Notes on the Journey

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Integrating Change

I posted on Facebook prior to writing a blog post about the interview to which the link above takes you.  I was so touched by the interview, and so grateful for the information it contains, that I wanted to immediately get the link onto Facebook before even taking time to write the blog.  So, some of this post will have been read by those of you who've seen my Facebook post, but I do expand on it here.

I wrote the following to accompany the link on my Facebook post:

"The link posted here is to an interview that Rob Bell did with Alexander Shaia that is incredibly valuable and explanatory for how we feel after having gone through a life-changing experience or growth period. We often struggle in the aftermath of a personal expansion, and this interview talks about the effect of the growth, what it calls us to, and how to move into it. I wasn't aware of Alexander Shaia prior to listening to this interview, but I will now mine his work for the jewels it holds.
"We each walk the Hero's Journey, whether we think of it that way or not. There is this inherent rhythm of the Hero's Journey that we all live, no matter what the externals of our life look like. And, the point of that journey where we often get stuck, is what to do with our ourselves after the "peak experience." How do we integrate what we've been through? Who are we after what we've been through? How do we move forward in a way that encompasses what we've learned? And, how do we use what we've learned or become to benefit others and be of service to the whole?
"Each of these questions must be individually answered. And, the very uncomfortable period of change that the growth experience has triggered must be walked through until a new place of being is reached. And, this interview talks about this process in a way that I found extremely helpful."

I've had many growth experiences and peak experiences in my life, and the hard part is always how to integrate them and live from them after the fact.  Most recently, I walked The Camino--which Alexander Shaia has done twice--and then I moved to France.  It is a big topic of discussion among the Pilgrim community what one does after one gets back from pilgrimage.  I feel that my gypsy life of film production and travel has prepared me maybe better than most for the post-peak-experience time, but that doesn't mean it's ever an easy adjustment.

Every film I ever did, every trip I ever took, was a growth experience.  Each film and travel experience was a vehicle of change, awareness and expansion.  And, as Alexander Shaia mentions in the interview, the deeper the change we go through, the more challenging the integration of the experience can be.  I would go away on location to work on a film and be excited by the prospects of what that film and the experience of working on it would hold.  And, I would come back a different person, every time.  How to take up the details of the life that was left to go have the experience, and how to integrate who I had become through the experience, was always challenging and often confusing.

As we change, our vibration changes.  This is science.  But, the vibration of what we left behind when we go out to have an experience stays the same.  When we return, there is a necessary "tuning" of vibration so that we can re-align with our environment and our friends and family.  I've found it personally helpful to energetically work with my previous environment prior to my return so that a lot of the tuning that needs to take place has already happened when I get home.  Upon my return, I would also go through a period of deep cleaning and re-organizing of my immediate environment.  This process helped to imprint my new energy in the space, clear out the energy that was no longer in alignment, and re-ground myself.  And, because my energy had changed, things that I formerly aligned with, had to be purged and moved out.

A really important point for me that Alexander Shaia makes in his interview is that the growth experience doesn't necessarily give us answers, but rather it gives us energy and inspiration.  And, that after the growth experience, we go through a period of "in between" as we traverse the territory of where we were to where we are now and to where we are going.  This in between is where we can often get off track, or think we've lost what we gained through our growth experience.  But, understanding that the in between is the period of time during which we integrate what happened, and utilize the energy we gained through the experience to embody our next step, makes it more bearable and less confusing and disorienting.

The final step in the journey, the way Alexander Shaia explains it, is then taking what we've learned through our growth experience and sharing it in a way of service to the whole.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  Are we able to take what we've learned and apply it in a way that helps the collective?  Are we able to embody what we've learned and live our lives as an expression of it in actual application?  That does not mean that the expression has to take the shape of Earth-shattering impact.  Although, if the expression is one of more kindness, or more understanding, or more acceptance, or more compassion, or more love...these actually are Earth-shattering in their impact.

