angel Kyodo williams

Posts Tagged ‘transition’

meeting change

In leadership, relationship, spirit on November 19, 2009 at 8:40 am

going in

the art & practice of transition


As an east coast native, the traditional four seasons of the year have become deeply embedded in my psyche and soul as a map and a means for organizing my life. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, repeat. Seasons are like phases in the cycle of Life. Going from one to the next represents Transition: the in-between space of moving from one way of being in relationship to life into another.

Taken together, the turning of the four seasons into a year reflects our collective relationship to and dependence upon nature and all her rhythms, according our journey with the sun and the entire vast universe.

I have come to appreciate this internal alignment with the cyclical rhythms of the Earth, herself as a powerful counterbalance to the false constructs of busyness and get-it-doneness made by Men. Capitalism and consumerism have erected false notions of the rhythms we should adhere to. We are corralled from one hopping holiday or sale season to the next.

While many people use birthdays as their marker for a new year, I’ve always used the early Fall. Fall is both a beginning and ending for me. A time for simultaneously harvesting the learnings of the Spring and Summer before it, while fervently preparing for the rest and gestation of the Winter to come. Once upon a time, I resisted this rhythmic pattern, noticing with chagrin that come Fall, I would invariably take things apart, reorganize them and put them back together again. Sometimes in my reconfigurations, things would get thrown away. Sometimes everything would go.

The people in my life can’t always quite make sense of this internally-driven process from the outside and through the years have mistakenly viewed it as my being restless, inconsistent, breaking down or working through some kind of crisis.

The reality is I’m not any of those things and I am all of them: I’m just Meeting Change.

So while I make a reasonable effort to accord with or renegotiate external commitments and the demands of relational life, there are times when, like the seasons, I must honor this internal rhythm whether it makes sense to or works for others or not. Once you can hear it, to not honor the resonant call for meeting change, is to not honor life itself.

Change Whose Time Has Come

Sometime in August, in the midst of preparing for our biggest event of the year, a clear knowing about what our work needed in order to move to the next level came to me. Holding some sweet sadness for what I knew had to happen, I invited the community I’d been living with in some form or other for the past five years—to leave. I wasn’t kicking people out nor had I made a decision that I didn’t want to live within a community of transformative practice any longer. What I had come to realize was, that as a living experiment—a petri dish for learning how best to support people working for justice in their own deep inner life change—our time had come to an end.

So on 9/9/09, a date representing “completion,” we gathered to bring to completion our time together in that form. As requested, each person planned a transition from this phase or season of life to the next. I had only one request for their plan: that the step they take would be one that would bring them closer to their own life purpose. That they waste no time in a limbo space, but regard their lifeforce as precious enough to not waste a single moment ambling near their path, choosing instead to step out fully onto it in whatever form that might take. They were also asked to state what they would need, if anything, to support this significant endeavor.

Organizationally speaking, this transition was invited at a time when we are, like many non-profits, picking ourselves up out of the dust and debris of the past year’s economic crisis, which is obviously far from over. Many would argue the move as less than, well…sane. But I’d argue that one of the most subtle Arts of Change is recognizing when it’s time to transition, to step forward into the awkwardness of the unknown and to meet change head on. To have continued on with folks that I had a felt sense belonged somewhere else would have been to opt for convenience over integrity, thus dishonoring this work—as Khalil Gibran named: my love made visible in the world—at its core. We each know intuitively that Love sometimes calls for a valiant honor that may set our preferences and conveniences aside. In work towards real, abiding justice and change that will last, our work, and how we hold it, must be the same.

As a result of meeting change on that day and bringing forth intention from as long as 10 years ago::

On October 31, half of the residential community—also meaning half of our staff—transitioned out. Gracefully, and sometimes not so, each person stepping firmly on the path of fulfilling their purpose in life.

On November 1, we transitioned in a new ED, thereby releasing me from the confines of organizational structures while enabling all of what I’ve been able to contribute thus far to live on until it is no longer useful.

On December 1 I will officially begin my first sabbatical after having logged 25 years of work, 20 of them with an eye towards social change.

In January, a new phase in the life of what has become the Center for Transformative Change will begin with the wind of legacy at its back and the raw power of new energy carrying it forward.

In June, CXC will collaboratively launch what we believe will be one of the most powerful toolkits to help shift the culture of social justice towards one of Transformative Social Change.

To hold these transitions off because things were far from rosy and we would be heavily challenged and sorely inconvenienced is to miss the very point of the practice of meeting change. We must come to welcome the awkwardness and inconvenience of change because that is precisely where our learning edges live. So, even as we here at CXC negotiate the sticky places (and yes, there are LOTS of them,) we know this is the right thing to do…and it is the right time.

Entering the Doorways
One of the practices of our New Dharma spiritual tradition is to bring our palms together and bow upon entering and leaving doorways. The hands form what is called gassho in Japanese, a bringing together of all things into One. It is the universally familiar gesture of namaste, prayer, respect, welcome. Out of this Oneness arises the bow, a gesture that in the West might be thought of as a lowering, but practiced well, in its quiet humility is actually a raising up. For us, it marks the transition—from outside to inside; from busy day to quiet sitting; from scattered head to One Mind; from “get it done” to “let it be”—with an imperceptibly small ceremony that gives us permission to release what came before so that we might step fully into what is new.

Transitions are the doorways to change. Choosing to engage transition and enter each doorway as consciously as possible but with a willingness to not know what’s on the other end is makes that change intentional.

Life IS change. And if you’ve been around for five good minutes, you know that Change Happens. So your only real choice is to either let life happen to you or for you to choose to live it.

One way to do that is to become practiced at happily, humbly and heartily Meeting Change.

With love and deep gratitude for all the unnamed stalwart practitioners of the Inner life phase of the New Dharma Meditation Center & Community that evolved into the Outer life Phase with these folks as staff of Center for Urban Peace: chandrashekara thuy tran, Karen Muktayani Villanueva, Premadasi Luna Amada, Simhanandi Evan Stubblefield, Zochi Alonzo Young, seeing it through its transition to the Center for Transformative Change. It is only for each of you that we can now step into the Social (Change) life phase of CXC to see our work for justice and deep change through. Good journey, y’all.–aKw

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact information intact.

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doing darkness

In culture, politics, relationship on October 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

dragonfly

change vs. transformation

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 fly together.

With gratitude to Robert, Staci, Steven, Adrienne, Zulayka, Claudia, Marie, the New Dharma Community and all my transformative teachers, mentors, students and friends–aKw

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary
and founder of Center for Transformative Change. she posts, tweets &
blogs on all things change. permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact information intact.

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