Artwork by Paige Bradley, titled Expansion. Bronze and electricity.
This week I have had three networking meetings. Stacey is a public speaker/ brand maven, Rachel is a life coach/yoga teacher, and Jeff, a business owner/audiovisual tech. What they all had in common was a life transformation.
As I listened, I noticed a thematic arc to my friends’ transformation stories. This arc leads me to believe that there are four parts to any transformation: crisis, surrender, self-examination, and connection.
People don’t just wake up one morning and say, “Hey today, I think today is the day that I begin my metamorphosis into a new and better self.” Usually, there is some catalyst, a crisis of some kind that forces a person to look at their life. It could be self-imposed sabotage like an addiction or some other destructive behavior. Or it could come from outside of you, the loss of a spouse, or job, or child. First, we have to say hey to the crisis and quit pretending that everything is fine. That’s the surrender. Regardless of how we got here. It sucks. Now what?
Next, we have to look at how we got here.
St. Paul says, “Do not conform to the patterns of this world, instead be renewed by the transforming of your mind,” that means, we have to change the way we think.
Conventional therapy teaches that emotion drives thought and thought drives behavior. So to change our behavior, we have to change our thinking, and to change our thinking we have to get a handle on our emotional lives.
I find this the most challenging. Before my crisis, I didn’t understand why some people were so dad-gummed emotional. They cried at movies, they got mad and yelled, they laughed gleefully. I used to silently judge them as out of control children.
What I didn’t realize then was that I had insulated myself with buffers- food, alcohol, maryjane. Behaviors that kept me comfortably numb, “hanging on with quiet desperation,” it was my way of life. I was using all kinds buffers to push the world and all it’s dreadful authenticity about 18 inches away. And I didn’t even know it.
To transform requires connection, we can’t connect with anyone if we are all packed up in cotton batting like a china doll on a shelf. We have to become aware of the buffers and give them up, one by one. As we shed these buffers, emotions are turned up, like a Haughty Diva, announcing her arrival with a crystal shattering high C. When she’s gone, we look around and realize shards of glass surround us.
How do we deal with these haughty emotions? This is spiritual work. My experience is that no real transformation occurs without a continual surrender to something more intelligent, loving, wise, capable, and trustworthy. I chose to call this something, God. But you can choose to call it whatever you want, as long as it ain’t you. This Friendly Diety takes the Haughty Diva by the hand and offers her love, healing, and acceptance.
To know what the buffers are, to shed them so we may connect requires self-awareness, which involves self-study. No one wants to go down into the basement of the self and look at all the ugly boogie men alone. We bring our Friendly Deity. We do that with prayer and meditation. Highly spiritual people have been employing these habits of self-appraisal, prayer, and meditation for eons. So we may as well try it. I mean, what have we got to lose?
Just for today
I will begin to shift and change, I will shed layers of emotional buffers, and character flaws that cause friction with others. I will let go of behaviors that are born from stories that I learned so long ago. Now I’ve outgrown those stories, they aren’t real, they aren’t helpful, and they aren’t effective.
God, strengthen the bond between my highest self and you so that I may experience transformational change. Remind me that “Love is what’s left when you let go of absolutely everything you don’t need.” Erich Schiffman.