To be able to live from the new place we've discovered in a way that uplifts and benefits all those with whom we come into contact is an immense gift.  To be able to integrate our experiences and then live them in the day-to-day of life is a contribution of unlimited value.  An open heart, a kind word, a moment of human understanding, a hand offered in assistance...these are the things that can change lives.  Living in the integrity of what we've learned grows us and all those around us.

None of us are here solely for ourselves and our own enrichment, but for the enrichment of the whole of Life.  We are each connected to each other in ways deeper than it's possible for our human minds to comprehend.  The same Life that lives one of us, lives all of us.  And, every step we make for ourselves, we make for all of humanity and for all Life everywhere.  No progress is small progress.  Every step forward on any level is of immense value to us all.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Everything we go through, everything we do, affects all of Life.  We are all Bodhisattvas.

Life is a progression of one growth experience after another.  May we all receive, integrate and embody our lives in a way that benefits all Life and allows us to live in integrity and a deeper connection to all creation.  Embrace the experience, the difference, the in between, and the new territory that's been opened.  Embrace the change it brings...no matter what it looks like or what kind of chaos it entails.  Change can be frightening, but it's also exciting.  Change always brings new Life and is inherent in all growth experiences.  It is our openness to the change that is wrought that determines whether we end up struggling or moving forward.  Our ability to receive the gift of what each day brings without resistance is what facilitates our growth, integration, and embodiment.

It is my hope for all of us that we grow and change and gift ourselves to all of Life without hesitation.  We are each a gift to each other, no matter who we are or what we carry or what our perspective might be.  We each have things to learn and things to teach.  It is an honor to be here with all of you.   

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

An Unexpected Gift of Grace

I was standing in my kitchen looking out the window and I had the sudden realization that I was no longer trying to “make it.”  What a relief.  What a burden to lay down.

I’ve been driven for my whole life.  I’ve always been trying to “make it,” always been trying to be more, better, thinner, liked, accepted, right, correct…something.  There have been brief periods of rest when the striving took a break, but it was never gone for long and would always resume.  And, in the background, there was always an engine running.  This kind of efforting to be more, or to be perfect—whatever that means—drives a lot of us but, for me, it came out of my orphan beginnings.

I always knew I was adopted.  My parents told me from the time I began to ask where I came from.  They never wanted me to be surprised by it later in life.  But, somehow it created a fear in me that they might send me back; that, if I wasn’t good enough, I might lose my family.  If I wasn’t the perfect little girl I might not be loved.  If I didn’t do what I was told, maybe they wouldn’t let me stay.  If I was too loud, I might have to leave.  These types of concerns have shadowed all my relationships, my performance at work, and the way I look at the world.

I was talking with my hairdresser in San Diego one day, while she was cutting my hair, about trying to make ends meet and finding work when one was older.  I’d been retired for a couple of years by then and was working part-time and she was in the process of losing a job she’d had for a long time and liked.  We were both struggling.  And, she said to me, “Here we are at this age and still trying to make it.”  Whoa…  I’d never thought of my life like that, but the realization of what she said landed on me very heavily.

When one is constantly striving and struggling the way I did, it rather precludes presence or gratitude.  I had moments of both presence and gratitude throughout my life, but they were always visited upon me by grace and short-lived.  There was a constant dissatisfaction and depression driving me forward.  I was never good enough.  I never did enough.  I never felt secure.  I never really belonged.

But, now, almost four years after I retired, and four months after moving to France, I realize that the striving is done.  The need to “make it” in any way is gone.  My need to prove myself has left me.  I’m fine the way I am.  Life is good and all is well.  I’m able to live my life one day at a time and enjoy each one.  I no longer feel inadequate.  Amazing.

I didn’t actively do anything to stop myself from striving.  It is a gift of grace, an unexpected awareness, a surprising internal shift.  I do think it has been facilitated by the quiet simplicity of my life, by the smallness of the village where I live, by my increased connection to nature, and by the kind acceptance of my neighbors and friends here.  Something in me has settled by moving here and choosing this for myself.  The voice of restless dissatisfaction has finally become silent.

I make no conclusions or judgments about this awareness, I’m just grateful.  Grateful for the quiet.  Grateful for the peace.  Grateful.