Active Hope How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going Crazy

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Active Hope How to Face the Mess We’re in Without Going CrazyActive Hope is about discovering and offering our best response to the crisis of sustainability we face today. It offers tools that help us confidently approach the mess we’re in, and step into our role in the collective transition, or Great Turning, to a life-sustaining society.

The term Active Hope is the title of Joanna Macy’s new book and the message she will be sharing this June in Toronto. This dynamic and passionate 83-year-old woman is an eco-philosopher, a scholar of Buddhism, a general systems theorist, and deep ecologist. She is a well-respected voice in the movements for peace, justice, and ecology.

The essence of her message nourishes our courage and creativity for what she calls the Great Turning – an epochal transition (from an industrial society driven by economic growth to a life-sustaining society committed to the healing and recovery of our world.) This great turning is what Joanna considers to be the essential adventure of our time.

At the heart of her book is the idea of ‘Active’ Hope, implying hope is something we do rather than have. It involves being clear about what we hope for and then accepting our role in the process of bringing it about.

The journey of finding, and offering, our unique contribution to the Great Turning in turn leads us to discover new strengths, open to a wider network of allies, and experience a deepening of our aliveness. Macy says, “when our responses are guided by the intention to act for the healing of our world, the mess we’re in not only becomes easier to face, our lives also become more meaningful and satisfying”.

Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine, writes: “Books about social and ecological change too often leave out a vital component: ‘how do we change ourselves so that we are strong enough to fully contribute to this great shift?’ Active Hope fills this gap beautifully, guiding readers on a journey of gratitude, grief, interconnection and, ultimately, transformation.”

The stories and practices shared in Joanna’s book, co-authored with resilience specialist Chris Johnstone, make us glad to be alive in this amazing and perilous world, and introduce the reader to Joanna’s lifelong work, “The Work That Reconnects”. Chris adds valuable insights from his life experience, including being a trainer in the Work That Reconnects for more than two decades, and running facilitator trainings in the U.K.

The Work That Reconnects
The truth of our inter-existence, made real to us by our pain for the world, helps us see with new eyes. This work brings fresh understandings of who we are and how we are related to each other and the universe.
Through this process we begin to comprehend our own power to change. We strengthen by growing living connections with past and future generations, and our brother and sister species. Then, ever again, we go forth into the action that calls us. With others whenever and wherever possible, we set a target, lay a plan, step out.

We don’t wait for a blueprint or failproof scheme; for each step will be our teacher, bringing new perspectives and opportunities. Even when we don’t succeed in a given venture, we can be grateful for the chance we took and lessons learned. And the spiral begins again.

The activist’s inner journey appears to Joanna like a spiral, inter-connecting four successive stages or movements that feed into each other. These are:
– opening to gratitude;
– owning our pain for the world;
– seeing with new eyes;
– going forth.

The sequence repeats itself, as the spiral circles around, but ever in new ways. The spiral is fractal in nature: it can characterize a lifetime or a project, and it can also happen in a day or several times a day. The spiral begins with gratitude, because that quiets the frantic mind and brings us back to the source. It reconnects us with our empathy and personal power. It helps us to be more fully present to our world. Grounded presence provides the psychic space for acknowledging the pain we carry for our world.

In owning this pain, and daring to experience it, we learn that our capacity to “suffer with” is the true meaning of compassion. We begin to know the immensity of our heart-mind, and how it helps us to move beyond fear. What had isolated us in private anguish now opens outward and delivers us into wider reaches of our “world as lover, world as self.”  Again and again, we find the way to doing our part . . . that all life may continue.

A transformative evening with Joanna will take place on Thursday, June 21, at OISE Auditorium in Toronto at 7:30pm (doors open at 6:30). For more information and to purchase tickets please visit For more information on Joanna Macy or her book, visit:

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