The Work That Reconnects is a deeply experiential body of work to help us navigate – and better – our world in these troubling times. Linda Aspey explains

The Tool

The Work That Reconnects (WTR) is a transformational body of theory and practice about and for our world and our relationship with it. Based on the root teachings of eco-philosopher, teacher and activist, Joanna Macy, it first emerged in 1978, drawing from deep ecology, systems theory and spiritual traditions. Since then, it has been added to and refined, and is now a substantial set of freely available resources that include thinking, talking and feeling exercises, meditations and guided journeys, spiritual perspectives and practices, videos, journaling, poetry, philosophy, ecology.

Its purpose is to help people to work through and understand the stories that we are all living through in these tumultuous times and to explore the much-needed transition to a sustainable human culture that reduces harms to our world and to other beings. It’s a deeply experiential process to which people bring anything they wish that is concerning them about our world – whether that’s climate and environmental crises, human or animal rights, other social injustices and oppression, war, societal or moral decline – or anything else. It’s at its best when experienced rather than read about.

It’s sometimes also known as ‘Active Hope’, however that’s the title of a book that Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone wrote in 2012 to help people use the body of work for greater impact ( Active Hope is something we do rather than have, getting clear on what we hope for and then playing our role in the process of moving that way. The later book by Joanna Macy and Molly Brown,
Coming Back to Life ( built on this and has a multitude of excellent resources.

The process may involve thinking and feeling about things that we have previously pushed away, and this can be painful, but doing so enables us to move forward, with courage, a clearer intention, creativity, solidarity and a greater sense of connection to the wider and deeper world.


Using the Tool

Mostly the ideas and resources are used with groups in a facilitative way but can be used 1:1 in coaching. I became involved with it as a personal journey through my activist work with Extinction Rebellion and have spent the last three years fairly immersed in experiencing it, deepening my learning, being part of various WTR communities, and teaching it.

Work That Reconnects sessions can be a few hours long or held over several days, weeks and months. Because it’s based on a Spiral it comes back round, taking us back to somewhere different from where we started, so people often revisit the Spiral at different times. It’s best when there are at least two WTR facilitators who share the role to support participants more easefully.

Exercises from the body of work can be used in all kinds of settings, so it does not have to be ‘delivered’ in its entirety. However its power is really in the fuller journeys that involve at least the ‘Four Stages of the Spiral’, and the ‘Three Stories of our Time’.

After agreeing – in some depth – ways of working together inclusively and to establish psychological safety, typically the facilitators offer some background about what is happening in our world (perhaps using the Three Stories of Our Time – see box), and then introduce people to the four stages of the Spiral through which people are invited to ‘travel’ together. These stages are:

  • Coming from Gratitude
  • Honouring our Pain for the World
  • Seeing with New and Ancient Eyes
  • Going Forth


They are naturally emerging stages of thinking and feeling about whatever concerns them, and each stage leads to the next. The power of sharing these stages with another or others is profound and moving.

Gratitude allows us to feel and love what is there, bringing us back to what is important. It is an antidote to the world that often says we are not enough, or we don’t have enough (so we keep buying things or looking for new experiences). It opens us up to empathy.

When we feel grateful, we become more resilient to our pain. Honouring our pain means we are willing to experience it and gain a deeper compassion for the suffering of other beings, re-connecting with those outside of ourselves.

Then we can see things afresh, with new and ancient eyes, including from the perspectives of other beings or human ancestral eyes we had forgotten, and this enriches our desire to make changes for future generations.

From there we can go forth with our inter-existence in our minds and hearts, and with the gifts and real-world limitations we have, make the changes we can, and that the world needs. We don’t need to have it perfectly right, but we can make a start.


The Exercises

To work through these stages the facilitators offer exercises, experiences, readings and more – and these will depend on several factors, for example, the reason for the gathering, the group’s size, the time available, or whether it’s a one-off session or part of series.

A frequently used starter is ‘Open Sentences’, where people work in pairs or very small groups, each taking turns of a few minutes to complete a given sentence, while the other(s) listens deeply without interruption. For example, when at the Coming from Gratitude stage the Open Sentence might be “Things that make me most glad to be alive in the world are…”

This simple act reminds us of so much we had taken for granted or not thought of for a while; it’s surprisingly enriching.

Exercises for Honouring Our Pain might be as simple as Open Sentences with “When I think about what is happening in our world I feel …” or may be more to do with storytelling or finding other ways to express pain, such as drawing, writing or sharing images.

And there are more seemingly complex ones. For example, one that is particularly memorable and impactful is the ‘Corbett Practice’ sometimes used at the Spiral stage of Seeing with New and Ancient Eyes or Going Forth, or between the two, in small groups, each person states an intention. The others in the group respond from different generations or lives – ancestors, future beings, other beings.

Another is the ‘Council of All Beings’, a ritual that invites a group of individuals to step aside from being human and instead to consider the world from the perspectives of other life forms. Sometimes this is done or started outdoors, where people can slowly wander around until they feel a connection with something else, whether that’s a tree, a river, a stone, some moss or lichen or an animal. They then come back to the group with a piece or symbol of that being, sometimes making a mask or a piece of art to express that entity. In the circle each takes their turn to give voice, and each is listened to and thanked by the Council. It’s always moving.



Even though The Work That Reconnects has been around for some decades, it’s seeing a big resurgence because of what is happening in our world.

There are many ways of bringing the work to groups, and many rich resources freely available to you; however I really recommend experiencing it first personally before you go onto any training as practitioner – this is deep and powerful work. Any fears you have as a facilitator that this will be too weird for most will soon be dispelled, in my experience. If the group is made safe from the start, shared vulnerability and caring connections will ensue. I’ve done this often with groups of coaches and the general public as well as teams of managers and leaders. They have usually found these exercises deeply impactful and have translated their personal learnings into how they have gone onto make decisions and lead, back in their day job.


  • Linda Aspey is a coach, facilitator, supervisor and therapist, working with individuals, teams and groups to meet a future that will be more challenging than the present:
  • To find out more about Linda’s WTR work, open workshops and trainings visit:

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