Read an Excerpt
The Path of Transformation
How Healing Ourselves Can Change the World
By Shakti Gawain
New World LibraryCopyright © 2000 Shakti Gawain
All rights reserved.
What Is Your Vision of the Future?
In this book we will be exploring our thoughts, feelings, fears, and visions about our own personal futures, and the future of our world. To begin our exploration, I'd like to invite you to do the brief exercise that follows. The purpose of this exercise is to help you get in touch with some of your own thoughts and feelings before reading what I have to say.
So before you read further, I'd like to ask you to take a few moments, read through the following exercise once, then close your eyes and try it. (If you prefer not to do this, that's fine — just go on to the next chapter.)
Sit comfortably in a quiet place. If you wish, have a pen and paper or your journal within easy reach. Close your eyes and take a few slow, deep breaths. Take a moment to relax. Then ask yourself, "What is my vision of the future? How do I feel about it?"
First, focus your attention on how you see, think, and feel about your own personal future. How do you imagine your future prospects in your career, your finances, your relationships, your family, friends, your physical health and fitness (including how you feel about your aging process), and your overall personal well-being?
Just sit quietly and note whatever thoughts, feelings, and images come up for you. Try to be very honest with yourself and acknowledge all the thoughts and feelings you have about these things, both positive and negative. Some of your inner responses to these questions might seem contradictory or confusing. For example, you might simultaneously have both positive and negative feelings about the same thing. That's perfectly natural and quite okay. Just acknowledge the full range of your feelings.
Now, expand your focus to imagine the future of your community, your country, humanity, the natural environment, the planet. Just notice the images, thoughts, and feelings that come to you when you ask yourself to imagine the future of the world. Again, try to be as honest as you can, and don't worry if your inner responses seem somewhat contradictory or confusing. For example, you might find yourself thinking, "There's so much potential for positive changes ... but I wonder if we will destroy ourselves before we get a chance to make those changes!"
When you feel complete with the exercise, open your eyes. If you wish, take your pen and paper or your journal and write down as much as you can about what came to you as you imagined your personal future and the future of our planet. If you prefer, use colored pens or crayons and draw your images and feelings.CHAPTER 2
Facing the Future
Humanity is in an ongoing process of conscious evolution. At this time, we are taking a giant step in consciousness — a great leap in our evolutionary process.
How do you feel about the future? If you are like most of us, you may find yourself having very mixed feelings when you consider that question.
If you are an especially optimistic person, or happen to be having a particularly good day, you might imagine a bright, glowing future for yourself and for all of us. If you're a more cynical or pessimistic person, or if you are having a difficult day, you may foresee a dim or dark future for yourself and others.
I've found, however, that most people who are asked this question, myself included, experience at least some conflicting feelings. On one hand we feel hope, excitement, a certain fascination with what the future may bring. On the other hand, we feel some doubt, fear, perhaps even dread or despair. Oftentimes we feel a deep confusion and helplessness about what to do. We barely know how to effectively address our own personal problems, much less the gigantic problems we see out there in the world.
It is entirely appropriate that so many of us are experiencing this mixture of feelings. Nobody would deny that this is a very scary time, perhaps the most frightening time that has ever existed on this planet. Most people are struggling with painful personal problems. Our relationships don't seem to be working the way we think they should. Marriages are falling apart. Children are being abused. Many people are depressed and anxiety ridden, or frustrated, or even violent. A friend or family member (or we ourselves) may be suffering from a disease for which we have no cure. Some of us have no jobs; others are dissatisfied with the jobs we have. Many of us are workaholics who are burning ourselves out. Perhaps we are dealing with our own or a loved one's addictions to alcohol, drugs, food, or other substances or activities.
As if all this weren't enough, when we look beyond our personal lives, we see even worse problems. We have wars all over the planet. Many countries are suffering from cruel, repressive governments. The Third World countries are being exploited by the industrialized nations. Economic chaos and disasters are threatening. There is a worldwide threat of terrorism. We have increasing violence in our cities, and homelessness has become a terrible problem. We have a drug epidemic that's out of control. Most frightening of all, we are in the process of destroying the natural environment upon which our lives depend.
