Transition is the grey area between old and new, the time when the insect is neither caterpillar nor butterfly. Halloween and Day of the Dead mark the importance of transition. On Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos), celebrated in October and November, the dead are honored: Gravesites are decorated with marigolds and candles; folks have picnics beside the grave, dining on the favorite foods of those who've passed. It's a tradition thousands of years old, begun by the Aztecs and celebrated in Mexico. Halloween originates from the Celtic festival of Samhain [pronounced "sah-wen"], celebrating the end of harvest. Any schoolkid can tell you that on All Hallow's Eve the boundary between the living and the dead dissolves and the dead wander the earth. Talk about transition! We don't need to experience Halloween to connect with transition, every moment is a chance for death, then rebirth.
change vs. transformation
INcite with angel Kyodo williams
These days, people are tossing the word transformation around and pasting it on everything from baby diapers to "How to Write a Budget" workshops as the latest hypnotic marketing voodoo. The same tired products and ineffectual programs are becoming "transformative" this and "transformational" that, hoping to gain the allure of freshly brushed pearly whites just by adding that oh-so-enticing gleaming star of transformation. The result is that in most cases in which we talk about transformation, we're actually opting for a hyped-up variation on change, or worse yet, a dull and impotent rendition of it. This wouldn't matter so much except for the fact that actual transformation--otherwise known as "deep change"--happens to be what we really need.
Owing to my own transitions and subsequent learning in the past year, I've been carrying two recurring themes everywhere I go. (1) The need for a clear articulation of the difference between "change" and "transformation" and, (2) distinguishing what is required to have the latter. I point to the metamorphoses of caterpillar-to-butterfly and nymph-to-dragonfly to illuminate both the path of transformation and some of the lessons we can take from their journeys to light our own Way.
As one of the oldest insects existing, the near-mystical dragonfly once darted where dinosaurs roamed at ten times it's current size. But that was when trees were towering and provided more nutrients, cover and oxygen. Since then, dragonflies have downsized from wingspans as great as 20-30 inches to the more nimble 2-3 inches of today. Though dragonflies almost never walk, they've reduced their symbolic and consumptive footprint to a tenth of what it once was in response to the decrease in resources. We have much to learn.
Just as unique as their ancient friends, butterflies capture our imagination as embodiments of beauty and freedom. Their youth as caterpillars are spent doing nothing but consuming everything they can. Their voracious appetites cause them to shed their skin repeatedly, but they just end up bigger, stronger, faster caterpillars. That's change. In order to complete the metamorphosis into butterflies, caterpillars must create and enter the darkness of the chrysalis where they break down into a kind of genetic goop. Special cells, unsurprisingly called "formative," direct the actual process of becoming a butterfly. Both the seed and evolutionary inclination to transform exists within. Before that happens though, caterpillars must literally experience partial death and a destruction of their current form as they know it. That's transformation.
Like majestic Monarchs, if we really intend to achieve the beauty, power and freedom that is our birthright as a movement of people that seek justice for all, we need to go beyond ,or TRANScend, our current FORM as we know it.
Six Ways to Know Transformation
Here are six key points to help you recognize (and influence) when change becomes deep change...when it is transformation:
1. it can't be undone: it can't be undone: Unlike change, which can be undone with a shift in context or the swipe of a presidential pen, there's no going back on transformation. The depth of change that takes place is so deep, rooted and resounding, that the former way of being is no longer possible. Though our prison system may suggest otherwise, the truth is that our current society can no longer bear slavery as we know it. Likewise, while institutional racism abounds, pre-Civil Rights segregation is essentially socially unacceptable. Our society has moved beyond these once common fundamental injustices.
2. it is neutral: As much as we'd like to believe otherwise, the reality is that we can have transformations, social and otherwise, that are neither life-affirming nor progressive. Think war-crime worthy Nazi Germany or occupation & bombing of Palestine. the transformation of those societies to allow heinous injustice to other human beings to be widely and popularly acceptable exemplifies transformation's inherent neutrality. While transformation can't be undone, a dangerous new can take the place of what came before without clear intention. The decisive question we must ask is "Transformation towards what?" If we want positive transformative outcomes, we must intentionalize and work toward them.
3. it is rigorous: To the naked eye, transformation often takes place at such a slow rate and on such a subterranean level, it is nearly imperceptible until you're on the other side of it. But further investigation reveals a consistency and rigor to the process that is undeniable. Deep change requires deep practice. Simply put, we have to stay with it in order to see transformation through.
