Practices for a Time of Great Turning

We all have our daily, monthly, or yearly practices that we carry with us. Of the practices we carried on Beyond Boundaries, both as individuals and as a group, these were integrally woven into the fabric of the pilgrimage from the start: wilderness rites of passage, council, ancestral tracking, intergenerational collaboration, bearing witness and pilgrimage itself. We engage these pathways for ourselves and for others, sharing them because each has been so much a part of the healing as we have experienced it.

Each of us was called to the Beyond Boundaries pilgrimage for different reasons, but with a common urge to respond. With open eyes, privileged backgrounds, love for this world and deep concern for ourselves, our fellow people, the planet and the fate of the future generations, we joined because it seemed a mission appropriate to the times. Though we may not have an intact tribe or community to return to, we went out anyway, knowing that no response is not an option, and trusting that even this little step might be part of the healing.

  • We each have come to act on the truth of our situation. In such a complex time, it is easy to become apathetic, depressed or simply paralyzed by what’s before us. For some of us, Beyond Boundaries seemed the most appropriate response we could envision, a chance to live the questions before us. A chance to live some of the best responses we know. In attempting to do this and to do it well, these practices were strong teachers for us, pillars that accompanied us throughout the journey.
    Beyond Boundaries

A Great Turning?

Joanna Macy calls it “The Great Turning.” Others are calling it “The Shift,” “The 11th Hour,” or “The Great Awakening.” Whether or not these descriptions are accurate, it’s clear that we are living through an exciting and uncertain time: witnessing one of the most mysterious, terrifying, and inspiring moments in human history.

Should we survive the initiatory ordeal, we will return a more mature species, with a new chance to serve our community (the biosphere) in stewardship, respect and grace.

Seen through the lens of Campbell’s hero’s journey, one can say that humankind is passing through the threshold of a species-wide rite of passage. Collectively, we now face the possibility of our own death as a species, as well as the reality of irrevocable damage to the biosphere. By definition, a rite of passage must include the frightening possibility of failure — anything less would be lacking in its ability to initiate us fully. The experience will brush the initiate up against the very fibers of what she is, causing her to draw from her deepest resources, expanding her sense of self as well her identification with, and ability to serve something larger. At the species scale, this passage can be seen as an opportunity for humanity to consciously redefine and claim our relationship with the rest of the world. Should we survive the initiatory ordeal, we will return a more mature species, with a new chance to serve our community (the biosphere) in stewardship, respect and grace.

This unfolding story seems necessarily and paradoxically to happen at both the macro and the micro levels. It is happening for us as a species, and yet the only way for our species to initiate and mature is for each of us to do so ourselves. We all face the question of how to respond at this time. When the world is so complex, when for much of the world the concept of community has become just that: a concept; when the planet’s life-supporting systems are in jeopardy; when the old ways of so many cultures have been lost, and that which remains seems to be slipping through our fingers; when the simple ecological understanding of our interconnectedness goes unrecognized most of the time; when research and special interest can argue every side of any issue, leaving doubt as the most reliable truth; when many of us pass down values out of habit rather than conviction; when we are both rich and poor beyond belief; when the need is so great; when the paths are so varied; when the opportunity is knocking; when the questions loom large above and the ground feels shaky beneath… In the face of all that is with us at this time, how do we move forward in a good way given the truth of our situation?

Now is a time to be reminded of how to respect one another and the earth, a time to ask permission, from the elders and ancestors, from the land, from our hosts, from ourselves and each other, permission to step into and carry a lineage, as well as permission to create anew. It is a time to honor and respect our differences as well as our similarities. It is a time to stop and breathe before moving forward — to no longer take things for granted, but recognize our direct effect and to accept genuine responsibility for ourselves and our world. What we do and do not do matters. In this way we offer ourselves to a living of pilgrimage, living of ceremony, living wildness, living questions, living council, living a prayer into action, as we participate fully in the little story and the bigger story of our lives.


  • …I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language… the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.
    Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet