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30 December 2005

Dear People,

Grande Virada: that is Great Turning in Portuguese--and a theme that resonated strongly with the eight hundred or more Brasilieros whom Fran and I have just had the good fortune to meet and work with. It reflects their hopes in bringing populist president Ignacio Lula to power and initiating impressive steps toward sustainability and working together for Earth.

Nossa Vida como Gaia, our life as Gaia, was the other interweaving theme. It is the title of the Portuguese edition of Coming Back to Life, published in Brazil in the course of the last year, with a foreword by liberation theologian Leonardo Boff and the most beautiful cover that ever graced a book of mine. It portrays a tropical coastal ecosystem held in a fragile scallop shell which is already beginning to crumble into deep blue, star-strewn immensities of space. Fran and I went to meet the artist Jose Gomez in the town of Guaratingeta and view the original oil painting. I came to see it as a visual metaphor for anguish over the drying of the vast Amazon, where deforestation (reaching 17%) now affects its capacity to generate and recycle rainfall, and threatens implosion of the ecosystem seen by many as our planet's lungs. The river is now at its lowest in human memory. It is stranding countless settlements (including Manaus, city of 5 million) that are dependent on access by boat. Gomez's painting also conveys the love than can awaken when we face such fragility and feel a common imperative to protect the web of life.

Our month-long teaching tour in Brazil was arranged by environmental leader Amalia Souza, whom some of you will remember from two of our intensives in the Santa Cruz hills ('00 and '03). She is, in her own person, a kind of embodiment of the Great Turning: in addition to instigating the translation and publication of Nossa Vida como Gaia, her activism includes trusted relations with indigenous peoples, provision of material support for environmental causes through Global Green Grants, and groundwork for an ecovillage in her area. Not only that, she sings. The three weekend workshops we did together, as well as the weeklong intensive, were enriched by her guitar and the marvelous range of her voice.

Our work in Sao Paulo was sponsored by a bank. The Banco Real (ABM MRO Real, to be exact) has embraced sustainability as its goal, and is serious about it. It provided venue and large audiences for presentations with interactive work on the subject of the Great Turning. Of great value to me personally was the invigorating glimpse it gave into what the Great Turning can mean in banking terms. The bank, for example, is applying environmental conditions to all loans (i.e. need to show loan's effects on local ecology and its measures to protect and restore same), and it has initiated microcredit schemes in urban slums, which already are proving highly successful in term of results and repayment rate. A key staff player in this overall effort is Christel Scholten, with whom I was happy to find strong connections through both the Bath (UK) School of Management and the Meg Wheatley-inspired Pioneers of Change.

The work with Brasilians freshened me with a renewed sense of what it means to realize our life as Gaia. In the presence of their passion for life, their erotic take on existence, that phrase became more than a conceptual anchor. I felt again the full charge of what our planetary identity can mean, and how it can inspire and sustain us.

Upon my return last week, in this dark solstice time, I took a day's retreat to look at the year now coming to a close. Its gifts have been many. In the quiet solitude of my backyard cottage I reflected on them, drawing the year's engagements with colors and circles on a large sheet of paper, then dropping into them to feel the deepening changes they brought. First, I took to counting: 91 full days of group work, 4 continents, this many workshops and intensives, that many participants… Hundreds of faces began to surface in my mind's eye, like so many bodhisattva icons. Then the connecting, unfolding flows began to reveal themselves, showing how pervasively the year has been affected by its first event, the 30-days in Australia, called "Seeds for the Future."

Now I can say what I couldn't then: that the collective immersion in a larger context of time, with sustained attention to the needs and perspectives of future generations, has acted as a blessing, or a solvent, on all that has followed. I say "solvent" because it has loosened for me some of the pressures and fears of the present moment. Bringing me into a sense of closer company with the ancestors and future beings, it has made it easier to live with the radical uncertainty of our time. "Radical uncertainty" has emerged, I see now, as an ever more important theme in my work this year. As we set our sails for the Great Turning, it brings a kind of sober, bracing freedom from demands and complaints of the small self. And it brings an ever-fresh recognition of the power of intention and choice, which, like the rudder of our craft, is what we can put our hands to--and the only thing we can control.

Such reflections on the effects of the 30-day in Australia make me grateful for the prospect of another 30-day in 2007. "Seeds for the Future II" is scheduled to take place on a wild stretch of coast in Oregon in the early fall of that year. See my schedule on this web site for particulars.

My month in England in May of this year brought particular rewards. It coincided with the fuller emergence of Gaiabeat Productions, purveyor of tapes, CDs, and training materials created by British colleagues who have also brought forth the Great Turning Times. You can access this amazing e-newsletter by contacting This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it with SUBSCRIBE in the subject header. A concatenation of energies has brought strong follow-up to the workshops of last May. As a local organizer just wrote, in announcing a 3-day retreat in Devon, "Coming to the end of 2005, it feels like it was a great year for Shambhala Warriors. (Since Joanna's events) there were several workshops attended by over 300 people and that's just the workshops lasting longer than two days… There is such a lot of momentum."

And coming from Britain--here are some portions of the Shambhala Warrior Mind Training, which I would share with you as a New Year blessing. It comes from John Wigham, known as Akuppa in the Western Buddhist Order, who came into the Work That Reconnects through a week I taught last April at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in California. He is a writer, organizer, and former City Council member of Newcastle-on-Tyne.

Firmly establish your intention to live your life for the healing of the world. Be conscious of it, honour it, nurture it every day.

Do not meet power on its own terms. See through to its real nature--mind and heart made. Lead your response from that.

Simplify. Clear way the dead wood in your life. Look for the heartwood and give it first call on your time, the best of your energy.

Put down the leaden burden of saving the world alone…

As a bird flies on two wings, balance outer activity with inner sustenance.

With great patience to yourself, learn to make beautiful each action, word, and thought.

Sit with hatred until you feel the fear beneath it. Sit with fear until you feel the compassion beneath that.

Do not set your heart on particular results. Enjoy positive action for its own sake and rest confident that it will bear fruit.

Staying open, staying grounded, remember that you are the inheritor of the strengths of thousands of generations of life.

Staying open, staying grounded, recall that the thankful prayers of future generations are silently with you.

Staying open, staying grounded, know that the deep forces of Nature will emerge in the aid of those who defend the Earth.

When you see weapons of hate, disarm them with love.

When you see armies of greed, meet them in the spirit of sharing.

When you see fortresses of narrow-mindedness, breach them with truth.

When forces of power seek to isolate us from each other, reach out with joy.

In it all and through it all, holding to your intention, let go into the music of life. Dance!

Yours for the "grande virada,"

Joanna