How experiments open a new world

If it’s our everyday habits of thinking, action and relationship that keep the world as it is (and they do), then it’s experimentation that has the greatest chance of opening a new world with greater space for us to move in. And when the old world is no longer working out, or bringing suffering, we could all do with a way to open to a new kind of freedom.

This is the topic that Lizzie and I took up in yesterday’s Turning Towards Life conversation, which you can watch here.

Turning Towards Life is itself a big experiment for us, and is opening up new ways of talking, making sense, and building community. This week we grew to over 500 members. We’d be thrilled for you to join us, which you can do over at turningtowards.life

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A new home for ‘Turning Towards Life’

The ‘Turning Towards Life’ project that Lizzie Winn and I began last year has now reached 15 weeks and almost 500 members. It has been an enormous joy to engage in such life-giving conversation with Lizzie each week and to hear from the many of you who watch and comment that it is been both meaningful and inspiring.

I’m thrilled to announce that as well as the members-only facebook group (where you can watch live, see earlier conversations, and join the conversation) the project now has its own public home at turningtowards.life

There you can find all the archived conversations, share them with others, and find ways to join in the community that’s growing around this work.

I will still post a link to each week’s conversation here. We’ll be glad if you choose to join us, either by watching the archive or being with us live on Sunday mornings at 9am UK.

Follow these links to see the talks from the last three weeks:

Episode 13 – How to Know When You’re Wounded

Episode 14 – Advice from the Dying to the Living

Episode 15 – Turning Our Lives Into a Celebration

And more at turningtowards.life

Oh Beautiful Sky, and The Cradling

Episodes 11 and 12 of ‘Turning Towards Life’ are now available on our new Turning Towards YouTube channel, and are also included below. We’ll be live on facebook here as usual at 9am UK time each Sunday morning.

In Oh Beautiful Sky we begin with a poem written by Lizzie’s husband Matthew for his daughter. Our conversation turned into the topic of power – how we try to have power over others and over the world, and the difficulty this brings. And how cultivating awe and connection with something bigger than ourselves – the sky, nature – can remind us of a much truer power we have, power-with, in which we turn towards others and bring ourselves in a way that brings out the possibility of mutual commitment. And what different world of organisations, family, community and politics we’d cultivate if power-with was our central commitment in the world?

And in The Cradling we begin with a beautiful and powerful meditation from the work of Joanna Macy. We ask ourselves what possibilities there are when we remember the extraordinary and unlikely evolutionary background from which all human beings come, and when we remember also that everyone – even those people we judge most or are most afraid of – arises from exactly the same background and shares with each of us the same biology. Would we respond so easily with the impulse to hurt, or distance ourselves, or turn away? And if we did not, what then?

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The Cradling by Joanna Macy

Every week Justin & Lizzie host a conversation live on facebook, at 9am UK time, as part of the thirdspace ‘Turning Towards Life’ project. Each week we begin our conversation with a source that moves, inspires or stretches us, and see what happens. We’re delighted that hundreds of people are watching and listening.

You can see us live on facebook by joining our private facebook group, or catch up with the videos later on our YouTube channel.

Our source for this week is an abridged version of Joanna Macy’s ‘The Cradling‘ meditation, from her Work That Connects. You can find more information about the Joanna Macy’s work on her website.

Lift gently your partner’s arm and hand. Cradle it, feel the weight of it… flex the elbow and wrist, note how the joints are hinged to permit variety of movement. Behold this arm as if you had never seen it before, as if you were a visitor from another world… Observe the articulation of bone and muscle … Turning the palm and fingers, note the intricacy of structure.

What you now hold is an object unique in our cosmos:  a human hand of planet Earth.  In the primordial seas where once we swam, that hand was a fin  – as it was again in its mother’s womb.   Feel the energy and intelligence in that hand  – that fruit of a long evolutionary journey, of efforts to swim, to push, to climb, to grasp.  Note the opposable thumb, how clever and adept it is… good for grasping a tool, a gun, a pen.

