented by Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado.

I’m your host, David Devine. And itÕs a pleasure to welcome you. Joining the best of Eastern and Western educational traditions – Naropa is the birth place of the modern mindfulness movement.

[MUSIC]

DAVID:
Before this very special podcast gets started — I wanted to inform you that I traveled onsite to Berkeley, California to speak with Joanna Macy herself. While there we had such a beautiful connection and conversation. This is part one of a two part series. I hope you enjoy it. Thank you.

Hello. Today, I’d like to welcome a very special guest to the podcast — Joanna Macy. Joanna is an educator, a writer, a Buddhist practitioner, a speaker, a nuclear activist and her work has also taught at Naropa University in the Joanna Macy Center. I would also just like to give personal thanks to you for speaking with me. And I’d also just like to give personal thanks for the land in which we speak upon. And it is such an honor and a pleasure in this moment just to be speaking with you and thank you for having me. We’re both in Berkeley at this moment just having a beautiful conversation. How are you doing today?

JOANNA MACY:
I am so happy to see you David and to feel that we’re doing this for Naropa with Naropa. And my heart feels warm. And it’s also warm because of the way you thank the land. This is occupied (?) territory yes. And just in the last year there’s been incredibly growth of interest and awareness on the part of all the folks who’ve been here.

DAVID:
Yeah.

JOANNA MACY:
And it’s happening beautifully.

DAVID:
Mm hmm. Yeah, so I actually met you a couple years back working for Naropa. I was running the video and audio back then and I didn’t get to interview you, but I got to be in your presence. I got to see so many of your talks and you just have this inspirational way of flowing a conversation and just holding space — it was just so beautiful, and it just feels kind of surreal to me to be here in Berkeley to actually be speaking with you.

JOANNA MACY:
In my kitchen.

DAVID:
We’re hanging out in your kitchen. We got some tea.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah.

DAVID:
We’re just having a good time. So, thank you so much.

So, you have the Joanna Macy Center at Naropa and they’re teaching the work that you do with like the work that reconnects and nuclear activism and just involvement — understanding what is actually happening. What is it like having that program at a Buddhist inspired university for you?

JOANNA MACY:
Oh, it’s just wonderful. You know my initial fascination and appetite for Naropa started in — when I came out here to Boulder in ’78. So, my goodness that was 41 years ago.

DAVID:
Wow OK. And so that when it was proposed to me that I could have — there’d be a center for the work I do, and it was just such a blessing that seemed too good to be true because I have already been teaching in environmental studies there. I had already been there as a LENS scholar. I had had so much affection for that and so much gratitude that the Buddha Dharma — that ancient and ever new tradition was being brought where young people and people from all ages could enjoy it and feel its relevance to this time.

DAVID:
Yeah. Thank you for sharing.

So, I had this interesting idea when I was looking into the work that reconnects. I had this thought and I was like — what is it we are disconnected from and what is it we are reconnecting to? And I was kind of hoping maybe you can speak upon that?

JOANNA MACY:
Oh yes, we are rootless kind of in a way. We’re disconnected from our bodies. And so, it’s wonderful that Naropa has so much that courses that help people re-inhabit and reconnect with their senses. And then through that and through the meditations that ground you in your body to become curious and develop an appetite for knowing this world and to know it directly.

You know I think that the problems of our time — whether it’s economic problems and maybe climate all stems from a disconnection from the inside and the outside.

DAVID:
Yes.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. And that we’ve used modern technology and modern consumer society to create pleasures that distract us from the world. And also, so busy we get distracted. So Naropa and the Buddha Dharma help us get real with who we are. What’s passing through our minds. What’s obsessing us in a gentlest way to bring us back again and again to just be here — be with the wealth of this. And to see with fresh eyes the beauty of this world — slow down a little bit. And open our hearts as well to things we don’t want to see.

DAVID:
Yeah, there seems to be a lot of distractions out there. The distractions seem like they want to connect you, but they’re not there. Like you just said the buddha dharma is the really root connection — the connection of your heart, the connection to the land — and the connection to how we should be and not how we are.

JOANNA MACY:
That’s right!

DAVID:
So, with all this work how do you — I mean it seems pretty heavy to do. This isn’t an average work day to like hold activism, to hold sustainability, to hold the world in mind, to hold all beings in mind — so how do you balance a contemplative practice and the justice work? Where’s the resilience come from? How do you tend to sustain yourself?

