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Guidebook to the Work

Coming Back to Life (NSP 1998) provides both theory and step by step methods in the Work That Reconnects. Here is an overview.

Chapter 1. To Choose Life

This is the aim of the Work That Reconnects: help us take part in the epochal shift from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilization. This Great Turning is happening now on many fronts. Its three main dimensions--(1) holding actions, to save lives and species; (2) alternative structures for a livable future; and (3) shift in consciousness, cognitive, perceptual, and spiritual--are all essential and mutually reinforcing.

Chapter 2. The Greatest Danger: Apatheia, the Deadening of Mind and Heart

Given the widespread suffering of our time, as well as the dangers confronting us, sorrow arises, and fear and anger. "Pain for our world" is a normal, healthy response; but cultural, political, and psychological factors lead us to repress this pain--at enormous cost. This repression, or psychic numbing, is dispelled through the Work That Reconnects.

Chapter 3. The Basic Miracle: Our True Nature and Power

Tremendous resources are at hand to guide and fuel our actions on behalf of life. These gifts of our time include the breakthroughs represented by living systems theory and deep ecology, as well as the resurgence of nondualistic spirituality. Each in its way helps us come to a new understanding of our power to take part in the self-healing of our world. These are the foundations of the Work That Reconnects.

Chapter 4. TheWork that Reconnects

The goals and assumptions of this group work are presented here straightforwardly, then evoked in a mythic fashion with the Shambhala prophecy.

Chapter 5. Guiding Group Work

The work is best done in groups, where people can support, inspire, and learn from each other. The keys to effective facilitation of groups are offered. Guidance ranges from forming intention and dealing with heavy emotions, to the nuts and bolts of planning a workshop and sustaining its coherence and flow.

Chapter 6. Affirmation: Coming from Gratitude

This is the first stage of the group's work. Why is gratitude essential at the outset, as well as being implicit throughout the work? We discuss its primal role, and offer simple, brief ways for eliciting it.

Chapter 7. Despair Work: Owning and Honoring Our Pain for the World

This second and crucial stage is also the most politically subversive; here group members experience, express, and explore what mainstream culture persistently denies: our inner responses to the suffering in our world. Methods for despair work range from simple sentence completion exercises to ritual forms, like the Truth Mandala, which are structured to allow and contain intense emotion.

Chapter 8. The Shift: Seeing with New Eyes

The third stage of the work, described in chapters 9 and 10 as well, brings forward our radical interconnectedness, the source of our capacity to suffer with our world. Here new paradigm thinking plays an important role; so suggestions for presenting "brain food" to the group are offered, along with lively exercises like the Systems Game and quieter ones like Widening Circles.

Chapter 9. Deep Time: Reconnecting with Past and Future Generations

Our interconnectedness in the web of life extends through time as well as space. Deep Time work helps us break out of our culture's frenzied and atomizing experience of time, and reclaim a strong, conscious relationship with those who have gone before and those to come after us. Methods range from simple letter-writing to more complex processes, like Harvesting the Gifts of the Ancestors and the Double Circle with the seventh generation.

Chapter 10. The Council of All Beings: Rejoining the Natural World

It is also our birthright to enjoy an empowering kinship with other species. Deep ecology has long inspired the Work That Reconnects, and here we offer methods particularly designed to take us beyond the anthropocentrism of our culture and dramatize our embeddedness in the web of life. These include such favorites as the Council of All Beings and the Evolutionary Remembering.

Chapter 11. Going Forth

In this culminating stage of the work, group participants prepare to take the insights and motivation they have gained and apply them in their ongoing lives and home communities. They are helped to clarify the particular projects and roles they feel called to take on in the Great Turning, and also the ways they can continue to support each other after the workshop.

Chapter 12. Meditations for Coming Back to Life

One workshop, or even several, is insufficient to keep us anchored in the wider sense of identity with Earth and all beings, that we experienced there. From birth we have been conditioned by assumptions underlying the Industrial Growth Society. To decondition ourselves, we need ongoing practices--and these are available to us now from the many nondualistic spiritual traditions re-emerging in our time. Seven, found especially useful in the work, are given here in full. From the Web of Life to the Gaia Meditaion, and the Great Ball of Merit, they are suitable for shared practice at almost any stage of a workshop.