Open your awareness to the journey it has made in this present lifetime… how it opened like a flower when it emerged from the mother’s womb.… how it reached to explore and to do.  That hand learned to hold a spoon… to throw a ball… to write its name… to wipe tears… to give pleasure. There is nothing like it in all the universe.

Lift now your partner’s other hand and arm … Observe the subtle differences from its twin … This hand is unique, different from all other hands… Turning it in yours, feel the life in it …  And note also its vulnerability… no shell encases it, for those fingertips, that palm, are instruments for sensing and knowing our world, as well as for doing…  Flexible, fragile hand, so easy to break or burn … Be aware of how much you want it to stay whole, intact, in the time that is coming… It has tasks to do, that your partner can’t even guess at.… reaching out to people in confusion and distress, helping, comforting, showing the way.  This hand may be the one that holds you in the moments of your own dying, giving you water or a last touch of reassurance….  The world of sanity and decency that lies ahead will be built by hands like this one.  With gratitude for its existence, put it gently down; move now around behind your partner’s head.

Now hold your partner’s head, cradling it with reverence, for what you now hold in your two hands is the most complex object in the known universe… a human head of planet Earth… a hundred billion neurons firing in there… vast potential for intelligence… only a portion has been tapped of its capacity to percieve, to know, to vision.

Your hands holding your partner’s head – that is the first touch your partner knew in this life, coming out of the womb into hands, like yours, of a doctor or midwife….  Now within that skull is a whole world of experience– of memories of scenes and songs, beloved faces… some are gone now, but they live still in the mansions of that mind…. It is a world of experience that is totally unique and that can never be fully shared…  In that head too are dreams of what could be, visions that could shape our world.

Closing your eyes for a moment, feel the weight of that head in your hands. It could be the head of a Chinese worker or an Nicaraguan mother, of an American general or an African doctor. Same size, same weight just about, same vulnerability, same capacity for dreams that could guide us through this time.

Looking down at this head, think of what this person may have to behold in the times that are coming… the choices to be made… the courage and endurance needed.  Let your hands, of their own intelligence, express their desire that all be well with that head. Perhaps there is something that you want your partner to keep in mind  – something you want them not to forget in times of stress or anguish.  If there is, you can quietly tell them now, as you lay their head back down.

The Invisible Tug Between You and Everything

I can hardly imagine it
as I walk to the lighthouse, feeling the ancient
prayer of my arms swinging
in counterpoint to my feet.

– Ellen Bass

It’s so easy to feel our separateness from everything.

For a start, we always experience ourselves at the centre of our lives, right where our body is, while people and things come and go around us. We can easily conclude that we are the only solid something in the world, while everything else is transient.

And few of us live in the midst of community. We have practices that shape how we work, how we take care of ourselves, how we attend to our lives that emphasise how alone we are, and how self-reliant we must be in order to survive. It’s rare to find ourselves bound up in the midst of communities of depth, support and care that remind us in each moment how held we can be.

And then there’s the whole way our systems of knowing and learning are constructed, deeply influenced by the Cartesian view that we are essentially minds, separate from the world. And our economic system, which deems us useless unless we can prove our productivity.

It’s no wonder we can feel so alone, so afraid, so distant from everything. It’s no wonder it’s so hard for us to feel the way in which each of us matters, in which the world and we depend each upon the other.

But we do matter. And the world does depend upon each of us. And when we’re able to remember this, we have a much better chance of doing what we’re here to do.

This is the topic we took up in this week’s Turning Towards Life conversation, which begins with Ellen Bass’s beautiful poem The World Has Need of You, and which you can watch below.

We’ll be live again on Sunday morning at 9am UK time. you can join us here.

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For the sake of heaven

This week in ‘Turning Towards Life’ Justin and Lizzie began with Jennifer Wellwood’s poem “Unconditional“. We talked together about how difficult it can be to really accept our experience, how easy to run from it, and the consequences. Along the way we considered why it is that human beings so often prefer to be right than to stay in relationship, and how that’s related to our wish to defend ourselves. And we introduced the idea of an argument ‘for the sake of heaven’… which is when we disagree in a way that keeps a bigger context in view and allows us to let go of our own rigid positions.