JOANNA MACY:
Well is has to do with what you think the self is you.

DAVID:
I like that.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah because that’s where the Lord Buddha started too. Just to realize that what you think is — yourself is really often a torrent of appetites and responses and aches and pains and wishes and feelings of complaints and remorse — you know, and to come home to the gift of life. And until we do that it makes it much harder to protect life — the life of our planet.

DAVID:
Yes.

JOANNA MACY:
And we are enclosed in this little bundle of what the Buddha called the trap sort of — of greed and hatred and delusion and that those are fed to us by the media and they’re fed to us by the culture at large. And so, the Dharma welcomes us to come back to real life and in a variety of ways. I bet that’s just what’s still happening at Naropa. I feel it when I go there.

DAVID:
Yeah. Thank you for stating that. The fact that what is the self — you kind of made me realize the bigger self is all of us — it’s all things. And so, when we think about like how to sustain the self it might be a lot to hold mentally and maybe physically and emotionally and psychologically, but at the same time it’s a lot easier to do the work you’re talking about when it’s you’re doing the work for the self, which is everything around you as well. And it’s not this centralized being any anymore.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah, which is a bundle of often misapprehensions and — but, you know what’s happened in our time is something quite certain — I’m thinking of from the middle of the 20th century on — is a realization on the part coming to us from science that the Earth is a living system. And that the ancient ones and all of the ancient traditions and we’re all the Aboriginal roots of all of us — have carried that knowledge that we are in a larger living home. We belong there and there’s certain traditions — certain original instructions for living with reverence for this living home — to taste it, to hear it — the fragrance of it, the beauty of it — for the eyes. This wonderful body that can take it in and all the sudden you’re waking up into the most incredible garden of reality. While it doesn’t feel and smell and look like a garden now with industrial wastelands and endless factories, but that our planet is alive — is to become such an important anchor for me — you know David — that it’s — and that I live in a time when see before it was the Mystics perhaps, you know. They could feel that wider mystery — a living mystery around us. And now through Gaia hypothesis, but it’s not a hypothesis anymore it’s Gaia theory and it’s like these two great rivers of science and spirituality are flowing together to reassure us you belong to something ancient ever fresh, gorgeous and intelligent.

DAVID:
Yes. Yeah. And it’s those two rivers flowing together. I kind of hear like another river of action — of like the river of action. So, we have the knowledge and we have this sense of self and self of outer, but we need the forward movement and I feel like that’s what you do. You have that sense of forward movement. You’re like all right look here’s the facts — this is what’s happening. We need to straighten up now.

DAVID:
Yeah! Well that’s how you know you’re alive. You know you’re alive is when you see that there’s a choice and you take it. And that you know is something so and all the traditions point that out. But the Buddha Dharma — particularly the Tibetan tradition, you know, David when there’s that first of the preliminary reflections and the vatrianya(sp?) is to realize how rare and how precious is a human life? Well is that because humans are better? No. Are they because they’re superior? No, no then why is it so rare and so precious? And it’s because the humans can change the karma. Now you might say well now I think that other large brain brothers and sisters like the dolphins and the you know the sea mammals, the whales — they might do all that so — but this blessing of being able to choose.

And so you really come alive and you really feel connected to the larger intelligence that we’re part of when you can make a choice whether it’s by marching, whether it’s by digging, whether it’s by planting an organic garden, whether it’s by going to a hearing or going to right near Naropa — the right to know hearings around the taking action around a plutonium soaked acreage that they’ve set aside for a playground. No! Yeah, there’s so much that we can do and what I love about that is the feeling of solidarity with other people.

You know when you link arms with others and show up together and especially maybe when it’s a little risky — you become so grateful for each other and you feel so much respect for each other. That’s one of the sweetest things I’ve experienced as a human.

DAVID:
So, it’s probably like how you’re saying linking arms — that’s when the self gets bigger. Because you’re self-ing up with others. And I’m also hearing how the human life is precious not because we’re better, but because we have the ability to change karma. We have choice.

JOANNA MACY:
Yes!

DAVID:
And it’s not only choice — it’s our decisions really can impact what is happening around us whether it be mentally or physically — there’s like this internal, external choice and so what kind of kharmatic garden in which we’re planning — you know we want to be planting the garden that’s going to be fruitful for all generations and all animals.

