Posts tagged ‘Transformation’

Dark Nights of the Soul, Part 4: Living in the Dark ll By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

Dark Nights of the Soul, Part 4: Living in the Dark
By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards, MA.

To go in the dark with a light is to know light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight.
And find that the dark, too, blooms and sings.
And is traveled by dark feet and dark wings. (1)

In my last blog  I wrote of signposts and some reasons why a dark night moves in. Maybe you’ve ascertained that you are in a dark night. Now what? Is there a way to chart a course through murkiness? Are there guiding stars in the sky?

1-Pay attention to what’s going on in your life. In my past blogs on this topic, I’ve laid out two nonexclusive strains of soul talk: a secular , and a religious.  Paying attention is NOT the same as trying to figure out what’s happening—the latter implies you have serious problems and that you need to fix something. A dark night implies transformation. Think of the chrysalis transforming into a butterfly. It doesn’t emerge as a stronger, happier worm crawling on its belly on the ground. No, it emerges with breathtakingly beautiful diaphanous wings giving it flight.  

Continue with your mediation and/or mindfulness practices. “Mindfulness,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, “is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”

2-Work with it creatively. Write poems or prose, paint it, sculpt it, draw it, sing it, dance it, garden with it, cook with it, build with it. Walk with it in nature. 

3-Don’t expect flashes of brilliant light—or even a dribble of it—to light your way. Follow the wisdom in Wendell Berry’s opening poem:  let the darkness be your light. Befriend it. Live with it. Contrary to all expectations, this is the key. Incomplete contemporary ways exist to deal with your dark night: expert and not so expert advice; books and tapes; workshops; and religious institutions. Well-meaning friends and family will tell you “do something,” anything to dissipate the mood. But as Thomas Moore writes in his Dark Nights of the Soul, that is the hero’s shadow in the background—and ego’s. 

4-A dark night might require you to give up all concepts of success, progress, and enlightenment. Our Western view is that our lives are linear, that we will continue to do what we’re doing, just getting better and better at it. But that’s not true. Life is a series of transformations, of deaths and rebirths, of becoming a person with new competencies and skills. 

As I mentioned in my last blog, we outgrow our skins—the skins of unconsciously accepting and following values and attitudes. Live with life’s experiences, and let those experiences do their work. 

What is needed is a view of life that includes the dark.

5-Get used to it. You may carry it with you for years. Don’t try and push it away. Moore says, “What is needed is a view of life than includes the dark.” It isn’t that you embrace masochism but you surrender to your Tao, to your path, to your life. 

And you continue with your sacred commitments—to your partner and children, to your work. 

6-Avoid the blame game. Your ennui, sadness, deep funk—whatever you choose to call it—it’s no one’s fault. This is life. Yes, maybe you made choices that you recognize may not have been the healthiest, but you did the best you could with the knowledge, the wisdom, and the skills you had at the time. And now, gently, your soul is telling you it’s just time to move on, to live with a greater vision, a greater clarity of who you are, and what you’re created for.

Life is a mixture of pain and joy.

7-Happiness is not the end goal. You wouldn’t know that by the messages our culture repeatedly bombards us with. 

“Happiness is more a temporary sensation that things are in place and Heaven seems to have blessed the moment. But life is . . . a mixture of pain and satisfaction . . . .Weaving the dark into the light in your expectations and personal philosophy might temper the role of happiness and offer a way to appropriate the dark night with style and wisdom,” says Moore.

8-It helps if you can find a compassionate spiritual facilitator, one who knows about dark nights. You don’t need advice on what you’re doing “wrong,” and what you need to do to be “right.” You need someone to sit with you nonjudgmentally as you look within your darkness for its light, to untangle what’s going on inside you, to reassure you that you’re OKAY

In Part 5 of this series, I’ll bring in examples of how people lived their dark nights. Meanwhile, sit with T.S. Eliot’s poem (3): 

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing;
wait without love
For love would be love for the wrong thing;
there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all
in the waiting.

