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Coming Back to Life
The Updated Guide to the Work That Reconnects
Inspiration, practices, and meditations to empower us in the face of planetary suffering: “True wisdom for tough times.” —John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America
Deepening global crises surround us, causing many to fall prey to denial and despair. Coming Back to Life shows how grief, anger, and fear are healthy responses to the harsh realities of our time, and that when honored through the revolutionary practice of the Work That Reconnects, they can free us from paralysis and move us toward creative action.
This new, completely updated edition of the classic text illuminates the extraordinary Work that has inspired hundreds of thousands to make strides towards the creation of a life-sustaining human culture. Buddhist scholar and environmental activist Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown introduce the Work’s theoretical foundations, revealing the angst of our era with remarkable insight. Pointing the way forward out of apathy, they offer personal counsel as well as easy-to-use methods for group process that profoundly affect people’s outlook and ability to act in the world.
“If you want to connect with your joy even in the midst of sadness, if you want to see new life arise out of despair, Coming Back to Life has my highest possible recommendation.” —John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America and co-founder and president, The Food Revolution Network
“A must for all who want to mobilize humanity in service of all beings. These concepts, exercises, and meditations have proven to work across generations, religions, ethnicities and races.” —Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Director of Social Justice Organizing, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher, activist, and scholar of Buddhism and systems theory has an international following, thanks to 30 years in movements for global justice and ecological sanity. She is the author of 12 books including the original Coming Back to Life and Widening Circles, and she has produced a 2-DVD set entitled The Work that Reconnects.
Molly Young Brown combines the Work That Reconnects, ecopsychology, and psychosynthesis in her work: teaching online courses, writing and publishing books and essays, coaching and mentoring, and giving talks and workshops internationally. Her five books include the original Coming Back to Life and Growing Whole: Self-realization for the Great Turning.
"Here is a blueprint for our present time-an honest and openhearted appraisal of our globally destructive and abusive behavior, and the work required to transform, to shift into a life-sustaining culture. Joanna Macy and Molly Brown outline the simple and essential choices we need to make, and give us the tools to make this shift. A vitally necessary book."
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee Ph.D., Sufi teacher and author, Spiritual Ecology, the Cry of the Earth
"The Dalai Lama nailed it: a timeless manual for Earth healers, inspires actionable hope. The new edition reminded me again how to replace despair with constructive optimism; blame with imagination, innovation and collaboration. As a former middle-school teacher, I say "Hooray" for the new chapter designed to aid mentors and teachers on whom it will fall to guide those likely to suffer the worst consequences of the Great Unraveling: Generations X through Z and beyond. The meditations at the close of the book are both balm and goad. From their unique and clear-eyed analysis of our present crises and their causes, through exercises to catalyze the Great Turning, Macy and Brown's book models the changes it aims to facilitate in our hearts and minds. A heart-lifting read."
Ellen LaConte, author, Life Rules and Afton: A Love Story
"In a time of catastrophic climate change, Joanna Macy and Molly Brown offer a treasure-trove of principles, practices, poems, and prayers that must become as natural to us as breathing. Only this quality of spiritual nourishment can sustain us in our planetary hospice condition. These tools not only fortify us for the long haul, but intimately join us with the Earth, our bodies, and one another, thereby enabling us to experience an exuberant aliveness."
Carolyn Baker, Ph.D., author, Collapsing Consciously and Love In the Age of Ecological Apocalypse
"Joanna Macy's and Molly Young Brown's new book is a spectacular and accessible blueprint for conflict resolution, environmental sustainability and a planet we all hope to embrace collectively and enjoy. The measures recommended in this book are ones that every individual and community can get behind. Coming Back to Life is a perfect title for a marvelous book."
Michael Charles Tobias, president, Dancing Star Foundation
"We live in truly perilous times. If you want to face what is happening with an open heart and mind, if you want to use your suffering to awaken to greater aliveness and compassion, this book is for you. Coming Back to Life doesn't just teach that our suffering can be the birthplace for a greater capacity for healing. It shows you how. It's a brilliant guidebook to the power you have at your core to let your light shine its brightest even in the presence of fear and planetary anguish. If you want true wisdom for tough times, if you want to connect with your joy even in the midst of sadness, if you want to see new life arise out of despair, Coming Back to Life has my highest possible recommendation."
John Robbins, author, Diet For A New America and co-founder and president, The Food Revolution Network
"A must for all who want to mobilize humanity in service of all beings. These concepts, exercises, and meditations have proven to work across generations, religions, ethnicities and races."
Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, Director of Social Justice Organizing at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
"Modern civilisation has brought the planet and untold numbers of species, including our own, to the brink of existence. To honestly witness this with our hearts, minds, and spirits wide open and remain able to react, adapt, and, when necessary, resist, often seems impossible. Coming Back to Life, the wisdom, clarity and urgency of Joanna Macy's lifelong body of incredible work shines brighter and more important than ever before. Our very lives now depend on being present in order to stay sane amidst this suicidal culture, and Macy shows us the way."
Dahr Jamail, journalist and author
"Coming Back to Life is the aptly-titled compendium of what has been learned over many years and can be shared with us all from the successful Work That Reconnects workshops that Joanna Macy and associates have offered to thousands of people from all walks of life. The book ranges from the purpose of such work and its role in what's called the "Great Turning" to the most specific details of how to conduct a successful workshop of this kind. It's a fine example of something the progressive world often lacks: a way to pass on what's been learned in one successful project or another so that this work can grow."
Michael Nagler, president, Metta Center for Nonviolence
"Coming Back to Life is for me a treasured core text and I am among the many who are delighted with this upgrade. It distils a further sixteen years of experience, names more clearly the context we face and broadens the reach of this work with important new chapters. Thank you Joanna and Molly."
Chris Johnstone, co-author, Active Hope
"The earlier edition of Coming Back to Life has been a roadmap to me and to others at the Gandhi Institute for years, especially for strengthening our systemic thinking in relation to social injustice and for increasing our capacity to practice mourning in community settings. This new edition is a gift, like a visit from an old friend during a rough time. I feel so grateful to Joanna and to Molly for choosing to return to and refresh this work - a more timely, practical book is unimaginable. I pray that it strengthens our collective ability to lovingly take action on behalf of our descendants."
Kit Miller, Director, MK Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence
"Every generation needs its sacred texts, its scriptures. Our journey through the damaged landscape and perilous time on this precious Earth requires a new kind of soul guide. Coming Back to Life gives voice to our generations' psalms, praises, and lamentations, our call for justice. It provides practices and meditations so we can make sense of who we are. This book is our wisdom text."
Carolyn Raffensperger, executive director, Science and Environmental Health Network, and co-founder, Women's Congress for Future Generations
"Reading this blessed treasure of a book is a healing experience. It names and honors the overwhelming emotions, paradoxes, complexities and desires that swirl deep in us as we face the reality of this time. And with gentle assurance it offers us actions that reconnect us to our deepest sources of well-being, energy and love, no matter the external realities. I am forever grateful that this book returns to our world at this time."
Margaret Wheatley, author, Leadership and the New Science, Perseverance and So Far From Home
"If you ever feel pain or guilt for events in the world, dismay at useless cruelty, rage at environmental damage and waste, or powerlessness because you do not know what to do, this is the book for you. In Coming Back to Life Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown show how these feelings need not be suppressed. Far from being an agonizing companion, they can be a friend and an aid at reconnecting with your heart and taking useful action."
Piero Ferrucci, author, Your Inner Will
"Coming Back to Life opens our eyes to both the difficulties and the possibilities - while inspiring our hearts and minds with practices that allow us to become wise activists in a very complex world."
Lynne Iser, founder, Elder-Activists.org
"Joanna Macy and Molly Brown in their expansive new book Coming Back to Life help us understand the urgency of and the steps to take for this necessary journey. This book is as challenging as it is breath-taking. Macy and Brown remind us over and over the importance of not just facing but claiming suffering, our own, other's and the planet's. Not to despair but to live out and embody our spiritual being in mutuality with each other and the world. They offer practical exercises to help us on our way. Rays of joy leap from the pages but without a guarantee that we will prevail. I found myself continually feeling grateful for this book and the wonderful beings who bring up the necessary challenge of reconnecting and coming back to life."
John Powell, director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, UC Berkeley
"This legacy edition reflects forty years of highly refined, time-tested experiential group work that has now spread around the globe. Built on the wisdom and principles of Macy's life work, the volume offers a bounty of resources for teachers and facilitators engaged in social transformation. New chapters include insights and progress from expanding the work to children, young people, and activists of color. Macy and Brown provide clear analysis and guidance for cultivating a profound shift in perception critical to a viable future. They express great urgency about what must be done, yet their methods are grounded, powerful, and proven as a path of action. The creative strength of the work lies in its confidence in the human imagination as a basis for hope. This work is wisdom work, an inspired project for healing the wounded parts of the earth and the human psyche. It is filled through and through with the huge hearts and passionate dedication of all those who have been touched by this compelling vision and most visionary teacher."
Stephanie Kaza, author, Mindfully Green
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