JOANNA MACY:
Exactly! What version of reality do we want to get behind? And in the work that reconnects we can boil it down — of course there are endless varieties, but is basically is it business as usual? That is corporate worldwide — globalization. The last stages of the capitalism that are finding the huge profits in plastics and in coal and gas and in military hardware.

I mean the amount of military — the bombs, the tactical weapons — it’s staggering — staggering. It’s like the — what the Buddha warned of the poisons of aggression and greed they marry there and that industrial — military industrial complex. That — that’s just what he proposed the Buddha of what can absolutely totally enslave and distract us and then enslave us. So, well then, you’re working for an institution — working with it and a product of it that helps people discover choice. And that’s giving people a wider lens. It’s sharpening their senses. It’s bringing them to life.

DAVID:
Yes. You do the same thing. You’re giving people hope. You’re giving people choices. You’re letting them know what the choices are. And you bring to light some facts and you’re also giving us a strategy with the work that reconnects of how to make these choices and how to benefit all. And also like with the Joanna Macy Center at Naropa there’s another choice we can make. We can be educated in a way to move forward and make the decisions. And I really love hearing about that and I —

JOANNA MACY:
And that choice you — one make it is to dare to say, ok I’ll feel uncomfortable a little bit. I will not blind myself to the sources of suffering that we’re creating. I will not distract myself and I will keep the lid on my grief and my sorrow and my outrage at the way we’re treating the world and its people. I will not just keep a lid on my feelings or deciding that it’s our only pathologized them you know — that this is — must be because I have these feelings because I’m depressed or — but actually to experience — I know at Naropa that that’s a part of the work that reconnects that has been used quite a bit. One of the forms — that ritual of the truth mandala.

DAVID:
Yeah.

JOANNA MACY:
Where we’re facing together — the shit — excuse me. You can edit that out if you want.

DAVID:
I kind of like it.

JOANNA MACY:
That’s going on. Or even that we’re part of. And we’re stuck in a kind of powerlessness if we can’t see it and say it. Have you noticed how with that — that builds solidarity? People come out of hiding. Feeling the cool — not to seem to care. And then they realize what’s really cool is to show how much you care and in the expressions of sorrow and the expressions of outrage and anger and then we are letting the fracking continue that we are letting the children be stuck in their detention centers — that we are leaving so many people behind bars. That we have prisons that are a quarter of all the people imprisoned on the entire planet are here in our country. You know when you — LAUGHS — when look at some of these things going on — how can you — you have to really knock yourself with some kind of sedative not — to not feel upset.

DAVID:
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean just a jump on your bandwagon — giving a fuck is a good thing and that’s what we need to do. We need to actually actively care and — and move forward. LAUGHS

JOANNA MACY:
When we’re — when we’re doing — so that’s — but that isn’t the first thing we do. So, let’s go back a little bit — in the work that reconnects we start out because we follow a plotline. We call it the spiral because it moves in that spiral and you can keep — every time you come around you can feel it deeper and more liberating. But we always start with coming from gratitude because things are so scary today. I mean they really are. And we have a birthright to feel glad to be here. This is an incredible planet and we have this incredible body that can take it in, and they can choose, and a mouth that can speak and eyes they can see and ears they can hear and traditions we can draw from. Wow! What’s not to be thankful for that? And what’s not to be thankful for air that you can breathe even if it’s full of smoke like ours, but that we have these hearts that know how to treasure life and hearts that know how to break. We can be glad for that, you know. Because that’s what the bodhisattva does too. The bodhisattva is the boundless heart that not only can hear the birds singing in the highest heavens and the songs of the spheres, but also the cries from those depths of suffering. And that’s what a heart is for. So, we be grateful we have a heart and that puts ground under our feet.

DAVID:
Mm hmm. Yeah. We have the ability to feel the spectrum.

JOANNA MACY:
Yes!

DAVID:
…of everything. We’re not segregated to one emotion. And that is the beauty of being alive. I think there’s a way to allow your heart to break without being broken. And that’s the thing too is thatÕs what we’re developing is to be full, holistic people to be able to see the brokenness of the earth in the way of business, but yet not be broken and deactivated from moving forward.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. You know and I’ve come to believe is the heart that breaks so open can hold the whole universe. It’s that big.

DAVID:
Yes.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. But you know then what —

DAVID:
It’s a big heart.

JOANNA MACY:
But you know something else I’ve discovered is that gratitude is subversive.

