The Great Turning: Moving Through Transition

This is quite a moment to be alive. A moment of great initiation. All around us people are waking up. Asking questions. Deconstructing walls. Challenging beliefs.  Personally and collectively. 

For generations, many have actively dreamed a new world into being. Prayers have been offered, songs have been sung, dances have been danced…all for a vision of a world that is vibrant and just, diversified and sustainable. A world in which natural resources are honored, interdependence is valued, and humanity is upheld. 

Structural alternatives cannot take root and survive without deeply ingrained values to sustain them. They must mirror what we want and how we relate to Earth and each other. They require, in other words, a profound shift in our perception of reality—and that shift is happening now, both as cognitive revolution and spiritual awakening.
— Joanna Macy

We have reached a tipping point as a human race. More and more of us are expanding our awareness of ourselves and our world. We are aligning with what our souls truly want AND seeing and feeling the cracks. This is a time otherwise known as the Great Turning.

In their book, Active Hope: How to Face the Mess We’re In Without Going Crazy, Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone described three paradigms of our world.

The first is Business as Usual. Think consumption over creativity. Economic progress based on overuse of resources. No change is recommended anytime soon. When faced with this story, I often feel hopeless. Distracted. Disempowered. My nervous system responds by going into a deep FREEZE. Into non-action.

The second story can feel more compelling due to it's sense of urgency over apathy, however, The Great Unraveling is held together by dense dire truths, fear based thinking, and a landscape in which the only direction is imminent destruction. It’s doomsday. To survive, my response is to FIGHT or FLIGHT.

It is only the third paradigm, The Great Turning, that empowers individuals to imagine a better world - to commit to major transitions in their lives and actions that will shift (in whatever way, small or large) human culture toward a more sustainable relationship with our planet. To lead in this way, we cannot freeze, fight or flight. We must FOCUS…both on the many things we love about this life and the pain and suffering that exist alongside it. By holding the paradox of grief and praise we can remember what is worth fighting for. We can envision, love and celebrate a new way of Being - bringing this Great Turning into life.

That’s not to say we won’t be challenged. Seeming chaos and deep polarities are part of transitioning toward a new way. How do we stay the course? Those of us who are willing and able are uniquely poised to foster this movement, and as dancers, we can use our practice as a resource to stay centered, grounded, present…to nourish and feed ourselves…to stay sane! Our practice cultivates conditions within ourselves to root like trees and rise to greater heights, to uplift consciousness with our joy and turn the tides toward an embodied, heart-centered way of BEing. Dance is integral to transitional times, as it fosters our capacity to: 

  • Listen. Hold Space. Integrate.

When faced with potential changes in our world, it’s important to listen to the body - to note what that body already knows. By focusing our attention and softening tension, we can settle our nervous systems and find our breath amidst moments of imbalance. Setting intentions and creating boundaries allows us to build and activate our energy while ensuring we are resourced.

Listening is a skill that serves all of life. Tuning into our emotional bodies, for example, and learning to move and include what is present increases our emotional intelligence and resilience. We need both to hold space - to recognize what is ours or another's, to stay present without trying to fix, change, suppress or judge, to hold ourselves and others through the fire(s) of transformation. 

And as we bring that full circle, releasing attachment to our own ideas and allowing ourselves to be shaped and informed by the experience, we learn to sit with one another, just as we are. Open, present, willing to be with change. 

  • Be vulnerable, authentic and willing to make mistakes.

Life transitions are full of unknowns, which can ignite our fears and desire for stability. Yet, the truth of life reflects constant change, unpredictability and many, many unknowns. This is vulnerable terrain. One supported by the practice of showing up, again and again, onto the dance floor. We can never know what will arise in our movement, but the more we’re able to stay true to our experience and allow what is present to be seen, felt, known and witnessed, the more trust will follow. It takes time to soften into our own vulnerability, but when we do, we can trust the process more and more.

We will make mistakes. Even with the purest of intentions, what we say or do may still offend or hurt others. Practice on the dance floor getting comfortable with mistakes rather than becoming defensive. Play. Laugh at yourself. Apologize and acknowledge when the experience didn't match the intent, then move on. Taking ourselves too seriously very rarely serves. 

  • MOVE through conflict and become intimate with life's challenges.

Truth is not simple these days. We each have our own lens through which we see the world. Holding a “both/and” perspective rather than an “either/or” teaches us how to live with paradox and move through conflict.

I have found no better place to practice moving with conflict or challenge than in the dance. Explore polarity by moving up, then down. Forward, then back. Embody your fear, then your love. Slowly invite your challenges in. Give them gesture and life through your dance. Then immediately try on the opposite. Differing views, differing perspectives…can we locate them in our body, can we explore them fully, can we choose where to place ourselves between the two?

Thank goodness we are imperfect. Our ability to be aware of our own challenges while being kind to ourselves when we make mistakes is imperative in these times!

  • Rejuvenate, relieve stress, and tend to oneself.

Just as we expand our capacity to hold the challenges of life, we must also expand our capacity for rejuvenation. Our joy matters now more than ever. Self-care is more essential than ever. Make your own well being a priority! Use the dance to refill and relax. Breathe deeply. Move your body! Reconnect with yourself, others and Spirit. There are few other practices that are so abundantly good for YOU on so many levels; physical, emotional, mental, spiritual.

If you want to "change the world" tend to your own needs first. Keep your well healthy and full. DANCE! Acknowledge your unique skills and abilities and the ways in which you feel called to contribute to a better world. Some of us protect our waters. Others speak against inequality and injustice. Some of us teach or tend or love. Others dance and sing and pray. There are innumerable ways to contribute. Inexhaustible ways to show up in this world and take part in the Great Turning. Start by choosing the work that is directly in front of you - within yourself, your families, your communities. Stay present to the work that life presents and contribute as much as possible to the joy of the great unfolding.

In these times FOCUS your attention. Soften your body. Open your chest, your heart, your back, your whole life. Live wholeheartedly and I will too.

Love, Teresa