You can find the poem, which we recommend you read before watching, here.

Photo Credit: tokyoform via Compfight cc

The Wild Edge of Sorrow

Lizzie Winn and Justin Wise were live again on Sunday 26th November.

This week the source for our conversation is Francis Weller’s book “The Wild Edge of Sorrow”. We begin with two poems – Denise Levertov’s “To Speak of Sorrow” and Robert Bly’s “What is Sorrow For?”. We talk about the connection between feeling our sorrow, shared rituals and spaces for grieving, and aliveness. Along the way we touch on how restraining sorrow keeps the myth that we are separate going, and how our collective numbing to the losses of our own lives and the world is a way we keep perpetuating the more destructive aspects of our current culture. We end with the hopeful thought that finding ways to grieve together is a way to help us turn more fully and courageously towards life and all that is called for from us.

You can find both poems, which we recommend you read before watching, here.

And you can join our FaceBook group, now more than 400 strong, to watch live or later and participate in the lively conversation that’s going on in the comments.

Personal Guidelines for the Great Turning

Lizzie Winn and Justin Wise were live again on Sunday 19th November.

The source for this week’s conversation was Joanna Macy’s “Personal Guidelines for the Great Turning”. We talk about what can support us in responding courageously and truthfully in the midst of the enormous changes – political, social, environmental – which may only just be beginning and which could change everything. Along the way we touch on the life-giving necessity of beauty, how to know ourselves in a way that can give us the courage we need to step forward, and how important it is to realise that none of us is alone.

You can find Joanna Macy’s ‘Personal Guidelines’, which we recommend you read before watching, here.

And you can join our FaceBook group, now more than 400 strong, to watch live or later and participate in the lively conversation that’s going on in the comments.

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I am an emotional creature

In our conversation on Sunday 12th November, Lizzie and Justin began with Eve Ensler’s poem ‘I am an Emotional Creature’. We talk about being male and female, how society pushes us towards gendered roles and orientations to the world, and what gets left out when we gravitate to either one of the poles of emotion or intellect without the other.

You can find the poem, which we recommend you read before watching, here:
http://bit.ly/2zxcglq

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Wild Geese

Lizzie and I were live again this morning, The source for this week’s conversation was Mary Oliver’s powerful poem ‘Wild Geese‘.

We talk about the constraining effects of inner criticism and the limits of our over-effort to be good or strong or loving or clever. And along the way we stumble into some realisations about what’s possible when we learn to trust something other than our own self-judgement, and reach out to others for help.

And if you’d like to join in with the growing community that’s forming around this project, and the lively conversation that’s taking part in the comments, you can do so here.

Fuel for Your Fire

In just a month over 350 people have joined our new Turning Towards Life project on FaceBook. It’s been thrilling to find a new way to talk about many of the concerns, ideas and possibilities that are still an inspiration for the On Living and Working blog, and I think it’s likely that our conversations will in turn be the inspiration for more writing over the coming months.

I was particularly touched by our latest conversation on Sunday morning, which took John Neméth’s song ‘Fuel for Your Fire‘ as its starting point. The question we wanted to address is both simple and central to many people – how can we have our difficulties be a source of life for us, rather than a reason to turn away in shame, fear, or avoidance?

It’s certainly a profound question for me. It’s easy for me when I’m in some kind of trouble to imagine that I am somehow special, the only one experiencing life in this particularly challenging kind of way. And when I take on this relationship to my troubles what I notice most is my separateness from everyone and everything – as if I am uniquely cursed, isolated from others and from the possibilities of care and help.

All of this, it turns out, is a profound misunderstanding. If anything, it’s our troubles that show us how human we are, how essentially alike we are. None of us are free from disappointments, mistakes, changes to our circumstances both within and beyond our control. None of us is free from loss. And when we know this to be an essential truth of our human condition, perhaps we can give up self-pity and instead take on the dignifying work of contribution. This – that contribution is often the most dignified and life-giving path for working with our difficulties – has in recent months, and when I remember it, been such a blessing in my own life.

We’d be really delighted if you’d join us in the 30 minute conversation below, which takes up all these themes and asks ‘How can our troubles be part of the path?’.