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Notes & Sources: 

1.Wendell Berry, from “To Know the Dark,” in Farming: A Handbook. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. 1967.

2. The best resource I have found on determining if it’s a dark night of the soul or a clinical depression requiring the attention of a mental health professional is Thomas Moore’s book, Dark Nights of the Soul, A Guide to Finding Your Way Through Life’s Ordeals. Penguin Random House. 2004. 

3. T.S. Eliot, East Coker, from his Four Quartets. Faber and Faber. 1940.


About the Author: Rev. Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation. 

The Power of Contrast ll by Erin Amundson

The Power of Contrast
By Erin Amundson

   As I was leading an online dream group this past fall, something fascinating happened.  Just as we were entering the part of the group where everyone is on the brink of a wonderful, desired transformation, every single member of the group came up against resistance.  In fact, for the first time in the three years I’ve been facilitating dream groups, almost every member of the group canceled for our next session.

   I’ve seen this before.  Often in my one on one work with people. 

Just as we are getting to what I call the good stuff, clients cancel.

   Given my extensive history with my own resistance, I tend to be understanding and usually do my best to invite them back where we can chat about what came up. Every time, without fail, I see that those who do come back find that the experience of transformation brings them exactly what they want and need. 

I’m not saying it’s easy – in fact, many times it can feel emotionally excruciating.

   However, I believe there’s a way to make it less difficult by working with contrast or the tension of opposites.  Let me walk you through it. 

   The tension of opposites is often what clients feel just before a big breakthrough.  There is usually strong desire for growth or freedom and often equally strong feelings of resistance that create avoidance.  The result of this for most people is either backing away from the growth, which means staying wounded or limited, OR pushing through the resistance to the next level, regardless of the impact.  In my work with the dream group recently, I’ve come to consciously understand a strategy I’ve used for years with clients one on one.  This strategy is to shift our focus from the tension we feel to the power that contrast can bring us. 

   There are many examples of this in psychotherapy.  A client with a difficult childhood may both love and hate a parent who was inconsistent or abusive.  Clients often feel both fear and excitement in the venture of a desire, such as a new relationship or a career promotion. 

In dreamwork, our subconscious images feed us both nightmares and “good” dreams. 

   In all of these examples, I’ve found that the ability to hold both emotions with reverence and respect offers a pathway to our whole selves that we cannot otherwise connect to. 

   This means that the client who invites both the love and the hatred of the parent into her experience engages a new balance in the relationship to the parent (and probably better boundaries, too).  The person who invites the fear to speak to him before engaging the new relationship has the opportunity to understand a part of him that may need healing and will make the relationship better.  And the dreamer who engages the nightmare has the opportunity to work out a trauma or deep subconscious fear.  All of these processes bring freedom to my clients. 

   Consider this.  Imagine that you are on the brink of a new level of self-expression (as many of you truly are!).  It is going to be a natural part of your experience to fear this on some level, because you are heading into uncharted territory. 

As humans, we fear what we don’t know or can’t predict. 

   Now, I assume that what you want in this situation is the courage to plunge forward into this new and improved you.  Faced with this dilemma, it is human nature to do one of two things: DENY that you have fear and suppress it moving forward regardless, or DENY your new level of self-expression through some form of sabotage in order to stay SAFE. 

   While I preferred the first of these two responses for much of my own life, I’ve discovered that neither response provides most of us a grounded, nourishing, supportive way of experiencing growth in life.  If you deny your fear, a key part of your human existence is left behind, and left unhealed.  Typically, this fear (which is totally VALID) is expressed later on in unhealthy ways. 

   The answer, I have found, starts with telling the truth.  First, to yourself.  The truth about how we feel is not openly encouraged in this culture.  For a lot of people, it’s really hard to admit that their parents caused them pain.  It’s also hard to admit sometimes that you want more out of life.  We’ve just begun to really talk about fear and vulnerability in the last few years.  How many times have you responded with “I’m feeling really insecure” when someone asks how you are?  It’s rare. 

   I’m not saying that we should all suddenly start expressing ourselves freely.  Sometimes it’s not safe to do so.  Other times, we only think it’s not safe.  Therapy is a wonderful place to work this out.  The key is a feeling of safety in expressing and embracing our “less desired” emotions.  When you do, you’ll find the power of contrast in your own life.  

 


   

   Erin Amundson loves helping people reconnect to their natural technology by decoding the language of dreams.  She is a healer, a depth psychologist and an entrepreneur who specializes in teaching people how to identify and remove barriers to success and make friends with their subconscious mind.  As the creator and founder of Natural Dream Technology, Erin knows that hidden beneath the surface of your conscious mind is a uniquely talented visionary, and she wants the world to benefit from your contribution.

   After several fights with her own subconscious mind (and a re-occurring nightmare about skipping classes and failing), Erin finally surrendered and followed the wisdom of her natural technology to get a second graduate degree in Counseling at Regis University.  A life-long follower of dreams, Erin now began to learn the language of the subconscious as she slept.  Just as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs and Steven Spielberg all experienced, Erin began to recognize in her dreams that her best work is to help you reclaim your connection to your own natural technology through dreams and the subconscious.  She has been teaching, facilitating and engaging in dream work with ambitious professionals ever since. 

   Erin currently practices as a depth psychotherapist in Denver, Colorado and via the internet around the world.  In addition to her dream work, Erin is a certified past life regressionist, an intuitive astrologer and a lover of travel, snowboarding, deep conversations and cooking delicious food, all of which she enjoys practicing while she sleeps.

Walking the Path of Transformation || Mary Coday Edwards

Blog 7

Walking the Path of Transformation.

journey

July 26, 2016

By Rev. Mary Coday Edwards.

After a long and arduous hike, this sign greeted me at the top of the spreading, wide plateau. I chuckled at the understatement: such an apt description of our lives at times!

BLOG 7

Let’s say we’ve done the first half-of-life work: we’ve developed our skills and talents through training, education, and experience. Perhaps we’ve found a partner to walk with us and we’ve had children or the equivalent.

We may not have met all of our goals, but life’s good – onward and upward!

Then – bam. Something shifts within us, life seems to go dull, or we hit a roadblock with our personal or career goals. We think we know what we ought to be doing next, but it isn’t happening. Perhaps a death or sickness stops us.

We don’t like this shift – we want it to go away, we want to return to how things were. We work harder, using our standard mode of operation to get what we want and to avoid what we don’t want.

We start reading self-help books; we talk to our close friends and family members; perhaps we make an appointment for a psychotherapist, or a spiritual counselor.  “Am I depressed?” we ask. “Do I need a pill to make me feel better?” or “What am I doing wrong?” (1)

Or worse – we abandon our commitments because we believe moving to Nepal will solve all our problems. Our psyche has important information for us and all we’re doing is prolonging and increasing the agony when we believe changing our circumstances will make us happy. 

Outward changes may be required, especially if you are in an abusive relationship, but those decisions will be made in full consciousness.

“Midway upon the journey of our life, I found myself within a forest dark, for the straightforward pathway had been lost,” wrote Dante, in The Divine Comedy

In other words, the path becomes “difficult to find beyond this point”.

“Relax!” I tell folks when they come to me, frustrated and hurting when they find themselves on this plateau with no discernible path. I also tell them:

  • It’s normal. Years ago when I was lost in the weeds, a saving piece of wisdom came to me through the writings of Carl Jung: “The first half of life is devoted to forming a healthy ego, the second half is going inward and letting it go.” In other words, what got you through the first half of your life won’t cut it for the second half. And these “halves” aren’t cleaved at the same age for everyone. There is no magic age when life seemingly falls apart.
  • Breathe, practice mindfulness. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, says mindfulness is “paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally, to the unfolding of experience moment to moment.”

