Day 2 – Taking Heart in Tough Times with Joanna Macy – First Session

Joanna Macy last visited Findhorn in 2000 and at that time she said, “This is last time I will be here. Now I was 70 then, but as you get older you forget, so here I am.” Joanna couldn’t be more welcome nor could the time be more ripe. For many participants, Joanna’s work is a highlight of the conference.

Joanna-a-23.03.08.jpg“I’m here to offer deep ecology,” Joanna shared. It seems fitting that this has a part to play in the conference because this interactive work is essential for us to face the hardships that are looming and those that are already here.

The work reconnects us with ourselves, the ancestors, and the future ones. And it prevents us from falling into two pitfalls: 1) paralysis; 2) panic.

It’s frightful to see what’s happening in our world. It brings up such dismay that it shuts us down, causing the heart to close, and if the heart closes so does the mind, so avoiding these pitfalls is essential to the operation of our intelligence. We can, in fear, turn on each other — go mean. The work first came into Joanna’s country, the United States, in 1980. At that time, someone asked her, ‘why are you doing this?’ Her own answer surprised her — she had never heard herself say this before, “So that when things get really hard, we won’t turn on each other.”

Joanna encouraged us to find the solidarity that is our birthright — to feel deep connection — and to dedicate this work to shedding our fear. This will help us take ourselves seriously as part of the self-healing of our world. Joanna believes that Findhorn is the perfect place to do this work at this time because we are unafraid of deep feeling.

Joanna was here doing this work in Findhorn, at Easter, in 1991 with Matthew Fox. It awes her that neither she nor Matthew, nor their team, knew then what would resurrect; they didn’t programme it. “Now when we meet in 2008,” she observed, “we face the largest extinction of life in our history.”

Joanna-b-23.03.08.jpgIt has become evident to Joanna that it is possible to claim our birthright in spite of how our ghost society, our consumer society, tries to programme us. Joanna is adamant that “nothing will ever separate us from the story of life that has brought us forth.”

As we begin to move into this work, we have peak oil and climate change in the forefront of our minds, but we have other things too in our ‘heart-mind.’

Honour what you carry in your heart-mind as you’ve come here. Just as our clown Lesley encouraged us to do last night, let’s move right beyond guilt. It’s about being present, really seeing what’s happening, bringing it into our consciousness.

At this point, Joanna outlined the ‘plot’ for the next two days of workshop sessions and asked us to imagine it conceptually as a circle with these four main aspects which we will move through together in this order:

1. Gratitude — helps us to be present to our world and not panic or become paralysed.

2. Honouring our pain for our world — the great secret of the immensity of our heart-mind allows us to move beyond pain once we’ve owned it.

3. Seeing with new eyes — this could take a lifetime. Recognising what the Tibetans would call the ‘dependent co-arising of all things’ or really understanding our interdependence. We’ll address this aspect tomorrow afternoon (Monday).

4. Going forth — this will be the focus of tomorrow night (Monday).

Intention is essential for any group work. In dedicating our work to a larger purpose we drop our judgements because what’s carrying us is our intention.

She then read from the first pages of Thinking Like a Mountain which she co-authored with John Seed, inviting us to “let the words drop into your heart-mind and bring forth your deep desire.”

A big event in Joanna’s life was to become better acquainted with the Iroquois Federation. Her attention was caught by an amazing event involving the Onondagan nation who had not yet made their legal land right action. After holding council the claim they made was not for acquisitions; on the contrary, it was for one thing only:

that the land be cleaned up for the sake of all of the children, red or brown

Joanna-d-23.03.08.jpgThis made Joanna feel different about being human and she had to behold those people. The then government said it was too late to make their claim, but they are in appeal now. Their reservation is now like a postage stamp. Joanna visited the Onondagan nation and met a clan mother teacher who, upon ushering her into a central atrium open to the sky, said, “this is where we have our assemblies and do our thanksgiving — our morning practice of thanksgiving with the children. She then led the practice just for Joanna. To have survived unspeakable massacres and maintained our dignity takes us beyond our politics and fears and gives us self respect and presence.

Joanna then led us through the powerful Mohawk Thanksgiving Practice that had been shared opening with her, while beating out the rhythm of the heart on the drum….

Mohawk Thanksgiving Prayer

The Earth Mother
We are all thankful to our Mother, the Earth, for she gives us all that we need for life. She supports our feet as we walk about upon her. It gives us joy that she continues to care for us as she has from the beginning of time. To our mother, we send greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Waters
We give thanks to all the waters of the world for quenching our thirst and providing us with strength. Water is life. We know its power in many forms-waterfalls and rain, mists and streams, rivers and oceans. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the spirit of Water.

Now our minds are one.

The Fish
We turn our minds to the all the Fish life in the water. They were instructed to cleanse and purify the water. They also give themselves to us as food. We are grateful that we can still find pure water. So, we turn now to the Fish and send our greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Plants
Now we turn toward the vast fields of Plant life. As far as the eye can see, the Plants grow, working many wonders. They sustain many life forms. With our minds gathered together, we give thanks and look forward to seeing Plant life for many generations to come.

Now our minds are one.

