What is most vital to do?


Written collaboratively with Restorying co-leader Jim Hall.

At the heart of Restorying is reconnection – both in the way we go about discovering new story and in the living of that story itself. At some level we all realize that the stories we currently live by leave us swinging between deep denial and hopeless despair: the story of unlimited growth, of unlimited progress, on the one hand, and the story of the collapse of planetary systems and human civilization on the other. We all live several contradictory stories at once; no wonder we feel confused and conflicted, or anxious and angry at times.

Restorying is about discovering and cultivating a new story at the largest level – the level of human presence on Earth, starting with the individual level – the deepest, most authentic story that is yours to live.

In Restorying we come home to our belonging to the sacredness of the living Earth. We come home to the wisdom we once knew, but have recently forgotten – the wisdom of the lost feminine integrated with the masculine, the wisdom of our bodies and senses, the wisdom of ancient myths and archetype, the wisdom of dreams, the wisdom of indigenous peoples who knew that mountain and river and tree have a spiritual energy that is vital to our well-being, individually and collectively. This reconnection is both the means and the essence of New Story.

This Restorying Retreat coming this September 12 – 14 invites us to stay for an extra day, from Sunday to Monday noon. Instead of jumping right back into our old busyness and to-do lists at the end of the retreat on Sunday, we can allow the new story to deepen and grow inside us. As we rest in the presence of our experiences and learning from the weekend, we can feel into, discover and experience practices that will help to keep us in a new story. This extra time will give us a chance to explore how our personal story could be expressed in mythic language, in image or poetry, illuminating hidden connections with the larger emerging story.

Mountain is not leaving. River is not leaving. They are calling us to deeper communion, to live in a greater spaciousness. Such an experience itself may be the answer to our ever-present question, “What can I do to be of any use at all?”

You might discover that your biggest gift to the world is not to do something to save it, but rather to fully belong to it. Maybe a day spent with mountain, with river, with forest, with stone, is exactly what we can do to be most deeply ourselves, to do what is most vital to do.

We might bring to that day a poem, like this one from Rilke –


Summer was like your house; you knew

where each thing stood.

Now you must go out into your heart

as onto a vast plain. Now

the immense loneliness begins.

The days go numb, the wind

sucks the world from your senses like withered leaves.

Through the empty branches the sky remains.

It is what you have.

Be earth now, and evensong.

Be the ground lying under that sky.

Be modest now,, like a thing

ripened until it is real,

so that he who began it all

can feel you when he reaches for you.

Taking this extra day may seem unrealistic or even indulgent, but wouldn’t you like to live in a new story where a day like that would be exactly the right thing to do?

More information or Register online.

What is Restorying?

Restorying blog









“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”  ~ Albert Einstein

After over 15 years teaching and practicing green architecture and sustainability, I had to ask: why haven’t things gotten better? Why are we still on a collision course with the climate, poverty, suffering, inequity, violence, war, and mental illness? We have the technology and the know-how to be far more efficient, so why aren’t we? How did we let it get to be too late for the climate?

I started wondering if all the emphasis on “what to do” was distracting us from the real work, which is to consider “who we are.”

I realized that, being part of this culture I wished to change, I was falling under its spell of separation. Restorying is not about saving the earth or being less bad. It’s about waking up to who we really are and why we are here. Which, at its core, is a mystery and always has been.

Our culture has trained us to believe that we are separate from and superior to the rest of the community of life.

. . . and, by extension, each other. We may agree and embrace this way of thinking, or we may be unaware that it is part of our operating system. Either way, until we discard that inaccurate and damaging notion, we can never heal ourselves, each other, or our world. We will remain stuck.

Throughout our history, humans have always lived by stories that told us how we got here, why we are here, and what God and the Universe were up to. The great playwright David Mamet says that drama comes from “our impulse to structure cause and effect in order to increase our store of practical knowledge about the universe.”

Our modern-day stories rely on abstractions like Growth and Progress, Family Values, Technology, and Change. Abstractions paint an incomplete and inaccurate picture of who we are in the world. We are taught that, unless you can measure, analyze or describe a phenomenon rationally, it doesn’t exist. Intuition, emotion, myth and the imagination have been treated as inferior, the realm of children best discarded once we reach adulthood.

In a Restorying retreat, we open ourselves to new messages that are germinating deep in our individual and collective consciousness.

