“Spiritual Resilience” - Interview with Rev. Julia Bystrova, Heart & Soul Group, Transition Sebastopol - by Willi Paul, Planetshifter.com Media

As Transition is about creating a positive vision for the future while adjusting to a post-carbon world, an important aspect of that process is to provide for psychological and spiritual support for community members as they come to terms with changes that can often be overwhelming. Supporting each other through these changes is a vital part of community resilience. The Heart & Soul group is about addressing these needs of the community.

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Interview with Julia by Willi –

Are you reaching out to people in need - and to seniors - in the Sebastopol area?

Yes, one the most successful heart and soul groups split off from the main group, was a group to bring together the elder culture on our area. They are still meeting on a regular basis and have a loyal following.

We tried a gift circle group to help those in need but it did not continue. We are hosting healing events where people can receive a lot of support and care that is usually beyond the reach of many people's budgets. The "era of care" is another organization that emerged out of this. It will continue to do this, but is looking at how to make it financially sustainable.

How does the Heart & Soul Group integrate and influence Transition Sebastopol and City as a whole?

The heart and soul group, as well as transition group overall, originally held many open meetings and public events with different themes and agendas. Always these events allowed for conversation and interaction with the community.

Many of the folks involved, over time have gone off and created a great variety of activities that relate to heart and soul. These people and groups flourish on their own and perhaps are even spawning others. This is one way we sort of "seeded" the whole city--with many individuals becoming more active and more connected in the community.

How do you approach religion vs spiritual themes with your members?

Spiritual themes are usually embraced, but the language needs to careful and as inclusive as possible for all beliefs. We embrace all religions, but do not subscribe to anyone. There is a lot of language around the sacredness of the Earth and also of the heart and the simple healing power of gratitude.

We had a monthly circle called "heartsing" where we gathered to share our songs, poems, stories, prayers and spontaneous expressions of our heart--all around an open campfire. We feel people need places to go to get away from electronic media and to remember the ancient need to connect in nature and tell stories.

Tell us about … your “healthy support system” for your community which is the fundamental task of the Heart & Soul group.

Well, there are many folks now who know each other through heart and soul and related transition activities. Many of these folks have deepened in their connections and can ask for help and support in time of need, or be available for others if they need it. This is the best support system I know. It is very organic, changing and alive, not some contrived structure.

Talk about some of the underlying values in play for the Transition vision? Could these be a source of tension?

Well, yes. There have been different perspectives that have created tension. There have been people who have subscribed to a dire and gloomy view of our future, prepping for a very challenging 'transition'. There are others who are more reliant on inner resources and a belief that the good in humanity will win out in trying times. The former group thinks these types are "Pollyanna’s" and the later groups feels the former is way too 'doom and gloom". And then there are many gradients of types in between.

All agree that we are in transition and/or need to transition, but for different reasons and with different responses.

How does the Heart & Soul group collaborate together?

Well, this is an interesting question. We have tried to collaborate on many occasions, with some success. But overall, it seems that things get done when it is just one, two or a few who take a lead on a project, and then pull others in to help.

It is important for people to feel empowered to be part of things but I think many of us are still figuring out what collaboration really means. There are those that have a very ideal notion that we can all sit in council and work everything out altogether, but the reality is that humans are human, and there will be egos, personalities, differing opinions and energy levels, etc. We all do seem to have a strong ethic about how finding ways to work together, but many of us are clumsy in how to do that. The most interesting thing for me these days has been to explore the kinds of systems and groups that can work together efficiently and yet be non-hierarchical.

Transition hosted a training a while back on Effective Groups, taught by Nick Osbourne of the UK Transition network. Another thing l've explored is "the Art of Hosting" which is based on participatory leadership and has a variety of activities that distill the wisdom from the group.

One of the more helpful group structures I have found so far is the holographic model. I believe this holds a lot of promise in the future for helping us to work together effectively, though I believe the biggest issue we face is transition from the mindset of the old paradigm of power and control. Many of us that espouse a new way still struggle with the conditioning of the old. Power struggles and challenging ego dynamics will likely always come to play in a group, but with the right tools and structure, conflict can be channeled into positive action.

What is the Community Mapping process? Where are the results being implemented today?

This was a big community event done many years back now. There were many ideas, dreams, visions and projects proposed, though as in any 'brainstorming' type of process, only a few actually stick. Some of them have been in the form of working groups that are now on their own and working quite successfully, with a lot of positive impact on the community.

Do the ethics and principles from Permaculture play a role in Transition Sebastopol?

Absolutely! The principles of permaculture permeate our culture through and through!

Permaculture is a term that is now being used in social systems as well as natural. We look at how we can work together in a way that enhances our natural gifts, that brings needed tasks and our individual functions together more efficiently (i.e. - stacking). Bringing the gifts and natural inclinations out in people is a way to bring sustainability to this long term, often daunting project of transitioning our culture to one based on taking care of each other and the planet.

Permaculture is also a way of looking at life as a whole, how we are all connected and everything we do affects the system. It’s an important concept that needs to be widespread and part of our thinking if we are to steward our resources properly and apply the wisdom of nature to all our challenges in life.

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Bios –

Rev. Julia Bystrova, MA. has been working in the field of health and healing for over 20 years. She has produced and facilitated numerous events with health, healing, community, sustainability and inner resilience as a focus. She is also a poet, a performance artist and a mother. She has been a leader in the Transition movement, and specifically in Heart and Soul and Healthcare initiatives. Her latest work has emerged out of these efforts-- the new “Era of Care” which promotes events and services for inner and outer healing for communities.

Julia is an ordained Interfaith Minister with an interdisciplinary degree in science and philosophy. She is deeply engaged in the convergence of science, spirituality and community activism, especially as they relate to understanding and catalyzing the shift needed in human consciousness on the planet today.

Willi Paul. In 1996 Mr. Paul was instrumental in the design of the emerging online community space in his Master’s Thesis: “The Electronic Charrette.” He was active in many small town design visits with the Minnesota Design Team. Willi earned his permaculture design certification in August 2011 at the Urban Permaculture Institute, SF. Mr. Paul has released 20 eBooks, 2268 + posts on PlanetShifter.com Magazine, and over 325 interviews with global leaders. He has created 70 New Myths to date and has been interviewed over 30 times in blogs and journals. Please see his cutting-edge article at the Joseph Campbell Foundation and his pioneering videos on YouTube. A current focus is Myth Lab – a technique that Willi is implementing in his current Mythic Roundtable series.

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