Introduction – Why Inner Transition?
The challenge of our times is one of responding well to continuing far-reaching change. The Transition movement presents information about the scale of change that is coming and invites a choice – plan for the change and ride its waves, or be caught unprepared and possibly knocked sideways by its force.
At the core of the work developed in the Heart and Soul group of the Transition Town Totnes project is the understanding that our outer actions, and therefore the external systems for living that we create, are shaped by our inner worldview and belief system. Likewise our inner world is affected by the outer world which creates in particular our physical experience and shapes our relationships.
So we might consider our challenge as a question like this: if we see the need for changes to our outer systems – food production, technologies for building, heating, transport and so on – what does the inner transition look like that supports, reflects or initiates that outer change? And in designing a community process, what can we do to help create a healthy inner transition to a sane, stable and enjoyable world in the same way that re-localising food production helps to make a healthy sustainable physical world for the future?
Fortunately we live in a time when we have unprecedented understandings of our inner workings, and access to many traditions that have been exploring these questions. These include relatively new western psychological and social models for enabling and supporting change, responding to difficulty or crisis. In addition there are many spiritual and religious practices and philosophies to which we can turn for insight and support.
In order to understand what Inner Transition might be about we will draw on both of these areas. A wonderful overview of the inner journey of Transition can be found in the first three chapters of Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown’s book “Coming Back to Life”. It explores in much more detail than we have space for here the nature of what they call “The Great Turning”, the reasons why people are slow to wake up to the need for change, and what helps and supports healthy responses. Some have coined the term “Ecopychology” for the whole field of applying social, psychological and spiritual wisdom to the human relationship with the environment and living systems.
The “Heart and Soul” group of Transition Town Totnes was the first to form in the project, launching just after the main project unleashed. It quickly gained a large membership including those with professional interest and experience in inner change – social workers, therapists, psychologists, workshop leaders, spiritual teachers and leaders; and those with a personal interest in the inner aspects of transition. Early on it defined its area of interest as the psychological, spiritual and consciousness aspects of transition – the inner world of the individual and the community. This section has been written by the Heart and Soul group using material from open meetings as well as workshops run as part of the EDAP project.
What follows gives a framework for thinking about inner transition – something that is less familiar and obvious territory for many than, for example, understanding the need for re-localising food.
- We look at the “Issues and Challenges” of inner Transition.
- We look at what is currently available in the town of Totnes that relates to this territory – activities of the Heart and Soul group and other related groups and events.
- We discuss some psychological understandings of how inner change happens, how we attempt to resist it, how healthy change can be supported.
- There follows some ideas about the spiritual dimension of Transition – for some an area which is controversial, but which is also seen by many as being at the very core of the cause of our problems and therefore may be of great relevance in seeking solutions.
- Because the nature of inner transition is so individual, unpredictable, non linear and ultimately unknown we have not attempted to include a time line. Instead we have included some pieces of visioning work done at public workshops and in the Heart and Soul group and some articles written from newspapers of the future.
- We have also included some possible Resilience Indicators for inner Transition. Many have been advocating the measurement of something other than Gross Domestic Product (actually more of a measure of how fast we are using precious resources and creating harmful waste than any meaningful measure human happiness). Can we measure well being? Can we include the well being of our life support system – nature, or the Earth? Can we measure how well we are coping with life, with change? Those who have studied this have returned a resounding Yes, and we borrow from their ideas.
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