The Food Plants
With one mind, we turn to honor and thank all the Food Plants we harvest from the garden. Since the beginning of time, the grains, vegetables, beans and berries have helped the people survive. Many other living things draw strength from them too. We gather all the Plant Foods together as one and send them a greeting of thanks.
Now our minds are one.

The Medicine Herbs
Now we turn to all the Medicine herbs of the world. From the beginning they were instructed to take away sickness. They are always waiting and ready to heal us. We are happy there are still among us those special few who remember how to use these plants for healing. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to the Medicines and to the keepers of the Medicines.

Now our minds are one.

The Animals
We gather our minds together to send greetings and thanks to all the Animal life in the world. They have many things to teach us as people. We are honored by them when they give up their lives so we may use their bodies as food for our people. We see them near our homes and in the deep forests. We are glad they are still here and we hope that it will always be so.

Now our minds are one.

The Trees
We now turn our thoughts to the Trees. The Earth has many families of Trees who have their own instructions and uses. Some provide us with shelter and shade, others with fruit, beauty and other useful things. Many people of the world use a Tree as a symbol of peace and strength. With one mind, we greet and thank the Tree life.

Now our minds are one.

The Birds
We put our minds together as one and thank all the Birds who move and fly about over our heads. The Creator gave them beautiful songs. Each day they remind us to enjoy and appreciate life. The Eagle was chosen to be their leader. To all the Birds-from the smallest to the largest-we send our joyful greetings and thanks.

Now our minds are one.

The Four Winds
We are all thankful to the powers we know as the Four Winds. We hear their voices in the moving air as they refresh us and purify the air we breathe. They help us to bring the change of seasons. From the four directions they come, bringing us messages and giving us strength. With one mind, we send our greetings and thanks to the Four Winds.

Now our minds are one.

The Sun
We now send greetings and thanks to our eldest Brother, the Sun. Each day without fail he travels the sky from east to west, bringing the light of a new day. He is the source of all the fires of life. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Brother, the Sun.

Now our minds are one.

Grandmother Moon
We put our minds together to give thanks to our oldest Grandmother, the Moon, who lights the night-time sky. She is the leader of woman all over the world, and she governs the movement of the ocean tides. By her changing face we measure time, and it is the Moon who watches over the arrival of children here on Earth. With one mind, we send greetings and thanks to our Grandmother, the Moon.

Now our minds are one.

The People
Today we have gathered and we see that the cycles of life continue. We have been given the duty to live in balance and harmony with each other and all living things. So now, we bring our minds together as one as we give greetings and thanks to each other as people.

Now our minds are one.

Closing Words
We have now arrived at the place where we end our words. Of all the things we have named, it was not our intention to leave anything out. If something was forgotten, we leave it to each individual to send such greetings and thanks in their own way.

Now our minds are one.


Joanna is grateful to teachers who remind us of the words that came before all else — the thanks for the gift of life. It’s all alive, it’s all related, and it’s all intelligent.

In reflecting upon gratitude the great reliable fact is that it doesn’t depend on external circumstances or whether life is to your liking. There’s a lesson for us to develop our capacities; our mental, spiritual, psychological muscle to help us navigate through all kinds of weather. It’s a movement that is natural to our soul. But society has bred in us, like a worm in an apple, to want to crave — nothing’s enough. There are multi-billion dollar industries beaming this message to us — we don’t look right, smell right, or have the right locomotion. We’re not good enough.

Gratitude is politically incorrect; subversive.

Multi-nationals with their advertising can instill a self-loathing. We’re all affected by this political economy — to compare and to feel the inadequacy.

Affirming ourselves with this practice of gratitude is liberating and subversive.

Tibetans reflect on how rare and wonderful human existence is; they are in awe of being alive right now. They marvel at how rare and precious life is for one reason only — to change karma — to choose (Dorothy touched on this too this morning in her keynote address).

One of our wonderful strategies is this practice. Each of us has a consciousness with which to choose what to do. We can stand in fresh awareness of the fact that we can put our mind where we want to. It’s amazing — the immensity that can happen when we pay attention.

Joanna urged us to pay attention and cautioned that taking things for granted clouds things over, dulls life. In closing, she offered this wisdom from Roger Keyes…

Hokusai says

Hokusai says look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.

He says look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it,
repeat yourself as long as it is interesting.

He says keep doing what you love.

He says keep praying.

He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find a way to live with fear.

He says everything is alive – shells, buildings, people, fish
mountains, trees, wood is alive.
Water is alive.

Everything has its own life.

Everything lives inside us.

He says live with the world inside you.

He says it doesn’t matter if you draw, or write books.
It doesn’t matter if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home and stare at the
ants on your veranda or the shadows of
the trees and grasses in your garden.
It matters that you care.

It matters that you feel.

It matters that you notice.

It matters that life lives through you.

Contentment is life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength is life living through you.

He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.

Love, feel, let life take you by the hand.

Let life live through you.

Roger Keyes

Thank you for being with us. Please join us this evening for session two when Joanna continues with the theme of gratitude.

– Mattie Porte –

Photographers: Sverre Koxvold and Peter Vallance

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