Lessons on the Transformational Journey

by Manya on December 14, 2016

Lesson One:  You Get To Choose Some of the Journey, But Not All of It.


As with many of us, life has thrown me some unexpected and unimagined (if not heretofore unimaginable) turns in the past number of years, starting most precipitously with the financial melt-down of 2008).   As an inveterate planner (and Enneagram Six), like you may be, we plan on and for good things as much as we can (how much is another story altogether), but inevitably as the cliche goes “the best laid plans of mice and wo(men)….”

When the painful disruptive situations and events  happen – be they internal or external – I find myself thinking or feeling  “This wasn’t supposed to happen, this is NOT what I planned.”

And then I mourn.

But what if we simply accepted that we don’t get to plan those things that seem to be the most soul-stretching, the spaces and places where transformation suddenly pops our defined sense of self, the “who we are”, out of the shell in which we have become comfortable and maybe even complacent.

Surrendering to the unexpected, which includes embracing the bitter and the sweet, the challenge and the reward, the dark and the light, the fogginess of confusion along with the light of clarity, the sadness and the joy, the closing door while awaiting the opening of a new door…this is the heart of the matter.  for it’s where our life lessons make themselves known.  Of course, it takes emotional discipline to not get stuck in the emotions that arise – be that fear, worry, anxiety, or anger.

The less we resist and fight whatever shows up, the quicker our possibility to transform.

Note:  This article was written following the week in which we in the U.S. witnessed the killing of two innocent black men by police officers followed by the vengeful killing of five police officers in Dallas on top of the ugliest political election in our history, and precipitous Brexit disrupting the European Union as we have known it.

Every day another unthinkable event happens, another individual or mass killing or the morphing of political identities and alliances as we see in the U.S. and Britain. Reality as we have known it is disintegrating. What can we do? What must I do?

These are the questions that rise to mind in the wake of two short heartbreaking weeks in which we have witnessed the killings of two more innocent black men followed by the gun-down of five police officers in the U.S.,  Brexit, and another horrific act of terrorism in France; two weeks engendering yet more grief, fear, sense of helplessness and despair amongst us all.

As a physician-healer, it is blindingly clear to me that we are facing perhaps the greatest crisis in 50 years. As a nation, we sense we are at a tipping point. If we seize the moment, we have not only the opportunity to create a new story but an opportunity for healing at individual, group, and collective levels.

As violence and chaos escalate, it is impossible not to see the time has come to seriously address the symptoms of sickness and underlying illness that have befallen our nation and much of the world. We all feel it; we all know it. That’s why it’s time to challenge ourselves to do something that is not more of what we know, but something we haven’t yet done. The time is ripe to set our selves on a new path.

Think about this: when you or I or any individual is seriously ill, manifesting increasingly severe symptoms of deterioration and fearing our ultimate demise, we do everything we can to seek healing and to restore health.

This is the situation we face now. As I read numerous articles and social media posts, it seems that no matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we are each experiencing grief over the epidemic of killings, disillusionment in our political systems, and fears of further unprecedented socio-political disruptions.

While politics occasionally delivers empowerment and hope, most often it does not. And while we need to continue to strive to make our political systems better, the answer is not in our politics. The nature of politics and governance is more based in pragmatism than empowerment.

The answer to our fear, grief, frustration and confusion lies in understanding the nature of healing, and then thinking strategically about how we can accomplish that. Healing is always possible, even if sometimes that means healing into death. While metaphorically it is clear that that which is old and rotten must go in order for something new and healthy to grow, I don’t believe it is time for the U.S. to die.

In the same way that the bacterial infection of an abscess can be incredibly dangerous if it spreads to surrounding tissues and organs and becomes life-threatening if it spreads systemically through the body, so has the abscess of racism, classism, and exclusionary politics reached the point of poisoning our society.

Healing by definition means the body or entity has regained integrity and coherence. The parts work together and are able to maintain a state of equilibrium. Equilibrium allows for a range of well-being within which we fluctuate. Once we get outside that range, however, sickness and illness occur. This is what we are seeing now – the coming apart of the social fabric itself of our societies and our nations. This is where healing can occur.

Like it or not, we are one human species sharing the resources of our planet. Yet, the re-weaving of the whole will only come from each of us healing our selves individually. We must each seek to bring our personal operating selves – which are often fearful, reactive and defensive – back into communication with our essential nature, that part of us beyond personality where true knowing, caring and right action live.

When I recognize and become present to my essential nature, only then do I have the possibility of seeing the Other, not as Other, but as connected to me. That ultimately my well-being is dependent on your well-being, as self-sufficient and independent as I may be or like to think I am.

No one wins unless we all win. If we recognize that, we can come back into conversation with each other. This muscle of respectful productive conversation is one we must continue to consciously work and to grow: learning how to dialogue, where we go into the conversation agreeing to listen; slowing down enough to be aware of and acknowledge our deeper feelings as well as witness our assumptions and judgments; and then being willing to be present and disclosing of all that, seeing each other as colleagues in a process of learning. Only then will we find new ways to come together to solve problems.

So we have to have the courage to “show up” fully and be Present – to ourselves, to each other, to the divine spark of life and love that we all seek to have and to be, as buried as it is at times, in our heart of hearts.

True courage doesn’t feel like courage. It appears as and feels like a choice-less choice, the only way forward. If we want to survive and thrive, collectively we now face a choice-less choice, which is to get Present on the path to healing.

This is what we must do. And it is also what each of us can do. Understanding how I need to heal is the path to my essential nature where I am inspired to engage in action with others that can alleviate suffering and facilitate healing, not only in myself, but in others, in the world and for the planet.

Whatever your way is, do it. Whatever your station in life, tell your story. Make art, educate, do humanitarian work, take action for healing of the environment. Find your way. Whether you work with your hands or your mind, use your skills to help make the whole healthy again.

This is what we can and must do. The acceleration and prevalence of the profound disruption we are witnessing are the symptoms of an old order breaking down. The time has come for each of us to get to work to create a new reality.

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