Sunday, October 9, 2011

1. Do the Dance

A friend once showed me that everyone is doing a financial Dance. Some people are quite aware that they are doing it: they live rather “on the edge,” managing to pull in just enough to pay the bills, just in time. They do a perpetual Dance to assure that income will cover expenses. Many of them view money as a flow. They acknowledge the Dance, and some even regard it as a type of a game.

Other people have a very different view of finances. They plan years into the future and expect economics to be rock-solid. As my friend showed me, these people don’t realize they are doing the Dance, but they are participating in it nonetheless. When circumstances change, and people in this latter category are forced to live much closer to the edge, it represents major upheaval of expectations, since they never acknowledged to themselves that they were participating in the Dance.

Particularly in these times of great uncertainty, we are ALL doing the Dance. If we adjust our expectations to accept this, we’ll all feel a lot happier.

“If you are expecting something, then it doesn’t come as much of a shock and you don’t feel as much as if the rug has been pulled out from under your feet. You’re less likely to run around like a headless chicken. ... Traumatized people are likely to join movements of anger. I tell people, do not join movements of anger. It sucks all the energy out of you. Then you will not be in a position to help your friends, neighbors and family. It is better to say to oneself this has happened; get over it; and move on. Join something positive and constructive instead. That will matter more.”
Nicole Foss aka Stoneleigh

Resilience is like being a kid on a trampoline with the surface ever-changing beneath you. We have to remain lightly on our toes, and cultivate the ability to flex and adapt to whatever comes along.

Inner Resilience

As an individual, this means developing inner resilience -- the character and spiritual base to remain flexible and feel good about it. It means developing a supportive community circle around you to fall back on emotionally or more tangibly. It also means developing practical life skills and practices which will get you through challenges (More at Practical Tools #3 through 6).

With regards to economics in particular, we have been trained to go it alone. But suddenly local neighbors are becoming an essential part of our survival network. This can bring up psychological and social questions for which we haven’t yet developed coping mechanisms.

Transition times will mean stretching and growing in ways you never have had to before. For one, it will mean working with others in ways you never have done before, because solo survivalism (particularly within our cities) simply won’t work. It takes a village, and since Americans are no longer familiar with what it takes to maintain village relationships, we each have a lot of learning to do.

Personal resilience:

  • Fortify yourself – psychologically, spiritually – in order to weather the massive changes ahead
  • Redefining ourselves – We aren’t our possessions. We aren’t our jobs. Who are we, within the context of all life upon the planet?
  • Connect with a community group where people understand the issues of peak oil + climate change + economic contraction
  • Locate a counselor or spiritual advisor who is prepared to deal with the inevitable disappointment, life goal reorientation, and introspection inherent in these issues
  • Explore new “inner” ideas such as redefining the concept of success (see Practical Tool #8)
  • Regardless of our spiritual tradition, we can each benefit by studying the Buddhist concept of impermanence. Humans attempt to set things up to be permanent and lasting, yet the nature of life itself is ongoing change. The works of Thich Nhat Hanh offer a nice introduction.
  • Solo survivalism won’t work, particularly within the urban environment. We need each other. Join with others who understand these ideas.
  • Develop a proactive outlook – seeking and implementing solutions. We can build a better world.
  • Volunteer. Get in action, helping to build local resilience. ...
  • Give generously of your talents, services, and any surplus you can share. Begin building the open flow of reciprocity and connectedness inherent in a “gift culture.”


  • Living Simply with Children, by Marie Sherlock
  • Live Simply in the City, by Jonathan Allan and Lynne Cantwell
  • a Transition-oriented booklist for kids from Transition Los Angeles
  • Kids and Transition: How do we juggle parenting our children with the work we know we must do to facilitate a livable world for them when they are grown? Part I, Part II
  • Sharon Astyk, Depletion and Abundance: Life on the New Home Front

Community resilience

For communities, developing economic resilience will involve all the things we’re putting in place through the Transition movement – cultivating local food sources/urban agriculture, developing the local skill base/reskilling, building up community resources such as water cisterns/rainwater harvesting, etc. Within the Transition movement we go at this building-up-of-the-local with great excitement (as well we should).

But there is a little-talked-about aspect within Relocalization which I have called decoupling. Think of it like unhooking the links of a chain. Or releasing the little escape pod from the Mother Ship.

As far as resilience goes, the deeper reason we’re building up all these Local things is to enable our local communities to decouple -- to make it possible to disconnect. We’re setting our local affairs in order such that our community is able to go it independently in the event of shocks to the larger system.

Decoupling doesn’t mean there will never be trade. As one writer put it, it’s not a matter of New Englanders never having oranges. But it is to say that a daily glass of Florida OJ in New England is ecologically inappropriate and that oranges in New England should rightly be rare and special.

Decoupling means that the basics are handled locally. That if push came to shove and the ability to trade with other geographies became – however temporarily – unavailable, our local community would have the local framework in place; it would have local resources in sufficient quantity to survive. As we build the community gardens and install the rain barrels, we must set structures in place for economic decoupling as well.

  • Raise awareness within your circle of friends, your neighborhood, and your local community. Tell them about all these issues, and help them do these things too. (Tools: a summary of this document as a handout)
  • Discuss what localizing and decoupling will mean for your specific neighborhood. Consider the suggestions elsewhere in this booklet.
  • Set in motion community preparedness. Inventory community resources. (see Transition US, “Working Groups) Food production, water harvesting, basic clothing manufacture -- begin building what your community is missing.
  • Read the materials of the Breaking The Chains project of the Organic Consumers Association and the New Rules Project of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. These projects are not without their flaws (of the type that Hopkins has pointed out here) but they do offer some useful ideas.
  • Join with others who understand these ideas, and help spread the word.

next section

Other resources

· Hopkins’ Ingredient on “Personal Resilience

· New Economics Foundation, “The Art of Rapid Transition: How to Thrive in Times of Crisis.” Free pdf download at

Groups outside the Transition movement which have created community circles that might include personal and financial resilience

· “Your Money or Your Life” study guide for groups

· Crash Course circles

· (UK) “Transition Together” project. Also, watch for the emerging work of the Transition Network REconomy project (UK) pdf

next section