If our individual life is a mystery in itself, the life of a group, of a human system, is an even greater one! ITLAV, the Transition Initiative of Linda-a-Velha (in Portugal), would like to share our story of our particularly unique and mysterious path, one that invites us to reflect deeply on the mysteries of human nature, of relationships and of what really matters, of what is essential in order for us to thrive. We have no idea if our findings will resonate globally, but we are proud to announce that for us, thriving is about ‘Neighbouring’, a new verb that we invented!
We began as a group of people mostly unknown to each other, who felt called by the appeal of the Transition Movement seed one of us had planted in the neighbourhood. From our first steps to the splendor of group action there was a short distance in time, less then six months. A space was lent to us by the local authorities and therefore our weekends and our energy were split between restoring and setting the place up, using in with workshops and other activities and group building, being together. In such circumstances, getting sidetracked into just ‘doing’ things was an inevitable temptation! There was so much to do and we had an infinite waiting list in terms of dreams and projects for the space and for the group itself!
- a bicycle workshop dreamt and built a world of slow and sustainable locomotion
- macrobiotic take aways for the community
- a tourism cooperative for handicapped people
- a dying activities centre came back to life and become a meeting point and home to a wide range of neighbourhood activities (yoga, pilates, astrology, guitar classes, activities for elders, shiatsu, karaté, knitting, ballet, a homeschooling support project and so much more) and welcomed Prove (a local/regional food project providing over 100 vegetable baskets weekly)
- a couple of participatory budgets won for bold projects – recovering the local fresh food market, clearly underused, and a pedagogical city farm
- there was even one of us who joined the local authority, giving their cultural program some freshness and a new meaning (second hand and handicraft markets, dance and therapies festivals)
But most of all it was such a delight to laugh and joke about our past, how mature we were now in our relationships to the point of being able to speak in such a supple and humorous way of our hardest bits! How much we grew together!
We know we want to be together to ‘neighbour’, but we also know that we want to come together to be and do the change we want to see in the world. Most of all, we know that without one of these two ends we are incomplete!
Our Homemade Tool for Inner Health Check:
This is more or less what we did:
- Start with a thanks round, where you use your opportunity to give thanks to your fellow Transitioners with whom you co-created this adventure. Each of you thanks someone of your choice for one of their amazing characteristics or for something you’ve learnt from him/her (we didn’t start this way, and we wish we had!)
- Then draw a big vertical thermometer all along a flip chart. Invite people to question themselves individually about “What weakened the group? What inherent tendencies and what group behaviours have shown to promote dificulties and conflicts?”. Keep answers simple and short, in a key words mode.
- Each of you add your outputs (Post-it notes can be great for this) on the thermometer according to their feeling of how serious, how hot the issue is in a scale of gravity/temperature.
- Later reassemble the pieces in terms of groups of issues, and you will get the main issues of the group. This can be reflected upon in whichever way the group feels is best. We just chatted about the subjects each one brought, while reading them out loud. You can even begin to explore what kind of group culture and group agreements could help maintain a healthy group and avoid entropy. Or you could leave this to another opportunity, because it will certainly take a long time to do well. We chose the second option.
- After this, a similar question is posed at an individual level: “What features of mine and what personal behaviours might have added to our group difficulties and conflicts?” Each person puts their Post-its again on the thermometer. If the safe space and the will arise, you can use the opportunity to express about what you might have brought to the group that didn’t serve you all the best way. It can be extremely liberating and group energy transforming to do so. Do not take long in this phase, do not disclose deeply to avoid places of excuses, reproach and guilt. Just honour the beauty of being exposed and vulnerable of those who disclose themselves and receive them with the heart, as well as disclose from it.
- Use a nice and positive tool for the closing moment. I like the ‘Bowing to our Adversaries’ from Joanna Macy. It mainly consists of doing a series of bowings along with expressing our gratitude and reverence to those people and situations that due to their adverse and defying nature, enhance and make us learn about our qualities, and help us as well to get in touch with our human greatness when we experience connecting compassionately with them, with their actions, its consequences and the emotions it produces in us.