Being Present in the Moment

Since my last entry I’ve been to the “Great Unleashing” of Transition Cheltenham (near Philadelphia), meeting with a couple of Transition folks there (one from Transition Media), talked with folks from Transition Keene (New Hampshire), and Putney and Montpelier (Vermont). My heart if full and my head is swimming.

I have also been making arrangements for my time across the Atlantic. It’s getting pretty exciting. I’ve lined up visits in southern Israel, West Bank, and am working on northern Israel. I’ve also arranged time in Bologna, Italy, Barcelona and the island of Izbira in Spain, as well as attending an all-France Transition conference and the annual Transition conference in England. So far folks have been very welcoming and if all these Transition folks are as exciting and insightful as those I’ve already met, we’re in for an exciting journey.

So far the wide range of answers to my questions is exhilarating, which is not unexpected. When Louis and I were walking the west coast of the U. S., day after day we encountered incredible people. One day we met a man walking his bicycle uphill with all his possessions in the attached hand-built trailer. He said he was walking to Alaska! He collected bottles for the money to eat and slept at the side of a road. This wasn’t a young man either. He must have been in his 50‘s. We offered him $20, sharing that it had been gifted to us the night before. As he accepted the gift he laughed and told us that he had gifted $3 to a homeless man earlier that day who was obviously hungry. We shared in the laughter, wished each other luck as we continued south and he on his journey north. When we stopped for lunch at a little cafe a man walked up to us and thanked us for our witness (we carried a sign that said “Peace for Earth”) and handed us $20! Then when we went to pay the bill, he had also taken care of it. We reflected on these great gifts and realized it just took being there and putting one foot in front of the other.

I’m currently reading An Altar in the World–A Geography of Faith by Barbara Brown Taylor. She writes:

Human beings may separate things into as many piles as we wish–separating spirit from flesh, sacred from secular, church from world. But we should not be surprised when God does not recognize the distinctions we make between the two. Earth is so thick with divine possibility that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars.

I love the image of walking into divine possibilities. Actually we’re doing it all the time, but we’re not tuned in most of the time. I want to be tuned in. I want to be open to all possibilities on my “planned” trip. So I’m not planning every moment of every day. I’m leaving open space for what will come. I’ll just need to remember to tune in, to take time each day to open to all that is.

Not all Transition work is easy. In my small town of Charlotte, Vermont our Transition initiating committee is still struggling with how to get ourselves really known (and trusted). How do we convey that this isn’t “our” project, but that it belongs to all the residents of Charlotte? How do we invite everyone to the table, embrace their ideas, and encourage their actions? This seems to be the biggest hurdle of the movement. Sure, all the like-minded environmental activists show up. But what about the farmers, the machinists, the retail sales clerks, the store owners, the single parents just struggling to put food on the table, the climate deniers, those who voted for someone I didn’t? You get the idea. Well, it seems the only way to make it happen is to get out there and join in their groups, spend time at the town party, the local barbecue, wherever it is that those “other” folks go, and just get to know them, appreciate them, and grow to like them. I guess this concern is a recurring theme for me and I’ll most likely come back to it. This is also a concern of George Owen of Transition Greater Media, Pennsylvania (Media with a population of 6,000 and greater Media of 30,000).

George believes that it is dealing with people who don’t share the same interests with you that is the most productive for change. If you always have people who are like-minded, or like-interested, you aren’t creating community yet. He quoted Parker Palmer: “Community is the one place where the one person you don’t want to live with, lives.” This recognizes the challenge of nurturing community. George also encourages all to engage with others in your community, doing the things that they do. Some may not be interested in, or maybe are suspect of, the Transition movement. Meet them and get to know them where they are.

He was attracted to the Transition movement because of the emphasis on positive vision and the community focus. He did not see the efficacy of working to change big government because it is so corporately controlled. Transition Towns offered a positive alternative and it encourages our doing the work joyfully. “Bringing joy to what we do is a central piece of what we do on earth,” he said. And George believes that this movement would work.

His global vision is one of increasingly larger circles of connection, from the individual community to the region, to a larger area, etc. To this effort George is involved with all Eastern Pennsylvania Transition work and is promoting Transition Towns among Quakers.

George talked about Rob Hopkins (a founder of the Transition movement) fondness for offering four scenarios, 1. to be prepared or 2. not prepared, and 3, slow change or 4. fast change. These four are put on a grid and analyzed in four combinations. George is concerned that a tremendous amount of energy is wasted in analyzing how the change will occur, fast and prepared to slow and not prepared, but instead to bring joy and resilience to all scenarios. “It’s all occurring now and let’s not waste time analyzing, but let’s figure out how to do it well. My vision is to be skillful in facing whatever scenario occurs,” he said.

His last thoughts were that “all of this is about learning to live with conflict. That the core vision is radical acceptance and compassion, and the ‘economics of happiness.’”

I’ll share about the “Great Unleashing” next time. Again your comments, challenges, and thoughts are most welcome.

About ruahswennerfelt

I am searching for a global vision for a sustainable, resilient world in the face of peak oil, climate change, and economic instability.
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4 Responses to Being Present in the Moment

  1. Angela Manno says:

    I agree with talking to people who have views other than one’s own, but there also needs to be a recognition of who is “teachable.” As Gandhi put it so eloquently, “You can only wake up a sleeping man, not someone who’s pretending to be asleep.” There are many who are asleep and those are the ones we need to concentrate on.


    • Well, I agree with Gandhi, if I was trying to teach someone or wake them up. But since my understanding of the Transition movement is about nurturing community, we accept and encourage everyone to participate, understanding that we will have differences. So, maybe we all influence others by our examples, by our good listening, by our loving persistence?


  2. Ali Douglas says:

    I very much like the image of cracking my shins on the divine… a cracking to which no shin guards are recommended! Glad to hear you’re well and in my old neck of the woods. HOw long will you be there? The kids and I are traveling down the week before Easter and would love to visit and/or bring you anything from VT you may need/want.


  3. I’m home now until May 7 when I begin the journey across the “puddle” (as they say). But thanks for your offer of Vermont stuff!


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