I wrote what I thought was a great blog post right before my birthday in early February. As has happened with other things I’ve written, it ended up sitting on my laptop too long, and was “old news” before it ever got posted. Life moved on and so had my experience.
I also realized I’d written about transformation before, so this wasn’t a new topic. Sometimes I’ll completely forget the “lesson” or insight I’ve had in my life, and this was one of those times. The cycle of transformation and stagnation is one I’ve journeyed often. As I discuss in the blog below, sometimes things stay with us even when they aren’t conscious.
Seems I’ve longed for transformation for quite some time. Why else would my bookshelves be full of books typically found in either the self-help or spirituality section? A few years ago my mother asked, “You’re always reading these self-help books; where has it gotten you?”
“Transformed, mom. Transformed.”
Had I responded that way, I imagine she still would have scoffed and asked, “What exactly does that mean?”
I hadn’t thought much about the meaning of transformed until recently. I’m mostly surprised that I’ve limited my understanding to changes that are big, undeniable, and meaningful. I saw transformation as the turning on of some light bulb of consciousness—something that should profoundly change the way I think about, view, or experience the world.
Maybe because I didn’t get past the first chapter of 90% of the books on my shelves, my light has only flickered. However, I’m coming to understand transformation doesn’t happen all at once. Rather, it’s a process similar to the gradual lightening of a room at dawn.
This thing called transformation is a part of me. It cannot be—nor has it ever been—outside of me. I’m not going to find “transformation” in a workshop, a yoga class, or the latest personal development best-seller. If I keep on seeking it there, I’ll continue to come away disappointed, or I’ll find whatever I experience as transformation doesn’t last.
You probably know what I mean: you come away from the 3-day retreat pumped full of endorphins and ready to change your life. A few weeks (or days) later, you find you’re right back where you started. The “aha’s” of our awakenings often fade as quickly as they came. We continue searching for answers, even when we don’t necessarily know the questions.
Most of us don’t recognize our insights do stay with us in some way. Our neurotransmissions might revert to old grooves, but alternative pathways have been created. Scientists call this neuroplasticity: “the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning or experience….” Our connections are most often a slow accretion of small changes.
I’ll become conscious of ideas or philosophies and then forget them. I’ll read something I’ve written in the past, and I’m amazed at my insights. I’m equally aghast at my forgetfulness of whatever perception I was grooving on at the time. Now I see my cycles have been a way of integrating and reinforcing “new” information.
I’m aware much of my transformation goes unrecognized and unnoticed. Sometimes I feel as if nothing has changed, and I’m still standing in the same place. Therefore, it is exciting when I witness the process as it is happening.
This is one of those times.
In early December, I began a radical dietary change. I committed to the Fast Metabolism Diet (FMD). It takes tremendous self-discipline to eliminate wheat, sugar, corn, dairy, soy, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, “diet” foods, and dried fruit or fruit juices from one’s diet. However, I found the eliminations easier than the plan’s requirement to eat every 3 to 4 hours, only eat foods from the food list on the plan phase, and drink half my weight in water each day.
Most of what has made my commitment to the FMD a challenge has been the amount of TIME involved in preparing and cooking food. I have never spent so much time in my kitchen, nor have I spent so much money on groceries. But the science behind the plan is holding up, and my weight has continued to drop.
If you had asked me before I started the FMD, I would have told you I generally ate healthfully. I would have said I had fairly good dietary habits. I would have told you I felt proud of my food choices.
I was wrong.
Being on the FMD, has changed so much. I’ve wrapped up month two of this plan, and I feel great. I no longer crave sugar, and I can’t imagine eating a processed meal—even though I once routinely popped an Amy’s organic frozen dinner in the microwave. Now I eat more fruits and vegetables, drink less coffee (yes, I do cheat a little on this “rule”), and have been alcohol- and dairy-free since I began the plan.
My food choices are undoubtedly impacting my experience of personal transformation. I also started a type of bodywork in December known as Rolfing—a highly effective deep tissue manipulation of the fascia and soft tissue that improves structural alignment and balance.
Wikipedia may refer to Rolfing as a pseudoscience sometimes characterized as quackery; however, there are numerous accounts of people who have undergone radical physical, spiritual, and emotional changes as a result of Rolfing. I imagine they would disagree with Wikipedia’s consensus. As with many things, it works for some and it doesn’t work for others.