DAVID:
Okay.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. It’s politically revolutionary. Now why? It’s because it undermines the industrial growth or capitalistic — consumer society. It undermines it because the consumer society is always conveying to us that we’re not enough. We need this. We need that. We don’t look right. We don’t smell right. We don’t drive the right kind of car. We don’t dress right. And we are made into feeling that we can never have enough or be enough. And so, we patrol the malls. So, to really feel glad to be here — undermines the late stage capitalism that would keep us shopping till we drop.

DAVID:
I don’t wanna do that. That doesn’t sound fun at all. It’s weird too because people might have this mindset of oh, I don’t have enough and they keep getting more, but they like have so much and they actually don’t — they don’t have the gift of seeing what they already have.

JOANNA MACY:
That’s right. And it’s sort of like that wonderful image from the Buddha Dharma of the hungry ghost. The hungry ghost who has so much appetite and so eager and so chained in needs desperately, but they’ve got a tiny little throat — you can hardly swallow what there is. So, there’s — lost the capacity to enjoy. Or gesticulating with our arms and our bodies of how they look like.

DAVID:
Oh man. So true. And we don’t want to be hungry ghosts. We’re not hungry ghosts. We’re humanity. We are life giving. We don’t need to keep buying things to have life. We are just continuous —

JOANNA MACY:
Rather let life flow through us because it’s a living planet and everything alive is open to change — births and passes on — all forms change. The ancestors are with us — we’ll be ancestors too, the river of life flows on and that’s how it becomes a place for laughter and song because you’re not trying to rigidly keep things the same. So then when you can — that gratitude puts a little grounding under your feet so that you can. What we were talking about before — feel secure enough and safe enough that you can look at what you’re carrying around all the time in this time of the great unraveling — there’s more inequality in our country today than can almost be measured. People being bled of support to take care of their children — being denied the capacity to take care of their bodies. Housing itself — their right to shelter being placed beyond them. And we feel that. I think everybody feels that in some — and oh, to be able to see it without fear —

DAVID:
That’s a difficult task too.

JOANNA MACY:
To not turn away.

DAVID:
Yeah yeah. To not be fearful. That’s a huge thing to learn. But we have to develop the self to be able to do that work.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. Well we just be glad to be here. We — to let ourselves be held — maybe that’s it. The gratitude helps you feel held by life. Are you feeling held right now?

DAVID:
I feel so held right now. It’s so good.

JOANNA MACY:
I do too. I feel held right now.

DAVID:
Awesome. So, one thing I’ve heard you say was the great unraveling — it’s kind of like I heard this one thing you said where it’s like you’re wearing a sweater and someone’s pulling the string and you’re just walking around the room not noticing. And it’s kind of like the emperor has no clothes or the politics have no clothes. They — they’re not really willing to look at the fact that it’s unraveling — you know because there’s — there’s product — it’s growth — growth all day. I like how you say growth and what? What are we talking about? Are we talking about growth in the well-being of the planet? Growth in the well-being of the nature, the animals, the humans, the livelihood of people? What are we growing in? It keeps going up, but what is it.

JOANNA MACY:
Yes, so we want to come home. We want to come home again to a life that has meaning and has connection. This is a country of competitive and lonely people. You know we are saddled with one of the most cruel experiments in the human journey — five centuries of hyper individualism where people have been isolated from each other and made competitive. That’s so pathetic. Our rulers, our governors — the political powers manipulate our fears so that we can be obedient. So, we are coming back to a time when we can rediscover what the Buddha and all these great traditions that we belong to each other and to this world.

DAVID:
Yes, couldn’t say it better than that. That’s so good. So what part of people do you think goes rotten when we turn our backs against humanity and how do you think we can recorrect that — like what is it inside a person that makes them go in a direction that is making these bad decisions and guiding masses of people —

JOANNA MACY:
So, I think we won’t — what we most need to hear in the leader — well there are two things. Remember that (?) had such a great teacher — that Zen master from Vietnam. I remember when he was asked about action and what do we most need to do for the sake of life? And I think that the ones who were asking him were thinking oh maybe he’s going to say stay on your cushion and meditate or run for office or join a barrack, get on the barricades — you know direct active disobedience. What is the best way? And do you remember what he said was what we most need to do for the healing of our world is to hear the earth crying inside of us. To hear within ourselves the sound of the earth crying. And that is what we are doing for ourselves and each other when we do what we call in the work that reconnects — honor our pain for the world. Now w does that mean? It’s there inside each of us. Sometimes it feels like despair. Sometimes it feels like anger. Sometimes it feels like overwhelm. Sometimes it’s being so scared you want to just crawl inside of the nearest knot hole and to not be afraid of that but to listen to that voice and also to listen to what makes sense deeply for you — what you ache for and you don’t ache to be the winner. You want to come home. You want to feel yourself part of a caring culture.

