Monday, July 15, 2013

Making Mindful Transitions ~ Lessons in Progress

Transitions don’t start at the moment of re-entry.

My process began back in August, at Peace Corps Close of Service (COS), a three-day intensive program during which our volunteer class had a chance to conclude the official side of our service with workshops, flipcharts, ceremonies, mountains of bureaucratic paperwork, even a Skype chat with Washington’s Transition Services Unit for guidance on preparing succinct elevator pitches that wouldn’t bore or alienate our friends and family back home. 

How were we supposed to boil-down two years of cross-cultural challenges and eye-opening experiences in under two minutes?! This role-play exercise did little more than remind us how hard the impending transition was really going to be.

COS opened the door to the Ending and my overall Transition process. (Read more about it here -->

But I had a LOT to do in Rioverde with my counterparts, friends and community partners in order to get real closure by the November deadline and move-on. As SeeChange prez and chief change agent, I knew I was going to need a plan if I was going to get through it with any grace at all. 

The pressure to close a tree sale with the Zama Mamas and leave them whole and sustainable was almost unbearable, and the mañana attitude of my counterparts wasn’t helping. On top of that, the State Department’s recurring threat to pull us San Luis Potosi volunteers was bearing down again. The danger of drug cartel violence, and the uncertainty of our service, had weighed on us till the end.

William Bridges, Transitions
Beyond just getting through it, I knew this transition could and would be fertile ground for learning and growth – if only I could manage it mindfully.
So I reached-out to my good old friend and coach, Leslie, for some help.  As OD colleagues and fellow AU/NTL grads, we both applied the Bridges three-stage model – starting with graceful Endings, progressing through the fertile middle-ground of Transitions, then culminating with bright new Beginnings.

Moreover, with our mindfulness underpinnings, we both believed in attending not only to task, but getting below the surface to the feelings, in order to get to real closure and insight. When I got on that bus out of Rioverde for the last time, and looked back over my shoulder, I knew it would be the relationships that mattered most.

Leslie and I set out over a series of Skype sessions, from my Rioverde office connection to hers in the WVA panhandle, to create a Vision for my Transition and *New DC Life.*  Over the next few posts, I’ll share that vision with you, along with some digressions back to Mexico where I'm still picking-up lessons. And I'll discuss the challenges and ah-has over the course of what will soon be a year-long transition process.

Stay tuned…


  1. Looking forward to the book!

  2. Looking forward to reading more also. The PC had it right that coming home was the hard part. I have been back for two months from Botswana and nothing here in US seems right. I recognize it is all about transitioning and re-integrating, but what was left behind is haunting me. Some ask me if I would do it all over again (though I feel they really don't care what they answer will be). If I had to answer, I would say I would do it all over again, if I could figure out a way to stay or leave without all the pain.