Transformation, spiritual awakening, awakening, becoming conscious, waking up…all of these describe the same thing: Shaking off the status quo to uncover who we are. Documented stages of these journeys are, most famously described in the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. Now the Hero’s Journey is connected to mythology, but enough of it rings true that take to Google and you’ll see countless variations on the Hero’s Journey theme.
Broadly speaking, there are three main phases to transformation and all three of them can be experienced multiple times in our lives. None of this is linear or even circular. Circuitous is more like it. Think of throwing cooked spaghetti at the wall, you never know what it’s going to look like when it sticks.
Phase 1 – Resistance and Dissonance
In this phase, we’re being called into the journey, and generally, go straight into resistance. Resistance is oppressive and often comes from our egos, and the ego loves to be comfortable. Comfort to the ego is the status quo, it’s a thick, warm blanket keeping us from changing. It’s what stops us from pursuing a promotion, new opportunities, or taking the lead (on anything).
Any change to the status quo will be met with resistance. The thick warm blanket of resistance can blind us to the people showing up as mentors or the physical signs we’re taking on too much stress. So, we find ways to circumvent these signs and people, saying “they don’t know what they’re talking about”. We ignore the physical manifestations saying “it was that hard workout” or “I slept wrong (for the 5th time this month)”.
In this phase, we’re reluctant to consider a different way, and if we ignore the signs, the status quo will continue. We’ll continue to go to the same job, hang out at the same places, and have the same people around us.
The journey can end here.
Or, we acknowledge we’re getting a wake-up call and begin to get curious about what’s happening. Why are we having the same challenges in our lives?
Accordingly, acknowledgment sends us into darkness, unraveling to the point we have no idea which way is up, and can’t see the other side. Transformation demands an unraveling, a shattering of the status quo to move forward in a new way. Especially in this phase, cognitive dissonance becomes an occurrence daily, hourly, and even by the minute.
Phase 2 – Unraveling and Rewiring
Now that we’ve accepted the transformation, the unraveling accelerates. In this phase, we are deep into uncovering and transforming our belief systems. Surprisingly, people are appearing out of nowhere to help us. It can still be rocky and dark as we navigate, but doing it with company eases the discomfort. These people and experiences help us stay on the path despite the number of times we may be ready to bail the next time we’re challenged with a new idea or thought.
In essence, dissonance leads to rewiring in our brains, questioning and uncovering, “what do I believe?” Rigorous examination of our right, wrong, good, and bad thinking leads to curiosity and expansion. Learning to quiet down our minds and listen to intuition is essential here. Yes, we take in data all the time, so learning to listen to intuition is what gives us the ability to uncover what we really believe about ourselves and the world around us.
Once the experience of the unraveling is complete, there’s nothing left, and it can feel like a void. Do you remember or know the movie, The Neverending Story?* In the movie, The Nothing is a roiling black mass of clouds devouring everything in its wake. At the end of the movie, it looks like The Nothing wins until the protagonist brings back the world with the power of imagination. Similarly, once we’ve shed all the stories we’ve taken on and uncovered what we believe, the space of nothing allows us to create newly. We may ask the question, “What happens now?” Or there’s a feeling that we are forging a new path.
Phase 3 – Choice and Surrender
In this phase, we learn that out of nothing is where our most creative selves lie. And, we learn that surrendering to the choice we make allows for the support we need to flow to us. Without a doubt, this is an expansive place to be, on the other side of wrestling with our egos, having quieted them down. In this place, we realize it’s all been worth it. Specifically, we learn this place of choice is a place of magic and, surrender is easier.
The choice can be somewhat uncomfortable, as it’s a place of uncertainty. And in that uncertainty we begin to ask ourselves, after breaking it all down, what do we want to piece back together? Which beliefs are we taking with us, which ones are we leaving behind, and why are we choosing this one thing?
When we make the choice, we plant our stake in the ground, declare what we stand for…and likely have no idea how we’re going to make it happen.
The beauty of Phase 3 is that once we fully surrender to the choice, everything seems to flow. Again, people seemingly show up to help, or certain signs show up in our path to point us in the next direction. It’s a phase of creativity, wonder, and centeredness that comes with becoming who we really are.
Awakenings come in different ways with different intensities. It can be a slight nudge or a whack with the Universe’s 2×4. Often, the whack comes after many slight nudges we ignore. Trust me, I know.
The question is, are you going to pay attention to the slight nudge?
*I get it, I’m dating myself. Hit up Wikipedia if you need to read a synopsis.