Cultivating the Heart and Soul of Transition

The Transition Movement is grounded in the belief that the industrial growth paradigm has had, and is having, very damaging consequences on our lives and life on earth. To extricate ourselves from ever-consuming out-of-balance lifestyles, and make a fundamental shift in how we live upon the earth, requires significant personal and societal transformation and a deep compassion for ourselves and others in the making of these major changes. This is the “transition” that undergirds this Movement. To successfully navigate this transition necessitates deep personal reflection and requires courage, humility and inquiry at the personal, community, and cultural levels. That is why inner awareness or “inner transition” practices are integrated into every level of Transition Towns work, from self-reflection practices at a personal level, to healthy group processes at a local level, to the integration of active listening in decision-making processes at the national- and international-levels.

As individuals, we may experience a wide range of emotions as we imagine and work towards building the future we want (or cope with the fears of a possible future we don’t want). For many, the scale of the problems we collectively face is simply overwhelming, and distraction or denial appear safer. The Transition Movement is designed to support us as we face, compassionately engage in, and progressively transform our world in these most challenging times. A focus on Inner Transition helps us work better together, bridge differences more readily, trust each other more, and heartily participate in more localized communities and sharing.

To this latter point, our staff (sometimes with board members) set aside the first Friday of the month (known as “Big Picture Fridays”) to reflect, realign, and be re-inspired. We believe that in order to rise to the great challenges of our time and enhance our movement’s effectiveness, we must continually commit to developing inner awareness and personal resilience, from the inside out.

Transition US – Big Picture Fridays

On the first Friday of every month we engage in “Big Picture Friday”. This is an opportunity for Transition US staff and board to step out of the day-to-day busyness and contemplate big picture issues, and reflect on how we are doing as individuals, as a team, and as an organization. We are still in the early days of this practice but envision pathways that would invite the greater network to participate with us in this reflection.

We arrived at this monthly observance when as staff we had the intention to create time to more creatively think of the big picture – the context of these times and who we were being in it – and to reflect on how we were doing as individuals, as a team, as an organization, and as a network. We also wanted to develop a steady pulse of this deeper thinking and reflection so that it would get more traction within the everyday work we were doing and permeate that work with more intentionality, passion, connection, and love. Basically, we wanted to create a process to help ensure that we were deepening our inner transition while we were building the support structures for the national work we were doing.

Thus our main goals and objectives for the process became to:

  • Develop a steady and intentional pulse of reflection throughout all of our work
  • Develop stronger and deeper relationships within the organization and the network it serves
  • Cultivate compassion for ourselves and for each other and appreciate the gifts that we all bring to this work
  • Address conflict by transforming it into learning opportunities and pathways for personal growth
  • Align our hearts, values and our work in the world
  • Have fun!

Some of the practices which we employ on our reflection days are: Spending some of the day in nature and letting this percolate in and through us; incorporate tuning-in, checking-in, listening, opening, reflecting, appreciating, and clarifying; and reflect on what ways this inner reflection/listening will advance our work in the world. So the container of nature with a pulse of reflect, listen, integrate, advance. Repeat next month.

Some personal outcomes as a function of having undertaken the process:

  • Inner awareness of ourselves, our motivations, vulnerabilities, strengths, hopes and dreams
  • Increased understanding of our teammates and all they are bringing into this work
  • Increased compassion for ourselves and others
  • Greater sense of purpose
  • Stronger alignment from our core values through the work we are doing
  • Deepening of relationships
  • Greater personal resilience

Following are some of our personal reflections:

Carolyne Stayton, Executive Director of Transition US says of Big Picture Fridays. “For me Big Picture Fridays” have added a dimension of understanding of and appreciation for those I work with. I get to see the precious core of my colleagues and I in turn feel deeply seen. To me, there is nothing quite so fulfilling. And as we better understand and appreciate each other, we advance our work together more heartily. Literally.”

Marissa Mommaerts, Transition US Director of Programs, adds: “Big Picture Fridays energize our work in a way that reminds us of the immense possibilities of the times in which we live. We deepen our respect for and understanding of each other, at the same time creating space for a level of creativity which our day-to-day office routine doesn’t always allow.”

For Nils Palsson, Communications Coordinator, these big picture meetings help to cultivate the visionary leader within. “In a culture so often focused on instant gratification and maximum productivity, it can be a real revolutionary act for us to slow down and ask some of the most important questions, like ‘Why are we here?’ and ’What are we really doing?’ And the funny part is, I’ve noticed that the more we’re tapped into our greatest visions and wildest dreams, the more productively we work — and the more gratifying the work feels!”

Joshua Shepherd has recently joined Transition US through a fellowship by The Mission Continues. “Big picture Fridays allow us to start where we’re at, briefly releases us from the tasks of the past, allows us to meet the present, and to launch into a collectivized vision of the future where we can map the breadth of our inspirations and imaginations. It’s at once grounding and uplifting.”

Like all of Transition, “Big Picture Fridays” are an experiment. An experiment in staying present and proactive in a world of uncertainty. An experiment in making space for courageous conversations, and seeing how taking the time to get to the heart of the matter can improve our work. Each month that we claim the space to breathe deep, tune in, and think big--despite the demands of the more concrete tasks at hand--is a victory in itself. And we look forward to how this practice, and others we hope to employ might be shared and strengthened by Transitioners across the US.

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