By Sally Kempton
Note: This post has been previously published, including an appearance on the IEvolve.org website. We’re proud to present it to the readers of Spirit’s Next Move.
Feel like all hell is breaking loose? You might be experiencing a radical transformation that could change your life for the better.
1. The Wake-Up Call
You realize that something needs to change.
2. Holding Uncertainty
You search for methods to help you change, explore teachings and avenues, all the while being willing to live with the insecurity of being in a process of identity-shifting.
3. Asking for Help
You approach teachers and mentors, and you strongly appeal to the power of grace itself.
4. Grace, Insight, and Awakening
Grace opens the situation, creating a breakthrough, inner shift, which may manifest as new gifts or insights.
Enjoying the new situation, you live in the breakthrough. It may feel like being in love.
6. The Fall From Grace
You lose touch with the new gifts, experience the consequences of over-confidence, and a sense of dryness or loss of contact with your Source.
You bring insight to bear on the contractions that have caused you to lose contact with grace, you apply spiritual insights to the nitty gritty actions of life, and you experience the ripening of your breakthroughs over time.
Doug went on his first yoga retreat because he hoped to do some firsthand research into the effect of yoga on stress. But one morning on that retreat, he came out of meditation knowing beyond reason that something in his life had to change. “Everything I was doing felt utterly inauthentic,” he told me. His medical practice had gone dead for him, and it had been years since he felt a real connection with his wife.
A few days later, Doug confided his new insight to his wife, telling her that he needed some time out to contemplate his path. His wife thought he had gone crazy; soon the fault-lines in their 20-year marriage had cracked irrevocably. Now they are preceeding towards divorce, while Doug studies yoga therapeutics and spends hours every day meditating and writing. His children won’t speak to him. He tells me that he cries several times a week, and feels as if he were swimming in a fast hot river of emotions—his own and other people’s. Even more unsettling is the fact that he doesn’t know where all this is taking him.
We often don’t realize, when we enter a transformational process, exactly how much upheaval we may be letting ourselves in for—and how radical the uncertainty we may feel along the way. In one of Rumi’s poems, a boiling chickpea speaks up from out of the stew pot, complaining about the heat of the fire and the blows of the cook’s spoon. The cook tells him, “Just let yourself be cooked! In the end, you’ll be a delicious morsel!” Over the years, when the fire of yoga has felt especially hot, I’ve often turned to that poem, It describes so well the psychic cooking that goes on during certain phases of transformation. Transformation, after all, is a process where you literally allow yourself to be softened, opened, even broken apart, in order to expand your sense of who you are. When you are in the midst of the process, you might feel like that overheated chickpea, or like cookie dough—raw and untogether. It’s hard to keep your cool, or even to convene the different pieces of your personality. You say things that other people find weird or embarrassing. Even more dislocating, you don’t know exactly who you are. That uncertainty—the feeling that you’re caught between an old self and an unknown new one—is one of the signs that you’re in a true transformative process.
Transformation is different than spiritual awakening or enlightenment. The contemporary philosopher Yasuhiko Kimura defines transformation as a dance between Being and Becoming. ‘Being’ is the changeless source of all that is, the formless ground where words and categories dissolve, and which many of you have perhaps touched during meditation or Savasanana. ‘Becoming’ is the part of you that grows, changes, shifts. It is the realm where inspiration becomes actualized in the world. Being is your still center, your source; becoming is your personality, your body, and your interactions with the world.
When you have a spiritual awakening, or even a deep experience of stillness in meditation, you are returning to pure Being, immersing yourself in the love and freedom of undying essence. Transformation, on the other hand, is what happens when the insights and experiences that emerge out of pure Being meet your ‘ordinary’ human personality and your day-to-day reality and begin to infuse your choices and relationships.
Doug’s transformative process was actually a recognition that the insights he was touching in meditation were demanding to be lived. An old friend of mine described a similar moment in his life. He’d spent a month in retreat with his teacher, finding that his capacity for loving had increased exponentially in his teacher’s presence. Back in the stream of ordinary life, he’d watch the love evaporate under the daily pressure of making a living and dealing with the minutia of life.
For him, the process of transformation arose from the tension between the love and wisdom of pure Being that he experienced while on retreat, and the real life habits and feelings that characterized his ‘old’ self. It’s that tension that actually births change. In fact, the tension is part of the process, a sign that transformation is immanent or in development. There are other signs that you can learn to recognize too, because for most of us, real transformation happens in stages that can be tracked.