As part of the ongoing series of National Network Strategy Conversations, 25 Transitioners from across the nation gathered on a Zoom call in January to talk about inner resilience. The goal of the conversation? To find ways to enhance and expand the ability of local Transition groups to handle the “people part” of the work we do, including the stress and distress people are feeling. As well, Transition US is looking for ways to better ground our movement in this work so that we are better prepared to enter into partnership with others working in this space, like the International Transformational Resilience Coalition.
This conversation was part of the Transition US national campaign “From What Is to What If: Reimagining and Rebuilding Our World.” This session was co-facilitated by Jul Bystrova and Diana Kubilos (Transition South Pasadena, California), both organizers of the Inner Resilience Working Group for Transition US.
The Work of Inner Resilience
“The Inner Resilience Network is building awareness of ourselves as well as what is happening in the world – climate change, the economic collapse, environmental destruction,” Jul said. “This has a huge impact on our mental, emotional, spiritual and physical health.
“There is a real need for this work and people are asking for it. Our current systems are not able to accommodate the degree of impact this is having on people’s psyches. That is work we need to do for ourselves and for each other. How do we do this?”
“We learn about ourselves through our relationships, by bumping up against each other,” she said, highlighting the tremendous importance of social connection in resilience building. As such, inner resilience can’t just be personal, it must be interpersonal. We build it together.
“We need support to face the challenges ahead,” Diana added. There’s good reason to think that the Transition movement can be a place that provides such support. She pointed to two things that people tell her make the Transition movement unique:
- Its emphasis on community connectedness. Diana shared that within the research community there is increasing agreement that community connectedness is foundational for long-term community resilience.
- The importance of groups. Diana shared that, “Many of you involved with the international Transition movement know Nick Osborne. He teaches about effective collaboration. He says, ‘I have helped found and run 20 intentional communities and every one of them broke down. It wasn’t for lack of technical know-how. We were brilliant! It was the people part.’ That’s why Nick became involved in teaching group processes, and it’s why so much Transition US training teaches group dynamics and processes.”
Reflecting on this conversation as a “strategy” call, Jul shared the Peter Drucker quote, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Although we are talking about strategy, participants recognized that it’s really the Transition culture we are talking about and creating together.
Background & Context
The background context for this call is found on page 17 of the Transition US Strategic Planning Input Paper:
“Inner Resilience is an absolutely essential part of Transition, and as we increasingly feel the impacts of collapse, the need to deepen Inner Resilience resources and skills will become more and more visible. Already a number of TI leaders have asked for partnership with networks of mental health specialists to support emotional health and help manage psychological distress, as well as Work-that-Reconnects-style groups for meditation and grief work, and resources for Deep Adaptation (living in a world after societal collapse).”
Participants on this strategy call were asked to reflect on two questions: 1) What is the most pressing issue relating to your personal life or work, especially as it relates to the changes in our world and culture? and 2) What would you like to see Transition offer and what would that look like?
Politics: Given the recent insurrectionist violence at our nation’s capital, it’s unsurprising that politics was creating unease. Participants expressed the need for a place to talk and be heard, a place where people can share their pain, fear and hopes with one another. They talked about the importance of allowing group time for debriefing after major events. This allows people to deepen their relationships.
Sari Steuber (Transition Town Media, Pennsylvania) said: “I’m in the Transition US Politics & Policy working group. Many good conversations there have helped me put things in perspective, so it wasn’t so overwhelming. It’s a very important thing about Transition US: we can put things in perspective, not from the mainstream conversation, which is usually dramatic and divisive and combative, but from the point of view of what really matters, seeing the big picture, the framework. I’m always very inspired by the TUS meetings I go to.”
COVID: “COVID has been hugely impactful,” said Amos Baeher from Transition Town Charlotte, Vermont. “Social connections that were being developed in [his] core group were cut off overnight.” Others shared that they were missing social gatherings and group potlucks. Shaktari Belew, part of the TUS Collaborative Design Council, who has been on lockdown since last February in Ashland, Oregon, said that she centers and copes by “giving the gifts I can.” She is growing and providing food for her neighborhood.
Differing Worldviews: In a time when our nation seems hopelessly divided, participants talked about bridging differences as well as connecting with people with shared values.
Working with people who share our values and goals feels inwardly supportive, fun and productive, but some observed that they did not find their community of like-minded people in their geographic area. They find it online in the larger Transition community.
Others felt it important to try to cross the political divide. This is a critical challenge, this us-versus-them dilemma. Do we aim for more diversity in our local groups? What are good strategies for optimizing diversity?
Diana said that in her work at the national and international level, she meets many people who don’t have the same worldview. Her strategy is to accept our shared nature and recognize that we lack clarity about what we’re seeing.
One participant had moved to another state to be part of an intentional community. They discovered a community surrounded by different communities. “Sharing different ideas via Zoom, how people see changes, is critical,” they said. “The founders [of the intentional community] did an incredible job of breaking down the biggest challenge – the illusion of separation.”
Another observed wryly: “The more we get to know each other, the more we discover things about each other that drive us crazy.”