DAVID:
Developing the inner voice.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah.

DAVID:
And or allowing the channels of the inner voice to sing — to be awakened, to actually see what is in the root feeling.

JOANNA MACY:
So, then what happens then? One thing that happens is that you are feeling liberated from old constraints. And then also you feel a sense of connection because of that of what you’re speaking for. Because you’re suffering with your world. You recognize that you can — you are suffering with your world. Well, that’s the literal meaning of compassion — to suffer with. You are a compassionate being. And that’s the very definition of a bodhisattva. The hero of the Buddhist tradition.

DAVID:
Okay. Wow. you

JOANNA MACY:
The one with a boundless heart. The one who can act for others. The one who is not separate. So, then you realize this living Earth is perhaps what you really are — not separate from it.

DAVID:
Yes, the Earth is probably the biggest bodhisattva.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah right! Right!

DAVID:
All right, I had a question I was going to ask you, but you went bodhisattva so I’m going to ask my bodhisattva question.

So, I’ve heard you speak of a bodhisattva not only being someone who is spiritually enlightened and someone who is of great attainment in the world, but you also said of being a warrior — someone who shows up and willing to be actively involved and engaged in the world. Can you speak upon that more — like what does that actually mean to be a bodhisattva and to be engaged?

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah, well you can see that in ordinary living bodhisattvas or also in bodhisattvas who are like the archetypes. So, you think that with the celestial bodhisattva (?). That’s the bodhisattva of wisdom. It’s the one who sees clearly with that sword of discernment — where suffering is being created and you can see where laws are being unjustly administered and see where the innocent are being found subjected to violence and you can act. So many people I admire are like little (?) being able to speak so clearly and I see this in ordinary neighborhood committees for working with the police to lessen and diminish the police violence. They’re speaking out. It’s just so beautiful. Or speaking out about the dangers of the gases emitted and poisoned waters from the fracking. That’s that kind of courage. And then there’s the celestial bodhisattvas — (?). Boy he’s busy as anything. LAUGHS. Going to one meeting after another. Yeah. It’s like a person being liberated, but knowing you’re not going to win all the time and you shouldn’t. You’re not that powerful, but you can simply speak when it’s appropriate to speak. And you can also be aware to learning — there’s a growing movement for non-violence. It’s beautiful to see how you can actually take action without being a know it all. The I am the righteous one. I will have the total answer for every ill that we found.

DAVID:
That’s what got us here.

JOANNA MACY:
LAUGHS.
Yeah, but so the part of then what we’re seeing is more and more humility is the way.

DAVID:
Yeah, yeah. Being actively compassion.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. And humble. Right, so (?) or (?) — so many of these arch types of celestial arts are inspiring because people realize that that’s a part of being human that they can liberate in themselves. There’s the bodhisattva inside you and me who is ready to be liberated.

DAVID:
Oh yes. So, when it comes to social justice work and ecological crisis, they have this sort of inseparableness to them. They’re not able to be inseparable. Could you speak to that and how it is emphasizing the work that reconnects?

JOANNA MACY:
It’s growing increasingly difficult if not impossible to separate the social justice from ecological environmental justice. We are seeing in an agonizing revolting way how those — you could just see it right down there in New Orleans now where there is a whole huge area being given over to increasing the reach and quantity of new chemical factories. And they poison the water, they poison the air, the poison the food and who is forced economically to live there because of the racial prejudices — the redlining of neighborhoods. The people who have the least resources — thanks to our history of economic and racial and reconstruction and Jim Crow — all of that that is pushing people — abandoning them to areas that are the most toxic to live in. And now that’s not only happening in industrialized areas, but in — as you know very well in the climate disruption. It is where the coasts are being salinated and swamped. The fisheries almost non-existent now — being forced — you see that in Africa. Or the areas where right next to that practically of desecration and drought — it’s where people who have the least resources economically are now often the most afflicted in climate disruption.

DAVID:
Yeah.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. I feel as if I’m stating the obvious. Am I?

DAVID:
You are.

JOANNA MACY:
LAUGHS

DAVID:
But thank you. That needs to be stated because it might be obvious, but are people talking about it in such a way that propels people into engaging in what’s happening?