It's unpleasant and uncomfortable to face these realities and our feelings about them, so most of us try to focus on other things. Yet, in order to have the courage to confront our personal and planetary problems, and try to solve them, we must first be honest enough to acknowledge the confusing, frightening feelings we may have and how overwhelming it all seems. The first step we must take in dealing with any challenge is to acknowledge what it is and how we feel about it. It is only through facing our fears and difficulties that we can find creative and effective solutions.
If our personal lives are so difficult, and the world is in such a mess (reconfirmed every evening on the news), why should we feel anything except despair? Why feel hopeful at all? The reason is that although this is a frightening time, it is simultaneously the most powerful time that has ever existed on this planet.
Humanity is in an ongoing process of conscious evolution. At this time, we are taking a giant step in consciousness — a great leap in our evolutionary process. It's probably the most exciting event that has ever taken place on this plane of reality. And I believe that on a soul level we have all chosen to be here at this time in order to take part in it. So we've committed ourselves to being here and doing this, we've put our hearts and souls into it, and now we're looking rather anxiously and breathlessly to see whether or not it's going to work! Somewhere, deep inside us, we know what is possible, and we're wondering if we're going to be able to manifest that. It's a big question.
I believe that the answer to that question lies in the hands of every one of us. Through our personal commitment to the process of growth and change, each one of us has the power not only to transform our own life, but to contribute tremendously to the transformation of life on our planet.CHAPTER 3
Healing Crises in Our Personal Lives
A healing crisis occurs at the point when we have outgrown an old pattern or way of being, but are still unconsciously holding onto that old way because it feels safe and familiar.
As you may have noticed, it often takes a personal crisis of some kind to catalyze real change and growth in our lives. Upon reflection, you can probably remember how a period of great upheaval, filled with confusion and pain — perhaps triggered by an event such as the death of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, a financial setback or loss of a job, or an accident or illness — has ultimately led to greater understanding, awareness, and new opportunities in your life. If you look at the lives of people you know, you may very well see the same pattern. Times of chaos and uncertainty can lead to new doors opening, especially when we are willing and able to look for the growth opportunities in a situation rather than simply being overwhelmed by outside circumstances.
It is the nature of the human soul to constantly move forward into greater challenge, expansion, and awareness. The primary job of the human personality, however, is to try to survive in physical form and get our physical and emotional needs met as best we can. There are certain parts of our personalities that want to change and grow, recognizing that growing is necessary and beneficial. Other parts of us prefer to cling to whatever has worked for us in the past. These conservative inner voices argue, "We've survived so far, haven't we? Why change something that's working okay?" These are the aspects of our psyches that urge us to stay with old patterns that feel safe and comfortable, rather than risking new things that we're not sure will work.
It is important to acknowledge these seemingly conflicting drives within us in order to understand how they affect the choices we make in our lives, and how, contrary to what might be our first impressions, they can actually work together. The tension between the parts of us that want to grow and change and the parts that want to remain safe in familiar territory is responsible for triggering what we call a "healing crisis."
A healing crisis occurs at the point when we have outgrown an old pattern or way of being, but are still unconsciously holding onto that old way because it feels safe and familiar. Our response to a healing crisis can vary greatly, both according to who we are and in reaction to other influences that may be affecting us at the time. We may be feeling relatively comfortable and content in a pattern that is no longer vital, unaware that our soul — which always welcomes forward motion — is ready to guide us to a new level. Or we may be feeling stuck and frustrated, wanting to make a change but not quite willing or able to. So we unconsciously create some kind of physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual crisis that shakes us out of the old and propels us into the new.
Healing crises are always uncomfortable and can often be painful and sometimes even terrifying. It can feel as if our world is in danger of coming to an end. It can seem as if our lives are falling apart. We may see disaster and doom everywhere. Oftentimes we blame ourselves and feel that we've done something horribly wrong or that we are, in some way, terribly lacking.
In fact, we have simply outgrown an old form, an old way of relating to the world. An old way of being is dissolving, making way for a new, more expanded, and more conscious way. The outer forms in our lives mirror this internal process. So we may lose a job or a relationship because it is too limiting; it would not allow us to expand in the direction we need to go. We may lose a loved one through death because both our souls are moving onto new levels — one of us continuing within the physical body, the other passing into a nonphysical reality. We may contract a serious illness in order to confront ourselves with the necessity for change, or confront a choice between continuing our own journey in physical form or moving forward into non- physical reality.