Sari said that what she loved about Transition was the way it sees the big picture, that everything is connected and that solutions also need to be connected – energy, food, waste, etc. Diana asked if she was referring to values and intersectionality as the bigger picture framework? Sari said intersectionality was definitely a part of it – how the economy affects food choices, how agriculture is done, how buying and spending is done.
Sari’s group is doing a lot of work in a neighboring city that is primarily Black and dealing with lots of pollution and a history of environmental racism. Groups are working to clean up the neighborhood, and also resisting gentrification. Working with them has highlighted those issues for her group.
“It’s not only environmental racism. Their one and only supermarket is closing, and they’ll have to rely on Walmart. Housing in the area is unsafe; the schools are unsafe. We’re trying to look at what makes it that way and what would help bring them out of it.”
Shaktari said that with all the added stressors going on, it may be helpful to pull back and look from a whole systems perspective to see how all these stressors are connected. “When we are in community, working together, then we can see where those points are more clearly…having these conversations pulls in collective resilience.” She said adults often forget the awe, mired as we are in stress and adulthood. “We need to reignite that sense of awe.”
Another participant talked about participating in Humanity Rising. “Chaos brings attention to what has to change… Any change we want to make needs to first happen in my inner world.”
Culture Shift: Participants talked about the need to shift our culture – how our groups operate and how our society operates. Several people talked about overwork and burnout. Jul noted that these imbalances are supported by mainstream culture.
“The activist world does not typically operate in a regenerative manner.” She’d like to see Transition groups model regenerative culture and educate and support people experiencing burnout. “How do we accept and love each beyond what it is we do? How do we bring more balance to our groups? We need to be ok with experimentation and lightening up a little bit to create spaciousness and opportunities for group creativity and collaboration.”
Jessica Parfrey (TUS and Eco Vista Transition Initiative, California) wants to see that there is time to build trust in meetings. She would like to see more collaboration in the way group processes are designed, and that they allow for greater creativity and playfulness. She’d also like to see groups make space for parents of young children who want to be involved in movement work.
Others spoke of a shift from the material world to a spiritual understanding, away from patriarchal structures to the sacred feminine and matriarchal systems. “Do we need to let our systems completely collapse? Or do we find some way to bring in feminine ways?”
Traumas and Triggers: John Foran (Cooperation Humboldt, CA) expressed the widely shared opinion that it’s challenging to wrap your head around the depth of the crises we are facing, and then to deal with the emotions that come up. “Information can be traumatizing,” he said. It can help people to talk about what is triggering them.
Amos Baeher said he went back through traumatic experiences he had been through in the past and told himself: “I can do this even if it doesn’t feel like it. How did I do it in the past?” He realized that he went to the woods and the water – going back to creation for a sense of vitality, stability, and reconnection to the creator through the creation.
Diana reflected that, especially now with both the beauty and the pain since the George Floyd murder, so much is coming up. “We started a local group building restorative systems. We’re getting amazing programs going, but it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
“Now I feel pressure to offer space to people. On the one hand, people say they need it, but others don’t.” Diana has found that the need to help people hold grief is always there but the kind of support that a group needs is specific to that group.
Ruah said TUS should consider working with the Deep Adaptation movement. “Happiness, fun, laughter – these are all needed, but so are eyes wide open toward a future that doesn’t look very good.”
For some people, a big trigger is how to talk to young people. Ranae Hanson (Transition All St. Anthony’s Park, Minnesota) said: “I want to talk really honestly with others about what to share with young people and children about the coming crises. Therapists don’t really understand these broader issues beyond personal trauma. How do I help those close to me face this?”
Young and old is another great divide in our culture. A lot more intergenerational thought and honest conversation is needed.
What Should Transition US Offer?
Among the ideas for what Transition US could offer – and what local groups could do – were these:
- There is a strong need for social and emotional intelligence in core group leadership. This should be considered either in training or in the selection process. If we want our groups to reflect the diversity of our communities and our country, we need to start by building that diversity into our initiating committees.
- Develop protocols for onboarding new core team members and deepening relationships.
- One source of core leadership training could be Theory U from the Presencing Institute.
- Provide childcare to improve accessibility for young families.
- Begin training people on inner resilience right away. Models of inner resilience would be helpful.
- Groups could use technical help with tools for facilitating better meetings.
- Inner resilience is impacted by dysfunction within groups. Providing tools or guidance to help groups move through dysfunction, like the Effective Collaboration course that Transition US is currently updating, could be very helpful.
- Transition US can teach resilience skills like mindfulness.
- Transition US can teach its systems perspective. (Resilience.org is good with this.)
- Other skills training should include: working in groups, developing shared leadership, engaging in dialogue, regenerative thinking.
- Amos reminded participants that: “So much of what we talk about in Transition is the human system, but the focus and emphasis and elevation towards living systems aids in feeling alive rather than being numb. TUS can do things to invite folks into these living systems. TUS could do so much to pull us beyond our heads and words, pointing us back to our bodies.”
Resources Shared in the Discussion