Can you remember a time when something significant happened and you knew you had entered a new world? One of those moments for me was discovering how barre chords work on a guitar. I had been playing for a while, but I hadn’t realised how they related to each other and to other chords. Then suddenly one day I saw the patterns and the connections. My whole relationship with music changed and I became a new person. That moment changed the trajectory of my life.
Every spiritual path teaches that transforming experiences are an important part of the spiritual journey, but the power is in learning how they work and how to integrate them into our lives.Every spiritual path teaches that transforming experiences are an important part of the spiritual journey, but the power is in learning how they work and how to integrate them into our lives. Click To Tweet
THE TRANSFORMATIVE CYCLE
Transforming spiritual experiences tend to follow a fairly predictable pattern, which I like to describe in four parts. They always begin with a catalyst—a new insight, a moment of great pain or love, or an unexpected change in our circumstances for better or worse. We may be tempted to resist the catalyst or deny its existence, but once it begins the process of change cannot be stopped.
The catalyst is always followed by chaos. The old world disappears but the new world remains hidden. We feel uprooted and insecure. Attempts to turn back and try to recapture the past may be tempting, but they are futile. Thankfully though, chaos is creative.
If we manage to stay with the chaos long enough we finally come to a point of clarity. The new reality, the new self, the new way of being becomes clear and we can see what our next step is.
Which leads us into the final stage of the transformative process—cohesion. Here the work is to integrate new insights into our lives and move toward a deeper sense of wholeness. Each cohesion stage can also become a catalyst for the next transforming cycle.
The work of spiritual evolution teaches us to engage each stage of this process deliberately. Here’s how:
- Prayer, reading of sacred texts (or any mindful reading), labyrinth work, fasting, giving, serving, and other spiritual disciplines are designed to be intentional Catalysts for change. They challenge our comfortable sense of the world and call us into new realities.
- Chaos invites us to wait, listen, watch, and learn. It challenges us to let go of control and presumption and exercise patience and humility as we wait for clarity to emerge.
- Clarity, which often appears in surprising forms invites us into the humility and childlikeness of wonder, awe, and playfulness as we test what we are discovering.
- The Cohesion stage calls us to act on what we have learned and to integrate the change into our lived experience. Here we can use rituals and spiritual practices to develop new habits that move us into a deeper wholeness.
I believe that every transforming experience moves through these four stages. The challenge is to engage intentionally with each stage so we can be deliberate in our spiritual evolution.
- Are we willing to use our spiritual practices as catalysts to set us on an ongoing, lifelong process of change?
- Can we embrace chaos as a normal, inevitable, and creative part of the process, and learn to watch, listen, and wait in the discomfort so that we can learn what we need to know?
- When faced with moments of clarity, can we employ childlike playfulness, mystical awe, and questioning to get to know the new, emerging reality?
- Are we willing to do the habit-building work of ritual and spiritual practice to integrate clarity into our lives so that we can become more cohesive and whole human beings?
How does this transformative cycle speak to you? What part of the journey are you most aware of in your life right now? I’d love to hear your stories of journeying through transformation. Please drop a note in the comments and let’s explore together.
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These four stages are absolutely true – sometimes the chaos stage is the longest! For me one of the biggest catalysts was when my favourite lecturer taught us about the worship dance rituals of various cultures when I was doing my Masters in Dance Ethnology. It opened my eyes to the feminine divine. I was forever changed.
Reading this again I’ve realised that this is how my new relationship has developed and is developing. We’ve gone through catalyst and hopefully coming to the end of chaos (and strangely, or perhaps not, because of lockdown we both have more time to WhatsApp and talk than ever and so are learning more and more about each other). I hope and pray we’re heading towards some sort of clarity in how we want the relationship to grow and cohesion will happen in God’s good time.
My relationship with Jesus tends to hover between chaos and clarity most of the time. I’m trying to get into a more meditative state during lockdown.