Coming Back to Life
Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World

Macy, Joanna
Publisher:  New Society, Canada
Year Published:  1998
Pages:  224pp   ISBN:  0-86571-391-X
Resource Type:  Book
Cx Number:  CX6677

A guidebook for dealing with the despair that stands in the way our our changing the world.

The title "Coming Back to Life" suggests that death is around the corner, however this book celebrates the work and means undertaken by people to resurrect humanity from the worsening ecological and social conditions of society. The authors seek to heal and empower readers by providing them with wisdom for spiritual awareness and the courage and solidarity to engage in a sustainable lifestyle. Macy and Brown optimistically define the present as a time of great turning, in which people think in a socially attuned manner. Thus, humanity has began to change from a self destructive society to a self-sustaining world. The work within this book urges readers to play their own individual role within this shift. This guide to "work that reconnects" embarks individuals on a journey of existential changes from despair to empowerment, since the work forces us to take ownership of our pain for the world. Furthermore, the practices raise awareness about humanity's "interconnectedness with all beings in the web of life." The first three chapters provide a summary of the premises upon which this work is based. Next, Chapter 4 and 5 outline the aims and principles of the work itself, while the other chapters and appendices provide exercises and introductions that outline their goals and assumptions.

[Abstract by Amanpreet Dhami]

Table of Contents


1. To Choose Life
The Choice for a Sustainable World
The Great Turning
I. "Holding actions" in defence of life on Earth
II. Analysis of structural causes and creation of alternative institutions
III. Shift in perceptions of reality, both cognitively and spiritually

2. The Greatest Danger: Apatheia, The Deadening of Mind & Heart
Pain For the World
Psychological Sources of Repression
Fear of pain
Fear of despair
Fear of appearing morbid
Distrust of our own intelligence
Fear of guilt
Fear of causing distress
Fear of being unpatriotic
Fear of appearing weak and emotional
Belief in the separate self
Fear of powerlessness
Socioeconomic Sources of Repression
The mass media
Job and time pressures
Social violence

Consequences of Repression
Fragmentation and alienation
Displacement activities
Blaming and scapegoating
Political passivity
Avoidance of painful information
Diminished intellectual performance
Sense of powerlessness
Breaking Free

3. The Basic Miracle: Our True Nature and Power
Living Systems Theory
How life self-organizes
Fire, water, and web
The holonic shift in consciousness
Gaia Theory
Positive disintegration

Deep Ecology
Beyond anthropocentrism
The ecological self
Asking deeper questions
Related movements: ecofeminism, ecojustice, ecopsychology

Ancient Teachings
The Abrahamic religions
Earth-centered religions
Buddhist teachings

The Nature of Our Power
Power and feedback
The power of disclosure and refusal
Synergy and grace

4. The Work that Reconnects
The Goals of the Work
Theoretical Foundations
The Shambhala Prophecy

5. Guiding Group Work

Part I
Why Work in Groups?
The Role of the Guide
Working with Strong Emotions
Personal Despair and Social Despair
Stresses in Guiding Group Work

Part II
The Workshop Setting
Opening the Workshop
Helping People Speak and Listen
Sustaining Group Energy and Participation
Closing the Workshop

6. Affirmation: Coming from Gratitude
The Value of Gratitude
Warm-ups: Opening through Breath, Body, Sound, and Silence
Group Introductions
Brainstorm on the Great Turning
The Mirror Walk
The Presence of Gratitude Throughout the Work

7. Despair Work: Owning and Honouring Our Pain for the World
Notes on Guiding These Exercises

Small Group Sharing
The Milling
Open Sentences
The Truth Mandala
The Despair Ritual
Spontaneous Writing
Imaging with Colors and Clay

8. The Shift: Seeing With New Eyes
Nature of the Shift

Part I: Brain Food
Key Concepts
Pointers for teaching these concepts

Part II: Exercises
The Systems Game
Widening Circles
The Cradling
"Who Are You?"
The Dance to Dismember the Ego
My Choices for This Life

9. Deep Time: Reconnecting With Past and Future Present
A Healthier Relationship to Time

Invoking the Beings of the Three Times
Harvesting the Gifts of the Ancestors
Thirty Years Hence
Tape Recording to the Future
Letter from the Future
The Double Circle

10. The Council Of All Beings: Rejoining the Natural World
The Genesis and Purpose of Deep Ecology Work

Reporting to Chief Seattle
The Evolutionary Gifts of the Animals
The Remembering
The Bestiary
The Cairn of Mourning
The Council of All Beings

11. Going Forth
Learnings We Bring Back Into Our Lives And Communities

Tales of Power
Imaging Our Power
Goals and Resources
Consultation Groups
Planning Actions
Communicating Our Concerns and Hopes - Exercise
Communicating Our Concerns and Hopes - Guidelines
Overcoming Obstacles
Affirming Our Commitment
Circle of Blessings

12. Meditations For Coming Back to Life
The Web of Life
Gaia Meditation
Meditation on Death
Meditation on Loving Kindness
Breathing Through
The Great Ball of Merit
Learning to See Each Other

Appendix A: Chief Seattle's Message
Appendix B: The Bestiary
Appendix C: A Council of All Beings: The Site Speaks
Reference Notes

Subject Headings

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