JOANNA MACY:
Yes, and I — and we’ve got to move faster on divestment from coal and gas. We’ve got to realize that we have such a short time and more and more people are opening their eyes to the proximity of collapse. And I think that needs to be mentioned because people — I talked to so many young people and people — well, of course at my age everybody’s young. LAUGHS. It’s — the word collapse is now out of the closet. Have you noticed?

DAVID:
Oh yeah.

JOANNA MACY:
And it’s because not only of the humongous spreading rapidity of climate disruption, but that it is in the nature of an economic system that is destroying itself.

DAVID:
Yes. What have you learned recently about diversity in inclusivity needed in the work that reconnects and how do you recommend the path of learning for this?

JOANNA MACY:
Well it’s been wonderful to see, actually, how those voices — because it’s the work that reconnects is decentralized and it’s in the hands of the ones who are doing it and we have been helping each other right on our website — in our intensives for developing facilitators — wonderfully at high time, you know recognition of ways that we can overcome and narrow or view ways that people have been considered less important or even that where their suffering has been silent. So that now there’s been tremendous outspokenness. And many people take their just — as you know, there’s a wonderful group work that we have used. It’s across the country of ways of diminishing — recognizing patterns of exclusion and othering and racism and we have used the tracts of suffering from being stolen people to the lows from a stolen land where people here from indigenous people to the people of color.

And it’s particularly important now of course isn’t it when there is this hate mongering that is getting more of a voice than ever before. So, that the tools that we have are finding for how we can see the injustices to which we have inherited either as the power holders or as the excluded. We don’t have a minute to spare on this. And the resources have been very rich. I bet you’re used to finding quite a lot of them. I know we are in the work that reconnects, and I bet you are too in the community right there. Yeah. It’s beautiful to see how welcome people are when I think of just a generation back — so much of this was silenced.

DAVID:
Yeah, it’s definitely coming out of the closet and it has to.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah.

DAVID:
It can no longer be hidden. And even if it was in the closet it’d be like coming out the seams — it’d be bursting the door open and it’s like the people saying it’s not — those aren’t the people that should be saying anything. I’m curious like what is their agenda? What is the quality of heart that they have that they’re not wanting this like said?

JOANNA MACY:
Well I think it’s fair, don’t you?

DAVID:
It could be mixed with a little greed in there.

JOANNA MACY:
And the need to reach for the past — reaching back — seek high neo-Nazi this alt right it’s terrifying. And I think it’s a combination of fear and a grab for power that comes from the need to make the world a friendly or a place that where you have room so all the voices to recognize once again that we belong to this earth together — tied together in one interdependent garment of destiny as Dr. King said.

DAVID:
I like that.

JOANNA MACY:
Not to be cowed by that. And not to be afraid of your own or silenced by your own ancestors. You know some of the most outspoken folks I know and active on re-weaving our culture is because they’ve had the courage to see in their own history and their own ancestry though slave owners. And then they liberate themselves. Nobody has — is free of pain. And we can make that pain — that vulnerability bridges to each other. My own ancestors were in the Highlands of Scotland. They — we had the Commons. They were held in common. And then there were the enclosures. And they were taken down and put in the mines and put in the factories. And that which themselves were funded by banks that were making their money from the North Atlantic slave trade. So, the enclosures of my ancestors into the factories with the profits from the enslavement of West Africans — you know we can reach across these barriers of fear and distrust to realize that we’ve all suffered from this.

DAVID:
Yeah. Wow. That’s some huge stuff. And the thing is — is we — we don’t have to be bound by the stories of our ancestors like you’re saying. That’s the beauty of living our lives and growing up and showing up and learning is we get to write our own story and it’s time that the narrative changes in a way that is beneficial for all. Because if it’s not — it’s not sustainable.

JOANNA MACY:
Absolutely. But also, if it’s not — our hearts don’t get a chance to grow. Now one of the things that I love about the work that reconnects that helps this is that we do quite a bit of role plays. It’s built in — even simple — not great big improvisations necessarily, but where you can just with one or two or three others be put in a role where you’re speaking on behalf of your ancestors. Are your progeny are the future ones? I remember sitting in a group of three — where a young woman in her twenties who was working very actively in climate change with and her goal of working in a racially highly integrated team. But she’d come from a white supremacy slave owning background.