Story-based practices draw from a deep well of imagination to receive the guidance and encouragement available to all of us. Exercises may bring numinous experiences of the joy of connection and welcome.  We explore practices like:

  • Letting go of old stories that no longer serve us
  • Tell and listen to stories – memoir, fable, myth, parable, hero’s journey
  • Imaginative journaling
  • Music, art and movement
  • Letting the body and senses listen and converse with our brothers and sisters, the trees, mountains, animals, meadows and streams

While a single unifying story is unlikely, a new way of being is taking shape that calls upon connection and belonging and is profoundly creative. Rather than struggle against what we don’t want, we can instead turn towards what energizes and inspires us. It is our birthright to live this way, to turn towards what is calling, what we love and long for. What are these emerging new stories?

For a current list of upcoming Restorying Retreats, check this page

“Children jump around at the end of the day, to expend the last of that day’s energy. The adult equivalent, when the sun goes down, is to create or witness drama – which is to say, to order the universe into a comprehensive form. Our sundown play/film/gossip is the day’s last exercise of that survival mechanism. In it we attempt to discharge any residual perceptive energies in order to sleep. We will have drama in that spot, and if it’s not forthcoming we will cobble it together out of nothing.”  ~ David Mamet, “Three Uses of the Knife,” pg. 8

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Trapped Moth

Moth in amber

Today’s lesson:

a moth fluttering inside the milky back-up light

of the car stopped in front of mine.

Its motion catches my eye:

the wings flap valiantly,

then stop.

And again, flap and stop.

Never mind how it got there,

attracted no doubt by the beckoning light.

It will never leave alive.

A miracle of organic order,

trapped forever inside a round plastic prism.

It will end as dust,

severed from the mysterious cycle of life.


I am that moth,

stuck in the modern world of cars and taillights.

Seized by the same primitive impulse

to be one with the flame.

Now using the same conserving strategy:

flap, then rest.

Flap, rest.

Yet I still believe I can escape the prison of plastic perfection,

when I am meant to leave my own humble smudge of dust behind.



Soft, feminine,

it tickles my ears and

alights in my mind

like a sparrow looking for sugar.


I am a leaf catching single drops,

drinking again after a long, dry week.


The symphony of slippery sliding down tree trunks

picks up in a crescendo of crowding

increases in tempo and pitch

as a building wind.


I spill the extra over the edges of my cupped surface.

I have thirsted for so long and

let them go with ease, knowing

more will come when I need to drink again.


Rain is silent

with no need of aural expression.

The sound emits from its meeting myriad surfaces,

alive and inert.


Silver threads of drops at speed

chase one another on their journey to earth,

gravity the glue between the drop and

the leaf it is bound to.


Each drop is promised to its Beloved.

It falls, falls, drunk with attraction,

landing on a slightly tilted surface and silently sliding,

caressing a path, leaving behind its own substance,

a silver glow of wet.


That sound is not the rain.

It is the rejoicing of each surface

welcoming home its lover,

the piece of water that annihilates itself gladly.


It has thrown itself out of the sky,

fallen into the unknown,

trusting that it will land in the perfect place

as always.


Upon landing, it is finished.

The taught surface explodes and

water fuses with leaf, enters, integrated, merges

cell to cell, molecule to molecule in a holy union.

The sound of rain is the sound of Life’s longing for itself.


Fallen Soldiers

photo by Julie Gabrielli

During the direcho that struck Baltimore recently, I peered in awe from a second-floor window and saw majestic trees transform in an instant from wild pendulum arcs to – snap! – roof-crushers and firewood.

I’m amazed at how rapidly the strewn tree parts have surrendered their vitality, leaves turning brown within days. One moment, they are a fixed, integral part of a living organism that evolved over many decades. The next, a violent wind severs that intimacy and shoves them into a new earthbound state.

Our idea of the natural order of things is shaken by such events. We see these fallen soldiers as trash, waste, part of all that is wrong with weird weather and slow-to-respond public utilities and overwhelmed cable companies. They are a glaring reminder that nature is as much tooth and claw as she is blue skies and bountiful tree canopies.

Yet, in our rush to pull out chain saws and chipper-shredders, we miss this miracle demonstration of the life cycle. In less time than it took for BGE to restore everyone’s power, the tree limbs were well on their underworld journey, right where they fell, summoned by a mysterious force that will eventually claim us all.

In the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest, fallen trees take over a hundred years to decay. During their slow-motion decline, they can harbor more life than they did when standing upright. Colonnades in these forests are mature trees that grow in a line using the fallen tree as a “nurse log.”

It would be interesting to see how long it takes this tree to fully decay and become soil again, but a cleanup crew will eventually come and remove the debris. Such trees accept their fate with grace and even beauty. Nature has designed it so that, even in death, they will nurture new life. Their very substance is ingested and dissolved by myriad creatures, visible and invisible. They may be dead, but they are far from lifeless.

photo by Julie Gabrielli