I feel transformation occurring from the combination of the diet and Rolfing. As my posture and structure are improving, so are my self-confidence and self-esteem. My energy levels are at an all time high. Maybe it’s from the healthy foods I’m putting in my body, or maybe it’s from having my chakras more in alignment (if you believe in that sort of stuff). Whatever the cause, I’m astonished at the results.
The first notable change came near the end of December. I had an attitude shift about some things I had been allowing to upset me. I was spiraling down an old neural pathway to unhappiness when I re-awakened to a new neurological groove. It was in part a remembering that my thoughts create my feelings, but it was more an integration of this perception on a deeper level.
I used to believe our thoughts are 100% responsible for our emotions. I’ve since learned our emotions are generated in two ways: “bottom-up” or “top-down”. Simply put, bottom-up is when a stimulus occurs and an emotion is immediately sparked. Top-down means after the stimulus occurs, we have an extra step of the emotion being created by our self-talk (or perception of the stimulus).
I realized I was amplifying my sad, unhappy, and dissatisfied emotions with my thoughts. At this point, it didn’t matter whether my initial emotion was top-down or bottom-up. What mattered was I had taken the emotion and increased its volume and intensity—like one of those little sponge toys you put in water and watch swell to 10x its original size.
When I recognized my thoughts were creating my suffering, I remembered I could do something to change my feelings/perceptions. I was also aware of how often I have RUN AWAY from my emotions or committed spiritual bypass by not fully feeling them. Here I found the paradox of knowing I needed to fully feel and experience my feelings, and yet I needed to let go of the story keeping me in suffering. I recalled Loving What Is author Byron Katie’s quote: “Insanity is arguing with reality.”
Somehow I managed to let the story go. At the same time, I recognized my entire life has been spent running away from any of my “difficult” or uncomfortable feelings. I knew I needed to learn to find a way to FEEL whatever I was feeling, but to stop the top-down painful emotional generation.
The problem is I have had very little to no experience in the practice of just sitting with my feelings. Usually if I am even trying to do that, my monkey mind is running circles and coming up with lists of why I am justified in feeling ______ (fill in the blank). Exactly how do we simultaneously honor and feel our feelings without creating a story around them?
I know it starts with understanding how it’s important to allow all my feelings and hold those tougher ones tenderly with compassion. This is an awareness I’m slowly moving into practice. I’m like a new mother not quite sure how to comfort her baby, but I’m learning.
Equally transformative is I’ve moved releasing the story from a conceptual idea to a practiced reality. Another paradox with this, of course, is I’m finding my life actually does feel more joyful. Most of life is actually created from the inside-out and not the other way around. My thoughts are most definitely changing my perception of reality.
My thoughts are also more clear. Again, is this change from the diet or from the body work? Perhaps both diet and structural alignment have worked in tandem to recreate a new sense of me. My increased metabolism and energy have allowed me to flow from moment to moment more in the now.
The part of my transformation that has surprised me the most has to do with my personal space. I have been driven to create a clean sanctuary and completely organize and declutter my home. For six days — during a snow storm which kept most drivers off the road — I woke early and worked late each day completely rearranging almost every corner of my house. I was like a mad woman working non-stop to get rid of the clutter.
I had already transformed from someone who didn’t really keep a clean house to someone who generally liked things put away and straightened. Some of that change came from being an AirBnB host and needing to be able to have my place clean enough for someone to come in within a days notice. However, this latest change has been taking things to a deeper level.
I used to be able to stuff things into the closet, the junk drawer, the back room. As long as it was out of sight, I was content with having the surface looking nice. Now, I am almost obsessively drawn to have every junk drawer, closet or shelf cleared and organized.
I recognized the stuff unseen is comparable to my unconscious mind. Just because I’m not aware of it, doesn’t mean it’s not influencing my external experience. The more I clear the clutter, the more I clear my mind. As my mind becomes clear, my heart expands with greater joy.
My 55th birthday was Friday, February 9, 2018. I’m excited to see the changes this year holds. I believe I finally reached a point in my life where I realized that if I didn’t change anything, nothing was going to change (impermanence be damned). I became willing to give up everything I have ever thought myself to be so I can evolve into a new state of being.
The journey continues … for now, I’m enjoying the transformation, sitting with my feelings and choosing happiness.
As always, thank you for being a part of my journey. I share freely so that I may assist those who can relate to what I’m saying. We are not alone — each connected to one another in our own unique and individual ways, a part of a greater cosmos beyond understanding. I am committed to this connection — to unity, to growth, and to love. This, I know.
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