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The Transition Town Movement: An Experiment in Social Activism

By Hilary Bee

Greetings from Totnes, UK, the home of the Transition Town movement. This small town of 8,000 people in the south of England has given birth to a thriving social experiment of ongoing activism. At the heart of this movement is the ambitious plan of getting off oil dependency and finding ways to live that enhance our connection with all forms of life.

The idea is to find practical ways to live in harmony, and the model has inspired people in 43 different countries to set up local Transition initiatives. This is a collective rather than an individual endeavour, and involves commitment, ingenuity, creativity and generous hearts.

We see that there is no single answer to turning the tides of depletion of our natural resources and disconnection from each other. There is no quick fix or one size fits all. Rather, each area and each community has particular needs, resources, inspiration and skills. Each area begins with what it already has, builds its own transition plan and response; and all the different initiatives are networked together.

I am a Kundalini Yoga teacher, and here in Totnes we have a small, enthusiastic Kundalini Yoga community. This community is part of a wider yoga, meditation and spiritual collective that has no defined boundaries. My personal practice and classes are part of the wider endeavour to let go of patterns, beliefs, ways of thinking and ways of being that are based in the consciousness of separation and lack; and to grow towards living consciously, healthily and respectfully. Kundalini Yoga is a wonderful resource for which I am profoundly grateful.

In addition to the yoga classes that I teach, my contribution to our local Transition movement is mainly focused in the area of what we call "Inner Transition." Inner Transition is about attending to the inner shift in consciousness, that goes hand in hand with external changes that we need to make in our behaviour and habits. I run a weekly group called "Time to Breathe," drawing on Kundalini Yoga as a space for people to unwind, connect, attend to their inner state, and be nurtured.

I also help organise and facilitate events that provide the opportunity to explore our responses to the state of the world. For example, this Spring I co-facilitated a workshop looking at our feelings about the extreme weather conditions we experienced through the winter.

There are local Transition projects encompassing every aspect of our lives, including transportation, growing our own food, education, creativity and the arts, housing, alternative energy sources and building a resilient local economy. We have just re-launched our local currency, the Totnes Pound and are soon to celebrate the seventh birthday of the launch of Transition Town Totnes.

The daily activism of my life includes using a bicycle as my primary mode of transport and not owning a car. I have access to a vehicle through a local car sharing scheme, but find I rarely use it. I am blessed to live in an energy efficient home with good insulation, solar panels and rainwater recycling. I take my own bags when I go shopping and always decline plastic bags. I buy local produce and goods wherever possible. I compost my kitchen waste and recycle in order to minimise what goes to landfill from my home. I share a lawnmower with my neighbour, to reduce our consumer expenditure on infrequently used equipment. I endeavour to live simply, and simply live.

Each day I find time to meditate and practice yoga. Included in my daily practice is a 1,000 day sadhana of Gyan Chakra Kriya Meditation, to assist with attracting opportunity, wealth and prosperity for my community. (It was the story with the meditation page that has inspired me to do this meditation. I now live in a house called Miracle House.)

I join in local projects as my interest, time and energy allow. Here is a selection of some of the things that I have done as a participant:

* Attended a free skillshare on harvesting wild food (there is a local project where people teach each other skills in groups for free)

* Attended a local meeting to protest the dismantling of a dairy farm in order to build a new housing project

* Harvested herbs and courgettes for free from a nearby "Incredible Edible" planter providing food for passers-by to pick

* Participated in a community meal and film showing

* Attended an Eco-homes fair

* Joined a neighbourhood "Transition Streets" group, meeting in each other's homes to help each other implement the big picture changes in small, manageable steps

Through large and small daily acts, we are building together a local economy which is life sustaining and inclusive. We dare to dream. We experiment, we take practical action. We learn through our mistakes as much as through our successes. It is heart-warming to be part of a project that is in alignment with my values, and to have the opportunity to take practical steps with a community of others who share a vision of a wholesome future.

In a profit driven world, the idea of living within our means is revolutionary. Then hanging out my laundry to dry, riding my bicycle and picking wild garlic for my supper become conscious examples of everyday activism.

For more information about the Totnes project, visit www.transitiontowntotnes.org

If you want to discover more about Transition, find out if there is an initiative near you, receive a free e-mail newsletter or sign up for online training, visit www.transitionnetwork.org.

Hilary Bee has always felt that she is a global citizen, having travelled from infancy. She grew up and went to school in India, Pakistan, England and Jamaica. She started practicing yoga as a pre-teen when her grandfather gave her a yoga book, and went on to take lessons with Hatha yoga teachers from different lineages including Iyengar. In 2008 she had a vision about the power and role of gongs in this time of change, leading her to become a gong player and to Kundalini Yoga. She trained as a Kundalini Yoga teacher in Espanola in 2010, and has taught classes and offered gong meditations continuously since then. In 2011 she returned to her native UK, after living in the USA for many years, and now lives in Totnes, Devon. She worked as an Occupational Therapist in both the UK and USA, and currently offers yoga classes, gong meditations and Akashic Record readings.