How can we address the challenges humanity is facing without exploring and questioning our own systems of representations, thoughts, values, our beliefs, our shadows, our own world-view and our way of inhabiting the Earth? How can we expect to transform our ways of living without questioning and transforming ourselves? This is where Inner Transition comes into play! Discover what it is and how you can experiment with it in this article.
The first "psychology of change" group was first launched in Totnes, the birthplace of the international Transition Network, in 2006 by Hilary Prentice. Over time, this group grew internationally to become the Inner Transition Circle which today has the purpose of supporting local transformative actions worldwide.
The international Transition Network defines Inner Transition as one of the most important pillars to carry out Transition. But why is it important and what is actually meant by Inner Transition?
What is Inner Transition?
In a nutshell, Inner Transition encompasses the changes we need to make within ourselves so that we are able to transition to a more caring, equitable, beautiful, sustainable and resilient world. It means supporting each and every one of us in embracing what is true for us in each moment and find a balance between inner and outer change. This means Inner Transition looks and feels different for every one of us!
Doing Transition is not only about creating alternatives or showing different ways of living, it is also a change of paradigm: a change in how we see and feel the world in which we live. In order to do that, we need to journey inside of ourselves to discover and become aware of our inner landscapes and deconstruct our cultural conditioning as well as the models of oppression and destruction that we have been taught, that we believe in and that influence us. This is necessary in order to avoid reproducing what we oppose and to create the resolutely different world we are longing for.
The dimension of inner transition is unfortunately often ignored, forgotten or neglected in Transition groups, projects and initiatives because it remains abstract for those who have not yet had the chance of experiencing it. Often, it is considered something private and boxed into the sphere of personal development. But if we look objectively, these inner landscapes are the root of the structures, processes and behaviours that are destroying the planet and threatening western civilisation, biodiversity and our quality of living.
"We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do." - Mahatma Gandhi
We all know the quote which is attributed to Mahatma Gandhi, "Be the change you want to see in the world," right? Well, what he actually said was: "We but mirror the world. All the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. This is the divine mystery supreme. A wonderful thing it is and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do."
Be the change
When we think or reflect on the things happening in this world from this point of view, we stop judging others and complaining about their behaviours, and instead we reflect on ourselves and realize that we have to take action within the only place in the world we have control: ourselves!
My first Inner Transition moment happened during my first years of university. I was living with 4 flatmates, in Brussels, had my own life and were confronted with other lifestyles and most important I had to find my own. I had already read a lot about the impact of our food supply chains and our eating habits, but never really changed something as it was not substantial for me and I had never been confronted to the problems at that time.
When I did my exchange year in Slovakia, I did. Don't get me wrong, I had already travelled and seen other ways of living, Slovakia is actually an amazingly beautiful country, but with all the knowledge I had gained during the last years I saw it right in front of me and it hit me with small things! For example, during the first grocery shopping, I wanted to buy eggs and couldn't find any with a lower code than 2 (0 = organic; 1= free range; 2= barn; 3 = cage), the fridges and freezers had no door to keep the cool inside and save energy, the meat had a different quality as I was used to, ... It was the first time that I consciously noticed the downside of our daily needed supplies, the loss of quality bounded to the mass production, the impact on our health, the importance of the quality of life and the health of our animals, which, if I want to eat them is important to me as I want to nurture my body.
So yes, I am a privileged person, I never had problems with lack of food, always had a roof above my head and my parents protected me as much as they could from all the dangers in the world. I am really grateful for that but I am also grateful that I have been able to educate myself and get aware of how our world works, what is needed in order to have such cheap prices in the supermarkets, and an overwhelming mass on products, available all the time, everywhere, by all means, for everyone.
So after this small changes of awareness, I got even more interested in all this topics, started to see the links and the benefits, and came back to my family and friends as a vegetarian. I don't have to tell you the eyes, looks and discussions I had to go through, in a family and country where the normal plate looks like 40% of proteins (meat or fish), 40% of carbs and 20% of veggies. Saying that I was not the worst meat eater, but I still ate too much of it. Today, my eating habits have changed again, and I still learn something new almost everyday! It is a process and everyone has to find their right way, but: today my parents don't eat so much meat anymore, my grandmother started to talk about the topic, some of my closest friends started to also change their consumption, ... it was like a chain reaction of awareness and it was amazing to share, exchange and transform together.