If you have ever gone through crises such as these, and have taken the opportunity to grow from them, you can probably recognize, in retrospect, how vitally important the experience was. From your present vantage point you may even realize that you would never want to return to your previous way of life or level of consciousness.
I know, in my own life, that there have been times, such as during the ending of a relationship, when I experienced a great deal of pain, convinced that my whole world was falling apart. Yet, as I look back at those times and see them in the context of a continuing journey, I can see how necessary they were — more like the opening of doors than the closing of them.
Fortunately, as we progress in the evolution of our consciousness, and gain more understanding of the growth process, most often we don't have to learn through severe crises. We learn to respond more quickly to the subtler clues that life gives us that it's time for a change! Because we've been through difficult times before and felt the positive results, we have a little more trust. It's easier each time to surrender to change, to let go of the old and open to the new. Still, it's always frightening and difficult to some degree, and we need to have great compassion for ourselves and others who are going through a healing crisis.
A friend of mine had an experience that perfectly illustrates this. She had enjoyed a successful business partnership with a man for many years. Then one day he announced that he wanted to dissolve their partnership and go out on his own. My friend was devastated, feeling that she would never be able to make it without his expertise and support. In the process, she confronted many of her fears and doubts and became aware of certain self-defeating patterns of her behavior. She used the entire process as a learning experience. Today she has a successful business of her own and is very much enjoying her newfound strength and independence. At the time it happened, the change had seemed like a disaster to her, yet it led to healing, growth, and expansion.
I believe that in the Eastern philosophical and spiritual tradition, there is a greater understanding of the process of change and growth than we have in the West. In the Hindu religion, there is a trinity of three main gods — Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. In the West, we may find it rather horrifying to worship "The Destroyer" right along with "The Creator." Yet this concept represents a profound understanding of the natural polarities of life — that life includes death and rebirth, and that old forms are constantly being destroyed, making way for the new. In fact, Shiva, is called the cosmic dancer — the god of music, dance, and the arts — and it is said his dance keeps the universe in motion.CHAPTER 4
The World in a Healing Crisis
Everything that we have been sweeping under the rug and denying for centuries is coming out in the open, demanding the birth of a new awareness. Now is the time to confront the fact that we are still clinging to patterns of thinking and behaving that no longer work.
Just as we may experience a healing crisis on the individual level when we are ready to go through major change and transformation, the same is true on a collective or global level. That is exactly what is happening now. As we begin this new millennium, humanity is making an evolutionary leap in consciousness. And this forward movement of the collective soul is now being experienced throughout the world as a healing crisis on the planetary level.
To fully grasp this, we have to understand how the process of conscious evolution works. As we grow, evolve, and expand our consciousness, individually and collectively, the old forms we have created no longer fit. It's as if our awareness is getting bigger, and so it can no longer fit into the forms that used to work. These forms were once quite appropriate; they supported us and allowed us to express ourselves. But now they are no longer working for us. As we grow, it's as if we literally push beyond these old forms that have been containing us. As we step out of them they begin to crumble. They must fall apart to create space for expansion. From that more expanded awareness, we create new, more flexible forms that support us in our new level of consciousness.
On a personal level, we can see this process in action when we lose a job that used to be satisfying but no longer is, or a relationship falls apart that used to feel safe and comfortable but now feels increasingly restrictive. On a collective level we see this process as we watch economic and political systems crumble and institutions fall apart or change drastically. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the shift away from our "cold war" mentality are dramatic examples of this transformational process that took place in the latter years of the twentieth century. While these might seem like positive changes, it is sometimes more difficult to see our economic crises, violence in our cities, and our drug epidemics as an evolution in consciousness. But remember that the old institutions have to crumble to make way for the new. What we are witnessing is the "falling apart" aspect of the process. We are now ready to recognize and acknowledge what didn't work about our old way of doing things, so that we can recreate things in a new and more conscious way.
Excerpted from The Path of Transformation by Shakti Gawain. Copyright © 2000 Shakti Gawain. Excerpted by permission of New World Library.
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