And if you’d like to join in with the growing community that’s forming around this project, and the lively conversation that’s taking part in the comments, you can do so here.

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On the Hidden Cost of Hiding

In our Turning Towards Life conversation of Sunday 15th October Lizzie Winn and I took up the topic Hiding – the many ways we hide in our busyness, in our work, and in our wider lives. We consider what it is that causes us to hide, and what the costs are in aliveness and in the holding back of our contribution.

Our conversation was prompted by a piece written on this blog, called The Hidden Cost of Hiding.

You can join us live on FaceBook at 9am each Sunday morning here.

The Longing for Realness

Our Turning Towards Life conversation of Sunday 8th October Lizzie Winn and I took up the topic of our longing for realness, and the many ways in which we hold back from being real and truthful with ourselves and with the people around us.

You can join us live at 9am next Sunday morning here.

 

The source text for our conversation was written by Lizzie for her Sacred Rebellion blog:

The Longing for Realness.

As we commute with our hair washed and our smart clothes on,
Nothing is truly hidden of our flailing marriages, our domestic madness, our financial ruin, our anxious bodies.

Because we, ourselves can see it and feel it, even if we’ve become expert at hiding away and letting it all fester in our bodies and homes.

We get so lonely in our own, small worlds of circles upon circles of self criticism, questioning and confusion. Compensation, defensiveness, self-absorption.

We look good, like we should. Function well as the world tells us to do.
And mostly inside there’s much occurring, that doesn’t get to the light because keeping up appearances is safer in our world than being straight and honest.

What if we’ve got it horribly wrong?
What if our humanity has a requirement to be joined by other humanity, to remove the shame of our messed up minds, hearts and bodies?

What if our dark bits are there, calling us to bring them to the light, and we keep shutting them in. Until they make us ill, make the world ill?

What about us is really unacceptable? In truth, the full spectrum of our experience is acceptable. Surely it has to be.

Here’s to a world where we are each other’s acceptance as well as our own. A world where looking like we’ve got our shit together is less valued and approved of than being real, vulnerable, disclosive and open.

— Lizzie Winn

Days Are Numbered

The first conversation in the thirdspace Turning Towards Life project with Justin Wise and Lizzie Winn went live on Sunday October 1st. Lizzie and I took up the questions and possibilities posed in my post ‘Numbered‘, which Justin wrote in 2015 in response to the imminent death of a dear friend and teacher.

Our wide-ranging conversation covers living truthfully with the knowledge that life is finite, bringing ourselves wholeheartedly and courageously, and what it is to not turn away.

Recordings of all the conversations will be posted here week by week, and available under the new ‘Video‘ tab on justinwise.co.uk.

And the very best way to interact with what we’re bringing is to join our FaceBook ‘Turning Towards Life’ group, which allows you to see us live on Sundays at 9am and to be part of the conversation.

Turning Towards Life

The technology available to us in our generation gives each of us an unparalleled opportunity to reach the world with our ideas and contribution. No previous generation in history has had this available to them.

We’ve been struck over recent days how remarkable this is, and how easy to take for granted.

Ideas that destroy, divide, and diminish our humanity, dignity and shared responsibility can spread as fast as those that can serve life. And so we’re starting to see that we have a responsibility, where we can, to bring our courage, generosity and gifts in service of that which could dignify, heal, and connect us. And that there’s no time to lose.

In this spirit we began today a freely available online conversation project hosted by thirdspace called ‘Turning Towards Life‘.

Every Sunday morning at 9am (UK) we’ll be speaking live online for about 30 minutes about a topic to do with facing life with courage, wisdom and compassion. Or, said another way, to do with how we might each come out of hiding and take up our places in the world.

We’ll start each conversation with a source that’s inspired, moved or challenged us – a poem, article, reading, or book – and we’ll post the source on a Friday so it’s widely available before our conversation.

The best way to join us is in our new facebook group. You’ll be able to see us live there, watch previous videos, and join the conversation.

To get you started, here’s a short introduction to the project. Please join us, and join in. We’d love to have you with us.

 

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