And that she started to speak about her fear of what her ancestors would think of her. But then when the turn came, we all were speaking — we gave voice to our ancestors. And as she did prayerfully out of silence — listening, she spoke for the ancestors — she realized that they were saying finally — finally this is happening. Thank God what we did doesn’t have to last forever. Her working with people of color was liberating to the ancestors.

DAVID:
Yes.

JOANNA MACY:
Can you experience that a little bit?

DAVID:
Yeah.

JOANNA MACY:
Yeah. Because we’re on the way for our earth with the power of our earth, with our moral imagination to go from where — in their heart of hearts. They wanted to. We don’t always want to be imprisoned by the horrors and mistakes of the past. We want to be held, look each other in the eye. We want to taste this salt of the tears of the others. We want to come home with each other.

DAVID:
Yes. Ok, so I had a question about your workshops actually. And I noticed that you do a lot of workshops in the work that reconnects. And I sort of understand why you do it, but I’m curious if you can speak about the impact of working with other people in this type of work and how that impacts others and the insights that people get? Any other stories that people have shared with you that are just like, wow, like I didn’t get it until I was looking into someone else and I saw myself or anything like that.

JOANNA MACY:
Oh that — that happens all the time and once you’ve done that in a workshop you find that you can do — you’re doing that on the street, you know, this — you go into a place and — or someone’s waiting on you or you’re in the post office and someone’s — you’re buying stamps or toothpaste at the market. And you look at someone and you see that they are — there’s another bodhisattva. Or that is someone who you might be with when you die.

DAVID:
Yeah, it’s like you learn things in a workshop, but then you go out into the world and realize there’s this huge workshop you’ve been subjected to.

JOANNA MACY:
That’s right. That’s right.

I just got a letter the other day from a nuclear scientist who was working in a secret nuclear city in Russia and was building weapons — they tell because they saw the USA building weapons to all targeted, all on air trigger alert — on Russian cities. And so, it was the arms race is just mutually caused each other. And then and he — through my husband did the same work and speaks Russian. He liked taking this work — we call it deep ecology work. And that was an earlier name for the work that reconnects. And he met and he described the meeting — this — the Russian who has become a — himself a purveyor of this work because he — when he met my husband, he — who speaks Russian. He was saying he told me about this living planet and that we can, and we quoted — I remember reading myself even in Russia I had read once about Chief Seattle — we belong to the earth. We don’t own the earth, but we belong to the earth. And the earth can work through us. And he said, I realized now, and I never have outgrown it ever — even with the arms race that’s now underway again — I am not just a Russian fearing these things. I belong — where I belong is to a living planet. That’s who I am. That’s what I represent. That is the healing I want to give my life to. That is my deepest identity.

So if you could think — I think our hope even as we face the collapse — because whether you see the collapses — the collapse of the industrial growth society or all on being manipulated by artificial intelligence, set to goals that we can of maximizing profit when you see that you can realize that you can act for the earth — not for — because that’s your identity. You can decide that you are here as a piece of humanity — who has realized that this is the planet is your living home.

DAVID:
Yeah. Redefining where your allegiance lies.

JOANNA MACY:
That’s it! Yeah exactly.

DAVID:
Your allegiance is bigger than a country, than a state, than a person, than a political movement.

JOANNA MACY:
And that it’s — yeah — and not only that, but that — what you have allegiance to is that which also gives you air to breathe. And that also empowers you. You can almost feel coming through your heart. That you are not David or Joanna doing this, but you are really the earth acting through this being with all our limitations.

DAVID:
It’s so wild to think about.

JOANNA MACY:
LAUGHS.

DAVID:
It’s kind of fun, but it definitely has a connection feeling — you feel really invigorated and alive and willing to show up because you see where your essential allegiance lies.

JOANNA MACY:
Exactly, and then you know that whatever happens — you will never be separated from your living Earth.

DAVID:
Yes.

JOANNA MACY:
That you are home. Now, this magnificent and beyond that you belong to this universe.

DAVID:
Yes. Yeah.

JOANNA MACY:
You belong to the great reciprocity at the heart of the universe, which as you serve it — blesses you and acts through you.

DAVID:
Oh yes.

Thank you for listening. This concludes the end of the first half of my interview with Joanna Macy. Please stay tuned for next week where we will post the second half.

Thank you.

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On behalf of the Naropa community thank you for listening to Mindful U. The official podcast of Naropa University. Check us out at www.naropa.edu or follow us on social media for more updates.

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