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Do you ever wonder what people are talking about when they speak of transformation?
The word is bandied about in our popular culture as though it were a hashtag on Twitter, a trend all the hip-happening, cool people are following. Referring to it as though it were a life experience to be had for the price tag of a trip to Mt. Everest.
Some may ask: just what is transformation? (Answer: to change the condition or character of [a living being].)
To undergo a change so deeply profound, you’ll never be the same as before. An involuntary act, which far too often hits you in life at moments most inopportune. Not unlike a car crash, or a fall down a mountain.
I’ve spent some time with personal transformation. In a single phone call not more than 12 hours after what I’ve come to know as a spiritual awakening, I unplugged a secure, wedded life of 20 years and leapt off a cliff of security headlong into an abyss.
Inspired and led on my Vision Quest through my Ecopsychology Program for my Masters in Ecopsychology, I was no more prepared for the next four years of life than my sweet former was prepared for me to suddenly break his heart. While some may have advised against it (had they not been preoccupied with a noon departure out of our questing location that day), I followed my intuition and trusted the process.
It would take four excruciatingly painful, deeply confusing, intensely terrifying, and shockingly enlightening years to return to some baseline of normal, however that is defined.
Four years of all-consuming, never-ending, persistent fear. Four years of walking the trails in my mountain valley in the company of my sole longhorn heifer, How Now. She and I were the two lonely remaining dames left, after all my long-term animal companions departed from life in rapid succession, all in a short period of time. She bellowed out her pain in the solitude of night under the murals of Orion, while I bellowed out my own within the four log walls of my bedroom.
Almost overnight, a valley I once shared with another, changed into my valley of solitude. Some divine authority had literally wiped my slate clean.
As with then as now, I carried worry for my future on my back like a boulder from which I couldn’t alleviate the weight. My emotional life rapidly exploded into a tilt-a-whirl of several feelings happening simultaneously on any given day. I learned from a gifted psychologist how to dog-paddle to get through an hour into the next, how to talk myself off the ledge when overwhelmed. I learned about antidepressants and panic attacks, how to endure trauma, and how to love my own sensitivity.
Until the day came when I couldn’t stand the pain any longer. I plunged down the proverbial rabbit hole. My time out from society, in the company of the chemically depressed, bipolar, or paranoid schizophrenic was as grounding as it was enlightening. My plunge was temporary, but for my sudden roommates, theirs was lifelong. As I put together jigsaw puzzles alongside them, I knew I’d be seeing the outside of that building within 72 hours.
For them, it just might’ve been 72 days. They were likely to finish that jigsaw puzzle in a place I learned was referred to affectionately as the puzzle factory.
As my unemployed self wandered around the fruit grove in search of the low-hanging fruit from which to rebuild my new life in a recession, self-doubt held hands with gripping panic. Sleep became the balm relieving me from the ongoing nightmare that had become my new life. Living outside my comfort zone had become my new norm.
Spiritual transformation, indeed.
All of this, I offer up to our larger human community, as I feel the threads of familiarity of transformation writ large in our present-day culture. Newly sprung from a two-year pandemic from which many felt abandoned (by their patriarchal government, upon which we may have depended), unsafe (who can forget Mitch McConnell actually laughing as TSA workers stood in a food line?), deeply wounded from the sociopolitical divide fed by social media (have we befriended our blocked Facebook friends yet?), or soul-shocked by the egregious, baneful brutality inflicted upon innocent people and animals by others in greater power, millions of people are being forced into transformation on an individual level.
Millions are feeling traumatized and struggling to find ways through the quotidian demands of life and mix in a little joy. Even more are understanding imbalances of power, the importance of voting, the vitality and empowerment of activism, and finding their own voice. Still others, are taking to the streets to protect women’s rights or that of people of color.
And our collective, as it were, is transforming. People are finding their like-minded others, creating groups formed from heartfelt resonance. Others are connecting in the darkness of a technologized world in their respective basements, finding place for anger, fear, and discord as they work through their own personal demons into hopefully, a healed and healthy existence. Still others are finding moments of connection at the cash registers of Trader Joe’s speaking of climate-change-caused wildfires here in the West.
People are willing to have meaningful, thoughtful discussions in a simple exchange, whereas before such honesty felt like pulling fallen boulders out of a cave. Humanity is wending its way into a more enlightened, conscious, connective, and healthy culture. People get what is important in life and are helping others live better.
It’s messy and inconsistent, but it’s occurring everywhere, if one looks hard enough.
As for my own walk here in what used to be my valley of solitude, it has transformed into a valley that I share with my new husband and rescued dogs and cats. We share perspective, self-acceptance, self-love, compassion, and gratitude. We are re-shifting priorities to help each other survive.
Some even, to thrive.
More and more people find heart resonance and healing in helping through volunteering and service—from rescue dog advocacy to food banks to homelessness to environmental consciousness, every time I look up from the modest confines of my barn office on which I once used to look down upon How Now, I see stronger, more charactered efforts to love the world and all its beings in it, just a little bit more.
And that, at least from my humble perspective, feels transformational, for sure.