Kosmos Classic | Sophy Banks on the Heart of Transition

Transitioning to a more compassionate, conscious future is a journey of both outer changes and inner ones. Sophy Banks is a psychotherapist and co-developer of the Transition Town Movement’s ‘inner transition’ philosophy. I had the pleasure to create this short video with her at the New Story Summit in Findhorn, Scotland. I admire Sophy’s gentle determination and compassion. She explores a vision and process for communities wishing to engage in the process of transformation right now, without waiting for ‘permission’. Mindfulness plays an important role in the process. (R. Fabian)



Three Questions

How Transition works is that it invites us to ask three really powerful questions, I think, for our time and the first question is what’s really going on? What’s happening in the world that maybe we don’t hear so much about? So we need to get informed about that and what may be coming in the future that’s really going to be having an effect on our communities and our lives. The second question is, if we imagine our place, our locality, our town, our neighborhood in thirty or fifty years time and we’ve done a really good job of meeting the challenges that are coming by building something even better than what we have today, what does it look like? You know, what does it feel like when you walk up the high street? What do you see? What are the shops? What are people doing? How are the children being looked after? What does the food taste like? You know, these sort of really – to make a dream, a vision, a kind of reality of something that we can imagine. And the third question is out of all of that we dream, what can we start building today? What’s the pieces that we can get on with that we don’t have to wait for permission and that we can see and that the pieces are right there to be put together.

So for me, there’s a really powerful call and an invitation in transition and it works best when people see that what they hold is one piece of that whole vision of a community, you know, not just reimagining but kind of building on whatever’s there, adapting what might need to be adapted and so on. So we need, you know, the food growers, the dreamers, the people who know how to build buildings, the people who understand about land and water, the people who know how to encourage people to work well together, how to share, how to be in a process of change together and not tear each other apart and fight for things but to really collaborate and put together what we have so we can make the best for everybody.

So for me, that’s the first challenge is to be able to bridge different world views, different backgrounds, different languages, different cultures. You’ve lived here a really long time, I’ve just arrived in this place: how do we speak to each other and come together?


Transition is the first thing that I came across that said our problem is not about carbon, our problem is not about energy, it’s not about inequality, our problem is a whole worldview that creates a system of thought that creates outer systems and inner systems that are about separation and division and competition and so on. So for me, it was the first thing that said we have to put the whole system back together. We can’t problem solve issue by issue, we need to reimagine the whole thing and then just start building it. And my experience is that as soon as you do that, the whole way that you’re thinking shifts.

Transitioning to a different future is a really big process. This is not just something that we do overnight and for many people, there’s moments of crisis, of a kind of loss of identity, a feeling of anger or betrayal that the story we’ve been told is not going to be the truth that takes us forward. So all kinds of things can happen within us when we engage with this Story and go through a process of our own internal, rearrangement, you could say. For some people, it looks like despair and meltdown and crisis. For some people, it looks like huge energizing and motivation. For some people, it totally re-kick starts their life. We’re not all going to speak the same language. We won’t have the same assumptions about what the future vision should be.


Sometimes I talk about the practice of mindfulness as being the kind of absolute essence of inner transition. So you know, the practice of mindfulness is to stop just being caught by what’s happening and being identified with that as reality and to start to create an inner position within ourselves where we can just watch – and for me, that’s a metaphor for what we’re doing as a society.

Instead of just being run by a belief system that we have to have industrial growth; that we can take what we want from nature, that our waste goes somewhere and we don’t have to think about it, that there’s nothing we can do about this situation. The approach of mindfulness would be to step outside that and notice that these are beliefs and then as soon as we do that, we have an inner space to ask, what else might there be? What might be another set of beliefs? So that process kind of completely liberates us and until we do that, there is no freedom and no choice. There’s just being run by the belief system, so for me, mindfulness is a really beautiful metaphor for the whole process of creating the New Story.

So the first thing is to – is to be together, is to not be alone and to have the sense that other people are also scared and are also facing things that are challenging, so we need to not be alone and that’s a great teaching moment when we’re dealing with issues that feel very big or potentially really impactful. The second thing that I think we really need is to keep on evoking qualities like empowerment and appreciation and valuing each other and noticing that we are safe in this moment and noticing that there is enough right now.

Transition for me is the thing that brings together everything that I’ve learned and puts it in service to something that gives my life the most intense sense of meaning that I’ve ever experienced.