The 3 Building Blocks of Transformation
True transformation occurs only when we can look at ourselves squarely and face our attachments and inner demons, free from the buzz of commercial distraction and false social realities.
We have to retreat into our own cocoons and come face-to-face with who we are. We have to turn toward our own inner darkness. For only by abandoning its attachments and facing the darkness does the caterpillar’s body begin to spread out and its light, beautiful wings begin to form.
~Julia Butterfly Hill
This past month, I’ve been supporting the 24 people who are going through “Fall in Love with Your Work.” One of the things I love about teaching this course is watching the transformations that unfold for participants on their way to create right livelihood.
When I first created the course, I didn’t anticipate the deep levels of change that people would go through – not all of those changes directly related to their work. Some of them ended relationships that no longer served them or their partners. Some started exciting new projects, like a meditation group for their local community. Some dove headlong into creative endeavors that they had been postponing for way too long.
I thought I was simply offering a course that might help them get closer to work they would love. But in the process, I started to get how much our work in the world is an expression of our soul. So of course it makes sense that by deeply connecting with our mission and purpose related to livelihood, we would experience a shift at a soul level as well.
Transformation is not about making superficial changes – it’s about radically altering something at a deep level. It’s the process that a caterpillar undergoes as it becomes a butterfly, shedding everything familiar to it, moving from cocoon to wings. It’s not always easy but it’s always worth it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes transformation possible. How do we move from one place to another, inside our heart and mind, which then moves us into a very different place in how we live our life?
In the three years that I’ve been teaching this course, I’ve learned that it’s important for participants to work out some mental and spiritual muscles. These are what I call the “3 Building Blocks of Transformation”:
1) Returning to this very moment
This is the practice of basic mindfulness. Mindfulness helps us to stay awake to what is going on inside of us without getting overwhelmed by it, and it also supports us to regulate our nervous system. Mindfulness is first on the list because it’s the foundation for the other two building blocks. If you can begin (or continue) to integrate mindfulness into your daily routine you’ll notice a big difference in every part of your life.
2) Leveraging adversity
Another way to say this is “turning lemons into lemonade.” Sometimes life throws sour-tasting lemons at you… the job that really sucks, the toxic boss. The idea behind “Leveraging Adversity” is that you’re able to take whatever is creating a challenge and conjure up the energy to shift it into something positive – or at least neutral.
3) Staying the course
What makes the difference in wishing you could make a change in your life and actually making it happen? Staying the course will be a big factor.
Anytime you make an effort to shift something big in your life, you need to be ready for backward steps and disappointments. An essential component of transformation is that we need to bump up against what has kept us in our current state. This bumping up can sometimes feel rough and we may want to bail out.
How to stay with it? Here are three things that I’ve found helpful:
* Stay connected to your “why.”
The more you can stay aware of your intention for doing a task, the more likely you’ll be to stick with it even when the going gets tough. Positive “why’s” are usually more effective than negative ones. Make sure there is a carrot on the end of your stick!
* Celebrate your accomplishments!
Any time you reach a goal you’ve set for yourself, give yourself a reward. Maybe it’s a bubble bath, or time with a friend, or a cappuccino at your favorite coffee shop. Whatever works for you — give yourself time and space to mark your successes.
* Take a break — a real break.
One of my go-to books is “The Power of Full Engagement.” The authors noticed that high performing athletes have a unique ritual that helps them to quickly drop down into a state of relaxation and then return to the task with their awareness completely re-set. The average athletes just keep pounding away, depleting their physical strength and mental awareness in the process. Think of a star tennis player like Martina Navratilova and notice how she has a special way of bouncing the ball between sets. That’s her ritual. What’s your ritual?
I’d love to hear what feels true for you. How has transformation been supported to happen in your life? Do these Building Blocks resonate with you? Is there something else that makes it possible for you to make a big shift? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and feelings…
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