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Coming Back to Life: The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects
by Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown

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This book is a guide to the "Work That Reconnects," a set of workshops and practices designed to help people cope with the environmental and social crises facing the world and to awaken their inner power to create a life-sustaining society.

The book's main argument is:

  • The world is facing a Great Unraveling due to the unsustainable Industrial Growth Society, driven by greed, aggression and delusion.
  • However, a Great Turning is possible, a shift toward a Life-Sustaining Society.
  • This shift requires a three-pronged approach:
    • Holding Actions: slowing down the destruction through activism, legislation, and legal action.
    • Transforming Foundations: understanding the dynamics of corporate capitalism and creating new, sustainable economic and social structures.
    • Shifting Perception and Values: engaging in a cognitive, perceptual, and spiritual revolution to reconnect with the living Earth and embrace our interconnectedness with all life.

Key Concepts:

  • Systems Theory: The world is not a collection of separate entities but a web of interconnected, self-organizing systems.
  • Deep Ecology: All life has intrinsic value, and we must move beyond anthropocentrism to recognize our interconnectedness with all beings.
  • Gaia Theory: Earth is a living system capable of self-regulation, and we are an integral part of it.
  • The Ecological Self: Expanding our sense of self beyond our ego to encompass our connection with the natural world.
  • The Power of Disclosure: Recognizing the importance of speaking truth to power and challenging institutionalized secrecy.
  • Power With: Shifting from a model of power over others to power with others, fostering cooperation and synergy.
  • Pain for the World: Accepting and honoring our feelings of grief, fear, and anger as a healthy response to the suffering of the Earth and its inhabitants.
  • The Great Turning: The transition to a Life-Sustaining Society, where human needs are met without harming the environment.

Practices:

The book details a series of workshops and practices designed to help individuals and groups reconnect with themselves, each other, and the Earth:

  • Coming from Gratitude: Practices to cultivate a sense of appreciation for the miracle of life and to center oneself in the present moment.
  • Honoring Our Pain for the World: Practices to acknowledge and process our feelings of grief, anger, and fear about the state of the world.
  • Seeing with New Eyes: Practices to shift our perception of reality and to embrace a more holistic worldview based on interconnectedness.
  • Deep Time: Practices to connect with our ancestors and future generations, fostering a sense of responsibility for the legacy we leave behind.
  • Going Forth: Practices to identify our callings, to mobilize our resources, and to take action in the world.

The book also includes a section on working with children and teens, offering guidance on how to help them understand the challenges facing the world and to empower them to take action.

Key Strengths:

  • Provides a framework for understanding the interconnectedness of environmental and social issues.
  • Offers practical tools and practices for personal and collective transformation.
  • Offers a hopeful message for change and encourages a sense of agency and responsibility.
  • Addresses the need to include diverse voices and experiences, particularly those of communities of color.

The book "Coming Back to Life" is a valuable resource for individuals, groups, and communities seeking to find meaning and purpose in a time of crisis. It offers a path toward a more sustainable and just world by addressing the root causes of our current problems and by empowering us to work together for the healing of the Earth and ourselves.