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September 5, 2011

Labor Dayesalen

Dear People,

It was late August week at Big Sur. Esalen Institute gave us a tented pavilion overlooking the sea so that two dozen folks in their twenties could join me in the Work That Reconnects. Our event was organized by Joshua Gorman, engaging and tireless founder of Generation Waking Up. Here's how he conveys his vision:


"A new generation of young people is waking up. We are the middle children of history, coming of age at the crossroads of civilization, a generation rising between an old world dying and a new world being born. We are the 'make-it or break-it' generation, the 'all-or-nothing' generation, the crucible through which civilization must pass or crash."


So much beauty of place and face, I wondered if I'd wandered into Eden. Flowers and rows of veggies running up to the cliff's edge. Early foggy stillness turning to breezes out of blue sky and sea. Hours of quiet sharing and rapt concentration erupting into free singing and rap and dancing bodies.


I was moved that they saw with such clear eyes the crises of our time, the ecological unraveling, the political bankruptcy. The courage to see things as they are breeds a simple, radical readiness to come alive and act for life.


joanna teachingEarlier in August at a gathering of veteran facilitators at the Land of Medicine Buddha, I shared stories from my life and teachings I’ve drawn from over the years, that have helped to shape the Work That Reconnects. DVDs of those talks judged useful to other interested parties will be made available by mid-Autumn when they are edited.


Taking part in this gathering were nine colleagues of mine who had earlier agreed to give of their time and attention to counsel me about future structures and directions of the Work That Reconnects. While I welcome suggestions from all quarters, it is good to have a trusty, stable team I know I can count on. Knows as Stewards of the Work, these nine are: Molly Young Brown, Barbara Ford, Kurt Kuhwald, Randy Morris, Chad Morse, Coleen O’Connell, Kathleen Rude, Kari Stettler, and Anne Symens-Bucher.


At the close of the larger gathering, we all met for two days. To relax a little before we started work, we went for a beach walk at Rio del Mar. It was a brilliant, sunny afternoon, exuberant with pelicans above us and dolphins out to sea, when someone showed up who may be the tenth steward. Seeing us sitting in a row looking out over the waves, he swam clear out of the water, heaved himself up on dry sand, and without pausing flippered himself right up to us, as if with the most urgent communication.


It was delivered with eye-to-eye contact and a long, silent, open-mouthed speech before he turned and went back out to sea.

surfing seal

joanna  seal



Today I finished proofreading a book to appear next March. Active Hope: How to Face the Mess we're in without Going Crazy, co-authored with my long-time colleague Chris Johnstone of Bristol, England, aims to bring basic assumptions and ingredients of the Work That Reconnects to a mainstream readership. In the process some valuable new perspectives on the Work have emerged. A look at the Table of Contents can give you an idea of some.

active_hope_coverPart One: The Great Turning

Chap 1: Three Stories of Our Time

Chap 2: Trusting the Spiral

Chap 3: Starting with Gratitude

Chap 4: Honoring Our Pain for the World

Part Two: Seeing with New Eyes

Chap 5: A Wider Sense of Self

Chap 6: A Different Kind of Power

Chap 7: A Richer Experience of Community

Chap 8: A Larger View of Time

Part Three: Going Forth

Chap 9: Catching an Inspiring Vision

Chap 10: Daring to Believe it is Possible

Chap 11: Building Support around You

Chap 12: Maintaining Energy and Enthusiasm

Chap 13: Strengthened by Uncertainty



cloud_question_markThe tenth anniversary of September 11th, 2001 is upon us. How grim it is to look at what that event has occasioned for our country and our world. The immediate enactment of the Patriot and Homeland Security Acts and presidential directives swiftly stripping away constitutional rights have led to the emergence of a national security state, where fear induces obedience and torture is acceptable. War-making to avenge the attacks followed as quickly, killing millions, displacing millions more, and establishing military occupations that have no end in sight.


As I described in earlier blogs, I have been trying to get my head around what these wars are costing us. Some estimates run to a trillion dollars a year. So, how do you conceive of a trillion? Here's one way: Think a dollar a second. A million seconds is 12 days. A billion seconds is 32 years. And a trillion seconds is 32,000 years.


That gives a notion of the cost in money and decimated social programs. Such losses can be computed. But I don't know how we figure the moral price we have paid. If we had the courage to look, there might be a way to estimate what this has done to our minds, our souls, our self-respect.



For my own self-respect, I need to do more than oppose our military operations. I need to speak out publicly about 9/11--which I'll be doing this week at an event with former Senator Mike Gravel and other--joining my voice to those who demand a new, official, unbiased and unstacked commission of inquiry. Until such an inquiry is held, I don't think we will free ourselves as a people to regain our power to govern ourselves.


Please know that I'm hale and hearty, grateful for the beautiful people I get to work with. I love being with my family too. Peggy, my "baby," just turned 50, which we celebrated with two events; one on the exact day at her and Gregoire and Julien's treehouse in Aptos, and the other, yesterday, in Tilden Park in the Berkeley hills with music and feasting and yet more friends. I wandered about in a daze of happiness, listening to Irish bouzouki, feeling the play of sun and shade, and watching my children and their children and other people's children race around in a Round-Robin game of badminton. I wished Fran could see it all. Actually, though it's been two years and eight months since his passing, he seems more present to me than absent these days, and that feeling is sweet beyond words.


Yours in gladness for life,