4. it is whole: Transformation must take place at all levels in order to be achieved. It isn't enough to transform only ourselves as a slew of self-help and navel-gazing spiritual teachings may profess. People form organizations, organizations become institutions, institutions inform cultures, cultures give rise to whole societies. Through and through, we must weave the fabric of our movement culture with ways of being, knowing and doing that embody precisely how we want to see society transformed: into an equitable, sustainable and just place for all.
5. it always unfolds in the present: Transformation is both path and goal. While it appears that transformation has a beginning and end, we are always somewhere in the process of one cycle of transformation or another. But our current shape, where we are along the way, shows up in the NOW.Not in the past, not in the future: How we are showing up right now is the state of our transformation.
6. we don't know what it looks like: This does not mean without intention. As affirmed earlier, a strong, aligned intention is not only desired but critical to affecting the overall direction of the process. However, if you can imagine the exact outcome, it's more likely to be change than transformation because our vision is necessarily limited by our current perspective and conditions. At the point at which we surrender to the process of transforming, even our vision for desired outcomes dissolves into the "goop" which makes room for those formative aspects to direct our emergence into what we will become. So you want transformation, but are hell-bent on control? Um, not so much.
What's In A Name? Ideally Everything
Finally, I submit that in naming and framing the new social movement that burgeons just beneath the surface of our everyday work for justice from Ithaca to Istanbul, we need a descriptor that embodies the principles of such a movement into the very name itself. More than any other movement that has come before, this one must embody it's principles at all levels...including in it's name. Thus we need an expression that is as much the path as it is the goal. A name that is now, not later. One that calls for us to be active, rather than passive; generative rather than prescriptive; a verb (action from inside) rather than adverb (qualified from the outside). The theory and ideas might be transformatIONAL, but the movement and its practice must be transformatIVE.
And more than political, it must be social. Yes, our politics (ways of governance of people,) systems, structures must undergo change--they must be brought into alignment with the values of our heart's yearning, not our fear's recoiling. Indeed, our government must be aligned with our deep need for connection rather than our contempt for difference.
But the reason for shifting the political landscape must be in service to the greater goal of shifting our social landscape (ways of being with people,) so that we can change the fundamental nature of our relationship to one another, to the planet, to the world and to life itself through the vehicle of a deep change in relationship to ourselves. In our society and in our hearts, we are still willing to use force--to bomb people into peace--thus empowering our government to do so. This, we must transform ourselves to no longer be able to bear.
I often muse that if the aquatic larva knew that it would one day leave its known realm to take to the sky, it would never, ever go, and transformation would be averted. But it is birthright that calls. In this Way, we have to allow ourselves to hear and respond to the evolutionary and revolutionary call that pulls us inexorably forward into becoming our newly formed selves--personally, politically, organizationally, institutionally, across all society--making room for a vision yet to be seen.
Right now, we must actively, generatively, take rigorous, intentional action towards wholly being that which we envision, and surrender to what we cannot. We must be so that we can become.
In it's new form, the dragonfly can dive breathtakingly into a precipitous vertical drop, become a mere blur as it darts about at breakneck speeds, only to come to an apparent dead stop, hovering magically in mid-air. For the most part, it's the sun that dragon and butterflies need to fly...but they need the dark to grow their magic wings. So do we. It is only once we emerge from the darkness that we will dare cast off our hardened shells to truly take flight.
Let's do the darkness so that we can all flytogether.
With gratitude to Robert, Staci, Steven, Adrienne, Zulayka, Claudia, Marie, the New Dharma Community and all my transformative teachers, mentors, students and friends--aKw
angel Kyodo williams, is founder of urbanPEACE and it's Center for Transformative Change. A social visionary and leading voice for transformative social change, she is the author of Being Black: Zen and the Art of Living With Fearlessness and Grace.
angel Kyodo williams' next public talk: Thurs | Oct 22 | 7:20pm @ Center for Transformative Change
Transitions This dharma talk is about more than in-breath and out-breath; it's an offering for each of us to embrace not knowing and opening to change.
"We spend a lot more time on in-breath and out-breath than we do in the complete silent gap in between. It's there, it's always there and yet we don't notice it. It's a place of profound stillness because it holds the balance between our breaths. It holds the sense of balance between action and resting; it holds that sense of balance between going and retreating. It's ever so slim. In fact, there's a teacher that says if all you do is notice the gap between the in-breath and the out-breath that's all you need to awaken."
Surviving the Devil: The Grassroots of Social Entrepreneurship
Gretchen Steidle Wallace is the founder of Global Grassroots, which supports conscious social change driven by and for marginalized women in post-conflict Africa. Gretchen produced the Emmy-nominated documentary, "The Devil Came on Horseback" and co-authored a memoir of the same title about Darfur. She holds an MBA from Dartmouth's Tuck School and a BA in Foreign Affairs from the University of Virginia. Gretchen is also an integrative breathwork practitioner, which she hopes to offer to survivors of war and sexual violence.
