The name of this blog, Rainbow Juice, is intentional.
The rainbow signifies unity from diversity. It is holistic. The arch suggests the idea of looking at the over-arching concepts: the big picture. To create a rainbow requires air, fire (the sun) and water (raindrops) and us to see it from the earth.
Juice suggests an extract; hence rainbow juice is extracting the elements from the rainbow, translating them and making them accessible to us. Juice also refreshes us and here it symbolises our nutritional quest for understanding, compassion and enlightenment.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Coming Back to Life: A Review

She’s at it again.  Joanna Macy is again asking us to wake up, open our eyes, take a look around and engage with the pain and joy of life.  She’s been doing it since at least 1983 when her first book, Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age1, was published.  This is her ninth book since then.  Here she teams up with psychologist, systems thinker and deep ecologist Molly Brown.  Together, they deal with how we can transform from an Industrial Growth Society to a Life Sustaining Society.

Macy has spent a lot of her life (she is now in her eighties) helping groups of people all over the world to understand their fears, their grief and their despair around social and environmental terrors.  Her methods are those that allow individuals and groups to tap into their head, heart and guts.  You don’t attend a Joanna Macy workshop to sit and listen.  You attend to participate, to be actively engaged in your own discovery and learning.

That is what is presented in Coming Back to Life2; a manual of dozens of exercises that enable people to move through the four stages of what Macy terms “the work that reconnects”: Gratitude, Honouring our pain, Seeing with new eyes, Going forth.

Macy suggests that there are three principal ways (“rivers” are her metaphor) by which we can awaken and engage.  Whether we do so from the river of personal grief, the river of new scientific insights or from the river of ancient wisdom matters little.  The three rivers are merging in our present time and beginning to flow together.

Macy uses knowledge, insight and wisdom from all three of these rivers in her workshops and in this book/manual.  This is one of the strengths of her approach; it is all-encompassing and inclusive of all experience and beings (yes, including the animals, trees and Gaia as a whole).

The exercises presented are drawn from all over the world and from a lifetime of practice.  It shows.  They are outlined in such a way that even just reading through the instructions it is possible to gain new ways of seeing, listening and understanding.

As with many books of this type, the benefit is not so much in the reading as in the putting into practice of what is read.  However, it is not necessary to wait for a workshop based on this book to be presented somewhere near you.  There are many exercises that a few friends could work through in an evening. 

Interspersed through the pages are quotations and poems that sitting by oneself can be contemplated and used as a way to see with new eyes.

So, no matter whether there is just you, a few friends, or a group of several dozen, there is much in this manual to help you through the work of reconnecting.  Macy does, however, recommend the use of workshops.  As she says: “A workshop is an island in time, where, removed from other distractions and demands, we can focus together long enough to explore our deeper responses...”

For anyone considering facilitating a workshop based on this book, Macy has provided expert guidance and suggestions in the book, including advice on when it is best to have participated in a particular exercise before attempting to facilitate it.

In a time in which we are bombarded by Hollywood blockbusters, hand-held video games and other distractions where we are more an external observer, it is good to find a book that actively welcomes and invites our participation and engagement in the world and its future. 

This is one such book.

1. Joanna Macy, Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age, New Society Publishers, 1983.
2. Joanna Macy and Molly Brown, Coming Back to Life, New Society Publishers, 2014

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