In other words, pay attention: pay attention to your dreams, write them down; pay attention to your moods, welcome them as your teachers; pay attention to your body, where’s the stress, the anxiety, and if possible, what’s the source; stay with the discomfort, live the question: “What next, higher self?”

And look for synchronicities in your life. The NOW holds the seeds to the future; when we’re anxious about that future, or have a pre-determined idea of what it should look like, or when we’re remembering our glorious past, we miss those seeds.

At one stage of my painful unknowing, I sought out a Buddhist Roshi/Catholic priest looking for answers to what my next step ought to me.

His advice? “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.”

That’s not what I wanted to hear. 

  • Listen to your inner wisdom. This is why we practice mindfulness. John Heider (2) says that very early on in the study of human nature there came about the concept of something like a higher self, or essence, as part of the psyche. This inner wisdom has your best interests in mind. By practicing mindfulness, we learn to access and listen to that inner wisdom. Heider believed that it is in this higher self that healing and growth occurs.
  • It’s your path of transformation. This usually nets me a look of disbelief – just short of a sneer.

Abraham Maslow as well as Jung referred to this as a self-actualizing principle driving the process in order that we become everything we potentially were created to be. This self-actualizing principle, higher self – whatever one chooses to call it – wants all of you to show up to all of life. It wants to become the best me I can become, that wants to grow, that’s eager for life.

This especially includes getting to know those parts of your personality that you’ve ignored, disliked, discounted, or swept under the rug with the hope that no one would notice the lumps.

“Unraveling external selves and coming home to our real identity is the true meaning of soul work,” says Sue Monk Kidd.

It isn’t that we now disavow the strengths developed in our youth and young adult stage. Again, referring to Jung, if extroversion defined us so far, it’s time to look for that within us that seeks solitude or meditative practices. In my case, I depended on my head to lead me; I needed to listen to those wise intuitive urges from within, parts I had barricaded myself against.

It’s not to say that we ever “arrive” as our psychic depths are vast. What we sense is that we’re now operating out of place of wholeness. And this wholeness doesn’t look the same for everyone – it will be based on all those bits of us we excluded.   

If you stay with this calling, this drive emanating from your deeper self, one day you’ll notice you’re on kind of a path. You’ll know it not because it’s announced itself with a large, flashy neon sign, but because of that gentle, calming, inner peace.

It’s an exciting journey, to show up as we truly are. This is the gift we give to the Universe – ourselves!

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Note 1: This is not to dismiss the reality of mental illness and the beneficiary aspects of medication; if mental illness is suspected or has been diagnosed, a trained psychotherapist/psychiatrist is recommended. In addition, a physical is recommended in order to rule out any physical disorders.

Note 2: John Heider, among other things, studied and helped direct long-term programs at Esalen Institute, taught at the Menninger Foundation of Psychiatry, and directed The Human Potential School of Mendocino, California. He is the author of The Tao of Leadership.

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About the Author: Mary Coday Edwards is a Spiritual Growth Facilitator and People House Minister. A life-long student of spirituality, Mary spent almost 20 years living, working and sojourning abroad in Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and Latin America before finding her People House “tribe” and completing its Ministerial Program. Past studies include postgraduate studies from the University of South Africa in Theological Ethics/Ecological Justice, focusing on the spiritual and physical interconnectedness of all things. With her MA in Environmental Studies from Boston University, abroad she worked and wrote on environmental sustainability issues at both global and local levels, in addition to working in refugee repatriation.

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Here is a list of other blogs Mary has written for People House:

The Warriors Way, LLC: Both Sides Now – Glenn Bott

Untitled-1Noticed how your definition of love has changed through the years?  As a young adult, the world seemed more defined – more black/white.  As I gained years and experience, the gray area expanded.  What used to absolutely, positively be a universal “known” is no longer rock-solid.  In this ever-expanding universe we need to adapt and grow.  This also holds true for definitions we internalized as absolutes.