Gretchen Wallace and the folks at Global Grassroots live in the midst of death, rebirth and transition on a regular basis. They work with women who've experienced the ugliest sides of humanity. Women who've experienced brutal rape and the results of genocide and yet in spite of the hardship fully intend to make their lives better.
“We have the resources, knowledge, technology, and time to make a transition, but the question is: Do we have the courage and the will to face truth and act from a place of humility, patience, compassion, and conscience? ” —Evon Peter, Native Movement
CXC: Home of the fearless Asana
At CXC it's not just yoga--it's fearless Yoga. It's yoga done in the same way we hope to live our lives, with attention to what arrives and a willingness to release the results. And it's done specifically with social justice folks in mind. Read more... Wanted: Caretaker of Transformation
What is Transformative Change?No video? Click: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WHQDCt6oHPE
Drop in for a snapshot of the Berkeley SIT for Change 2009 event. While the pictures are fantastic, what's most powerful is the vision angel Kyodo williams shares of what Transformative Social Change calls for.
Becoming a Butterfly In the full version, she goes even deeper: "We want to be in the world in a way that honors the justice that we seek: are we asking of ourselves to be our best selves? Are we asking of ourselves to go beyond a bigger, faster, stronger caterpillar?" What would the world look like if we did that? Dive down into your own cocoon to see what butterfly emerges. Watch the Full Speech | 9 min What is Transformative Change? | 4 min
angel Kyodo williams - a social visionary that sees Transformative Social Change, applying inner awareness practice to broad-based social change, as America's next great movement.
Dharma Talk with angel Kyodo williams at Center for Transformative Change. Building presence-centered social justice. Thurs | Oct 22
SIT for Change: How It Went Whether they were at MLK Park or sitting virtually, lots of folks showed their support for our second annual SIT for Change event. With help from organizations like Generative Somatics and CODEPINK, as well as lots of virtual support, we successfully raised funds to support activists' inner lives. AND we're still accepting pledges. Read more... 27 Days of Change: How It Went
Follow the Out-Breath At CXC we have 3 guiding principles for living well with others:
1)Leave no traces
2)Mind your business
3)Follow the out-breath
Volumes can be written on how to integrate and implement these seemingly simple Practices into our everyday lives. Read more...
Death of the Alinsky Method Saul Alinsky, the organizing genius who wrote Rules for Radicals, began his book with: "What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. "The Prince" was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots... Read more... What the Rules Are
The Field of Transformative Social Change: Where From and Where To Movements of the love that does justice are gathering, deepening, and growing. Here's a taste of where we come from and where we are going. This month we share important resources on the nascent and growing field of Transformative Social Change -- rooting social change work in inner transformation. Read more...
in the MIND
Who Do I Think I Am? In 1974, neurologist James H. Austin (author of Zen and the Brain) took up meditation. Several of his experiences talk about ego death and losing all attachment to the idea of who he thought he was, including losing the ability to sense his physical self. A snapshot of his experience follows: [image: Daniel Mandic] Read More ... Read Austin's Full Article
"the best workshop i've ever taken. radically changed my work." fearless Meditation is our 3-part signature series that teaches practical meditation in a social justice context is offered for no charge for agents of social change:
The Most Difficult Pose Corpse Pose is known as the most difficult posture in yoga because it asks us to let go completely, which is very difficult for us to do. Most of us are walking around holding onto tension somewhere in our bodies--in our shoulders, our hips, our jaws. Holding tension in our bodies is so habitual, we probably don't even notice it most of the time. Read More ...
wellness & being well
Clean Your Channels Autumn is a transitional time--summer to fall, warm to cool, bud to harvest. It's also a good time for cleansing. Check out the following breathing practice: Channel Cleansing Breath. It not only clears the channels of the nose, but also helps to relieve stress and anxiety while simultaneously promoting alertness. Read more...
leading Sometimes we don't know exactly where the path we are on will take us. Having a solid, steady guide can support us in our journey of transition and transformation. October carries us through the season with flashes of brilliant color as gusty winds cast off the old and make way for the final harvest. All we have to do is heed the natural transition that is called for and follow along.
Center for Transformative Change 2584 MLK Jr. Way Berkeley, CA 94704 · USA +1.510.549.3733 Google the Center
Center for Transformative Change is a project of urbanPEACE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization whose mission to inform, incite and empower a broad-based, presence-centered transformative social change movement.