Empowerment in the Face of Planetary Suffering – a workshop series based on the work of Joanna Macy


Last month our village council held a public information meeting about the TransCanada Pipeline proposal. The company was seeking endorsement to transport 1.1 million tonnes of bitumen/day over our Highly Vulnerable Aquifer and across the Rideau River.  Although our village did not endorse the proposal, the next level of government did and I was left feeling a great deal of despair. If we couldn’t affect change in our own backyard, how could we ever hope to see the level of cooperation required to tackle the enormity of Climate Change?

Despair isn’t the only response we can have when we feel alone and helpless in the face of big things – we can easily slip into denial or grief, the helpless states that leave us totally ineffective.

But there is another way which has been used since the 1970s to help hundreds of thousands of people find the solidarity and courage needed to act despite the rapidly worsening social and ecological conditions.  The process outlined in the book “Coming Back to Life” by Joanna Macy can “help bring us into a fresh relationship with our world, and not only arouse our passion to protect life, but also steady us in a mutual belonging more real than our fears and even our hopes.” Using the book as the basis, the following is being offered:


EMPOWERMENT in the FACE of PLANETARY SUFFERING – workshop series based on the work of Joanna Macy.

Wednesdays, Nov. 9 – Dec. 7th, 6:30 – 8:00pm,

Merrickville United Church (Main St. entrance), Merrickville, ON

For those who are concerned about the environmental and social state of the world and want to both integrate their responses and move forward with creative action.

Led by Carol Williams, 613-269-4427, journey@ripnet.com

Donations of cash, time or in-kind services to the value of $12/evening or $50/series will be forwarded to “Merrickville Bridge to Canada” (MBC), the non-partisan, non-religious group formed of local folks from all walks of life who will help sponsor and support a refugee family in our community.


Guidelines for this workshop series:

  1. Attune to a common intention.
  2. Welcome diversity.
  3. Know that only the whole can repair itself.
  4. You are only a small part of a much larger process, like a nerve cell in a neural net.
  5. Open to flows of information from the larger system.
  6. Speak the truth of your experience of this world.
  7. Believe no one who claims to have the final answer.
  8. Work increasingly in teams or joint projects serving common aims.
  9. Be generous with your strengths and skills – they are not your private property.
  10. Draw forth the strengths of others by your own acknowledgment of them.
  11. You do not need to see the results of your work.
  12. Putting forth great effort, let there also be serenity in all you doing.


Aims of the workshop series:

  1. provide perspectives and practices that reveal our connections
  2. reframe our pain for the world as evidence of our mutual belonging and hence our power to take action on behalf of life
  3. awaken our stamina and buoyancy
  4. act for the sake of all earthly creatures
  5. identify the strengths and resources we can mobilize in our commitment to the self-healing of the world
  6. face the challenge that every one of us, in collaboration with others, is fully capable of meeting in our own distinctive ways.



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