Transition is about trial and error; it's about testing other systems and reinventing processes which are inspired by nature. To be able to do so we need to rethink, reorganise, and relearn. We need to be open to all this new information entering our brains in order to be able to transition in a way that will make us more resilient to the challenges we are facing due to climate change. At school and at home we often learn the "right" ways of doing things, but as we gather more experiences in our lives, we see that often there is not only one "right" way to do something. There are often many different ways to, for example, build a house, organize your garden, go grocery shopping, raise your children, etc. We come to realize that our background is not the same as others’ and that everyone is affected by different experiences, so we see the world from different viewpoints and need to be aware of this in order to be kind, patient and understanding to one another, maybe we can learn something new, you never know.
Different levels of doing Inner Transition
This brings us to the different levels of Inner Transition, because the journey of Inner Transition has to be both, individual and collective. If we do the work on ourselves, but are not willing to be open to work with people who are already further along in their practice or people who are just beginning their journey of self reflection, it will not work. This can look in all kind of different ways, some people meditate, others read, others do sports, others just drink their cup of coffee or tea in full consciousness, we are all different and there are so much rebalancing options than there are people on this world. That's why it is important to share our experiences. The ecological and citizen transition can only be done if we work together! That's why the international Transition Network has worked on three different levels on how to work on Inner Transition.
Inner Transition on a personal level
Inner Transition on a personal level means to be aware of our own thoughts, beliefs and cultural conditionings so we are able to choose a healthier, more resilient, connected and caring way of living on this planet. "Inner Transition supports us to experience our inseparability and inter-dependence in the world – and therefore to make choices based on the needs of ourselves, others and the natural world. Through this we become more and more able to bring our head, hands and heart into alignment – making the practical changes needed for Transition to feel so much more easeful."1
Resilience, as a reminder, is the ability of an ecosystem to adapt to external events (traumas or disruptive shocks) and to reorganise itself by incorporating this shock. For human communities, this refers to their ability not to collapse at the first sign of a shortage of oil or food but rather respond to such crises by adapting.
So personal resilience refers to when an individual:
notices when it’s time to re-fill their container (being self-aware).
gives themselves time to re-fill their container (by creating and adhering to healthy boundaries e.g. personal/professional, being in company/being alone)
knows what specifically helps them to re-fill their container (e.g. down time, meditation, creativity, activity etc.)
practices specific ways to re-fill their container (e.g. a regular exercise/creative practice or receiving 1-1 therapeutic support).2
Inner Transition on group level
On the group level, Inner Transition is needed in order to be able to work in a healthy way together in groups and to create and maintain healthy groups!
From experience, we know that individuals and groups risk burn-out or collapse if they don’t balance action, decision-making and activity with rest, reflection, connection and celebration, hence the importance of balancing being and doing.
The international Transition Network offers some resources to work on conflict transformation topics and processes within your transition group - feel free to take a look HERE.
Inner Transition on community/movement level
Doing Inner Transition on a community level, means to take a whole system approach towards our inner life and our inter-dependence with nature. It means to develop a "healthy Human culture"3 in communities in order to feel happier with less consumerism and to better deal with change.
Rob Hopkins, the founder of the first transition town, once said: "If we wait for the governments, it'll be too little, too late; if we act as individuals, it'll be too little; but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time."
Become more autonomous and gain self-trust by doing transition
In our team we are always facing new challenges and we have different opinions on some topics, but we try as much as possible to apply some of the tools mentioned above to be able to work together towards our common goal, to live on a more sustainable planet in harmony with nature, to live in communities that invest in processes or systems which make us grow, together and on a personal level.
"What happens within us is as important as what happens outside." - Rob Hopkins
By learning new skills to make you more resilient and less dependent, you can acquire a good amount of self-trust which leads to self-confidence. Psychology teaches us that self-confidence makes us happier and feel stronger which allows us to be more grounded and less self-doubting. Doing things without waiting for the politicians to do it for us, on an autonomous level, with the help of like-minded people and in accordance with nature is what we are looking for!
If you are interested in doing some work on yourself, want to do some volunteering or want to take a look at what our local Transition groups are doing, then get in touch and we can help you find the best way to get involved based on your interests. We need all kinds of skills for the coming transition! >> firstname.lastname@example.org
To go further :
1: Transition Network.org. Inner at a personal level.Retrieved the 12th of may 2022 from https://transitionnetwork.org/do-transition/inner/inner-personal/
2: Transition Network.org. What is personal Resilience?. In Inner at a personal level.Retrieved the 12th of may 2022 from https://transitionnetwork.org/do-transition/inner/inner-personal/
3: Sophy Banks. (2014). A Big Map of Transition. Retrieved from https://healthyhumanculture.wordpress.com/author/sophybanks/