Those questions were alive in us during the first week of One Year in Transition in October, as was a healthy dose of not knowing. Personally, I can’t return to the way I was living before I woke up to the work I am called to do in the world. And I am so grateful that getting to lead 1YT means that I am surrounded by others willing to step into this space of uncertainty and commitment, as well as all the inspiration that comes from my fellow teachers and the resources they gift us.
Here we offer you a snapshot of what we did together, written by some of the students. They have boldly stepped onto their own paths and over the next eight months will be putting intentional design into their future livelihoods. We invite you to peek in on this journey as it unfolds for them.
Our first day together was without question very exciting. Finally, we got to know to the people we are going to work and spend quite some time with. The main focus of the day was on the past and present. We told our stories and which intentional and unintentional events in our lives brought us where we are now.
The subjects of fear, ignorance and complexity emerged from the discussion of we know about the world. We thought about the status quo versus changing and actions and how fear can freeze us. The question ‘how do we need to be to do this work?’ popped up and we discovered that better than positive thinking is positive being. This and belief in ourselves, the belief that we can do whatever work we want to do, are most significant. They are actually conditions.
And I learned that it is not necessary to react to everything that happens around me. Instead I realized I should step back for a moment and allow things to happen. Things happen on their own accord. I need to be open, watch out and then take my next step. With a word of counsel about how fear impacts us we closed our first day together as a group. Exhausted but happy and very hungry – this time for “real” food.
The Inner Transition day began with Sophy Banks’s story of how she started the “psychology of change” working group within the transition movement, looking at and dealing with the feelings and relationships of the activists. Because transition means to go from one place to another we looked into defining those places and our motivation for change. We came to the conclusion that every living system (individuals, groups etc.) can either be healthy or unhealthy. Every system can quickly change from healthy into unhealthy and feedback loops are essential to actually become aware of the current state and make changes if necessary.
If there is too much stress on a system it either reacts with fight/flight or freeze/collapse. In our society stress has become chronic so that our system is pervaded by fear since we never get out of this emergency state. The individuals in fight/flight mode are the ones running the show and influencing the others who are frozen. That means that our world is framed around a power structure of fear which neglects vulnerability. To restore the balance we need to restore the sacredness of vulnerability. The doing side has to be put in service of the inner, vulnerable space.
The last exercise was on linking the inner and outer realms, on looking for the true causes of symptoms. We took colonization as a symptom and related it to the behavior that arises, the beliefs that underlie it and the feelings/conditions connected to those beliefs. Those feelings and conditions determine whether we feel in stress or at ease. They state our basic human needs described by the questions: Is there enough? Am I valued? Do I have an impact? Am I safe? Am I connected? It is essential to create the positive aspect of those conditions in groups, meetings and for ourselves in order not to feel stressed.
“This story is about desire….” So we began our story-full day on Thursday with David Young. We remembered the wisdom in stories and myths, especially those passed on orally, then David told us the Greek myth of the slaying of the Minotaur. We paused half-way to feedback our thoughts on what we had heard, and what themes it was bringing up for us. I found this a useful way to see how a story is landing with an audience, especially if it’s a long one, as this one was.
After lunch we had a chance to practice some storytelling ourselves, as we went and told the same story to a part of nature, anywhere we chose, and in whatever way we chose. I walked by the creek on Coombe Farm and discovered that the water was an engaged audience, asking me questions back as I unfolded the narrative. Back in the classroom, we tried other ‘quicker’ forms of storytelling, beginning with an image as inspiration, and beginning with a word as inspiration and telling a 2 minute story. To close, we wrote a poem to capture what the day had been like. Rounding out our day and earlier storytelling to nature, David suggested we might tell our poem to the part of nature that had been our audience earlier as a form of gratitude.
On Friday morning we met with Ffyona Campbell, a local wild woman and forager extraordinaire. Having spent her early adulthood walking the breadth and length of many major continents, Ffyona developed a deep sense of connection with the land and the food it can provide. We were blessed to spend a few hours with her, identifying and (when appropriate/not deadly) eating the following: archangel, silver weed, hart’s tongue fern, ground ivy, primrose, sloe, cleavers, amongst many others. It was incredible to realise the limits of our usual supply of fruit, vegetables and herbs.
In the afternoon we attempted to settle back into working on our personal project mind-maps, but with the invigoration and restlessness which came after a week of intense soul-searching, a small contingent of us went to let our hair blow in the breeze as we swung on the log swing and paddled in the freezing pools of the river. Feeling refreshed, we returned to the group to delve back into our project work. Later that afternoon we built upon skills we had learnt in non-violent communication with one of our facilitators, James. It was fascinating to separate out our thought processes from our reactions to a triggering situation and decipher in which ways we can help ourselves. In the evening, we had a festive gathering with delicious food, organic wine and some (healthily competitive!) card games – a lovely end to our final full day.