The Power of the Heart Moves Us Forward into a New Era

In the first part of November 2018, I had the opportunity and privilege to offer the Work That Reconnects in China, as a board member of the Holistic Centers Network.  All the board members were invited to participate in the first Holistic International Wellness Forum in Beijing. Each of us were asked to do a 30-minute presentation at the conference, and I followed up with a 3-hour workshop introducing the Work That Reconnects.

I arrived at Beijing airport in the late evening and was welcomed warmly by the translator. I was quickly ushered off to our driver, who merged into a sea of late model cars that clogged the Beijing Airport. I learned that 20 years ago, roads in China were absent of automobiles; only bicycles and motorcycles were the primary mode of transportation. But this is modern Beijing, a city of twenty million, living in dense clusters of high-rise apartments throughout the city.

We arrived at the Fuan Gong Hotel, part of the "Grand Epoch City" located in the Xianghe Economic & Technical Development Zone of Hebei Province.  This area is a 1/6th scale model of the old walled city of Beijing . It contains temples, fountains, ponds, a 27-hole golf course, among other things, and has hundreds of thousands of replicas; all within the "city's" walls.

I was surprised by the grandeur of this palatial hotel and how graciously we were treated throughout the entire conference. This being my first time in China, my knowledge of China was quite limited. I knew that it was run by the Communist Party and that economic reforms began in 1978, soon after the death of Mao Zedong. China is a land of contrasts: coal-burning plants, citizens wearing masks to protect from the air pollution, traffic congestion. Yet China is also leading the way in creating life-sustaining technologies and eco-villages.

The conference hall was equipped with all the modern media equipment, an array of lighting, and professional Masters of Ceremonies. It felt like the Academy Awards in the United States. The 700 conference attendees represented social services, hospice, early childhood education, and many other socially conscious professionals. I could feel the genuine interest in what it means to be ‘holistic’ and intimately interconnected. Many of the Western presenters shared their own journeys of transformation and personal growth in relationship to the development of their own centers, including Findhorn, Omega Institute, the Haven, Breitenbush Hot Springs, and Esalen.

Since the theme of the conference was 'The power of the heart moves us forward into a new era,’ I chose the Work That Reconnects as my presentation and workshop topic. This work has been offered at many of the Western centers that were represented at the conference. China is new territory for the Work That Reconnects, and as far as I know, only a few facilitators of the Work (Della Duncan and Hide Enomoto) have offered workshops in China.

I created a Powerpoint presentation for an overview of the Work That Reconnects, which included open sentences on the Great Turning, a short video from Joanna Macy on ‘Befriending Our Despair,’ and ended with inviting the 700 participants to stand up behind their seats and sway to the beautiful music of the Elm Dance. Many participants asked where to get the music, and I found out later that a group of kindergarten teachers wanted to teach the dance to their children. As Western presenters, we were subject to endless selfies with the participants, as an expression of their gratitude.

The 3-hour workshop the following day was attended by 90 people. Again, the enthusiasm and openness they showed was quite moving as we went through the Spiral. After a milling exercise, we moved into open sentences on gratitude, viewed the trailer of Midway by Chris Jordan to segue into Honoring Our Pain for the World, followed by open sentences.  We ended with the history and teaching of the Elm dance. 

How the Work That Reconnects can address cultural differences is a topic that needs to be explored more fully so we can be more relevant in sharing the Work in China. I also had some discussion on how we might proceed to translate Coming Back to Life and Active Hope into Chinese.  There were several invitations to offer the Work in China.  I will be exploring these new possibilities and connections, which we can offer facilitators of the Work That Reconnects as we go forth into the future.

Finding Beauty as an Everyday Practice

Looking at our current political landscape and the everyday deluge of media that I find difficult to digest, an antidote for me, is to recognize the beauty that is ever present. To witness this beauty, not as a way to mask the feelings associated with denial, but to balance the grief I feel at a personal and collective level, allows me to be more fully present in the world. Francis Weller, a psychotherapist and author who offers grief rituals says " In one hand we carry the sorrows of the world and in the other hand the joy for the world. Bring them together and we have the prayer of life." 

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I am writing this, as I look out across the Salmon River estuary as she opens up into the Pacific Ocean in her feminine beauty. I find it quite easy to absorb the beauty of the every-changing river, majestic sunsets, and herds of elk grazing on the meadows.  But I also try to open up to the subtle beauty of a sleeping cat, sunlight illuminating the corner of the room, or the gentle bending of blades of grass in the wind. Many years ago, sitting in meditation, the words "Joy and sorrow in the same breath" came to me. This is always a reminder to cultivate and hold the tension between these two emotions so I can fully participate in life. I offer these words, not to turn away from what is difficult in life, but to open up to the full dimension of being human.

with gratitude,
Werner

50th High School Reunion

In 1967 as I graduated from Beverly Hills High School, who could ever imagine I would attend my 50th high school reunion. That day arrived September 16, 2017 as Abigail and I gathered with 120+ Sexagenarians. We had crossed into a portal of time travel, as we found ourselves squinting at name tags, and upon recognizing a name, brain synapses releasing a handful of memories associated with the person standing in front of me. Some of us had aged well, others not so well,  others taking the advantage of modern science to hold on to youth as dearly as possible. My reason for attending was simply to honor the fact that I could, not the case for 35 fellow students who had passed on over the years. 

Eddie Ardow  - College roommate who eventually returned to Sweden after receiving a low lottery number from the Selective Service draft. He disputes this as the reason for his return.   Rick Widdows  - High school buddy, who after high school  co-conspired with me on our first LSD trip.

Eddie Ardow - College roommate who eventually returned to Sweden after receiving a low lottery number from the Selective Service draft. He disputes this as the reason for his return.

Rick Widdows - High school buddy, who after high school  co-conspired with me on our first LSD trip.

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Hillary Turner - A girlfriend from elementary school who is a professional photographer . She wrote in my high school yearbook that she could imagine me one day with lots of grandchildren on my long knees, which leads me to the awards ceremony at the reunion. The longest married couple - 49 years,  who had travelled the farthest to attend, my friend Eddie from Sweden and Jmmy Petterson, and I was the proud recipient of most children.


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And then there was our German class. A group of us endured four years with Frau Glanz. I, having German speaking parents, had an advantage and surely had signed up for the duration for an easy 'A', but as Frau Glanz realized I was not willing to do the work, each successive year my grade seemed to drop, until I was no longer in her favor. Sadly, I found out at the reunion that a car accident had left her as a paraplegic and after her husband died, she ended up in a state facility. May she Rest in Peace.


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Deborah Blum - This was one of the most special reconnections because her family was the reason I landed in Beverly Hills. On the eve of Christmas 1951, my parents responded to an ad for free rent in exchange for housekeeping and gardening. The location of the apartment was on Rodeo Drive by Sunset Blvd where we lived rent free for five years and remained in Beverly Hills until I finished high school. Following the reunion I attended a reading by Deborah, a film producer and writer, who read from her most recent book, Coming of Age: The Sexual Awakening of Margaret Mead.

Overall, I felt the reunion left me with a sense of completion, and a realization that my high school years were mostly pleasant memories and encounters, despite the confusing time of adolescence. I felt the absence of many, whose memories of that time of their lives might have been quite different.

Enjoying the reunion night in Beverly Hills

Enjoying the reunion night in Beverly Hills