I now understand love to be like an infinitely faceted diamond.  There’s no end to the beauty and sparkle.  With a slightly different angle on a subject, a new realization is sparked, and your love expands and grows.  This is the beauty of being alive in this mysterious  and wonderful universe we live in.  We’re in an amusement park with an unending supply of wonderment, joy, and love.

To expand your love, begin with the decision that you want to be a happier person.  It’s all in your attitude.  Open your heart and practice loving things during your day.  A lot of us were taught to find differences and focus on these.  Once you focus on differences it’s easy to start categorizing and sorting them.  We can all find differences that will keep us on the top of the heap.  We’ll tell ourselves that we’re the best because. . .  

We fool ourselves and diminish our power because we’re always comparing ourselves to external criteria. 

The only way I know of around this is to start loving yourself and everything and everyone you encounter during the day. 

Find a reason to love. 

All you have to do is change your mind and decide to be more loving.  Find similarities instead of differences.  You’ll soon realize that we’re all in this together.  Let’s help each other and reap the benefits.  This is classic example of 1+1 = 3. 

A nice game you can play with yourself is to find 10 things during the day to love.  Once you’ve developed the attitude and habit, up it to 20 things during the day.  The actual number you set doesn’t really matter.  This is just a tool to build a new habit and find reasons to love. 

 

Glenn Bott
Warrior’s Way, LLC
303-918-4626 | glenn@warriorswayllc.com

Growing Pains: New Things Are Possible Now – Lydia Taft

Transformation is on my mind.  Transformation, change, movement, growth… whatever one decides to call it, it is stalking me.  I see the clock and it reads 5:55.  The license plate, the tarot cards, the signs all around me read 5.  My attention is 5 oriented.  Change, change, change.  I am haunted by the idea.

I realize I’ve never fully embraced the idea of change.  It’s different, it’s new, and it’s unknown.  I sit here and feel this idea out.  Regardless of whether I welcome change or not, there’s no denying that I am ready to give birth to something new.  That statement resonates as true.  As I write that, I recall the experience of pregnancy and ultimately giving birth to my two daughters.  The very first thought that comes to mind was that it was painful, but if I am truly honest with myself, I realize it was also so much more. 

It began with expectation, and dreaming, and imagining what might be.  It was exciting.  I was expanding in every way.  My body, my emotions, my thoughts, my identity: they all grew and carried me along.  Ultimately, when it was time to give birth, any fears I might have held about the unknown future no longer mattered because there was no going back.  I gave birth.  Each time, with each daughter, when the nurse placed my child in my arms, I was this new being.  They were born and I was born.  I was transformed.  No matter how painful, there is not a single moment of my birthing experience that I would wish away. 

My beautiful daughters have continued to enhance my life.  They have challenged me to expand over and over again.  If I was stuck on one way of thought… well, they would offer unlimited other ways to view a situation.  With them, I’ve had infinite opportunities to release, to embrace, and to expand my perception of self and the world we share.  

Yes, sometimes this growth has been painful. There have been many ideas I’ve not wanted to release.  There have been many moments I’ve fought my own expansion and I suffered in my struggle.  I’ve built walls and have had them torn down.  I’ve held firmly to my own opinions and fought to keep them.  I refused growth and I suffered for it.  And then one day I gave birth again.  I transformed whether I wanted to or not.  And all the fear and resistance I held onto no longer mattered.  I am reminded that when change stalks you, you may as well just surrender.  You just can’t stop a birth. 

So here I am again.  Change is stalking me.  It is coming.  Change is here.  I am reminded not to fight it.  My growth is inevitable.  I am being transformed and expanded, and born again.  I face a new me. I have given birth to myself today.  I left an old idea behind.  I stretched beyond what I was, and entered into now.  I have changed. New things are possible now. 

People House: a Center for Personal and Spiritual Growth